Mary Hatzaki

Interview: Evanna Venardou | Photo: Nikos Zappas

The Photo Festival was well-attended, and the castle was lit up

The first art gallery in Antiparos was opened in 2011 by a vigorous woman: Mary Hatzaki. Not Paros-born, but definitely Paros-loving and artistically inclined, she spearheaded the launch of the Photo Festival held on the grounds of the castle. The gallery is called “anti,” alluding to “Antiparos,” evidently, but also because, as we are told by Ms. Chatzaki, the name suggests “swimming against the stream.” As of this year, we are informed, it will be hosting the art shop of the Museum of Cycladic Art.

How did you find yourself in Antiparos?
I came here on business. It was the winter of 2002. It was pouring and freezing. With a digital camera I started taking pictures non-stop. I must have taken over five hundred snapshots of village fetes, weddings, christenings, religious processions. I also took some shots of the locals and then gave them the photos. An old lady once came up to me and said: “Thank you for the photo you gave me. I hadn’t had a photo of myself since my wedding”.

How did the art gallery come about?
I’ve always been an art aficionado. I noticed there was no art gallery on the island at the time, so the idea piqued my interest. Initially, I collaborated with a young woman. We set up the gallery right by the entrance to the castle. Our programme runs from June 20 through September. This year we feature leading artists Diamantis Aidinis, Achilleas Christidis, Io Angeli, and Harald Egede. And of course, like every year, we will be holding the Antiparos Photo Festival.

The ambiance is quite appealing but the space is Lilliputian in size. How does everything fit in here?
For your information, Plato Rivellis once exhibited 53 photographs here – it still wasn’t full to capacity. We hosted Elena Syraka who exhibited her jewels. Every artist transforms the space. Our all-time-high moment was the exhibition of painter, writer, musician and resident of the castle since the ’70s, Nikos Chouliaras – one of the cultural highlights hosted by the Municipality of Antiparos. However, I don’t call myself an art dealer – neither a gallerist for that matter; I’m an art-lover. Otherwise, I would have made loads of money…

What have you been hoping to achieve?
The locals got an idea of what an art gallery is. Children would come over and ask me, “So, what’s the deal with this stuff?”. It was the first major art-related stimulus they had ever known. What’s more, we give a tribune to local artists. An Englishman told me, deeply moved, “At last! It was long due on the island”. Tourists coming to Antiparos fall for the place; they keep coming back.

How much does the Photo Festival engage with the community?
Very much so. David Fraser Ray, an Englishman who lives in Norway, has created, together with his Norwegian wife Kjersti Varang (an invaluable assistant for the festival), the Facebook page “The Antiparos Photo Gallery” boasting 3,000 members/Antiparos-lovers, where old and new photos are posted. So, he wanted to put the best of the lot on display. I agreed with it being held here, so I went, “Should we have a photography festival in the Castle?” And so we did, two years ago- nice and easy. This year’s festival will be held on July 4-12. We’ll be presenting three photographers and photos from the shooting of the film “Suntan” by Argyris Papadimitropoulos that was done on the island, starring Makis Papadimitriou. Last year, the participant photographers, including Ms. Irene Marinopoulou, donated the money from the sale of their photographs to the local school. Photographers participating in this year’s festival are also going to make donations to the island.”

Who is funding it?
We found two sponsors, rented the lighting equipment, and eventually spot-lit the most beautiful parts of the castle that had been kept in the dark up until that moment. The event was well-attended, and a local resident, Yannis Kalargyros, said, “The incomer brought light to the castle!” – there was no precedent in the history of the island. We cleared it up of course. And you know something? As long as the festival was running, no one messed it up. With the help of our sponsor, the Municipality of Antiparos and God, we hope that it will be all lit up again this year.

Summer 2015