Interview: Vassilis Zaverdas speaks to in[+]frame
Vassilis Zaverdas was born in Patras, Greece in 1967. In 1990 he graduated the Faculty of Philosophy from the University of Ioannina. Nowadays, he works as a teacher in Secondary Education. He has been engaged with black and white photography since 1993. He has attended educational modules at NELE (prefectural committee of education) as well as seminars conducted by Platon Rivellis. He has committed two personal exhibitions and he has taken part in several group photography exhibitions.
"Photography, for me, is a window as well as a mirror. A window through which I see the world, a means to know the world, but also a mirror of an internal world, a means of expression and creativity"
- Even though you work as a high-school teacher, what is the greatest lesson photography has taught you, as a photographer or even as a person?
I have been taught many and important lessons from been involved in photography. Photography, first of all, is my ‘passport’ for places, situations and people that very often exist out there, far away from my everyday microcosm, familial, professional or social. In this way photography expands my horizons, it opens new routes and becomes an alternative way of living. The photographic procedure – rather than its results – fills me with joy and at the same time it turns to be a means for paideia. Furthermore, it keeps me constantly vigilant; it makes me stay tuned to messages from the world and keep “οpen always, always watching, the eyes of my soul”.
- How do you recognize which is the right moment to take a photo?
Photography is the art of observation; finding something interesting in an ordinary place, infilling simple things of everyday life with meaning. However, the acknowledgment of an appropriate ‘click’, comes almost always, after the photographic procedure, during the process of selecting and editing. At that point, you confront the photographic result and sometimes, rare and magical times, you face what you consider to be a good photograph. When you photograph, what you really see is not a picture but life, motion, people.
- What does art photography mean to you?
The great Garry Winogrand used to say that “I photograph to see what something will look like photographed”, concentrating in just one phrase the essence of art photography. In other words, photography is art when it does not just depict the world, but when it transforms it, creating a new universe that would never exist without the gaze and the presence of the photographer. Thus, the photographed world becomes a reflection of the creator’s world.
- In your photographs, we often witness theatrical stages, musicians, dancers, actors etc. What kind of allure attracts you in all these?
I am enchanted by the coexistence and the interaction of interesting and creative people, as well as the osmosis of photography with other arts, from which I often draw pleasure and inspiration. I am enchanted by the off-stage penumbra rather than the on-stage glitz. Even more, the ‘transformation’ and the ‘ecstasy’ that often occur on-stage, as well as the relationship that is being developed with the audience, impose an invincible allure on me.
- Watching your work closely, we get the feeling that there is an intimacy between you and your ‘subject’. Is this something that comes naturally or is it something that demands great effort in order to achieve it?
This kind of intimacy is a prerequisite for a good photograph. Robert Capa used to advise that “if your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough”. Therefore, it is essential to approach your subject closely, to reduce distance and to earn acceptance and intimacy. All these require discretion, respect, but also boldness, desire for adventure and determination.
- Do you work on any project currently?
Currently, the main subject area of my work is migration. Today, Patra’s harbor attracts thousands of immigrants from Asia and Africa, who are in search of a better future in the European countries. In most cases though, they are ‘trapped’ in the city, living under horrible conditions. Therefore, a volatile situation is being created, so much for them as for the social fabric. In all these, I try not to remain apathetic, firstly as a human being but also as a photographer.