“Photography has always been it for me,” says Anna Kiparis, who discovered her passion for the medium at the age of 15.
The child of Greek migrants, she was raised in the working class suburb of Sunshine, where she grew up observing and documenting the backdrops of families not dissimilar to her own, establishing a life for themselves away from the mother country.
Now over 20 years on, and the photographer’s gaze has slightly changed to ‘post immigration’ life.
This has culminated over the past two years into her latest series ‘Homage’ opening at Off The Kerb gallery this month.
Featuring a selection of photographs shot by Kiparis in the dead of night across Melbourne’s west and north, the series sets out to examine the strangeness of post immigration suburban life, and the homes built to house those complex lives.
And in the process, the photographer says she started to notice a common pattern of the lived experience of nostalgia evidenced through the structures of each home.
“What I found was people genuinely wanted their space to emulate a little bit of what they had back home,” she says.
“Whether they’re immigrants from Spain, or Turkey, or what have you, they all wanted to bring that nostalgic part … and it came through in the artistic design of their home.”
The exhibition is a collaborative effort, running concurrently with another photographic series by Lebanese artist Ayman Kaake.
While their styles differ greatly, Kiparis says that discussions surrounding their work quickly revealed a common theme they couldn’t ignore. Ayman a refugee and Kiparis a child of migrants, they found they shared a deep respect for the metaphorical place one call’s home thanks to their respective backgrounds and upbringing.
“Home is a very big deal to us,” Kiparis told Neos Kosmos.
“Ayman’s a refugee who talks about the emotion and the idea of what home is, and I’m the child of immigrant parents, and I find that once they build a home, they stay there forever; they don’t do the whole move around.”
With migration and the treatment of refugees a topic high on the political agenda, the photographer is adding to the dialogue by emphasising the undeniable similarities between the migrants of the 60s and 70s, with those of recent years. While southern Europeans, such as Greeks, are now considered apart of the country’s social fabric, once upon a time – not all that long ago in fact – attitudes to the new arrivals wasn’t as friendly. But given the opportunity and time, they were able to build a life for themselves and make significant contributions across all sectors.
“We have this running conversation about refugees and immigration itself, and there’s always a lot of conflict when it comes to that discussion,” Kiparis says.
“It’s important to document something that’s happening now, but it’s just as important to look back. There’s a transition with every wave of immigration, and what I’m basically trying to show is this is immigration 20 or 30 years on – they’re now settled.
“What I want to show is that we all want to feel safe and we all want our home to be something that is ours, whether we’ve moved here a year ago, or whether we’ve moved here 30 years ago. I think the idea of that is what needs to be spoken about.”
‘Homage’ will be exhibiting at Off the Kerb Gallery (66B Johnston St, Collingwood, VIC) from 8-22 November. Opening reception on Friday 9 November from 6.00 – 9.00 pm.