If you had to describe your overall photographic vision in 25 words or less, what words would you choose?
Capturing the time in a world where “present” is only an infinitesimal part of time, a fleeting illusion dividing almost infinite past and future.
Why do you prefer black and white photography?
Actually, I am open to both color and B&W photography. 80% of my work is B&W because, simply, those photos cannot work in color. Generally, I believe that B&W photography has more color than color photography because the multiple variations of possible grays, if treated correctly, can reveal much more depth and drama than color can offer.
Why are you so drawn to long exposure photography?
Why? The answer is closely related to my definition of Fine Art photography. Actually, I love how long exposure allows me to add a fourth dimension– i.e. time– to a three dimensional object. My photography is a 4D object leaving its footprint, its “trace,” in a 2D layer. When this happens for a 3D object, it is easy for a mind to visualize its 3D morphology. In order to envision a 4D object, however, one needs the power of Fine Art photography.
How would you define fine art? Is it just a label?
I have read many responses to this question and the key word in all of the different answers is almost always “vision.” When these thoughts are expressed between artists who work in Fine Art photography, such definitions are both understandable and accepted, but when someone tries to explain Fine Art photography to those who have no real understanding of the question, such responses become rather philosophical and by no means practical. I recently gave two different talks about Fine Art photography to Greek audiences that mostly knew little about it. When I started to correlate Fine art photography and vision, I discovered that I had to be more descriptive if i wanted them to better understand, so I developed a different approach to explaining it:
Fine Art photography is an alternative way to express a common subject so that each individual artist can reveal secret aspects about it. In order to do this, each artist experiments with light, time, and spatial coordinates– and then through one’s processing, one reveals a subject framed in a transformed world in which its dimensions can be easily described and visualized.
Who are three of your favorite photographers, and, more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
While this is a common question, it has great significance to me. Inspiration plays an important role in my photographic vision, and for some unknown reasons everything happens subconsciously. What I mean is that all the images I see from great photographers are “filtered” in a mysterious way and “re-formed” or “re-shaped” or even “grouped” in my subconsciousness as if it is done through a “generic code.” When I work on an image, depending on my mood, I follow an “unearthing-like” procedure to reveal my hidden information free from labels or the original sources. I never mimic the work of others. I always preserve my photographic vision, which is enriched by different sources of inspiration that I blend through the processes by which my mind works. While this might sound rather complicated, it is very simple actually. Realizing and identifying the unique original sources, afterwards, was the most difficult task and it has taken me a long time to discover them.
So I could say that Ansel Adams influenced me through the way I treat and compose my “black skies” in strong correlation to the white well-contrasted areas of clouds. Cole Thompson helped me a lot to “see” out of the box and realize that long exposure photography is not only for landscapes. I experiment a lot with abstract photography, people photography– discovering every day the unique power of long exposure. Last, but surely not the least, is Michael Levin with his unique post processing skills and his “minimal vision.” Through his work, I discovered the power of minimalism and from that I continue to pursue the power of negative space.
What artistic influences, outside of photography, have had a significant influence on how you approach your photography (for example, painters, filmmakers, musicians, poets, etc.)?
My response to this question also answers the question: “What photographic cliché or common photography question, if any, irritates you the most? “ Well, I am not irritated by the questions, but I see a rather serious problem with comprehension. Let me explain it from the perspective of a physicist. The ultimate goal in physics is “A theory of everything (ToE) or final theory,” which is a putative theory of theoretical physics that fully explains and links together all known physical phenomena and predicts the outcome of any experiment that could be carried out in principle. Such an open question is always a challenge and for me will, ultimately, likely be forever unsolved.
In a parallel way, merging different “expressions of art” to influence a photographic vision is not possible since “each medium has a different power on a subject.” Here are some examples to help elaborate this:
- A painting with geometrical artifacts: Someone might say that this painting or this expressive style influenced my photographic architectural vision of seeking out lines, shapes etc., but someone who works on architectural photography is already intrigued by lines, shapes and what that artist really wants is to capture the dynamic lines of light in comparison with the geometrical artifacts. This is beyond some influence from painting. Painting is focused on the power of geometry… photography is focused on revealing a 3D object in a space where light merely “alters” its dimensions.
- The musical rhythm of this composer, or band, influenced my photographic vision: I believe music gives you the ideal mind/soul conditions to prepare yourself for your photographic journey– but that is all.
- This filmmaker uses photography in a unique way and really influenced my photographic vision. Films update and enrich your “pictures database.” You see a million photos in one and half hours. But I guess that is all.
And, therein, resides the miscomprehension. Your photographic vision cannot be influenced by such things; instead, it is enriched. However, poetry– and writers in general, including philosophers– is something entirely different. Their written testimonials can influence the vision of your life, and directly or indirectly your photographic vision. So, making a generalization, I would say that: the writings of painters, music composers, and film makers will have a stronger influence on one’s photographic vision than the creations themselves– while poetry or philosophical essays directly or indirectly shape your art.
In my case, I have been significantly influenced by the Greek poet, Constantine Cavafy (1863 –1933), a poet known for his unconventional, for the time, subjects. His poems exhibit a skilled and versatile craftsmanship. My most favorite, “Ithica,” written in 1911, was inspired by the Homeric return journey of Odysseus to his home island as depicted in The Odyssey. The poem’s theme explores the traveler’s enjoyment of the journey of life and the increasing maturity of the soul as that journey continues (implying that this is all the traveler should ask for). For me, this poem reflects the infinite journey of an artist seeking his or her vision and I would like to share it with you.
As you set out on the way to Ithaca
hope that the road is a long one,
filled with adventures, filled with understanding.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
Poseidon in his anger: do not fear them,
you’ll never come across them on your way
as long as your mind stays aloft, and a choice
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
savage Poseidon; you’ll not encounter them
unless you carry them within your soul,
unless your soul sets them up before you.
Hope that the road is a long one.
Many may the summer mornings be
when—with what pleasure, with what joy—
you first put in to harbors new to your eyes;
may you stop at Phoenician trading posts
and there acquire fine goods:
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and heady perfumes of every kind:
as many heady perfumes as you can.
To many Egyptian cities may you go
so you may learn, and go on learning, from their sages.
Always keep Ithaca in your mind;
to reach her is your destiny.
But do not rush your journey in the least.
Better that it last for many years;
that you drop anchor at the island an old man,
rich with all you’ve gotten on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.
Ithaca gave to you the beautiful journey;
without her you’d not have set upon the road.
But she has nothing left to give you any more.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca did not deceive you.
As wise as you’ll have become, with so much experience,
you’ll have understood, by then, what these Ithacas mean.
Translated by Daniel Mendelsohn [Note: Your humble editor highly recommends and treasures Mendelsohn's collection of translations: Complete Poems: C. P. Cavafy]
What are your thoughts about trying to find the best gear possible versus working on making the best possible image with the gear you already have?
I guess I have spent most of my time working on the taking or processing of photos rather than trying to find the best gear. After all, in Fine Art photography only a small percentage of the final work is related to the photographic camera/lens. Still, I think a full frame camera is a must for large prints, and I recommend spending the money on a good wide angle lens.
If you had to come up with one very important lesson that you think every photographer needs to learn, what would it be?
Some months ago I entered a comment to a blog-post of Cole Thompson. He was kind enough to respond to me, and, to my amazement, he recalled some of my works he had previously seen. He seemed to be quite interested to learn about the difficult economic situation in Greece and asked me for some more information. After I replied to him, describing our dark days here in Greece, he wrote back: “Vassilis, give me your mail address so I can send you something to cheer you up.” After two weeks a package arrived with three prints of my most beloved works of his.
The valuable lesson to be learned from this is that an artist must be, above everything else, sensitive to and open minded about the problems of others. These problems may be unfamiliar to him/her (or may be familiar) but his/her role (being an inspirational center) is to support. At the very least, hearing a comforting word from a person you admire always brings a big smile and can often make you feel important.
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
I would like to work more on abstract and portrait photography. I have gone through a long period of experimentation, but I think I am close to something. I have discovered the meaning of action photography through Fine Art, and I am very happy about this. I will continue to do more action photography in the future and want to evolve my processing techniques and experimentation further. So I do not have any specific goals … just the amateur’s dream to evolve and discover new ways to express my feelings through the tools I have at hand. Naive? Maybe…
Is there anything else you wish to add?
I would like here to add that I am very happy about recently publishing my first book, Silent World, which includes 74 pages of my favorite photographs from different collections. I welcome everyone to give it a look.
I would also like to thank you, Nathan, for this invitation. I am deeply honored, indeed, my friend. I also would like to thank everyone who takes the time to visit this spotlight.
Spotlight on Three Images
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