“I have always - and still am - blown away by the science of photography, just the idea of recording light,” says Helene Athanasiadis. “But I never really set out to be a photographer as such, I just always liked taking photos. It’s been over 20 years now.” While Helene majored in photography at university while undertaking her first degree, she went on to study art history but maintained her interest in fine art photography. “I particularly loved how an unusual angle could transform an ordinary object or setting into an abstract,” she says.
While photography has been a constant in Helene’s life, it hasn’t been her only focus. Originally she studied fashion design at RMIT and worked in the industry for several years but she returned to study at La Trobe University and graduated with dual honours in archaeology and art history in 2006. She worked as an archaeologist for many years. “My design and art training proved handy in artefact illustration and site planning, which I did a lot of over the years,” Helene says. “And in the field I always had my camera. I loved all the textures, tones and palette of relics and stratigraphic layers. Stained, layered and fragmented. These elements feature heavily in all my work.”
While she grew up in Melbourne, Helene now lives in Castlemaine, Central Victoria, about 150km north of Melbourne. “It has an enormous concentration of artists and writers so it’s a good place to be,” she says. It’s where she has been based while creating her latest series of works, currently on show at 69 Smith Street Gallery in Melbourne. Alpha, Helene’s first solo show, runs until 4 September.
Which five words best describe you? Really busy all the time!
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? When I moved from the city to the country I rented a lofty art studio in the art precinct of my town, built a website and basically got to work. I took a year off archaeology and basically spent almost every day in the studio working on ideas that I had been brewing for years. I now regularly get photographic commissions, mainly from other creatives, I exhibit, and I now also work with mixed media. I literally integrate stained and textured layers onto my photographs. I transform botanicals and landscape imagery. I guess it would fall into a contemporary abstract category.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Although I am still learning this, if self-doubt knocks on the door, don’t answer! Do your own thing, believe it, trust it and keep working on it.
What’s your proudest career achievement? So far it’s my Stills and Solace photographic project. I travelled all over Australia to photograph the beautiful spaces of creative women whose work I have long admired. Thank you for being a part of it, Natalie! It focused on the rooms within their homes where they find solace from the every day. I am turning it into a book this year.
What’s been your best decision? Leaving the city for life in a country town. Having the Australian bush and open space around me feeds my creativity in ways the city didn’t.
Who inspires you? Artistically, it’s the wonderful work of Pat Steir. I have also discovered artist Patricia Larsen. She has a divine earthy textural aesthetic in her work and home. In my personal life it’s my beautiful daughter. And in general people who aim for the stars but also people who are content with who they.
What are you passionate about? Creating a beautiful space to live and create in, organic skincare, books, ancient history, fashion, art history, camera film and my family.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? My great great grandparents. I could never trace my family history as they didn’t keep records in rural Greece.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? To live in a house near the seaside. I don’t have to necessarily have an ocean view but I’d sure like to be close enough to hear its motion while I slept.
What are you reading? Shifting Focus: Colonial Australian Photography, ed Anne Maxwell and Josephine Croci. And always, always magazines; I love them - World Of Interiors and Vogue anything.
images courtesy of helene athanasiadis