Kosmas Pavlidis, is a photographer, living and working in Thessaloniki, Greece. Also, he is co-founder and academic director of Stereosis school of contemporary photography. His latest series, Sunny Days: A True Story, is an exploration of an abandoned road in Northern Greece and its surroundings. The route that was once an integral part of his getaways is now derelict. The landmarks of his early summer days in the family car have long been neglected and left to the whims of time and nature, leaving houses and objects in decay. The construction of the new highway that runs next to the old one transforms the landscape, creating a parallel reality with its own ethos and history.
In my eyes (and I deem in many other viewers as well), these objects/animals/souvenirs have been photographed as historic museum pieces, along with the people in portraits who stand as heroes of a fairytale. How did you came up with all these fascinating characters and details?
First of all, I have to say that I didn’t come up with anything. The people, the places and the objects included in this project are real encounters along my trips on the byways. Along the way, I have met and photographed people who live at the fringes of the modern society. I wanted my images to project the significance of those acquaintances; thus, they can be seen as lead actors of the narrative. The artifacts were scattered around the locations, resembling a Modern Greek landfill. The way that these items are photographed creates a contradiction; they are perceived as garbage, yet they are photographed as museum exhibits.
Heavy studio backdrops, plexi-glass museum stands and a large format camera. All of this equipment is used far away from a traditional studio or internal space. What is the reason for this unusual move?
Well , I don’t like the traditional studio as a place of photographic act, so I followed Avedon’s example and took the studio equipment out to the fields. Carrying a heavy plate large-format camera, with the needed thoughtful attention, I started shaping my own personal story. The objects and artifacts are captured on a stand, resembling an important finding that differentiates from its environment. I used a large studio-style white cloth to photograph the people I met, giving them the sense of lead actor of the narrative and underlining their authority.
Did you follow a specific route to photograph? I feel that these places mean something to you or are referring to your past.
Yes, it was a specific route for sure. I vividly remember the sunny weekends, whereas a kid we would escape the city and drive along the country roads in our family car. Maybe, the driving force behind these images is my curiosity to trace back my childhood route and re-live the same -neglected- country roads in the outskirts of the city. What intrigues me the most is that after so many years, even though nothing has changed, everything is different. The country roads, which once served as a point of reference, have now been marginalised and replaced by national roads, leaving houses, spaces and objects in decay.
One of the reasons I particularly like the title of the series is because the word “sunny” (and of course light in artworks themselves) breaks the pattern of cloudy-like scenes, which are been used extensively in topographics.
To tell you the truth, as long as I can remember my self as a photographer I was chasing the cloudy days though I live in a Mediterranean country with lots of sun. On the other hand, this project started as a childhood memory of vacation and the sun was always a part and a condition for those getaways. So, in order to rebuild that memory I wished for the sun.
Seeing your works in a chronological row, one can see a quite clear documentarian aspect in Reconstruction. Later in Installations and other Human Signs and now with Sunny days / A true story, we see conceptual elements as well. Can you elaborate on this evolution of your artistic activity?
I think it is mostly a solution to a problem, rather than an evolution of my artistic activity. I was always searching for objects in the field, which I collected as souvenirs, in order to photograph them in the studio.
“Millions of images produced every day remain in intangible form, hidden in hard drives, never to be seen again”.
The photographic process was never fulfilling, because those objects always felt like a foreign body in the sterile environment of the studio. Then I came up with the idea of the acrylic stand which allowed me to photograph the artifacts in the place that they were found. I have always met people and listened to their stories but I was never interested in photographing them, until now. My photographic perception around portraits has been reshaped, because the photographic “glossary” I use evolves constantly. Photographing those people emerged as an inner need.
You are the director and professor of Stereosis, one of the most successful photography schools in Greece, as we can advocate from the active presence of your students. What is your opinion about photography education in your country? I would like you to mention a major difference between back then ( 90s?) and now.
I believe photography education in Greece has been improved compared to the past. This has also to do with the significant increase in the educational options a potential student has. However, it is not easy to compare with the 90s. Nowadays, the digital medium, and access to the information because of the internet revolution has changed and sped up things a lot. The students can study or review the work of other photographers much easier and faster and this is very important for collecting ideas, being influenced and shape their own personal photographic language. On the other hand, this digital era has brought changes to the photographic landscape, even though the techniques, the aesthetic rules and the history of photography have remained the same. Photography has reached the highest level of popularity, but at the same time is being heavily disregarded. The convenience and immediacy of the digital era are often wrongfully translated into slopiness. Millions of images produced every day remain in intangible form, hidden in hard drives, never to be seen again.
More on his website.