The twisting and turning path that creative practice can lead one down is well known but always unique. For photographer Marina Vernicos, her journey has taken her from photography, to philanthropy and fashion. Yet what has tied these pursuits together is an undying dedication to her home, Greece.
Growing up on the island of Sifnos, in the Cyclades island group, Vernicos developed a natural affinity with the liquid landscapes of her youth. Helped along by her father George, who was active in the shipping industry, Vernicos has used her aquatic surroundings as a canvas ever since.
“When I was nine years old, my father bought me my first SLR camera. I was super excited and since then I take photographs in my free time.”
Pursuing photography as a minor in her studies, it was not until a family friend commended her work that Vernicos threw herself fully into photography. With a career now spanning almost two decades, Vernicos has exhibited in fine art galleries, shot for global brands and has had editorials published in magazines. Connected across all of these outlets, however, is that connection with the sea. Whether that is in her half in, half out, underwater photography, or aerial shots that split the frame into azure blue and the marble coast, Vernicos’s muse has been the ocean.
“I'm very attached to the sea; I swim two hours a day in the summer. I'm in love with the sea and when I take pictures I try to bring that out. Either with the drone or underwater, I try to express my feelings.”
The switch from being behind the lens to operating a drone has been one that Vernicos has relished. Describing the process of shooting with the drone Vernicos noted, “It's like flying, it's like a birds eye view. It's so different, so beautiful, so new and so exciting.”
In her work, Vernicos has pushed the possibilities of drone photography, and the emotional reaction that it can elicit. This was most notably recognised in her photo of the Taj Mahal receiving the nomination for National Geographic Photo of the year in 2018. Seeing this wonder of the world from a new angle did not diminish the beauty of the building, but instead allowed for further emotional connection with the swirling mist in the background.
Seeking to give back to the community which supported her, in 2015 Vernicos held the first auction for her philanthropic organisation CREAID – which connects creativity and aid.
“For the first auction I gave 250 known Greeks, from athletes to actors to singers, a tote bag and I asked them to make something out of it.”
The aim in auctioning these products was to raise money for a particular goal, something which according to Vernicos is lost in other philanthropic ventures whose only outcome is a monetary donation.
“When I did CREAID, I wanted everyone to know where the money would go. So I did things (and still do) that I could show people what we did with the money we raised.”
The money raised from the first auction purchased a mobile medical unit for the Greek Chapter of Medecins du Monde, which seeks to ensure access to healthcare as a human right. Subsequent auctions have built playgrounds at children’s hospitals in Athens, but in designing her own tote bag, Vernicos found another calling, fashion design.
Printing one of her photographs onto the tote bag, Vernicos found a new medium by which she could share her imagery, and the Greece that it represented. Naturally, finding an audience for this product led to the development of a line of products, and today, the Marina Vernicos Collection includes shoes, shawls and fur items, among others.
When developing the collection, Vernicos has a simple way of determining whether a product will go into production.
“The first thing I think, before I create something, is if I would wear it myself," highlighted Vernicos. "If I would wear it myself I will do it.”
All of the products incorporate Vernicos’s photos, and in particular her photos of Greece. Here Vernicos can display what it is that first drew her to taking an image.
“For me, it's very important when someone buys something from my collection, that they buy a piece of Greece.”
Ensuring that the piece that they take away with them is always improving, this year Vernicos has continued her charity auctions. The theme is haute couture, and for the first time, Vernicos has invited individuals from around Greece and the world to donate an item of theirs. The beneficiary will be the Athens Children’s Hospital Agia Sofia and bidding opens on April 10, closing on April 14. To bid, select an item and enter your price here: https://www.creaid.com/.