- Pamela questions ION for her essay about "Work on Portraits I". (December 2005)

Is ‘Work on Portraits’ a dis/continuation of unfinished “Surnaissance”? What does this word mean?
“Work on portraits” is more intimate. “Surnaissance” comes from Renaissance and Surrealism and it was a rather ambitious project. I asked myself: «How do you create  photographic
portraits that resemble classic paintings but have a generous dose of surrealistic elements (as far as composition is concerned) that somehow look modern? The themes of «Surnaissance»
were taken from Greek mythology and then filtered by my approach. I was unable to complete the project, so I decided I had to express myself  in a more intimate and direct manner.  

Do they look like paintings due to their painterly effects or because of their sense of realism?
They look like paintings due to their painterly effects and I feel they surprise the viewer only because they are not paintings. However, this is not the full answer. The more I go on with new portraits, the less I find myself using the techniques I developed for my previous work.  The painting allure is still there but where does it come from? Is it the composition? I’ve come to believe that my images look like paintings only because my approach is such.

A press release says that Beatrice recalls a ‘contemporary’ Renaissance portrait, why? The humanism aspect? Da Vinci’s detail to landscape/cloud? Balanced/harmonious composition? Colour? A cloud is like saint’s halo? Can you give me some clues, since the pose and lighting do not fit that category?
It’s funny you mention Da Vinci, as I have always considered there to be a certain resemblance between «Beatrice» and his Mona Lisa. My initial intention however, was not at all that. The creation of this specific image was pure instinct. The face was photographed in the garden of the Dutch Embassy in Athens. I took several photographs of her under a cloudy uniform natural light. I had in mind a very conservative image of a girl’s profile in front of a round stained-glass window in a room. «Work on Portraits» became quite «in the open air» so that idea was dropped. I was going through my archives at the computer when I came across this cloud picture. The rest is history. «Beatrice» took me 3 minutes to compose (it actually consists of 3 photos, a Cretan cloud, a Cretan sea horizon and the face) and about 6-7 hours for the light and colour manipulation. It was only afterwards I realised it recalled (to my eyes at least) the infamous portrait of Leonardo. Why? I thought it is possibly because of the light (but you claim this is not the case) or maybe due to the rounded harmonious feeling it transmits. The face does look directly at us and the background is substantially more simple than what we’d expect from a «Renaissance» portrait, but then it is much more meaningfully active and the enigmatic smile is still there, retouched (I want to believe) to perfection. A curiosity. The initial title of the image was, «The bride».

You talk about communication being an essential element to the notion of the aesthetic object  in terms of  ‘art’   are you familiar with Batkhtin at all?
Not at all. I did some quick research to understand your point of view and the connection of his philosophy to my opinion on the communicating ability of the aesthetic object in art. His terms of «Chronotope» or even «dialogized heteroglossia» (why not) seem to mirror my way of thinking. I guess I’ll have to disagree with his saying that «the author is tangential to the work’s chronotopes and that every image is created, and not a creating thing», but then again I might have got it wrong. Let me finish this answer by paraphrazing one of his aforisms: «an image in a picture is half someone else’s». Brilliant!

Do all your subjects perform for the camera – willingly? Do you encourage them to perform as themselves or as the other? Is it a performance of identities and sexualities, both together, or none of the above?
I can’t remember someone who refused to pose when I asked him to ( I am sure that will eventually happen). People fancy modelling or maybe they fancy modelling for me. They are hardly ever instructed to perform as anyone or anything else, so I presume they perform as themselves. When they see the final photo however, they don’t feel it’s them. I always tell them « it’s another you»!

Is each shot preconceived in its entirety ?  
Only sometimes, consciously  speaking.

The theatricals – which later become pictures – are they researched?
They are. «When» and «how» are always relevant.

Are they rehearsed?
«The storm» was the only one actually rehearsed and maybe «The hunter».

Are they stage-managed?
Yes and no.

Are the props carefully chosen?
No, it’s more a question of «carefully combined».

Are costumes sewn for the scenes?
Not really.

Are they actors in a grand saga and play their role according?
Eventually they become so, I guess, both in an absolute and abstract way.

Do the actors assert a degree of authorship in the work?
I’d lie if I said no. It’s a bidirectional creative procedure. Only they don’t know it.

Do the backgrounds refer to the exotic and primitive other?
I am not sure I understand the question, Pamela. Are you refering to «Takis»?

As director/producer of your visual dramas/landscapes, do you have full control even to the last word? 
Of course. I am too romantic to believe it will ever happen otherwise and too stuborn to let it happen as well.

Are you aware of the contemporary debates concerned with representations of the child in photography? For example, American audiences would see the black boy with the
ball as provocative … whatever. What I mean is that when images of kids are taken out of the private realm of the family album and made into a public spectacle in the art
gallery or museum they can operate as a critical edge in some respects. How do you see these two photos of the Chinese and African boys?

I am very happy you ask this question. If you read my comments on these two particular photos you’ll notice that I do mention the appeareance of kids’ relatives at the moment
of shooting. You see, I am aware of how mistakenly some people tend to interpret child figures in artistic presentations (and not only this) so I felt I had to be extra careful.

What do you think is the relevance of the self-portrait? Is it more revealing than a portrait the artist/photographer makes of the sitter?
That depends from which side you’re looking at it really..

Photographers who formulate ‘original’ ways of photographing are considered to be self-expressive in their approach – in fact there is a belief among photographers who use self-expression that every photo is a self-portrait. What do you think about this assertion?
I have to agree. Let me also point out that the more observant you are, the more you’ll figure out about someone else just by looking at his work. You see, things have to work this way since: «We all are one».

What other uses can self-portraits be put to?
They can perform a wonderful job as a reflection of the other.

Does your work engage with one or any critical discourses? If so, what are they? For example, deconstruction,  post-modernism, the dialectic of absence/presence, theories of representation etc..
While I am aware of theories (mostly of Greek philosophers) about art as a medium of representing the world,through deconstruction, modernism and post-modernism, I am in no position to provide you with a decent or maybe a sincere evaluation. Quite simply, «I don’t know».

When we look through at photographs, it is through the eyes of the photographer, understood as occupying a masculine position. The implicit aggression of the photo act – aiming the camera, shooting the picture – is literalised when the image examines the female or child body. Being a male yourself ION, what do think about this theory?
It is enough to photograph someone you like or maybe be photographed by someone you like, in order to understand that this theory is valid.

Are the frames between the artifice and the real, clear cut in your work?
If you asked  Roger’s opinion he would say that «I make Real, Art.» I’ll borrow  this specific phrase as a (hopefully satisfying) answer to your question.

The Hunter – is that wheat in the foreground or grass?
It is grass.

What is the plant in Wendy’s portrait?
In English I think it’s called pampas grass. In Greek, I don’t know..

Are you going to use all the shots on your web site or are you going to edit?
A selection has been made of 14 images. I am strongly considering one more, though, that’s nowhere to be found on my site, to be revealed at the exhibition.

Have you got any more surprises like the Rebecca one?
Of course I have.

Rebecca’s portrait is really fabulous – quite something.
I like it, that you like it!




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