A Photographic Fable of a Personal Metamorphosis

Greek photographer Yorgos Yatromanolakis re-examines his own past through a physical and emotional photographic journey on the island of Crete.

© Yorgos Yatromanolakis, from the series The Splitting of the Chrysalis & the Slow Unfolding of the Wings

It takes a couple of weeks for a chrysalis to transform - motionless in its cocoon dangling from a silky hook - to liquefy, break a crack, and finally spread its wet, transparent wings wide, just moments before it’ll be able to fly, freed from its own skin, for the very first time.

Such evocative language echoes in The Splitting of the Chrysalis & the Slow Unfolding of the Wings, Yorgos Yatromanolakis’ long form work - and an already sold-out first book edition - about his come-back-home journey, the metamorphosis he experienced, and the transformative act of photography. “This photography project reflects the healing experience of a significant period of transition in my life,” he says, “through which I managed to redefine my personal identity.”

© Yorgos Yatromanolakis, from the series The Splitting of the Chrysalis & the Slow Unfolding of the Wings

His trip back home to Crete - after 10 year living in Athens - was meant as a short visit but turned into an immersive “existential journey,” the amorphous chrysalis taking shape as a weightless butterfly under his skin. Every detail started to change, the colours, shapes, size, the way things move. “I identified with this transformational process,” Yatromanolakis says. Feeling “numb and ambivalent” in the past, the isolation he first experienced back in his homeland compares to “the cocoon of the chrysalis, defining an intermediate space where everything is in flux and [the] being is in a state of becoming, in between what had happened and what is about to happen.”

An autobiographical investigation tracing his footsteps across the insular landscape, it testifies a journey that is both tangible and of the mind, emotional and physical at once. Exposing a dreamlike intimacy both subtle and striking, Yatromanolakis welcomes outer’s interpretations, making the personal universal, the intimate gregarious.

© Yorgos Yatromanolakis, from the series The Splitting of the Chrysalis & the Slow Unfolding of the Wings

Ultimately, his work evolves into a nagging interrogation of one's state of mind, the uneasiness we all experience from the traumas of the past and by cohabiting in the same space. The experimental use of flash - as much as the employment of liminal light, those brief moments between night and day - affects this common perception: a pitch-black period of darkness is illuminated by a sudden flash, like a perfect moment of self-revelation. And the previously hazy sight of the surroundings (and of his own and our inner space) becomes clearer. “The use of flash came unconsciously through my attempt to see better in the dark,” Yatromanolakis explains. “[It] worked instantly as a bright opening into a parallel mysterious world.”

It’s a reassuring mystery hovering in Yatromanolakis’ photographs: two trees leaning forward, under the weight of gravity or their foliage, are tied together by a tight rope, resembling the constant effort it takes to keep our inner opposing drives in balance. Or the view of a distant boy, glowing as he jumps on beaming boulders in a barren night: he appears like an astronaut or he’s a shining star, solitary in his flight but in harmony with the other celestial bodies, like that far crescent moon, inaccessible but warm, that Yatromanolakis has also captured, as a revealing presence.

© Yorgos Yatromanolakis, from the series The Splitting of the Chrysalis & the Slow Unfolding of the Wings

The Splitting of the Chrysalis & the Slow Unfolding of the Wings unfolds like a luminous map, a net of scattered dots that one by one light up, as the transformation solemnly continues: “A process of metamorphosis is like a ceremony,” he says; “It is a transcendental effort of a being who leaves one stage of life or a pre-existing identity to enter another. It is a symbolic act, a pause in the normal flow of life, in which a cosmogenic event takes place as a new being emerges.”

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Yorgos Yatromanolakis is a Greek photographer who works between Athens and Crete. He works on long-term photography projects, experimenting with storytelling, materials, and design. Follow Yatromanolakis on PHmuseum and Instagram.

Lucia De Stefani is a multimedia reporter focusing on photography, illustration, culture, and everything teens. She lives between New York and Italy. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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This article is part of the series New Generation, a monthly column written by Lucia De Stefani, focusing on the most interesting emerging talents in our community.

Portfolio review month, April 2019 | PHmuseum Education
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