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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 18 July 2015
14 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 18 JULY 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Life through As Anastasia Trahanas documents and gives voice to the marginalised and vulnerable of society, she pushes boundaries and perceptions of reality ANASTASIA TSIRTSAKIS It was a father's wise words that inspired the exciting trajectory of Anastasia Trahanas' journey so far: "You can achieve anything you want in life," he said. This customary, yet purposeful statement encouraged the UK-based artist to submit a black and white image entitled Sleeping Man into a photographic competition; a decision which saw her win second prize, instilling confidence to further pursue her passion. Although a photographer, Anastasia presents more so as an anthropologist, with a deep-seated hankering to communicate her observations to the world. It was a trip to her parents’ Greek village of Tripolis at the age of 12 that started to develop her perceptive eye. There she first encountered the Roma people (an Indo-Aryan ethnic group, living primarily in Europe), which would plant the seed for her short documentary film Not in my Backyard as part of a Master of Arts in visual anthropology. In the film, she explores the tensions between the local Greek people and the Roma community, who find themselves marginalised and without access to basic human necessities such as running water. "I recall through my child eyes I was so fascinated with these colourful, flamboyant, whimsical beings wondering through the streets, sleeping under tents. I recall wanting to capture these people," Anastasia shares with Neos Kosmos. Often described as a 'yes' person, she continues to grow as an unguarded individual, constantly seeking to provoke her audience into questioning whether - as she puts it - "one human being is less important than the other." Though she is optimistic, she acknowledges the reality of the situation, "I think it will take a long time before the tension between Greeks and Romanis subsides. I believe there has been some progress and many of the children do go to school for education and I believe education is a great influencer of changing behaviour." Most recently, the photographer exhibited a collection of nude images entitled 'Naked Britain'. Commencing in 2005, the raw and confrontational project has personal identity and the acceptance of self at its core, in part inspired by the artist's own experiences of self-discovery. "As a young girl and during my teenage years having discovered my passion within photography I use to set up the camera on a tripod and unconsciously photograph myself or friends semi-nude without faces. This was an exploration of the self, my friends and my surroundings, without exposing too much," she shares. "'Naked Britain' allows people to question their bare self not only as part of being naked without clothing, but metaphorically naked within themselves." Granting complete control to her subjects from the get-go, people volunteer themselves through the photographer's website, after which they select their own shooting location, and can add their own testimonial to accompany the image. Born in Melbourne to Greek parents, for Anastasia it was her late father that played an important role in shaping her views and identity. "I recall listening to the radio when he had an hour slot on the multicultural community radio station 3ZZZ and on one show he was discussing women's rights and strengths. I would say that in itself is challenging the boundaries within a patriarchial Greek society. He was very much a left wing man who believed in human rights and equality for people," she tells. His passing in 2009 proved to be one of the most emotionally challenging times for the photographer. Though like most creative souls, the process of dealing with loss sparked new ideas, giving birth to a new project. "I found myself clearing my father's wardrobe with my mother, and I decided to keep all of his ties. Some of these ties I had gifted to him for fathers day. It's interesting… they are biographical objects that sometimes may help in the grieving process. Through this experience I was inspired to begin yet another photographic project entitled Ties That Bind. I have so far photographed two women - one wearing her father's waistcoat and the other wearing her father's tie," she says. While Anastasia has never shied away from expressing her views and beliefs, she is not one for labels, finding them limiting, restrictive and often misleading. "For example, I don't actually outwardly call myself a feminist. Sometimes being part of these categories that society puts upon us creates more problems than not. I do believe in women's rights, but there is also a lot more that I believe in. Don't put me in a box," the photographer explains. After completing her private secondary school education, Anastasia went on to what she describes as "a very painful 18 months working in the banking sector", an experience she likens to being locked in a birdcage. Setting herself free, she went on to work as a screen printer, which led her to study photography - a degree she never completed in theoretical terms, but vastly made up for in experience. "By this stage the camera had really become a big part of my life and I was going off to travel when I could - meeting and capturing life around me. I began to live that Gyspy life! That lifestyle went on for a good 10 years, or even longer," she says. The photographer has travelled extensively to India, the Amazon, to Soweto in South Africa, the Philippines, Greece, and beyond. Knowing in her heart of hearts that her future would not unfold down under, after a year and half in Geneva, Switzerland the artist decided to A Roma family residing in Greece, photographed by Anastasia. Viv Malo, an Aboriginal woman. An image of a Roma woman washing the dishes.
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