Born and raised in Athens, Greg Haji Joannides has been into art since he was a kid: his early love for painting, dance and theatre still informs whatever he does, whether it be his painterly photographic series of nudes or his successful artist-residency and exhibition space project. Evocative and mysterious, Haji Joannides’ photography is the result of experimental use of the camera and involves almost no use of digital manipulation, as he explains: “What you see is what I actually shot with the least editing possible. I have developed a technique that involves shooting in high exposure and prying with the camera’s settings to achieve the desired result.” Like X-rays of otherworldly creatures or glimpses of starry light delineating celestial bodies floating in the darkness of space, Haji Joannides’ images focus on the human form and are the result of his own investigation into various aspects of human existence.
“I realised right from the start that the entire Nisyros is actually an artist’s working studio, and this is why I wanted to create a space in the castle where artists could live, work and exhibit.”
In addition to his own artistic practice, Haji Joannides is also dedicated in promoting his colleagues’ work through an arts-residency and project space on the island of Nisyros. Founded in 2014, the Sterna Art Project includes a residence and an exhibition space in an abandoned neighbourhood in the village of Emporeios. Once the village’s castle and busiest neighbourhood, the area was abandoned in 1933 after an earthquake destroyed most of its buildings. The Sterna Art Project came to revive the village and attract people back to it through the making and viewing of contemporary art. For the summer 2016 programming, Haji Joannides invited 10 artists from Greece and abroad to come and work in Mandraki and help bring the village back to life. “The project’s biggest challenge was to create the conditions that would allow the 10 participants to coexist,” says Haji Joannides, “which I can say was also it’s biggest success!” The result of this year’s Sterna residency is the exhibition “Experimental Education Protocol”, an exhibition curated by Athens-based artist Angelo Plessas, which is presented inside the building of a former bath house in Mandraki.
For Haji Joannides, life on Nisyros is like living in a crater —and not without good reason, since the island is basically the tip of a still-active volcano, the largest of its kind in the world. Hot springs still bubble at certain beaches, and in the village of Emporeios there’s a cave that’s like a natural sauna which is open to everyone. Now a true local that loves to share his own experience of Nisyros, Haji Joannides is always ready to share his insider’s tips about where to go while on the island: “One should visit the abandoned village of Avlaki, which has the nicest rough atmosphere you'll ever see and its harbour is ideal for swimming. Then you should definitely go to Porta square in Nikeia, and Palaiokastro to see its ancient walls. Don’t forget to make a stop at Mandraki for its Acropolis and to pay Maria Diakomihali a visit, who will teach you everything about local dishes and sweets. And last but not least, a walk inside the crater is definitely something everyone should do.”