Boundary pushing photographer Alexandros Paterimos and the power of collaboration.

Let’s talk about photographer and filmmaker, Alex Paterimos. Now if you’re a Cape Town local you may know him from a very beautiful, artistic group of collaborators who grace the streets with style and individualism; while others will take his very particular photography style and say ‘uhh huh yes, I know the work!’

Again, not to be a walking cliche’ ( yet hello) I came across Alex’s work on instagram. The sweet, sweet joy of accessibility that comes with this modern ‘tech-y’ World gives one the chance to reach out to an otherwise unfamiliar crowd, and bring together a group of people that artistically tell different stories from different perspectives. (Yet collectively stand together and shout from the rooftops!)

When creating the Blurring lines brief for our launch event and exhibition series in April, I wanted the inner strength, determination & respect needed for tackling societal norms and misconceptions to be a strong underlying tone captured by the exhibiting artists. In saying this, the talent that so eloquently captures, not just a photograph but a story, through what feels like a nostalgic lens- has an ever increasing following based on just that; the ability to tell stories which are collective and not just personal. I mean have you ever just looked at a photograph and spiritually or emotionally related to in a way that seems to support your own personal journey?

When I first came across Alex’s profile, I was captivated by the images where he provided an insight into a desired normality in crossing binaries & boundaries while fighting the allowance from larger minority groups for living one's truth (by doing just that). Once I approached all artists, and even though I had come across images which I knew would work well in the exhibition, I sent each artist a brief to interpret and submit work that they wished to exhibit. To what I thought would be a submission telling the stories of a queer male crossing boundaries into non-binary/feminine entities- Alex submitted a collaboration he worked on with Ying Zhang titled ’SHE’.

"‘SHE’ explores the objectification of the female body within its surroundings by making use of the process of self-objectification. This is a process where the artist reclaims authority, especially as a female, and establishes a dialogue with the societal expectations placed on themselves and their environment. The use of Chinese calligraphy depicting the word “she” manipulates the act of censorship rather into an act of embodying the cultural background and experiences of her life. This transformation of censorship acts as a tool to reclaim ownership, thus creating awareness in the search for neutralisation, liberation, and freedom of the body."

Art is an expression which will always hold one’s personal perspective based largely on their own experiences. For Alex to so beautifully, respectfully and powerfully shoot Ying to confront the issue with how the female body is objectified ( which is SO important!) not only highlights something more people need to see, it also reminds us all how the spectrum of allowance and mainstream acceptance needs to shift & seep into every sphere- one that Alex stands for & fights for in his own human.

Whatever our story is- collectively we should be able to 'allow' together.. and then some.

So can we tell the stories of others? We will all have our views on this, but Alex is a prime example of the power a collaboration can create.

Cape Town based Paterimos who majors in cinematography at AFDA Cape Town, shows that being open to listening, observing and acting is what makes an impact- because censorship, feeling unworthy, feeling the need to change your body, how you act, what you do- to fuel the comfort of the mainstream crowd is absolutely, not, okay! (And that is the power of telling stories through Art!)

The print we displayed at our Blurring Lines exhibition. SHE a collaboration between Ying Zhang and Alex Paterimos.

(M.H) We’ve built Miss H Collective on celebrating the power of what Art is- WHAT IS ART to you?I think my approach to art is sort of finding moments and immortalising them or playing in fantasy instead of real life. I create as a way to always remember the things I feel I might forget. 

(M.H) What inspires your work and tell us about your approach?

The people I am shooting always inspire my work as I want the project to act as a means of bringing to life a vision that they might have of themselves. Conceptualisation and actualisation — a lot of the time I’m shooting with friends so we’ll come up with a loose idea/narrative and then try our best to execute it, with a completely collaborative approach. When the actual shoot is happening, the narrative often develops itself naturally as we start to get more and more comfortable with the fictional world we’ve created and really just start to play around as we act on the random ideas that come up. 

(M.H) How important is for you to be able to have the freedom to create work that is solely based on your own expression rather than just commissioning/creating work to briefs for others? In an ideal world, I don’t think they necessarily have to be two different things, I’ve been lucky enough to have good professional relationships with people who believed in me and gave me creative freedom which in turn has helped me grow and learn as I develop my vision/style. It’s super important that your own creative expression is embraced within the more commercial spaces so that artists can actually produce work that both they and the clients are satisfied with. Clients should find an artist that works for them, so that they can do their thing to the best of their abilities. 

(M.H) You're currently studying, will you go into photographing full time when you are done?

I really hope so. Otherwise I would probably become a vet. 

(M.H) What future art projects are you working on?

I have a shoot that I did recently with two friends of mine, Jonty and Nkuley, coming out soon. And there’s a few other small projects still to come, but I’m spending most of the rest of this year focusing on my graduation film. 

(M.H) Do you find that art is accessible in Cape Town?

I don’t think so. Living in Cape Town with the social climate we currently have in this city, accessibility in any given space is directly related to your positionality, which means that the accessibility isn’t really there. There is so much work to be done on the accessibility of art in Cape Town, work that collectives like Miss H are doing! 

(M.H)What kind of platform/ establishment would you like to see your work displayed on?

I’d love to work more with collectives and galleries and explore that side of the art world a bit more, but magazine-wise I’d love to have my images in print in local magazines like NATAAL and Faculty Press. And, obviously, ID, Dazed and the likes. 

(M.H)Thoughts on collaboration?

It’s how I pretty much always work. Collaboration enriches everything. 

(M.H) Do you think there should be more collaborative efforts or more funding opportunities for personal projects?

YES YES YES! We need people to give young creatives in our community the actual, physical (read: monetary) support in order for us to have and seize the opportunity to execute ideas we have that are beyond our budgets. There are so many incredibly talented people in our community that need to be supported and uplifted. 

(M.H)Thoughts on community and public art- and what would you like to see more of in Cape Town? Art is such an important tool for the public and our community to speak out on things and get their voices heard in a way that is also inspiring and creative and collaborative. We need to see more political art, and we need the marginalised voices in our community need to be uplifted. 

(M.H) Any comments from the Blurring Lines exhibition hosted at Gallery One11?

It was my first ever exhibition at a gallery and I t was amazing! I never really thought my photos were worth being in a gallery, so when I was approached by Jess from Miss H, I was so excited! I got to have my photos not only in a gallery, but also alongside people that I find inspiring and whose work I admire and had admired for a while before. It was quite a surreal experience.

Blurring Lines exhibiting artists- Ying (front left) Alex (to the right of Ying)

Thank you for Alex and Ying for sharing with us what you do.

Make sure to keep an eye out for futures projects from them both!





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