Marinos Tsagkarakis (1984) was born and raised in the island of Crete, in Southern Greece. He studied contemporary photography at STEREOSIS Photography School, in Thessaloniki, Greece. He is a member of the collective “Depression Era” that inhabits the urban and social landscapes of the economic crisis in his home country. His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and international festivals, including Mois De La Photo in Paris, European Month of Photography in Budapest, Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, Athens Biennale, FOCUS Photography Festival in Mumbai and Fotoistanbul. Moreover, he has exhibited his photographs in important art spaces such as Benaki Museum (Athens), Maison Européenne de la Photographie (Paris), Museo de Bogotá (Colombia) and several galleries in Canada, USA and Europe.
The word “Paradise” literally means walled enclosure or recreational and entertainment area, probably derived from the Persian word “Pardes” which is attributed to the walled pleasure gardens of the Great King of Persia. In recent decades, countless of artificial “paradises” were developed around the world and their number still grows faster than ever before. This industry that manufactures an entertainment product of mass consumption meant to satisfy the average man’s need for recreational time and fun, is called tourism. The tourist industry has drastically intruded the land, transforming it into a product while causing several effects with a severe socio-cultural character. Destinations are in danger of losing their original appearance, structure and identity, through a standardization process that aims to satisfy the tourists’ wishes. What is not understood though, is that this process doesn’t degrade only the final product but mostly affects the local societies which have to survive the low periods relying only on the remnants of a seasonal industry. This photographic project aims to highlight the consequences of this massive and uncontrolled tourist development. In Greece, as in Southern Europe in general, these effects are reflected on the constructed landscape mostly through the unregulated and shoddy architecture, the kitsch and folklore decoration, the construction and adoption of artificial elements and entertainment structures, the falsification of identity and cultural heritage, the violation of the natural environment and finally the desolation that occurs after peak season.
Giangiacomo Cirla: Hello Marinos, can you tell us something about your “Paradise Inn” series?
Marinos Tsagkarakis: “Paradise Inn” is a long-term photographic project that lasted almost 5 years. It started in 2012 and the last photograph for the project was shot at the beginnings of 2017. “Paradise Inn” aims to highlight the consequences of the massive and uncontrolled tourist development in Greece, and in Southern Europe in general. These effects are reflected on the constructed landscape mostly through the unregulated and shoddy architecture, the kitsch and folklore decoration, the construction and adoption of artificial elements and entertainment structures, the falsification of identity and cultural heritage, the violation of the natural environment and finally the desolation that occurs after peak season.
GC: Your work reveals a very contemporary aspect, the relationship between man and the environment and the effects this connection has on the territory, what is your thinking about it?
MT: The interaction between humans and the natural environment is a key aspect in most of my photographic projects. From the beginning of my involvement with photography, I started dealing with this issue. My first project “Constructed Landscapes” examines the landscapes that are created and shaped by the large-scale human intervention. On the other hand, “Paradise Inn” focuses on how the tourism industry has drastically intruded the land, transforming it into a product while causing several effects with a severe socio-cultural character. It is not my primary purpose to make an immediate comment on the relationship between humans and nature, however, it is something that emerges intuitively.
GC: After your analysis of the consequences of mass tourism in Greece, what do you think about it?
MT: As an individual who was born and raised in a very touristic place, such as the island of Crete, I have seen the bad and good effects of this industry in my home country since the 80s. The last years, I have noticed that destinations are in danger of losing their original appearance, structure, and identity, through a standardization process that aims to satisfy the tourists’ wishes. However, what is not understood is that this process doesn’t degrade only the final product, but mostly affects the local societies which have to survive the low periods relying only on the remnants of a seasonal industry.
GC: These out of context structures are widespread around the world but perhaps in Greece they have a different meaning when compared to the period of crisis which has afflicted the country for some years, how much your work has been influenced by this period and how does this influence reflect on your projects?
MT: I avoid relating my work to the crisis in Greece. I have no intention to talk or document the effects of the crisis in my home country. However, the financial crisis is only the peak of the iceberg and has affected many other aspects of the daily life in Greece.
It has affected the social cohesion, the culture, the demographics, the architecture…almost everything; from small shops to entire neighborhoods and even areas that were, until recently, bustling with life, the crisis has drastically affected every corner of the Greek society. Greece has become saturated with structures, spaces, and landscapes which no longer hold any life, identity or soul. Locales that dangle between existence and the lack thereof; physically present but largely overlooked even by their own inhabitants.
So, it is not my intention to talk about the crisis. But let’s be honest…when you photograph in Greece it is very difficult to avoid it.
GC: “Paradise Inn” is now a book published by VOID, how come this choice?
MT: When I start working on a project I imagine it as a potential publication. It is very difficult to say “now, I am finishing this project and I am not going to shoot again for this one”. So, a book is the best way to put a period and say to yourself “now, I am done with this…let’s go for new stuff…”. So, the discussion with the team of Void emerged the right moment, the moment that I was looking for “my period” for Paradise Inn. After the first meeting with Myrto and João, who designed the book, as well, I realized that we have a great chemistry and we are aligned with what we wanted to do. So, it was an easy and fast decision.
The decision was proved right since the book is almost sold-out, just 1,5 month after the official presentation in Athens. It has already traveled to some interesting destinations, such as London, Paris, Brussels, Sicily, Lisbon…
GC: Was it difficult to rethink your work for a different fruition?
MT: I think that it is the most difficult part for most of the photographers. Actually, it is difficult and easy process at the same time. It is much easier when you have to deal with the work of another photographer as an external or as an observer, and it is much more difficult to do this for your own work. So, yes it was very difficult, but with the right support, discussion, open mind attitude and receptiveness you can make a good progress…
GC: What feelings or thoughts do you hope to create to those who relate to your works?
MT: I have not any specific hope or intention to cause specific thoughts or feelings to the people who will come close to my work. I want to give them the freedom to shape their personal conception. The feelings and the thoughts have to do with the experiences and the perception of each individual. So, it would be naive to hope that all the other people can experience the same feelings and thoughts as I did.
GC: You now live and work in Amsterdam, how did this change affect your work?
MT: Actually, now I live and work in Eindhoven. Same country, but different city. I chose the safe option of living above the sea level…My transmission from Greece to the Netherlands was a disaster regarding my photographic work. I am not a professional photographer or artist. My regular job is something totally different. So, I had to resolve other priority issues…survival issues. Some people say that tough and stressful periods of your life make you more creative; that was not my case…
All this period I have not touched my film camera at all. I do not regret that. A step back is always a good idea and an opportunity to see things with a different eye. I hope to clean up the dust from my Mamiya 7 and defrost some rolls of film very soon…
GC: How is the Greek artistic situation?
MT: I think that the crisis has given a boost to the Greek artistic scene. There is a new breed of local artists from different types and styles of art. Moreover, the last years it is observed an interesting phenomenon. Many foreign artists relocate to Greece to live and produce artistic work. This new trend has given a new dynamic to Greek artistic scene.
GC: The photographic medium as a contemporary language, what do you think about it?
MT: I like it…in my opinion, photography has not obtained the position that deserves amongst the arts, yet. The emerging use of mixed, lens-based technics have given a new dynamic to photography and it is positioned day by day as one of the most popular contemporary visual arts.
GC: What are your plans for the future?
MT: Plans are nothing; planning is everything…So, I have not made any specific plans for my future, but I have some rough ideas in my mind for many stuff that I would like to experience in a longterm period. Probably photography is part of this roadmap, but I am not sure yet. Photography has played a crucial role in my life the last years, but I am in a renegotiation process with my past.
GC: Proust says that the only true paradise is the paradise we have lost, and since “Paradise Inn” is a tribute to all the lost paradises, do you think this project could have a follow-up outside of Greece?
MT: I am sure about that…this project has not to do with Greece as a country but as a global, repeating pattern. Paradise Inn” is a tribute to all the lost paradises, in which millions of ordinary people manage to impose their own selves, the desperate experience that anyone could eventually face: the impairment of the quality of life and aesthetics and the loss of use of the natural space.
website: Marinos Tsagkarakis
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