updates Niki Gleoudi The memory of things How do Greek immigrants perceive their country of origin? Which are the “material
Photographer Niki Gleoudi is gifted with the magic touch of transformation: distance gives way to proximity, the ordinary turns into extraordinary, the unfamiliar becomes familiar. Whether she works in Miami, her place of residence over the last years, or her birthplace, Thessaloniki, wherever people live and move, in the streets or by the seaside, that’s where she points her scope as an artist, paving the ground for a systematic personal research, as well as for a brilliant, yet discreet, observation.
“I have no doubt that a photo without any people in it still has the power to trigger a whole lot of emotions and unfold a story, but that’s not something I find myself attracted to,” explains the renowned Thessaloniki-born photographer. “My narrative is definitely anthropocentric, as I enjoy casting a glance at people and their feelings, the relations they create with each other and the energy they emit. Every time I raise my lens, I strive to capture all these elements at once, while placing emphasis on the composition and the aesthetics. I want my work to be endowed with a sense of rhythm and emotion, to unwind the thread of a story; to become an unseen observer who grasps what’s happening in the moment, to portray it in the best possible way, trying to place the viewer inside the story. I have noticed that even when I try to take a photo without faces in it, there’s still a shadow or a certain figure that usually finds its way into the frame.”
Niki Gleoudi studied Business Administration and Photography at Washington University, in St. Lewis, USA. She has been living in Miami for several years now, where she is currently working as a visual artist, focusing mainly on photography. She has showcased her work in numerous individual exhibitions both in Greece and the US, while being a member of the BULB collective. Burn Magazine an online magazine/journal for emerging young photographers, curated by Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey – has hosted a tribute to Gleoudi’s work, who was recently awarded with a prestigious international distinction: she was included in the “Women Street Photographers” edition by Gulnara Samoilova (Prestel, 2021), featuring among 100 acclaimed women street photographers from all around the globe.
Recounting her first steps in photography, Niki Gleoudi reminisces about an old camera, given to her by her dad. “I began experimenting with this camera, and later on, during my studies, I became more engaged in photography and took up some courses. What I liked the most was to take pictures of people, as I was drawn by street photography. After completing my studies, I practiced photography through travelling. Eventually, this work took the form of an exhibition hosted at ZM gallery (Thessaloniki, 1998). Subsequently, due to personal reasons, travelling came to a halt; therefore I took a hiatus from street photography up until 2010. Over the last years, I resolved to go more public with my recent work, by making use of social media and taking part in contests. As a result, my works came to be showcased in various museums and exhibition halls, as well as in photo books and magazines.”
Between her and the faces captured by her lens, she feels as if an unseen thread is unraveling: “As a photographer and as a person, I try not to cast a judgmental look or pin labels on others. The notion of otherness gets me all pumped up with energy, my heart beats to the rhythm of other people as I take their picture, whether it is for a flickering moment or a substantial period of time, or maybe without them being aware of it at all. Sometimes, I get by unnoticed, but there have been occasions where we danced together or someone revealed a secret or a problem to me. I feel blessed for this experience. I get out of my little box and take a look at the world through their eyes and soul. And even though we might never meet again, I can’t help but feel that we share a bond for life. Throughout all these years, there have been only one or two cases of annoyance, where I was forced to erase the photo. As a standard rule, if I get the feeling that someone doesn’t want his/her picture taken, I simply go along with that.”
While taking a closer look at Niki Gleoudi’s photos, it is highly likely to sense the music vibes they send out. “Even though I’m not listening to music while taking photos, it is my belief that a well-rounded shot needs to encompass a certain rhythm that some might associate with music or poetry. That’s the feeling I’m overwhelmed with every time I see a powerful photo – taken by me or by another photographer. That and a heartbeat I might add! Every time I achieve such an outcome, Ι am deeply satisfied, but I must admit that this is not usually the case!”
As to the correlation between photography and reality, she goes on to say: “I believe in the existence of multiple realities, of multiple points of view in life. Like a historian who cannot be completely unbiased and impartial when recounting a fact, as every word used he/she uses carries its own touch and importance, a photographer is conveying a story through his/her own personal prism. Therefore, a refraction, distortion or misinterpretation of the truth might occur somewhere along the way. Of course, one cannot exclude the spiteful scenario, where the very intention is to deceive right from the start, while catering to other purposes and interests, through forged and false pictures sadly enough a hot topic in the era of fake news.
Niki Gleoudi makes it no secret that, besides her beloved photography, she is really fond of cinema and documentary, a genre that “attracts me, even though I am yet to delve into it. My only experience in this field came in the summer of 2016, when the distinguished History of Art and Museology Professor, Mrs. Skaltsa, asked me to conduct a series of interviews with Greeks living in the US, for research purposes. Once each interview was over, I had to take a photo of the interviewee holding the household object that embodies Greece in the most striking way. The outcome of this project was showcased, in 2017, at the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, as part of an exhibition that included the portraits of these people, as well as video-installations. The outer goal is to found a diaspora museum at some point, exhibiting all these objects that speak volumes of their place of origin.”