Creatives during COVID-19 Times – Meet Melinna Kaminari photographer

Interview Series with creatives continues – Creatives during our COVID-19 era, how does it affect us.

A casual chat as if we met over coffee at the local cafe- if only COVID-19 was not here. In this interview series over coffee and tea, I meet up with Joe Diaz in USA, Melinna Kaminari in Athens Greece, Roy Reed, London, UK and Andy Carolan, Norwich UK. Read all interviews in the categori ”Cafe stories”

Meet Melinna Kaminari photographer

Mellinna Kaminari | More read in ”Athens Social Atlas

Melinna Kaminari and her daughter

Stefan: What do you work with. What is your title?

Melinna: Well, I am a photographer and a researcher and tutor of creative photography (PhD) but in order to earn my living I work in the public sector. At the moment I am head photographer in the Directorate of Ancient and Modern Monuments in the Greek Ministry of Culture.

S: We live a very different times. The Corona Coved-19 virus have hit almost all countries in the entire world, when this is written. What’s was your initial feeling when you understood it would hit home, where your at?

M: I freezed I guess, at the time I didn’t fear for my health, but I realized that this would mean fear for my eldest parents (mum 83-dad 95) not only because of their health problems but also for the social distancing and the psychological problems that this would bring. Bare in mind that Greece has just come through a 10 years’ economic and not only crisis (all crises first of all are ethical crises). It was only some months that we were saying that life has started reminding what “normal” means. We of all people had such a strong nostalgia for “routine”…

S: With the initial actual hit of Coved-19, where you working on a project at the time?

M: Having a 5 years old child, my first worry was not my work but the fact that all schools and nursery schools were closed in a day. I had to stay home for 17 days close to my little one, and forget everything else. This was and is a big change and a worrying time. I am not the person that can endure closure, or being 22 of 24 hours home doing household. Having a toddler is also very exhausting no matter how proud you are of it. Our lives changed in one day. Again it started feeling “times of insecurity” alike those of the economic crisis. All parents-colleagues left things that were under conservation, and had to be photographed and we all just disappeared in a day, stayed home with our children, and away from grandparents and work.

S: Many businesses have been hurt a lot. Many companies either layoff staff, while others simply go bankrupt within weeks. Have this affected the clients you work with? And have this affected you as well?

M: The Ministry of Culture where I work was one of the latest to take full measures. Our Minister was guiding visitors from a cruise boat with corona virus as if there was no problem, until she finally realized what was happening. It was at Olympia, where the Olympic flame touch took place and this was the first time that the ceremony had no audience…

In the public sector there are no direct clients but we are dealing with the National Heritage namely the Antiquities. All tourism of Greece is orientanted in this and tourism is the vital basic national income of most Greek people. With all the sites and Museums closed, all flights cancelled and all hotels , food and drink restaurants, bars, cafes closed for the critical season, in which they exist from, Covid-19 was the tomb stone. Spring, Easter and of course Summer is practically canceled: a total national disaster.

S: During these initial weeks or months, depending on where you live, how do you plan, if at all, for how and what you as a Creative can do, or plan to do, to stay productive. Do you hibernate or keep on working?

M: After the first days numbness, depression came so I told myself, “what will you say you created in, so the so many stay home hours of the corona times, nothing or something?” and I started making myself busy again at home and at work, started going in my office with shifts, keeping myself creative with the continuation of documentation at work and at home by photographing the enclosure in the family life, catching up with scanning and retrieving my old negatives, making books of them etc. Things I never had the time to do before.

S: When we all eventually come out of all this, where do you hope to be, as a Creative on day one? Can you envision anything of the future ahead?

M: This is something we never before experienced. Our freedom of moving and being in places with people to talk to, was taken so much for granted and now is at stake. This will change our whole attitude and way we look the world around us of course, priorities will change and be revaluated. Basic stuff like going back to the sea, , when the weather gets really summery, being barefoot in the sand, swimming, lying in the sun, my child playing with other children, being with good friends, seem dreams right now. All the places in Greece right now look empty and abandoned and I guess this will be the first summer with no tourists and with the owners mourning for their loses even if they get something from the state in return… For me, as a photographer it will be something to start from… From the beginning.

S: If you would give any sort of word of hope to us all and people in our various creative fields, what would that be?

M: Return to the basics and focus in them, reevaluate your friends and dearests, take relationships and minding for the others and togetherness as the more precious stone to start building again. Nothing is taken for granted. Our work must be true and humble and inspired by all this.

S: Finally, in showing our readers a picture of today, of your work or something else, what would that be?

Title: Easter is cancelled. Photograph by Melinna Kaminari

S: This second picture, your photograph you titled ”Easter is cancelled”, what is your thougths around it?

M: I think this photo is a semiotic description of it, garbage beneath symbolizes all the pshychic stresses, depression, anger, sorrows that came with this years holy week

Stefan Lindblad, the Illustrator chatting with my old friend Melinna Kaminari the photographer, over a virtual Fika (coffee/tea)