LIA NALBANTIDOU. URBAN SECRET GARDEN
by Lina Manousogiannaki


Lia Nalbantidou studied Fine Art Photography (BFA, 1991) in the US. She uses film and feels that she could not obtain the same results while working with a digital camera. The well embedded comprehension of the way analogue camera functions, offers her the possibilities she needs in order to create her images.

As we meet with Lia, we discover that her world is quite private. Her work is based on personal introspection. The project titled 'The Secure, Private Domain of my Home (1996-2001) - Zero to Five' is a series mostly created in an interior décor. Her photographs explore the emotional context of the family creation within the spatial framework of the house. «It is perhaps my inheritance of forcefully displaced families (from both parents) that led me to attempt the creation of a photographic project seeking the emotional and psychological space that would provide me with a sense of belonging.» This project started when she was pregnant to her first child. It was a personal research on how her practice as an artist will be influenced by this new, eminent chapter in her life. Thus, she started reflecting on all the changes that affected her, her companion and their kid in this new context; the creation of her family.


© Lia Nalbantidou from the series 'The Secure, Private Domain of my Home (1996-2001) - Zero to Five'


© Lia Nalbantidou from the series 'The Secure, Private Domain of my Home (1996-2001) - Zero to Five' 


© Lia Nalbantidou from the series 'The Secure, Private Domain of my Home (1996-2001) - Zero to Five' 


© Lia Nalbantidou from the series 'The Secure, Private Domain of my Home (1996-2001) - Zero to Five' 


© Lia Nalbantidou from the series 'The Secure, Private Domain of my Home (1996-2001) - Zero to Five' 


© Lia Nalbantidou from the series 'The Secure, Private Domain of my Home (1996-2001) - Zero to Five' 

Her most recently completed project 'Urban Secret Garden' (2010 -2016) is an observation on contemporary Greek urban landscape – that of the city of Thessaloniki –and her memories. The photo shootings were done in the small hours before dawn. «By seeking the dawn-walk-motifs throughout the city, I discovered freedom in the hours before conscious light. I was there, when darkness turned into light with a sharp noise; there when morning birdsong collided with last night’s laughter; there when the mesmerizing buzz of automobiles drowned the sound of the flash light. Floral patterns joggling with ancient ruins at sleep, a kite, a plastic bag, a pole, white chairs, shiny balloons, amputee trees, all entwined into a body of photographs creating an urban secret garden. Before I knew it, my dawn walks turned into nocturnal walks and soon after they became a weekly ritual. With time, I left the patterns behind me only to focus on the cityscape. There, I discovered the city rather than my projection on it. My photographs attempt to weave an assemblage of symbols, redefining the public space by occupying it “tactlessly”. The stroll is uncertain so am I. Current history is under construction.» 


© Lia Nalbantidou from the series 'Urban Secret Garden'


© Lia Nalbantidou from the series 'Urban Secret Garden'


© Lia Nalbantidou from the series 'Urban Secret Garden'

The 'Urban Secret Garden' project is comprised of three chapters. Why the night, the first one; is an exploration within the cityscape of Thessaloniki, where “small secret gardens” are reminiscent spots of her childhood visual memories. As the work progressed, the second chapter, Mediterranean Air was developed: «At the beginning there were not a lot of tangible everyday details expressing the Greek crisis.» She is not referring to demonstrations, but rather to the simple aspects of everyday life (spots where homeless people sleep, eat or reassemble to have a cup of coffee). The third entity, The Ano Poli Suite, is comprised of images made at the Upper Part of Thessaloniki, the old city, originally located in the city’s castle. AnoPoli was that part of the city where her mother lived as a young woman. The work in its entirety, is made up of contemporary and family album images, retracing her memories combined with the city’s urban environment. 


© Lia Nalbantidou from the series 'Urban Secret Garden'


© Lia Nalbantidou from the series 'Urban Secret Garden'


© Lia Nalbantidou from the series 'Urban Secret Garden'

Lia is currently working on a new series of landscape images in collaboration with Ma[t]ita Colorata (illustrator &architect). She currently uses a 10 X12, 5 Sinar camera and b&w film. She shoots in daytime. For this project Ma[t]ita works on the botanical illustrations with pigment liner on paper. Their idea is to create a book approaching their subject, namely the Greek landscape, on a seasonal axis.
Lia’s projects are always long term; her work is a dive within, a non-stopping exploration and discovery of thoughts and emotional layers which eventually appear when the photographs surface the light.

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LINKS
Lia Nalbantidou
urbanautica Greece