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Greek Mythology Photographer Makes Mortals into Gods

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Leanne Vorrias creates contemporary images of mythical gods. Images courtesy of Leanne Vorrias

Leanne Vorrias has been photographing subjects for more than four decades. Currently the photographer is traveling back to antiquity to capture gods and mortals in the adventures of Greek mythology.

Light, myth and Delos are the current points of connection for the Mykonos-based photographer.

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During the past winter of a pandemic lockdown in Greece, the photographer has drawn inspiration for her most recent project using Greek mythology from the island of Delos, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is an exceptionally extensive and rich archaeological site that once served as a great cosmopolitan port of the Mediterranean.

The archaeological excavations on the island are among the most extensive in the entire Mediterranean. Delos had a position as a holy sanctuary for a millennium before Olympian Greek mythology made it the birthplace of the Greek god Apollo and the goddess Artemis.

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Leanne Vorrias capturing mythical scenes on a photoshoot in Mykonos. Credit: Greek Reporter

Vorrias Creates her own Heroes of Greek Mythology

The pert blonde, closer to 17 rather than 70 both in energy and passion, spoke to Greek Reporter from the veranda of her home, as the sun was setting over her shoulder. She was enveloped in pink and purple light and the island of Delos, immersed in myth, lay on the horizon.

Vorrias, a native of Toronto, Canada, has had three formative transplantings in her life. The first sent her from Canada to the sunny Tampa Bay area pursuing dance on Florida’s Gulf coast. The second sent her back north to Jamaica, New York; and the final touchdown has been on Mykonos, pointedly positioned just across from the sacred island of Delos.

Each geographical transplanting was inspired by love and passion. She went to Florida to open her dance studio. The move to New York was alongside the love of her life, her husband Nikos, as he made changes in his business ventures. Mykonos has been the final landing point for the couple these last five years.

Vorrias has spent the winter staging and photographing scenes of Greek mythical legends. She began in the winter and finished her last shoot in July with Greek Reporter on the scene.

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Greek goddesses portrayed in Leanne Vorrias’ “Mythologies” photo series. Images courtesy of Leanne Vorrias

So how does the former dancer turned photographer draw a line that led from suburban Toronto to the island of Delos?

Vorrias’ Journey Began with Darkroom Equipment

Vorrias inherited a fully-equipped darkroom after she and her first husband split up. The equipment then traveled with her to Florida and her journey into photography began.

Initially she photographed dancers. She tells Greek Reporter that “dancers were easy because they were the least self-conscious with their bodies and their movements. As a dancer myself, I knew the position and movement I wanted to capture. It was easy to instruct and guide the dancers through the shot, to get the image I imagined.”

She explored portraits in glamor and boudoir photography as they trended in the 90s. She also did nude photography, carefully playing with light and shadow. And because of her experience as a dancer and teacher of dance, she was able to give her dancer subjects enough specific direction to be able to capture dynamic moments.

Vorrias says “I would tell the younger version of me, make more time for family — and use plenty of sunscreen!” The photographer of Greek mythology giggles at this, but then turns serious. “I lost my Mom when I was 21.  She was 42.

“She and my Dad had married when they were just teenagers. I always thought there would be plenty of time to spend with her. I would try and see my parents on a weekly basis, Sunday dinners and that sort of thing. Sometimes I would miss or wouldn’t have the time to call or chat. Now, I wish I had not missed those chances to spend time with her,” she added.

“The first kiss I ever had was from a Greek boy, when I was a little girl at 12. He walked me home and gave me a quick peck on the lips,” Vorrias said. Between that time and meeting her husband Nikos Vorrias, who she thought was a doppelganger for Omar Sharif, she had no other real contact with Greeks or Greece.

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Leanne and Nikos Vorrias. Image courtesy of Leanne Vorrias

Once married, she and her husband Nikos made an annual summer trip to Greece. Mykonos always made its way into the itinerary as they explored the mainland and the Greek isles.

“In 2008 we finally decided it was time to make Mykonos home. We viewed many potential properties and eventually settled on our place and it was done on a handshake committed to Mykonos.” The property looks across the channel in the Aegean, between Mykonos and Delos, home to much Greek myth.

Greek Mythology Connection Began with Mykonos Home

When she speaks of her husband, Leanne’s face lights up and her eyes sparkle. An enormous smile spreads across her face as she talks about their history.

Nikos Vorrias came to the States after jumping ship, while he was working as a young man in the merchant marine. Like most immigrants, he worked hard, and he eventually succeeded in setting up a construction company. He sold the business and headed to Florida to open up Greek cuisine restaurants in the Tampa Bay area.

One of those establishments happened to neighbor Leanne’s dance studio. That was in the early 80s. They celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary in March.

To celebrate their anniversary Vorrias posted on her Facebook page “’It was 38 years ago, we danced the night away in Florida. We’re still in lockdown with no place to dance this year, but they can’t lock our love up! How the time flies when it’s right!’”

“When we moved to New York and I left the dance academy in Florida, I still had the dark room equipment and so I began to take a more serious interest in photography as I was no longer employed,” Vorrias explains to Greek Reporter.

When she moved to New York she got academic with her work in photography. She enrolled in the International Center for Photography (IPC) in New York City. She said “training in the darkroom as I regulated exposure and learned to manipulate aperture or the f-stop and shutter speed on manual cameras gave me what I needed to transition to digital photography. I worked with excellent instructors at IPC that allowed me to fully develop my potential.

“The most challenging work was when I began photographing newborns at a New York hospital. I didn’t have children of my own. I barely knew how to hold a baby. It was a challenge to cocoon the child and get mother and baby to have just the right expression in sync. But I loved it,” Vorrias says.

Leanne and Nikos traveled to Greece almost every summer. And they always made time to come to Mykonos. The first friendships made in Mykonos some 30 years earlier with Tasos Xydakis and his Swedish wife Carola.

Greek Friendships Expand

According to Vorrias, “The couple, co-owners of the Albatros Hotel that sits quietly above the bay of Panormas, epitomize hospitality, not only because of being in the hospitality business, but by their very nature as warm, welcoming individuals.”

Tasos, a passionate folk dancer from his teenager years, was a great bridge for Leanne to get to know Greek culture and to learn from someone else who shared a love for dance.

After the first winter of making Mykonos their permanent home a few years back, friendships with locals began expanding.

Leanne’s live subjects came to her through her other passion — dance. She has become a member of the Anemomyloi Dance Troupe, a folk dance group that has been giving performances in Mykonos and across the globe for years. Anemomyloi translates to “windmills.”

Her induction into the group led to the expansion of even more local friendships. Dance practices and the inherent socializing that followed led to close ties, fun nights and good times — as well as a few potential gods and goddesses of Greek mythology.

It also gave Vorrias a group of performers she could direct in creating her “Mythologies” series. Many of the dance troupe’s members had already served as subjects for Leanne’s work, capturing them in motion during dance performances of the troupe.

She had a personal exhibition of her work last August in the Mykonos Municipal Gallery, where many of the dancers were featured. That notoriety was probably what factored into the bond of trust she had established with her fellow dancers. They were willing to follow her into her experiment of “Mythologies.”

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Photos created by Vorrias of Anemomyloi Dance Troupe with Mykonos celebrities. Image courtesy of Leanne Vorrias

Vorrias captures her Greek mythical tales through contemporary technology and live subjects. The drama and action captured in her work is done through a process of photography using the natural light and geography in outdoor settings and “layering” the images to create her Greek myths.

Vorrias said, “The layering process that we use today in digital photography began in the darkroom when we would stack negatives to create special effects.” This technique involves using foreground, subject and background so that all layers of the images work together to help tell a comprehensive story.

The series captures Greek mythology, filled with action and characters in the real-life geographic setting of Mykonos and Delos.

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“Mythologies,” representing Deucalion and Pyrrah created by Mykonos photographer Leanne Vorrias. Images courtesy of Leanne Vorrias

Vorrias has been “directing” theatric performances all the way back to her childhood in her parent’s Toronto garage, also known as the “Starlight Theater.” She would organize her friends in the neighborhood to put on a show regularly straight out of her garage. She says “I always seemed to have been telling somebody what to do and how to do it in performance. I guess that made me a natural when I started my dance school in Florida.”

Professionally and personally she is the glue that keeps bringing people together. An active social life in Jamaica, New York filled the Vorrias household with family and friends throughout the year. Moving to Mykonos, the couple continued to share their warmth and hospitality with both old and new friends on the island. Vorrias said “I always seemed to be the glue, inviting folks to join into our activities.”

The glue factor is also evidenced in the “Mythologies” series of her photography. Her fellow dancers from Anemomyloi happily gather to follow her directions as they suit up as gods and goddesses in outdoor settings on Mykonos. Her passion, enthusiasm and pure joie de vivre are an infectious magnet as everyone prepares and positions for the shoot, joking at first and then completely getting into character.

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Greek goddesses captured by Mykonos photographer Leanne Vorrias. Image courtesy of Leanne Vorrias

Vorrias will exhibit “Mythologies” at the Mykonos Municipal Gallery for ten days in October to give locals and visitors a closer look at Greek mythology. In the meantime, she is contemplating her next project, focusing perhaps on local folklore.

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