Ioanna Sakellaraki: Wallpaper* Next Generation 2021

Our Next Generation 2021 showcase shines a light on 21 outstanding graduates from around the globe, Wallpaper’s pick of the best new talent in seven creative fields. Here, we profile graduate of Royal College of Art, London, Ioanna Sakellaraki.

Polyhymnia (sacred hymn), 2019 & Blood of Adonis (death and rebirth) by Ioanna Sakellaraki
Left: Polyhymnia (sacred hymn), 2019. Right: Blood of Adonis (death and rebirth). Both from The Truth is in the Soil, 2017
(Image credit: Ioanna Sakellaraki)

Following the death of her father four years ago, Ioanna Sakellaraki returned to her homeland of Greece and began The Truth is in the Soil. As part of own grieving process, she explored her mother’s grief in relation to their country's social and religious norms, before expanding her research to traditional mourning rites. She was particularly drawn to the ritual laments of the last professional mourners in the Mani peninsula of Greece, an area known for its breathtaking scenery.

portrait of photographer Ioanna Sakellaraki

Ioanna Sakellaraki. Dream collaborator: ‘René Magritte because of the conversational dynamic of surrealism in his practice that placed his artworks in the crossroads of different discourses.’

(Image credit: Ioanna Sakellaraki)

Families would hire these women to passionately lead in lament at funerals, offering both emotional release and a celebration of life. Sakellaraki explains how mourning as a profession dates back to ancient times, with roots in Greek tragedy. It is now, as it were, a dying art.

Sakellaraki’s work highlights the ways in which memory and grief go hand in hand. She also explores the connection between professionally performed emotion and photography, as an image often captures a staged moment. Whether impulsive or deliberate, an act is manipulated the moment it is photographed, turned into a scene to be viewed like theatre. She concludes, ‘Greece is a constant inspiration and encounter in this work, but the way it is depicted is imagined.’

Mourners by a coffin in a Greek church

(Image credit: Ioanna Sakalleraki)

Moira Thanatoio (destiny of death), The Truth is in the Soil, 2018 by Ioanna Sakellaraki

Above: Moirologia (fate songs), 2018. Below: Moira Thanatoio (destiny of death), The Truth is in the Soil, 2018

(Image credit: Ioanna Sakellaraki)

Thysiasterion (sacred altrar), The Truth is in the Soil, 2019 by Ioanna Sakellaraki

Thysiasterion (sacred altrar), The Truth is in the Soil, 2019

(Image credit: Ioanna Sakellaraki)


As Photography Editor at Wallpaper*, Sophie Gladstone commissions across fashion, interiors, architecture, travel, art, entertaining, beauty & grooming, watches & jewellery, transport and technology. Gladstone also writes about and researches contemporary photography. Alongside her creative commissioning process, she continues her art practice as a photographer, for which she was recently nominated for the Foam Paul Huf Award. And in recognition of her work to date, listed by the British Journal of Photography as ‘One to Watch’.

With contributions from