We had the privilege of hearing from Helias Doulis, a young photographer from Greece living in London whose expressive work capturing portraits of people is thought-provoking, breathtaking, & poetic. See more of him and his work on his website and Instagram @helias.doulis
When did you first become interested in photography?
I started taking pictures when I was in my second year as an undergraduate student back in 2014 at the University of Wolverhampton, which had almost nothing to do in terms of similarity referring to their subject, to the ones that I have mostly been shooting during the past year or so. I started shooting abandoned buildings across the city that I used to live in the UK, and after breaking up with my first partner, I wanted to explore my feelings within random partners and the different seasons of the year in nature. This series is a completely unpublished one, which I still hold on to in order to create an exhibition which would contain my true self at beneath and above its roughest hours.
How did your Nurtured Nature series develop?
I was shooting some photographs with my muse, back in 2015, in Greece, and more specifically at Limanakia. That’s quite common for us though, since I use his body as an artistic canvas where I can most of the times reflect myself upon, like creating a mirror that is not physically existing, yet is always managing to create a never ending emotional surface for both of us. It was just a month after our shooting for my first feature film that is now eventually completing its post-production process. He had lost more than ten kilos to be able to present his character on camera, so his body was extremely skinny apart from weak. We created random body shapes besides the rocky landscape of Limanakia in different times and types of daylight, when I realized that I wanted him to be a Siren within a project along more bodies.
Were you self-taught or did you learn in school/from a mentor?
I am a self-taught photographer who is experiencing his different emotional spasms with the support of the lenses of a camera, reflecting his filters upon poetic visuals.
What themes do you explore through your work, a dichotomy of nature versus nurture, or an exploration of humanity in nature?
There is a continuous fight between what we are designed to be with by Nature and what we have been armed to be with by Nurture. Nature in terms of a womb, in terms of a mother who is eternally giving birth to her creatures, yet Nurture in terms of a society, in terms of a father who is eternally killing his creatures’ sensibility upon the tomb of masculinity and patriarchy. The exploration of what men have been equipped to be with, the exploration of society’s expectation of them to be presented and act through their nurtured selves while running towards the shelter of Mother Nature.
You feature many types of landscapes in your work, sensuous rock formations and meadows. What do those settings speak to in your work and it's mood?
The setting for my ‘Parabyss: A Nurtured Nature’ and ‘Blossom of Solitude’ Series has been a rocky shelter where men can find a haven to exist freely and be protected by the threatening public eye of the viewer, who is always awaiting to corrupt their sensitivity across the shore. The ‘Sheltered’ Series was shot in Macclesfield Forest, in Manchester back in November 2015. I wanted to expand on that tightness within the expression of the bodies and the way they present themselves in adverse weather conditions while trying to survive. It has been the key point of my first exploration while using a female body as part of a photographic project in order to visualize Mother Nature as a desperate yet always resourceful body among the freezing meadows of Cheshire.
You compose your subjects in positions you don't normally see in portrait photography, how do you decide on those positions and what stories do they tell?
My aim is to highlight the creature’s path within the destructive environment, a dystopia that allegorically may vary the true identity of each one of us. The beautiful world of the Pre – Raphaelite paintings present the protagonists sitting sullen and sad, while in my own shadowy world, creatures – with beauty being conquered by desire – dare to look at the viewer, overcoming the shame they may feel. This shame, dipped in the persecution, is what I am trying to capture through the body.
What inspires your work?
Since my studies are on the Literary and Cinematic Writing, the art of speech is endlessly catching my attention when facing a human being or a landscape. Poetry, makes me realize that the human being is itself a landscape waiting to be explored. Leaving behind so many artists that have inspired me from this form of art, I will focus on some photographers and filmmakers, whose works have served as stimuli to my whole work, such as George Platt Lynes, William Klein, Greg Girard, William Gedney and Nan Goldin, whose aim was to create living statues exhale sensitivity or power, indolence or pleasure, ‘victims’ of their own desires and old memories. Regarding directors, I will deliberately mention Aleksandr Sokourov and Bill Douglas, who present their heroes always corrupted by misery, destitution, hiding behind the dust or debris.
Do you go into the shoot with a specific shot in mind, or does the inspiration strike when you place your model in the setting?
Within the first shots, I wanted to undress the Man of the coat that Magritte and Beckett gave to Him, the armor of which is said in the Three Guineas of Virginia Woolf that has supported the masculinity syndrome, and to reveal the vulnerable body, the enduring one. While observing my models and the movement that I wanted to create with their bodies, I realized that this is the time for me as an artist to reveal that sensitivity that they can hide in order for the viewer himself to reflect on the society’s garment that he is wearing, either.
How do you compose an image?
The poses are sometimes clear in my mind even before I get the camera in my hands and way more often when there are several models together, born at that time as the bodies exist one next to another, seeking to enliven with a touch.
What has been your biggest lesson learned through creating your art? What do you hope your art says to people?
Since I was a little boy, I wanted to create a shelter where everyone can hide himself from harness, wear or death. And even if I still find myself helpless or obsessed with what the past used to mean in my life, I do take the time to stay at home and hide myself from everything when I suddenly realize that there is nothing stronger than showing your weaknesses to overpower that scared little boy that is now crying to see the light of beauty, within my adult body.