By Marianna Alepidis
On November 3, Effy Alexakis launched her four-part photography exhibition, Viewfinder: Effy Alexakis at the Hellenic Museum in Melbourne, Victoria.
Alexakis’ name has been synonymous with photography for four decades. Now a collection of over 30 of her works spanning her 40-year career is on display in Contemporary Art Space at the Hellenic Museum.
Viewfinder: Effy Alexakis is curated in four parts, tracing the milestones of the artist’s career, and exploring themes of the Greek Australian experience across many generations.
“It’s lovely to be exhibiting here. The last time we exhibited in Melbourne was at the Immigration Museum 20 years ago. This is new work and after 40 years you look at your work in a different way, you reassess it and I think you can see it from that distance. It’s exciting and we’ve had such a wonderful response from people here in Melbourne,” Alexakis told The Greek Herald.
Hellenic Museum CEO and Head of Curation, Sarah Craig, opened the formal celebrations, giving insight on the four parts of the exhibition; In their own image: Greek-Australians, Images of home: Mavri Xenitia, The heart of giving: Father Nektarios’ soup kitchen, and Binding Threads.
“The exhibition traces the milestones of Effy’s career and delves into the nuances of Greek Australian identity which are interrogated within her works. It includes stories of self-determination, the physical and emotional liminal spaces of migrant experience, unity through difference in a country of interwoven diasporas, the impacts of COVID-19 and the impacts on the community and the philanthropy it inspired,” Ms Craig said.
“It’s been a great pleasure working alongside Effy and her partner, Leonard Janiszewski, to bring the exhibition to life.”
Ms Craig also gave thanks to University of Melbourne Hellenic Senior Lecturer in Global Diasporas, Dr Andonis Piperoglou, for introducing Alexakis’ work to her.
Piperoglou followed with his own words, highlighting Alexakis’ immense and captivating work.
“Effy for 40 years has aimed her camera at documenting the many layers of the Greek diaspora here in Australia; the forgotten, the remembered, the neglected, the cherished, the old and the new, the private and public,” he said.
Before handing over to the artist herself, Piperoglou went on to encapsulate the spirit of Alexakis’ photography and the impact it continues to have on the Greek Australian community and those who choose to engage with it.
“Indeed, Effie has a gift for capturing a sincere portrait… the reorientation of common consumptions about migrant paths as well as their presence. But she also delicately captures the values we place on Greekness, and what standards we place on our layered trans-cultural heritages; a widower, a gay writer, an Indigenous mother, a determined businesswoman, a daughter on a family holiday,” he said.
“When seen in unison, we can see how Greek Australians or Greek Australian-ness is alive in its differences, and also how Greek Australian-ness is alive in its diversity.”
Alexakis stood before the audience, firstly crediting her husband, Leonard, who she met at Sydney University whilst they were both studying to become art teachers.
Their partnership saw the development of one of the largest collections of contemporary and historical images with oral histories and archival research in Australia, detailing the Greek Australian presence nationally and internationally.
Some of this work has been curated in part one of this exhibition, In their own image: Greek-Australians.
“I acknowledge that a large part of getting this recognition belongs to my partner Leonard, and I thank him for being on this journey together,” Ms Alexakis said.
“We did not like the way that Greek people in Australia were depicted in the media, in books via stereotypes, such as the folkloric one, the fish and chip or milkbar one, the black clad widow, and the focus on post war migrant settlers. Greek settlers to Australia were all of these things, but much more… So being young, and with a ‘we can do anything’ attitude, we decided to challenge and attempted to change that perception.”
The photographer gave the audience a peek into her own creative process, detailing the construction of one of the exhibitions more recent works and self-admittedly one of her favourites, The heart of giving: Father Nektarios’ soup kitchen.
“I documented the work of Greek Orthodox priest, Archimandrite Nektarios Zorbalas, who was born in 1935 in Kos. In 2021, I started going to the soup kitchen that he had established about 40 years ago,” she explained.
“I went once and twice a week with my camera and with the iPhone and recorded his volunteers, the people that needed help and what was going on in his kitchen. It is my personal insight and homage to the unselfish kindness expressed by this priest and his volunteers.”
Alexakis went on to thank the Hellenic Museum and Piperoglou for their support in bringing Viewfinder: Effy Alexakis to the public.
Viewfinder: Effy Alexakis will be open to the public from Saturday 4 November 2023 — late
February 2024, with entry included in Hellenic Museum general admission. Visit the website
for more information and to plan your visit: hellenic.org.au/exhibitions/viewfinder.
This exhibition has been supported by the City of Melbourne Arts Grants, and Exhibition Media Partner The Greek Herald.