Evan Maragkoudakis - "Woodkids"
" 'Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.' ― Franz Kafka
Evan Maragkoudakis was born in 1992 in Athens, Greece. Having lived in Greece, USA and Belgium, he returned in Athens in 2009 to study law in the University of Athens. Captivated by the Athenian surroundings, he started documenting the world around him combining his love for skateboarding and the streets. Upon completing his law degree, he had already exhibited and published work in Greece and The Netherlands regarding skateboarding, the refugee crisis of Mytilene and several other projects. His style is a mix of contemporary and documentary photography, heavily inspired by the founding fathers of street photography. Besides exhibitory work, Maragkoudakis works as a freelance photographer/ filmmaker for several advertising agencies as well as creating corporate content.
One could unarguably state that the streets hide more dangers than they hide beauty. It would take a madman to only extract the beauty from the unending pavement and concrete, the lack of natural traits and the excess amount of chaotic waveforms, yet there is a group of people who praise the pavement as their own land. Skateboarders.
Throughout the years, most child-centered pedagogics urged parents to enroll their children to some short of activities that focus on developing both the spirit and the body. For example piano lessons, drawing and ballet classes are on top of the list when it comes to child development. What happens when a child decides to break free of the norm and go out on his own exploration on a chipped wooden board?
What differentiates skateboarding from all classic activities is the lack of mentors, the lack of teachers and the lack of a judgeful system. Skateboarding has no rules. On top of this, a skater’s field is an entire city contrary to a football field or a classroom. Thousands of stairs, neverending streets, steep roads, rusty rails and harsh concrete is where it all comes down to. Take all of the above and hand it freely to the youth.
I honestly felt like I was transparent from times to times. Being out there with people who freely expressed themselves as nothing more than they really are makes them forget you’re around holding a camera to your eye. The streets and their culture is really an empty page. What’s so special about it is that you will shape them, the streets won’t shape you. The youth is full of emotion, they are turbulent and rebellious. When you pass these traits down to the streets, you shouldn’t expect anything less than the streets rebelling back at you. This why probably it’s not a very hostile environment for the youth. The youth will definitely be the one to strike first and the streets will answer back.
'Woodkids' focuses on the characters and the surroundings that make up the Athenian skateboarding scene. I’m sincerely not trying to sensitize anybody on the hardships and difficulties that young skater has to go through. It’s all part of what we do. Skateboarding is supposed to be raw, it’s supposed to make you bleed and give you bruises, it’s meant to be tough and risky.
As far as photography goes, I couldn't have possibly interpreted the feeling and the emotion digitally. Shooting these in film has really helped me to clearly envision the moments that were of an actual essence and contributed to the whole vibe. Heavily inspired by photographers such as Elliott Erwitt, J Grant Brittain and Yorgos Depollas, I was really caught between shooting these in the styles of both documentary and contemporary.
There is no guide into interpreting these photographs. Skateboarding has no rules thus neither do these images. 'Woodkids' documents the moments and the surroundings of the modern day street nomads, rattling in the Athenian asphalt. No role models, no rules, no schedule, no mentors."
When you grow up you start to get taught that you can't do this and that. Of course a functioning society needs rules and frameworks, but isn't it beautiful to just go out in the world, do your thing without anyone standing there, pointing with their finger and telling you that you can't do a certain thing? I guess we all long for a place without rules from time to time. Where we can just express who we are, without anyone telling us how to do it and where to stop. Evan and his fellow skaters have found their place to do that in skateboarding. There are so many other ways we can express what we deep down in us really want to say and do. Take for example art and more specifically photography (in my opinion photography is both at the very same time, art and not art). Surely there are certain ways a photograph can be taken so that it generally looks well composed. The rule of thirds is a good example for that. I mean it is called "rule" of thirds, but I'd like to call it a concept for composing your image rather than a rule. Simply because you don't have to do it. It's just a way photographs seemingly works better for the viewer's perception. Is a photograph bad just because it is out of focus or blurred?
And for me this phenomena is perfectly reflected in Evan's photographs and overall project. Some photographs are out of focus, some blurry. But exactly through this they achieve something much more intense. They convey the feeling as if you were almost there with them. Out there skating and doing your thing.
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