Spirits of the Rainforest: A Photographic Innovation by Dimas Efthyvoulos

“I’m an insignificant old man. I have no right to ask you any favours. But please, open your eyes and see a bit more of what you are not normally accustomed to see.”

Dimas Efthyvoulos was born in Nicosia, Cyprus in 1924. Shortly after the events of 1974, during which he briefly worked as a war photographer, he travelled to the Peruvian Amazon where he lived and worked for almost ten years. During this time, he became deeply involved with the spiritual practices of the local mestizo population, apprenticing with shamans and taking part in religious ceremonies involving the psychoactive brew ayahuasca. These experiences led him to “a transcendental photographic innovation” – a technique he called “sidesight” which, using mirroring and a 90-degree shift in perspective, sought to photographically capture the “spirits of the rainforest”. Through this practice, Efthyvoulos hoped to demonstrate that nature is replete with intelligence, vindicating the animistic insights of mestizo shamanism and illuminating the “magical beauty and mystical essence” of the natural world.

 

Following his return from the Amazon, Efthyvoulos sought to propagate his work and its message. In addition to his philosophical and spiritual concerns, he passionately advocated for the protection of the natural environment and spoke extensively about the environmental and cultural impact of colonialism on indigenous lands and populations. The core of his artistic practice was an audiovisual presentation titled Spirits of the Jungle or Other Aspects of Reality, during which he projected slides of his “spirit” photographs, reproduced field recordings from the Amazon, and gave a lecture on climate change, colonialism, and his photographic innovation and experiences with shamanism. The presentation toured South America and was also shown in North America and Europe.

Eventually returning to Cyprus, Efthyvoulos continued to develop his work through a variety of media and various forms of experimentation with technology, accumulating an extensive archive comprising photographs, videos, audio tapes, texts, drawings, paintings, watercolours, and a range of other experimental material. In 2000, he self-published a book titled Spirits of the Rainforest – Aspects of the Hyper-Real, which was translated into German and published in 2004 by AT Verlag. He passed away in December 2011.

Dimas Efthyvoulos’ archives were kindly shared with The Island Club by his spouse, Tetyana Efthyvoulou, in April 2019. Having been organised, digitised and preserved by the team of The Island Club, they were made available to the public through Spirits of the Rainforest: A Photographic Innovation

Text: Androula Kafa
Project and archive manager: Androula Kafa
Curation: Androula Kafa, Ariadne Diogenous
Archive research, organisation and digitisation: Androula Kafa, Ariadne Diogenous

More information here