Tzeli Hadjidimitriou is an independent filmmaker, fine art photographer, and travel writer from Lesbos, Greece. She is the author of six photography books, including the award-winning “39 Coffee houses and a barber’s shop”, “In Communion with Stone” (Crete University Press) and “Time Fading Into Clouds” (Metaixmio), with work shown in museums and galleries in Greece and abroad. She is also the author of guidebooks to the Greek islands of Kythira and Lesbos and has published many articles about her global travels to South Korea, India, Cambodia, Laos and other destinations in the Greek Press. She has an expert understanding of Sappho's poetry and regularly works as a consultant for BBC television on programs about Sappho and Lesvos. She studied Direction of Photography for the cinema in Rome. She worked for many years on Greek television series and films, collaborating with almost all TV channels and major Greek directors and producers. Her films have been screened all over Europe and in 2020 her documentary, “Sappho singing”, won the Best Foreign Short Documentary at the Queer International Film Festival, Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
I am a photographer, a writer, and a filmmaker, but I am also a researcher of authenticity. I grew up on the Greek island of Lesvos, where ever since I was a young girl I was fascinated by the quality of the light there. But I left, and became a world traveller. I am an artist, moving from the one to the other, following my inside need for expression. In my documentaries, I use all my experiences and capacities, aiming to give space and voice to ordinary people, who are not famous or considered extraordinary in any way, but who live their lives in simplicity, outside the daily headlines.
Sappho’s granddaughters (Festival Award, International FF Ierapetra 2020), presents seven older women from Lesvos that I accidentally came across and who reminisce moments of their lives. Each one of them on her own way. Angeliki throws away the photos of those who have passed away, Myrsini sings a capellaan Amanessong in the living room of her country house, a woman in the park caresses her cat, a substitute for her dead husband, the Three Graces remember their lives as young girls, and Photo proudly claims that she never cared about marriage, because she wanted to be free.
Salt and Bread (Sound Award, Docfest 2018), introduces us to the people of a neighborhood, an ouzo distillery and a shipyard. What they all have in common is their love for what they do. Every summer, Yannakelos family makes frumenty and the whole neighborhood gathers to make the "chachles", as they used to do in Greek villages once upon a time: helping each other, sharing the work that has to be done and laughing; because that's the way of living they learnt and preserve, passing it on the next generation. Sophia Konstantinelli, the only female distiller in Lesvos continues the tradition of the family and makes ouzo with grapes and figs from the neighboring villages. Takis Psaradellis keeps on building and repairing wooden boats, despite the increase of plastic ones, that "are not compatible with our sea", as he says.
The film In search of Orpheus (Best Greek Documentary Award, AegeanDocs 2019), follows the traces of the mythical musician in Lesvos, Greece, where, as legend has it, his head and his lyra were washed up on the coasts of the island. We meet ordinary people of the area and ask them what they know about the legent. Their answers are staggering, as they have modified the story according to their own imagination. In other words, they each make up one more tale to the many tales about Orpheus. Among these people, we encounter the famous Chinese poet Lanlan. For her, this place gives birth to music and poetry.
As the film was shot on coasts where refugees continually land, even before the big exodus of 2015, people also talk about it in our conversations.
Mr. Dimitris and Mrs. Dimitroula (Streeen Award, Divine Queer Torino)
A middle-aged man dances in the middle of the street. Greek songs of the 1970s and memories trace a constant smile up on his face. His only company, a cat. A camera, as an observer, stealing images and his thoughts. Dimitris is different. More human, but also more lonely that the others. His red dress drew the attention of those who went to Mytilene in order to cover the refugees' suffering. Many thought that his drama is lighter, more joyful. But Dimitris still lives with his loneliness and now that he is out of the limelight, the night seems darker than ever.
Sappho singing (Best Foreign Short Documentary, Queer International Film Festival Playa del Carmen, Mexico). The film is based on Maureen Duffy’s play about Sappho, but it is placed in the Eressos of today, depicting the reality of today’s lesbian community in connection with the rich ancient history of the place.
Her work has received warm reviews from the Greek Press. She also gave many interviews in major Greek Tv and Radio stations (Mega, ERT, Antenna, NET, ERA, Sky e.t.c.)
“Coming from a back-ground in film studies, Tzeli prefers displaying her pictures as a coherent whole and structures her photo-albums in an almost cinematic way.
“What I would like is to plunge the viewer into an atmosphere-to immerse him in a story”.
“Invariably, the story she chooses to narrate is neither about sensationalism, shock value or the pursuit of novelty for its own sake. Ignoring contemporary trends, Tzeli Hadjidimitriou turns her back on fleeting impressions, finding pleasure in the more enduring aspects of life.”
2013 “In search of Kythera and Antikythera” self publishing
A traveller’s guide about the island of Kythera and Antikythera; research, texts and photographs by Tzeli Hadjidimitriou. (English language)
“Travel writer Tzeli Hadjidimitriou is a brilliant photographer whose emotive images make you see the world a new, a writer whose poetic words resonate with a joyous truth and a born adventurer with a contagious laugh and love of life. Tzeli Hadjidimitriou is considered one of Greece’s most successful photo-journalists, as well as a pure artist in the way she deals with light.”
2012 “A girl’s guide to Lesbos” self publishing
A traveller’s guide about the island of Lesvos with an LGBT orientation; research, texts and photographs by Tzeli Hadjidimitriou. (English language)
“This unique handbook doesn't seek to explain Lesbos, but to present the fabled island's geography, history, mythology, tradition, culture and people in such a way as to lure the modern traveller to draw her own conclusions.
Whether landscape and seascapes, dwellings and monuments, gods and goddesses, stories and legends, or local rituals and culinary celebrations, each entry is written with love and the commitment of someone completely enchanted by this place.”
2009 "In Communion With Stone, The Rural Architecture of Lesvos"Crete University Press
Photographic album. Texts: N.Sifounakis, N.Stefanou, Ch.Hatzilias, Tzeli Hadjidimitriou.
A photographic essay on the rural architecture of Lesvos, the different ways of building with stones depending on the first material of each place, the connection of the structured environment with the surrounding nature. The value of a work lies in the expression of the creator’s struggle over the matter endeavoring to accomplish an intention, a plan: a struggle with matter of an exclusive utterance and performance sheltering its own “demons”. Thales declared that all matter is alive with gods and demons.
The handiwork of a folk artisan confined within narrow financial limits is an expression of such struggle with the available materials and space as well as with the physical landscape which can accept only that amount of forms.
2008 “Unexplored Kythera & Antikythera”
A traveller’s guide about the island of Kythera and Antikythera; research, texts and photographs by Tzeli Hadjidimitriou. Road Editions
The latest ROAD Editions travel guide Unexplored Kythera & Anti-Kytheraboasts an extensive array of stunning photographs, meticulously researched information and a passion for what makes Kythera & Anti-Kythera and its people distinctive. Writer Tzeli Hadjidimitriou reaches beyond secrets old & new and accompanies us on this vivid and fantastical journey allowing us to encounter two remarkable destinations
In Unexplored Kythera & Anti-Kythera you will find thorough details about the local history, mythology, architecture, arts & crafts, cuisine and how the locals go about their everyday. An extensive selection of excursions that take in almost the least travelled part of this unforgettable land as well as current listing of essential services, how to arrive safely on the island, where to stay and a variety of recreational advice to make your Voyage to Kythera outstanding.
2006 “Unexplored Lesvos” Road Editions
A more comprehensive traveller’s guide about the island of Lesvos; research, texts and photographs by Tzeli Hadjidimitriou.
TRAVELING ON LESVOS WITH A NEW OUTLOUK
Tzeli Hadjidimitriou, a photographer and author of the guide “Unexplored Lesvos”, recently published in Greek by Road editions, has the enthusiasm of a sophisticated traveler, the experience of one who is the well traveled, the sensitivity of an artist and the knowledge of a well read researcher.
In her book, she takes the reader along routes that stretch across the island of Lesvos and makes both the less exploded and more touristic parts of the island glow with the magic of the newly discovered.
2003 “Time fading into clouds” Metaichmio Editions
Photographic album. Texts: N. Vatopoulos, N. Chronas, Tz. Hadjidimitriou
“Tzeli Hadjidimitriou takes photographs of clouds as painters of the Renaissance, or El Greco depicted. She captures them, solitary and silent, on their odd journeys. It’ s as if a finger, a hand, will point the way.”
2000 “Kythera”. Crete University Press
Photographic album. Preface to the book werethe music of Mariza Coch and the verses of N. Kavvadias.
“The study of light and the evocation of mood are the guiding principles of the work of the photographer Tzeli Hadjidimitriou. Light shapes everything, form, color, texture, it creates shadows and transforms surfaces.
1998 “Urban Housing of the ’30s; Modern Architecture in Pre-war Athens” Nereus Editions
Texts: M. Kardamitsi, N. Meras, P. Nikolaidis, P. Tournikiotis, M. Philippidis, D. Philippidis,
ART DECORATES THE CONCRETE JUNGLE
A recently published book on the buildings of Athens in the Thirties shows Art Deco architecture not only abounds in Athens but also encompasses some of the most intriguing buildings of the city has to offer. Entitled “Urban Housing of the 30’s, Modern Architecture in Prewar Athesn, the book records in a series of color photographs Athens’s fine Arte Deco heritage.
1997 “39Coffeee Houses and a Barber’s shop” Crete University Press
Photographic album. Texts: A. Fasianos, F. Frangouli, G Chronas, E. Papataxiarchis, G. Nikolakakis, Th. Paraskevaidis.
“In the pictures of Lesvos’s coffee-houses, Tzeli strikes the right balance between light and color. Allthough the pictures are filled with details, none of them jump out to distract one’s gaze but instead are orchestrated to create an atmosphere both soothing and highly vivid. Tzeli is indeed deft at turning the seemingly banal into stories about the passage of time and the endurance of human values. So while coffee-houses are a subject largely exhausted by a folkloric, pseudo-sentimental aesthetic, Tzeli puts them back into the right perspective. Despite her emotional ties with the is
land-she was born there-she does not retreat into nostalgia. Instead, she offers a vision that is tender, meditative and thoroughly dignified. What motivates her is a desire to give visual expression to moods and to evoke fading habits and lifestyles. ”
1996 “Sacred Water, The Mineral Springs of Lesvos”. self publishing
Photographic album. Texts: G. Maniotis, G. Doukakis, Tz. Hadjidimitriou
Light within old buildings slips in waves through small windows, and sprawls upon eroded walls, is born again by them, murking the eyes of uninvited guests. For years, light was the sole observer of all that went on behind fractured shutters. Guard and lover of the unique beauty, which dripped slowly, like the drops on greening walls. In these closed bath chambers breath merged with vapour. And thought would be lost, would spread, as the light did on perspiring bodies.
Exhibitions & Shows
Since 1997 she has taken part in several photographic and audiovisual exhibitions in Greece and abroad. Among them:
a. Solo exhibitions
2018 “Under the Dancing Light”, at Kudos Gallery, Sydney, NSW, Australia
2016 “Aura from the island of Sappho”,at Space Zero, 798 Art Space, Beijing, China.The well known poetLan Lan, presented at the opening of the exhibition, her latest collection of poems, “Sappho: A Loose Bouquet”
2015 “Lesvos, the island of hidden harmony”atSismanogleio Megaro, Greek Consulate, Istanbul, Turkey.An exhibition of photos from Lesvos, showing the unique quality of light on the island and the transformation of the landscape through it.
2004 “Time fading into clouds”, atChoros Technis 24Gallery, Athens, Greece
1995 “Grecia vista dalla finestra”, in the Instituteof Byzantine Studies, in Venice and inLa Plaka cultural centre, Padua, Italy
b. Group exhibitions
2010 Fete de l' olivier a Meknes, Meknes, Morocco
2009 "Dancing nudes"at Aliquando Gallery, Paris, France
2008 Audio-video show“Sacred Water” at "the Bath of the Winds" in cooperation with the network “Mediterranean S.O.S.”.
2006 “Once upon a time there was Penelope Delta”,Athens College, Athens
2005 “A Table”, Skoufa Gallery, Athens
2005 “Aquarium”, at Saint Nicolas Bay Hotel, Saint Nicolas, Crete.
2004 “Zoom on Greece” at Sismanogleio Buildingin Konstantinople
2004 Participation in the exhibition of the Academy of Athens, “In Praise of the Olive”and in the subsequent publication.
2002 Participation in the first Kythera Photographic Encounters
2000 “2000 Tin Cans”, in “The Lithographer’s Workshop at Piraeus Street”, Athens
2000 “39 Coffee Houses and a Barber Shop” based on her book with the participation of several artists, at “Psihari 36"Gallery, Athens
1999 “Mediterranean, A Source of Life and Civilization”, in cooperation with the network “Mediterranean S.O.S.”. The exhibition subsequently traveled around several Greek towns and Mediterranean countries.
1997 “Piraeus Street, Transformations of an Industrial Landscape”, Athens
1997 “Aegean trajectories in light and time”: Photography Exhibition at Scopelos Photographic Centre, Scopelos
Latest Art Projects
Dancing Nudes: A series of underwater female nudes, taken during the last years in the sea and the baths of Lesvos, Greece. As the light passes through the water and falls on the bodies, it changes their shapes, draws magical designs on the skin and transforms them into mythical creatures that follow alternative rules, unlike those of our human experience on land. (Exhibition and book).
Silent Nights: Nightscapes taken around Eressos, during the last four years, with no use of artificial light of any kind. They “describe” the landscape as nightfall approaches, under the moonlight, or even without light at all, catching the sensitive blue intonations of the dark. (Exhibition and book).
Current Film Projects
Work in progress
Stonemasons-In communion with stone A documentary film of interviews with the men who used to mine the stones and build the houses and churches in Lesvos. The island is famous for the architecture of the houses and the industrial buildings that were built during the 19th century and even since the ‘60s. The way they work the stones with inscribed decoration is unique. Most of these people had no education or formal training, but were able to build incredible buildings without any plans. It is filmed in Lesvos and Ayvalik, where the people from Lesvos lived until 1922 and the same masters worked in both places.
Work in progress
The path of faith follows the traces of “paganism” into the Christian religion, in the island of Lesvos, where people are deeply connected with the saints, as if they were their own relatives. It aims to show that the need for faith is deeply rooted into the human soul and it is irrelevant to the name of the God we believe in.
If the political situation in Turkey allows the filming in Istanbul, the film will proceed to the Othodox churches in Istanbul and the ritual connected with “pagan” routs.
The films mentioned above, are partof a series under the title Silent Path. They are shot in Lesvos, Greece, during the financial and migrant crisis. The aim of the series is to give a voice to everyday people who live their lives quietly, but know how to share, laugh, create, love, endure and keep on going with dignity, preserving a way of living in harmony with their environment.
Work in progress
The lesbian story of Eressos
Since the 1970s, women have been traveling to Eressos, the birthplace of Sappho. In some cases have even bought a property there. The story of this emigration is ignored by the people of the island, foreign travel agencies and the rest of the world. This documentary aims at understanding the role of imaginary in the construction of the concept of home and roots in the island of Lesbos, and specifically of the municipality of Eresos, as a tourist destination for hundreds of lesbians around the world.
Founder, Wind of Creativity, a NGO dedicated to keeping the memory in Greece alive and establishing a platform for communication with the rest of the world, through light and creativity. (2014)
Authorof six art photography books (1996 to present).
Travel writer. Author of four travel guides and numerous travel articles in magazines and newspapers. (1996 to present).
Stage photographer. She collaborated with many film and photography directors, including Theo Aggelopoulos, G.Panousopoulos, G.Tsemberopoulos, A.Kessisiglou, and T. Boulmetis. (1988-1998).
TV. She worked as a stage photographer, cameraman assistant, in Greek tv series, collaborating with almost all tv channels (Mega, Antenna, ERT, )and major Greek producers, studios (ATA) and directors (D.Vernikos, A.Kessisoglou, K. Katsaris,E Ralli, S.Markidi e.t.c.) (1988-1998)
Museums and Galleries
1988-2006 She worked as a fine art photographer in most galleries and museums of Athens (Frysiras Museumof modern Art, Pinakothiki Kouvoutsaki, Aithousa Tehnis Athinon gallery, Zoumboulaki gallery, Medousa Gallery, Horos Tehnis 24 galleri, Astrolavos, National Gallery in Athens, Municipality Gallery of Mytilene, Theofilos Museum of Mytilene, Teriade museum of Mytilene e.t.c)
She also collaborated and photographed work of the major Greek artists such as A.Fassianos, K. Tsoklis, G.Rorris, S.Daskalakis ,E.Iliopoulou, A.Veroucas, E.Frantzola, M.Giannakaki, M.Filopoulou, E.Sakagian, N.Stratakis, Io Aggeli, Theo Papagiannis, e.t.c.)
Hellenic Ministry of Culture
Archaeological Museum of Piraeus
14thEphorate of Byzantine Antiquities
KA' Ephorate of Prehistorical and Classical Antiquities
K' Ephorate of Prehistorical and Classical Antiquities
Hellenic Ministry of Tourism
2014 28-30 November Sabanci University, Coch University, Istanbul Turkey, “Semiha Es, 1st Women Photographers International Symposium”.
2013 15-16 February, University of Brighton, Brighton UK, Lesbian Lives Conference, “The Modern Lesbian”.
1986 University of Macedonia, Greece, Department of Business Administration, formal "School of Higher Industrial Studies of Thessaloniki", degree Good
1988 Centro Studi e Produzione Cinema-TV-Video-Fotografia “Maldoror”, Rome, Italy Direction of Photography for the Cinema
1986 Superior Diploma of official translator of the Italian Language
Extra Curricular Training
1988 Certificate in video-montage(228 hours) from General Secretary of Equality.
1985 21 July- 19 August Borsary awards Universita' Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano under the supervision of Michelangelo Antonioni. “Laboratorio Internazionale della comminicazione sociale, linguistica e letteraria” degree Good.