The title of Sophia Tolika's book 'Homes Sweet Homes' gives away the sweetness of the photographer's eye towards her subject – the word sweet has not been chosen by chance –which is her direct familiar environment, her home and the homes of friends and relatives that she captures in her images, but also her friends and relatives themselves and especially children in their tiny, ordinary candid moments of their secured everyday life. I believe that at the same time – and this is of course a personal interpretation – she artfully conceals a very delicate bittersweet mood for a not so distant past, a moderate ironical smile at the microcosm of middle class residences – already laden with multiple symbolisms and references to arts apart from photography, such as painting, cinema and theatre - which constitute the stage where, silently and repeatedly, common and everyday acts of drama or comedy are altogether synthesizing what we call life, or rather family life.
Due to its covert ambivalence, the title's sentimental tone alone, sounds a bit dissonant and also emits a nostalgic note, at least in my ears. The object of nostalgia is always something that has passed and now nestles in the world of memory. Homes we left behind, friendships that faded away, people that are absent.
The photographs waiting for us inside the book's pages are blended in, one by one, with the tone proposed in advance by the book's title. Symbolically, the book begins with the photograph of an ordinary urban residence's front door. Instantly though, we are showered with surprise and question, because while the entrance is aglow and adorned with an impressive festive garland, the lights inside the house are turned off! But, isn't it the place where the party takes place? Did we have a wrong address? The ribbons that are carried away by the wind, deliver an eerie nature to this festive composition.
In the second page we have stepped into the entryway hall and we stand uneasy in front of the lady of the house, whose bare legs is the only thing we see along with the bottom of her bathrobe – obviously unprepared to receive guests at this time - while, to our surprise, a bag of green apples lies obediently by her legs. Are they meant for us? What kind of treat is this?
In the next page we find ourselves in a living room, with an oval, as expected, mirror and ornamental plates decorating the walls, doilies and photographs of relatives lined up upon the radiator – so they can stay warm. A normality that confutes the presence of a chubby lady sitting on her armchair and looking at us through a weird mask with the face of a cow wearing sunglasses.
Photography in general, is permeated by an inherent surrealism - it is surrealist in its essence – but there are certain photographers that artfully underpin this element without turning to formalistic exaggerations or ludicrous collage techniques. The whole world itself constitutes an immense collage, as Luigi Ghirri had aptly noticed.
Through photographs, such as those I described above, Tolika serves the books declared purpose but at the same time she undermines it. Taking photographs in a direct, simple and unpretentious way that resembles the commemorative photography of a family album, she introduces little subversions which keep on surprising us, creating a reality that brings back the queerly magic world of Twin Peaks. Although this favorite series took place at the borderlands of rural America, the oddity that haunted it exists everywhere, even in a small middleclass apartment in Depot region of Thessaloniki.
The photographer has the duty, like a new alchemist, to discover the uncanny through the familiar, the comic through drama, the truth through lies, and Tolika, in her first published book, seems that she carried it off just fine.
You can order the book by sending email at firstname.lastname@example.org