I am often told that my pictures present a narrative quality, maybe because every "reader" through my works "reads" their own stories. The same thing happens with this project entitled "Liberation." Although I was creating it for the needs of the group exhibition: "Ex-Staseis - Attempts at the Representation of Liberty," it was finally connected with a dear friend of mine, Eleftheria Michailidis, who was, quite unintentionally, my source of inspiration.
Eleftheria has been for many years one of the best makeup artists working in television, theater, and cinema. She was a warm and emotional young woman, honest, spontaneous, creative, and an expert in her field. Apart from being a friend, she was also my partner in my photography projects, and my collaboration with her gave me two of my most beautiful images ...
I first met her at the opening of one of my solo exhibitions back in 2011, and since then, we became friends quickly as if we had known each other for a long time. She always liked my work; she was moved by it, perhaps because she read her personal experiences through my imagery… We were never best buddies; we would spend months without talking to each other on the phone or meeting up close. But we loved each other.
So the story begins about 5 years ago with a phone call from Eleftheria one afternoon outside the Kallimarmaro Stadium. "My Dimosthenis, the doctors found a tumor in my brain that needs to be operated on immediately" ... I froze…
How was that even possible? I thought to myself. Eleftheria had always given me the impression of a robust constitution. How did she crack..??? "I want to urge you, she went on, to live each day as fully as you can because life is too short." And now that I'm writing this, it's hard not to get emotional. I don't remember anything else from that phone call. Only her words and my overwhelming feelings. In the months that followed, Eleftheria underwent surgery at the best neurosurgery clinic, INI, Hanover, Germany. What a brave girl she was... She traveled, got operated on, returning back home optimistic and determined to win her war, as she usually did in her life.
We arranged to spend some time together on a warm afternoon in the roof garden of a central hotel to celebrate the good news with some cool wine and refreshed mood. When I saw her, I couldn't believe my eyes. She had lost weight beautifully, she had changed her hairdo, she was elegantly dressed, a total charm! We had our most meaningful conversation that evening, and in the clinking of our glasses, I was silently wishing that her illness would go away for good and never come back. In one of my visits to hers, she told me that she was continuing the chemotherapy to eliminate the last remnants of the tumor. We also arranged a photo shoot at my studio. She wanted to be photographed with the new hairstyle that suited her so well. Two years later, she came over for dinner. I remember feeling that something wasn't quite right about my friend. As if something of her spirited personality had been lost forever. I started to worry again.
My fears were unfortunately confirmed when we spoke on the phone a few months later. I couldn't recognize her voice; it sounded drained, hoarse, and weak. Metastasis ..?
She did not mention such a thing to me. Maybe they hid it from her, or maybe deep down, she already knew it. She told me that she was exhausted and wanted to leave her body that betrayed her twice, and I couldn't bear it and burst into tears. Instead of giving her courage, I dissolved in front of her. "I love you very much, my Eleftheria," I told her at the end with my voice trembling. "I love you too, my friend," and we hung up tenderly, lovingly, and fearfully.
It was becoming more and more difficult for me to communicate with her. I could not stand it. She had moved to her summer house in Loutraki, where her parents took care of her. I could not even visit her because of the pandemic. However, she kept herself busy crafting precious small items like port cleats, clothes hangers, and pencil cases she sold online for over a year. She didn't let her illness put her down. In a conversation of ours on Viber, we talked a lot. At one point, I showed her my artwork and dedicated it to her, saying that I had been keeping her in my mind and heart while I was making it. "I've always been true to your art," she replied. And right, then, somehow, I realized that her health had deteriorated. I wanted to buy some of her creations. "Take your pick, and if something is already sold, I will remake it for you as soon as I get out of bed." She was confined to bed by two broken vertebrae...
A few weeks later, Eleftheria passed away on Palm Sunday, leaving behind a huge gap in her family and all of us, her friends, who loved her.
Every time I see the Liberation artwork, I remember her even more vividly since not a day goes by without bringing her to my mind. I miss you dearly Eleftheria. I hope we meet again someday and continue our chat from where we left off.
I love you!