A more visually dreamy state – interview with Danai Simou by Matúš Zajac

These photos will pull you completely into the intimate world of the fragile soul. They are very imaginative and expressive but at the same time gentle and emotional. This is a work of talented photographer Danai Simou from Greece.

Athens is the jewel of art. Are there lot of possibilities to study photography there?

I don’t know about that. As history has proven a rise of the Arts were always present in harsh political and economical phases. So maybe Athens is a part of that at the moment. As for studies, yes there are a lot of possibilities to study photography less public and more private institutes and workshops. In my opinion there are a lot of marvelous artists that teach in Athens and Greece in general.

Is it important for you to learn art by visiting an art school?

I think that is important to have extensive knowledge in Arts regardless your specialty. Either it is photography, film, painting, sound etc. For this reason I believe art school is a good way to get some first idea. But after that it depends, what will you do with this knowledge, if you stuck with it or you evolve, search deep down to find your own voice or follow the norm. If you are honest or not. For example, I have never attended an art school. But I try to learn through courses about history of art, theater, cinema and workshops with artists that I admire.

Who has an influence on your work?

First of all I think in general the whole movement of German Expressionism and Dada, and artists like Man Ray and Maya Deren have influenced my work. Also Francesca Woodman, Anders Petersen, Antoine D’agata, Michael Akerman and Daido Moriyama.

The secret and expressiveness with the main characters. Why?

All people behind my “characters” are really close to me, friends, family, lovers and I am also using myself a lot, so it comes from the honesty between the photographer and the person in front of the camera. It is a deep beautiful relation usually portrayed in a still image. Sometime I use my characters to express my inner fears and desires also, especially in my first series Worms, where it was more of an inner narration visualized. It was a phase bounded to the past. Romance was more raw, unconstrained. More into the present. At the same time all these things a seen as sacred to me, as a little piece of myself sharing with the viewer.

Openness to sexuality and its various forms. What does fascinate you?

My work investigates a different view on how an affair “should be”. What is love, lust, sexuality? What is perceived as healthy and beautiful? Where do I stand in all that? What do I decide to visualize among all these apperceptions? I think it is a road to acceptance and inner truth.

Which photo characters are important to you as an author?

The most honest relations are the most important “characters” to me. Raw and beautiful. Painful and abstract. Happy and absent. All these attachments, the feelings they create, the dreamland of never-ending and the reality above. Everything considering the human nature and its background.

How do you perceive your visual abstraction?

A way of a magic realism. A more visually dreamy state. As we understand looking at a photograph that the portraying subject is something that exists in reality but yet don’t fully understand what, how or when, creating a new space within the image. This is the beauty of photography.

Your video art is very interesting and it is a visual shift towards photography. What does this mean to you?

Probably is the other way around. A shift towards moving image. The substance is different. Through a still image you leave it up to the viewer to create a story behind its creation and what possibly is the meaning. With video all of these pictures one after the other unavoidably create a more specific structure and story. I love both ways. I am also working with sound and poetry.

Book Romance is so delicate and painful. Could you tell me more about?

Romance is a project I had been working on for many years. 40 photographs of an affair. It is a dead affair that literally survives via theses black and white intense traces on paper which duplicate itself infinitely, by integrating its death within the present series, into cycles. A blind wish delivered by the soft voice of desire. What is Romance anyway?

You work with fashion in a commercial way. How do you perceive it?

My first studies where on fashion styling and I used to work as a stylist for fashion shootings. I am thinking maybe working also as a photographer in this field at some point, but not yet. I do music videos and covers for alternative and underground bands at the moment.

The book called WORMS is more expressive and touches the suffering in the soul. How the connections of your poems and photographs has evolved?

Thank you very much. I feel of a poetic way to speak for my pictures. As the visual abstraction, we talked previously, in writing, I feel, poetry is the same. At the same time I don’t want a big text to explain to the viewer what they are supposed to see. I want to be free of any specific directions. To create a feeling, a small visual poem they dive in.

What is your main idea towards the audience?

Emotions. A familiar disturbance or a completely new feeling. A punch in the stomach or a sweet affectionate touch. A whole universe within a stroll through images. The truth of emotions.

Danai Simou (*1992) is a photographer and video artist based in Athens, Greece. She has participated in several group photography exhibitions through the years and recently had her first solo photography exhibition “Romance” accompanied with a photo zine and an artist book. Her work has also been published in the photo zine “Worms” by Coherent States, “Almost True” by Void and “Preto” by The Unknown Books. Simou has attended masterclasses with Antoine d’Agata, Michael Ackerman, Stephane Charpentier and Akina Books. Danai Simou works variously between sound, video, photography and poetry. Her layered, meticulously constructed works trace and perform the undercurrents of personal relationships, power and image-making.

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