Vasilios Papaioannu (cover artist) | Issue Seven Interview

Vasilios Papaioannu | New York

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your work

My name is Vasilios Papaioannu. I am a Greek/Italian filmmaker and photographer, currently living in Syracuse, NY where I teach filmmaking in the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University. I create visual collages experimenting with the balance between form and content, mining the many possibilities that sound and image have to offer. When the form transcends the content, my work flirts with abstraction. When the content prevails, I navigate into narrative realms. I live with this sensitive balance, dividing myself between narrative or experimental narrative works and avant-garde or video art. Visually I combine analog photography (35 mm to 120mm) [My photographs are pauses in a non-stop streaming inexorable world. There is no sound and time is stopped. The unpredictability of celluloid and the use of superimpositions infuses them with the necessary amount of abstraction or dream to radically distance them from reality] different digital formats (primarily DV and 4K), film (16mm and super 8) and archival material—all which unfold in a time-based structure. The noise of all these different forms is used to expand, conceal and distort the space that surrounds me, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.

What first got you interested in photography?

Stopping time is important. After reading "The Ontology of the Photographic Image" by Andre' Bazin in my late teens, everything that I did using images until that point was automatically explained to me. My first tool was an Agfamatic 2000, I was 6 or 7 if I remember correctly; my mother would buy the film and return the exposed one to our local photographer for development, in Thessaloniki, Greece where I grew up. I was documenting and capturing reality not only with images but also with sound. I would photograph everything around me, spaces, family for the most part and record hours of conversations or sounds with my cassette recorder. I was fascinated with the idea of "documenting". My dual citizenship meant two different locations, Italy and Greece, that I deeply loved and couldn't have at the same time. Recording images and sounds was the only way to "keep" them both.

How would you describe your approach to photography?

There are two ways to work with images. Or I have a concept, an idea and I do all the production work to actualize it or I just produce images from my everyday life and create the concept afterwards. I welcome any problem that changes my initial plans, always ready to adjust. I prefer celluloid and feel comfortable with its unpredictability; failure and the process of fixing mistakes is part of my aesthetic.

What do you feel is the most challenging thing about being a photographer?

Create an emotion.

Tell us what gear you use, what is your favorite equipment to use?

I love cheap, semi-broken, vintage cameras.

What advice would you have for other photographers?

It is hard to give general advice to people that you don't know. And even if you do, your words are simply an approximation. I prefer to listen and show support; people know what they have to do anyway; they just need love and encouragement.

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