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These evocative early works by Georgia Metaxas speak for themselves, immediately drawing the viewer into the world of community public ritual and performance. These are powerful engaging images, where both environment and photographic subject come together to form a bigger picture. Documentary in style, these photographs are in fact portraits, initially we are captivated by the backstage atmosphere and then we meet the eye of the performer. A seamless collaboration between photographer and the portrait subject.

Hellenic Dancefest series, Crown Casino, 19th September 1999. The BoysH2000.142/2
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Hellenic Dancefest series, Crown Casino, 19th September 1999. Waiting; H2000.142/4

Metaxas, a Greek-Australian, grew up distanced from the Greek community and it wasn’t until sometime later as a young person she learnt to speak the language. It was when Georgia first began her studies in photography that she decided to document the community that she and similar young people felt a connection with, some of her peers exploring this connection through the artform of traditional performance.

It is evident in these pictures that the community was welcoming to Metaxas and that she was in the thick of it so to speak. The photographs are both narrational and intimate in framing, with the use of natural light and shadows accentuating the spontaneity of the action captured backstage.

Hellenic Dancefest series, Crown Casino, 19th September 1999. Soldiers; H2000.142/6

As Metaxas expresses in her own words :

At the time I was concerned with making photographs that ‘came together’ in front of the lens. These formative years [were] integral to my eventual questioning of photography and representation leading to my current ethos surrounding photography which remains embedded in my own community. […] portraiture is an ongoing interest in my work, and I do feel that these works are portraits of a community.

The library holds several other photographic essays by Metaxas documenting the Greek-Australian community in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Such works record with an acute eye, Greek religious festivals and community gatherings in Melbourne, in essence, ‘rich environment[s] steeped in photogenic ritual and tradition’.

Greek Easter Series, Priest and altar boy in doorway, circa 2000; H2003.50/7

The author would like to thank Georgia Metaxas for her email correspondence regarding these works held by the State Library Victoria and for kindly providing a current link to the photographer’s website.

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