I have always been a collector. I think this is partly because I am introspective and welcoming of the twists and turns of life, observant of how the crisscrossing of paths and the comings and goings of key people leave their stamp on us, molding us a little each time. Collectors collect for the good of the soul, because there is something strangely poetic and satisfying about surrounding yourself with tiny tokens that embody your experiences, travels, loves, dreams, inspirations, values and contemplations. In a way that is more biographic than materialistic, I have discovered great joy in expressing myself through a curated collection of items old and new. No matter where I have lived, for how short a while or in how small a space, what I loved most was creating a home that represented, inspired and uplifted me.
I haven't always been a photographer. Rather, I dreamt of being a writer and studied to be a scientific researcher. I wrote often and a lot - it was like thinking and breathing, but on paper. My writings have also been collections - non-linear and spontaneous, my pen itself unknowing of the words that flowed until the sentence received its period. I told my notebooks all my stories; neither lines nor margins mattered, nor the fact that I was actually starting to fill the back pages of my science notebooks, spilling closer and closer to the front, until the creative thoughts met the scientific thoughts somewhere in the middle.
I pursued part of my graduate studies in Europe, moving from country to country as part of an unconventional international program. It allowed me to travel, to discover new lifestyles and cultures and to continuously expand my personal collection - postcards and magnets, inspirational quotes and funky beer coasters, faded train tickets and other memorabilia - these arguably unsophisticated items happily mixed with more valuable ones: local art and ceramics, home design items and prints... What I loved, who I loved, where I loved and what I dreamed of encapsulated in a number of items that traveled with me like a growing circus, requiring the acquisition of a new suitcase with every leg of the journey. Those pivotal years also enabled me to write my heart out and to fall in love with a new form of storytelling and collecting -- photography.
Photographs are stories. They are collections of micromoments, places and people that touched us. Whether they are our own or another's, some photographs strike a chord in us, make us stare a little while longer. That is because they represent how we see the world, how we live, how we love and how we dream.
Through my love for collecting and storytelling, I developed my photography to the point where I became known for not even going to the grocery store without my camera. I shared them with friends and family, gradually expanding my audience. Like-minded people felt something when viewing them, and urged me time and time again to "do something with them". I launched my business with this passion at heart - the passion for stories, for travel, for that special way a place can play on your heartstrings, for the feeling that home is a sanctuary that should reflect and inspire you.
I have created pre-made collections or sets of fine-art prints, based on places, color palettes and feelings that flow together. These collections are currently only available in my Etsy shop and can be shipped to you or picked up in person if you're in Montreal. In the spirit of collecting what represents YOU, you could also put together your own personal collection by ordering a custom set of prints.
If you follow me along on this blog and Instagram, you'll get to know some of the stories behind these photographs.
Which prints make you dream and reminisce? Is there a collection that fits with you and your home? Let me know what inspires you - I always like to know!
Why did I do it, then? Wasn't I busy enough?! The short answer is that it makes me happy. The cliché answer is that life is too short for dreams to be left simmering on the back burner. I find it completely overwhelming how MUCH I want to do in my life – how many dreams I have, in so many angles and directions. I (fearfully) hope that I will be able to make them all happen. I also realize more and more that I probably would no longer answer the "dream-job question" with "writer"; for me, there is no one dream, nor one dream job. I enjoy too much, and would feel sad if I didn't bring my ideas to fruition, to try and see where they may lead. The genuine realization is that Veni Etiam gives me added purpose and puts other things – work, stress, time, choices – into perspective. Often, it gives me a boost to wake up in the mornings (because, frankly, coffee doesn't always do it), or the motivation to create after a brain-zappingly long day at work. It costs more time, but brings such joy.
Over the last two weeks, I've been blessed to receive countless positive comments about my new endeavor! Curiously, though, this supportive feedback has consistently been coupled with one question: "Does this mean you're giving up science?" The wording varied slightly from person to person, but the gist remained the same. Most worried of all were my grandmothers – thirty seconds into the conversation and my excited face was suddenly met with furrowed brows and panicked eyes, followed by a half cautionary, half accusatory exclamation in a nervous voice, "You can't quit now! You've come so far with your degree!" Some friends and colleagues, on the other hand, welcomed the reassuring alternative to the stressful tenure-track climb or, at the very least, applauded trying out "something else" as a back-up to my scientific aspirations. But common to all these responses was the underlying assumption that it had to be an "either or" thing – that a scientific job and a creative job must be mutually exclusive, and that there is probably not enough space in one's life to dabble in both. I became amused by this repeated occurrence and it led me to reflect on it.
The creative side of my personality has been there long before I discovered my scientific side. Although photography is a relatively recent passion, what I've always loved most of all is to write. I used to say that if I could have any one job in the world, I'd want to be a writer. My devotion to science initially came from the need for a more secure career path, until I found a niche that I absolutely adore – the neuroscience of language. Despite the trials and tribulations of a heavy-stress academic life, the creative hobbies always lingered in the background – first, writing, and increasingly photography – until they gradually inched towards the foreground. I let them grow because I felt as though they were a part of me that could not be silenced, no matter how challenging it was (is!) to carve out the time for these extra ambitions. I don't think anyone is entirely defined by their one job; that's why we have hobbies. But the idea that a hobby becomes a second line of work is, I guess, what is slightly less common.
Within the first days of having launched this project, I noticed that my mind was on creative fire; I was brainstorming in the shower at six in the morning, both about my dissertation research and Veni Etiam goals. I made discoveries in my work that I had somehow overlooked before. I was writing academic texts faster and more fearlessly than in previous weeks. It was as though having an officially sanctioned creative outlet unlocked ideas on the scientific side. My heart was happy, and my mind was sharp. I realized that the influence was bidirectional: my scientific training has also seeped into my business planning. Why is what I am doing different? Who is my audience? What are others doing in parallel, and in what ways might I be the first? What is the gap I am aiming to fill, and what is my contribution? These are key questions a researcher must answer in any sound scientific proposal, and I (un)surprisingly approached the creation of Veni Etiam in exactly the same way. In creative fields and in scientific research, the ideas are endless – there are always possibilities of what you could do next. You cannot do it all at once and answer all needs in a short window of time. If you try, you'll just bury yourself in a mound of stress, without making clear sense of any of it. Instead, little by little, you pursue the main plan and follow-up with other tangential creative ideas that spring up along the way.
Another parallel between the two worlds is that, apart from the required creativity, there is also a challenging technique to learn and that, very often, this technical learning occurs best "by doing". In my everyday work, I study how the brain responds to language – how it understands it, accesses it from memory, learns it, and loses it. To do this, my colleagues and I use a super sensitive methodology where electrodes on the scalp record the electrophysiological signals emitted by the brain during specific mental processes. In a nutshell, we design incredibly meticulous linguistic experiments, engage our participants in these tasks, and record how their brain responds while they do so. Once you have the brain data, you post-process it to "clean it up", compare it to many other participants, and carefully draw inferences from it. Much like photography, post-processing can only do so much – the recordings (and the content of the experiments) have to be of good quality right from the start. If the snapshot is not clear, then neither is your message.
Science also directly helped me progress with photography by giving me the opportunity to travel near and far for academic conferences. The change of scenery opened my eyes to new research, new people and new places – all of which added to my repertoire of cultural experiences and to my collection of photographs and stories, over the years. Another striking similarity is how large a role setbacks play in moving forward; on both sides, I've agonized over obstacles, evaluated my shortcomings, tracked my progress, and counted small victories more often than major breakthroughs. On both sides, it's also necessary to recognize that you cannot credit yourself alone for your successes; elements contributed by others along the way are not to be taken for granted. There is always someone else's work that inspires you, someone's feedback that impels you to adjust your approach. There is always an audience to reach, and their response to your work is partly what validates its worth. The balance between confidence and humility is as delicate as it is crucial.
I had never stopped to ponder the parallels between my creative world and my scientific one, until the flood of responses to the launch of this project. I have always known that both sides exist harmoniously in me, but I only now realized that there is an open valve between the two.
So, the answer to the million dollar question of whether I will quit science? No way. I wouldn't be able to. One side wouldn't work at its full capacity without the other. Both in combination are what make me so profoundly "me".
(And if you're curious as to what the "scientific me" does on a daily basis, check out my academic page).
Once I decided to share my photography with the world, I knew I needed to create an image for Veni Etiam – an image that, above all, conveyed how I envisioned it in my mind's eye, as well as one that would linger in the minds and memory of those who experienced the brand.
I intuitively turned to a duet of talented designers – Santhi Thomaidi and Lefteris Protopapas, known as Alati design. We had met in Greece some years ago and I had continued to follow their creative projects from afar. I trusted them from the start, without a second thought. What I didn't know at that time, though, was how rewarding and how much fun our collaboration would be, and how much more than a logo I would gain from the experience.
When I first contacted them, I knew I needed to design a logo, a business card and some stationery. What I quickly learned through them is that what we needed to design, in fact, was so much more than those basic elements; we needed to create a visual identity for Veni Etiam – a consistent and recognizable look that would visually communicate the essence of the brand. What makes it special and engaging?
I approached them with a summary of what Veni Etiam stood for, and what I hoped it would embody. I had wanted a nostalgic, retro feel – a vintage camera, and classy fonts. I knew I wanted it to look streamlined and crisp, elegant and memorable - safely balanced on the spectrum between old-fashioned and modern. As a starting point, I sent them a few hues of blue, inspired by my love for the Sea and all things maritime, and mentioned that I also imagined a calm charcoal grey. I didn't need to say much else for them to get their design engines running! They absorbed everything I said, mixed it in with their own creative vision of the project, and added generous portions of their impressive talent.
They took it upon themselves to get to know Veni Etiam – they asked for a dozen of my favorite photos, read through bits of my unpublished website and designed the brand around the feel of it. This resulted in the incredibly odd but astonishing sensation, every single time they presented me with a proposal, that they had totally read my mind. It was as though they saw what was in my head, and pulled it out. They captured it. The spirit of Veni Etiam gradually materialized, and it was one of the most exhilarating experiences to witness the transfer of my elusive vision from thin air onto paper.
Lefteris and Santhi - I love what we generated and achieved together! But best of all, I loved the whole journey itself, and even felt a pang of nostalgia once we were done. Thank you for being so attentive to my requests, all the while being honest about what you felt would be a smarter move or more visually compelling. I would wholeheartedly recommend your work to the world!
(And I do! Check out their portfolio and follow their creative endeavors on Facebook!)
Exactly a year ago, I had the (somewhat intimidating) idea to do something with my passion for photography and writing - something other than taking thousands of photographs a year and sharing them with close friends and family. A step up - a new experiment, a whole new adventure.
Launching this project truly feels like I'm opening up a part of myself to the world, and nothing has ever felt as exciting and nerve-racking all at once!
Strangers and non-strangers, I hope that you will like what you see, and that you will be part of this journey in one way or another.
Thank you to those of you -- you know who you are -- who have always encouraged me to "do something" with this alter-ego to my scientific side. I know you'll find yourselves in many of the images that are part of the current collection, as well as those that are sure to be added to the collection over time.
When you check the store, be sure to read up on the different kinds of wall-art you may choose from - not only a variety of dimensions, but a medium for every taste or style of decor. Photo previews of the various options will follow as soon as possible. Stay tuned for updates, stories behind my favorite photos, new pieces that get added to the collection, and new kinds of products.
When you embark on a new chapter, you never know if it'll be BIG or not. All you can do is take a deep breath, carry your faith in your pocket, put your whole heart and soul into that moment, and jump.
So, that's what I'm doing. This is me jumping.
This is Veni Etiam Photography, from my heart to yours.
Thanks for stopping by! #OnTheBlog are the stories behind my prints, posts about my travels, glimpses into my daily life, news about my shop, events in the Montreal community and tips on travel, home and photography.
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