Documentary photographer, educator and filmmaker.
Myrto's bio
Myrto's work tends to focus on issues surrounding gender, identity, and trauma. She has won various awards and nominations, has taken part in several exhibitions including the Mois off de la photo 08 in Paris, the Greek America Foundation / Film & Photo Week 2014 in Toronto, the Lishui Photography Festival 2015 in China and more. Myrto has published in numerous publications around the globe and her clients include: TIME Magazine, Le Monde, The Guardian, GEO International, The Washington Post,, etc.

Today she works as a freelance photographer and a documentary filmmaker and is represented by Redux Pictures in NY.

Exploring the New Silk Road

For centuries one of the world's most isolated areas, the Pamir mountains of Tajikistan is currently being opened up to the new economic development mainly via Chinese investment in the region's rudimentary infrastructure. Myrto and her friend Angelos spent a year in total, filming the changes that this route has been bringing to the region and to the lives of its locals.
What was the original Silk Road?
The origin
The original Silk road came into being during the westward expansion of China's Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD). The route peaked during the first millennium, under the leadership of first the Roman and then Byzantine Empires, and the Tang dynasty (618–907) in China.
The waypoints
The trade networks forged throughout what are today the Central Asian countries of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan, as well as modern-day Pakistan and India to the south. Those routes eventually extended over four thousand miles to Europe.
The trade concept
Central Asia was thus the epicenter of one of the first waves of globalization, connecting eastern and western markets, spurring immense wealth, and intermixing cultural and religious traditions. Valuable Chinese silk, spices, jade, and other goods moved west while China received gold and other precious metals, ivory, and glass products.
Times have greatly changed:
A new road differs significantly from the silk one. We live in the capitalized world and have various goods of any type of materials, of the cheapest materials. These differences show a new way of existense today in our world.
«We wanted to work on a story
that had not been told at that time...»
The film process started in 2011. Myrto and her partner were not looking for interesting topics internationally. One day they eventually saw the article in the magazine and that is how they actually learned about the construction of the road in Tajikistan. About the city of Khorog of the mountainous Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Province in Tajikistan, situated 500 km west from the border of China, with its heart — the Khorog city market, which became the first primary point along the new silk road...

The New Plastic Road project aims to chronicle how a traditional culture is being transformed. A wider socio-economic trend is reflected throught the visible changes in the daily lives of those affected.
Film's chronicle:
Finding the guide
Myrto and the other members of the crew found out about a small town Khorog in the mountainous Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Province in Tajikistan. This town became a place, where they would be working.

The crew also find guides, who would help them to talk to local residents and to find a protagonist in Tajikistan, in advance.
The beginning
In 2007 the first trip to Tajikistan in the frame of the NEW PLASTIC ROAD project was made. Since that time the film crew had visited the country 5 more times, the last trip was in October 2017.
The protagonist
The film crew had to do a lot of researches and to find our protagonist, Davlat, before starting filming. They stayed in the area for more than a month doing researches and then after one week started travelling.
He became a part of our family, we love him very much. He is a really good friend of us and we feel very much at home with him and his wife, children. We have seen his children were growing. We saw them when they were just babies and we also saw a new born. For us it is very much of a being in the family and see those who you love are growing. It was a quite unique and beautiful experience for us.
The locals
The people we met were very hospitable, so we really felt like home. They became a part of our family. You know, we have been going there for so many years now, so it is a part of our lives, a very important part of our lives. People there are very opened, so it was quite easy for us to start filming.
Traditions and Culture
To be honest it felt quite home, I mean it is very different than at this point living in Greece, but nevertheless you can understand the exchange of the populations at the time and you know we do have similarities.

In Greece you know all these people, they had Alexander who was at this part of the world. We have, you know, cultural influences. All these things are also the part of our cultures somehow today. We do have many similarities from the closings to the ways of existing. So it did not feel that it is new to us, to be honest.
The difficulties were in how to reach that area, Tajikistan and the Palmyra. So the hardest part of this process was the actual journey, the travel.
«I think that the most exciting story is how the developing of the road became a part of our filming too. I mean, in 2011 the road was really bad, and we were there from beginning of its construction. That's why sometimes we had flat tires in the middle of nowhere trying to find a way to fix the cars. Many people were involved in these process and we were with them on this road.

Besides all the dificulties, we have to admit that the most unique adventures are when you are actually on the road stopping in the incredible places in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the mountains. It was like being lost and trying to understand the situations and being real, to explore yourself together with the places around you».
Food as the element of culture
Comparing Greek food with the food in Tajikistan it is quite different because of the fact that Tajikistan is the Post-Soviet country. We do not have the same similarities in food, but we can see them in Persia. The food was… to be honest where we were it was quite difficult for us to find places to eat at the beginning. Tajikistan is a really poor country. The beginning of our trip was quite difficult in finding places to eat and especially the restaurants. Also it was quite difficult to find places with the traditional food, dishes. But after some years we managed to find places we liked, where we could eat with local people.

For us the food is more of the gathering and bringing people together than the actual food as it is.
We have been invited to the many local homes, so it was very wonderful to see people cooking and sharing with us their goods and whatever they cooked for us to eat. Local people have very simple goods of a good quality. This question is not so unique to respond, for me the main point and terms of food, you know because we were invited to the many weddings and homes, is to see what the actually eat and how cook in any circumstance for different circumstances as a cultural habit.
I think wherever you go as a filmmaker you want to tell the story and the main thing for any story is to spend time, try to learn the people in this area, to get the access and be respectful in all the situations that are being faced. For me the main thing is to spend time and try to understand and try to find your characters and rework on the idea of your story.
Promoting female voices
I am trying very much to promote female voices and work with women all around the world.
«I personally work on many women issues (connected with that #MeToo Movement as well) beside the filmmaking. So, I do have a more activist role in my work. I have always had that. You know, I am not just working with women, but also trying to provide photography workshops or filming workshops for the women, which were involved in my projects, to let them speak out. So, it is not only me to share their voices, trying to teach somehow gils and women with the same problems. Female projects is a big part of my new work and it is a big part of my existence as a creator».
Breaking waters
The photographs from this series are uncovering the «refugee crisis» theme, but they differ from that stereotypical image, high-energy, chaotic and full of movement, depicting the journey of refugees, wearing neon-orange life vests, to the new lands in small boats afloat on dark waters. Myrto showed her alternative view on this topic documenting women in refugee camps in Greece, with their babies, the reason to keep going to their dream of a better home, born or just awaited.

Myrto notes that while these women are in transit — their former homes destroyed, their future homes undetermined — they are stuck. And she wants to focus on the incredible patience of those women in her photographs. Instead of taking a portrait of a woman in a room or against a backdrop, Papadopoulos would have her stand in the refugee camp or in the environment right outside of it. She wanted to show that transit, that pause with the help of that natural environment. The women are neither here nor there, neither home nor away. They're moving but standing still.

The Attendants

While the collapse of the Greek economy brought many industries to their knees, one sector saw profits boom: the sex trade. Demand actually rose as prices collapsed and the pool of women vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking grew ever bigger. The ultimate result has been that the industry, both legal and not, has become more brutal, with sex workers facing harsher conditions and greater exploitation and insecurity even while profitability on the whole has risen.

Since 2010 Myrto has sought and gained access to brothels and strip-clubs, photographing the dimly lit interiors where the trappings of sexual fantasy thinly veil harsh realities of exploitation and abuse. Despite the inherent difficulties, she formed trusting relationships with sex-workers and others in the industry, chronicling their stories.

The project is ongoing, there also appeared the next phase of the Attendants: the 'Re-flower Project' where, sex-workers are offered support and are invited to join participatory photography workshops which provides a basis for self-expression and empowerment.
Did you learn something new about the process of filming a documentary while working on the NEW PLASTIC ROAD?
It was my first film project, so we got into very different world, which is a documentary world. We had to learn more about some technical skills of filmmaking, but the good thing was that we could use the same cameras. And we also went through a very long process with workshops in different parts of the world, peaching our stories.

Actually, we spent a lot of time by investing and promoting a film and also learning how to narrate a story. It is very difficult to narrate a story with still images and it is very different narrating a story with moving ones. How you link scenes, how you put down your edit, put down the narration of your story. Everything makes sense.

We do learn a lot during the process: what do the actors need, how does it work in the business, how can you make a compelling story, what makes a story interesting (and also internationally), like why this story is good for you to see, why this story interesting.

So, you definitely learn a lot, for example, how to move on interns in new technical skills and things like in which genre your film should actually be promoted and in which way you can actually do this.
What are your future plans regarding the NEW PLASTIC ROAD?
Our documentary has already been shown on French and German TV. And today we are working on the actual film for movie release, film release, which has a very different way of narrating the story.
Stay tuned: