Interviews with worldwide photographers www.moments-collective.com
Chris Bekos is an awarded Fine Arts Photographer currently based in Melbourne VIC, Australia. We had the chance to make an interview with him and learn more about his work.
“Each day I relive a past moment of my own life, through my son, and get a small glimpse of where his life might be heading in the future.”
How did the journey of photography begin?
I grew up in a creative environment, surrounded by my mum’s oil paintings and her art books. As a kid, I spent a lot of time drawing in mum’s studio while she painted her canvases.
My parents kept all their old black and white photos they brought over from Greece, when they migrated to Australia in the 1960’s. Each time I looked at these photos, my childlike imagination would always find different stories to tell.
My journey into photography started at High School. Under the red light of the darkroom, I was transfixed by my first black and white paper print, seeing it come to life in the developing tray. I haven’t looked back since.
THE JOURNEY @CHRIS BEKOS
Which art movements have influenced you?
The key influential art movements include Surrealism, Conceptual Art, Minimalism and the New Typographics.
These art movements had a sense of ambiguity that always promoted me to look a little deeper; to find something new and experiment with my photography. They emphasised interpreting what you saw, rather than trying to copy it.
The ideas behind my current compositional images, are centred around Conceptual Art principles. With conceptual photography, it’s the idea or concept behind the final image that is more important than what techniques or materials were used make it. For me, photography based on ideas is more interesting and powerful than photography that deals with technique.
The paintings of Giorgio De Chirico, Jeffrey Smart, and Rick Amor provide a constant source of inspiration.
Photographic influences include Luigi Ghirri, Franco Fontana, Hiroshi Sugimotto, and Lewis Baltz.
How has your photography style developed during the years? What is your inspiration?
I’m inspired by clean leading lines, chiaroscuro contrast, symmetry and balance with a minimal composition. I employ significant amounts of negative space to draw attention to the main subject.
Photographers develop their own style by creating more photographs. Each image is a guide to the next image, forming a reference book that accumulates and builds to become what is known as a photographer’s ‘style’. The more time spent thinking about photography, rather than actually taking photos, the less your style develops.
Over the years I try to answer three questions to advance my work.
What am I trying to say or achieve?
Did I succeed?
Was it worth doing?
The first two questions refer more so to whether an image was technically correct. They can lead photography down the road of just reproducing itself. Nice technical landscape photo. The third question is where all the challenges are raised to find a new way of seeing and interpreting the subject.
The other challenge, in developing your style, is seeking approval from an audience, when you share your images with the world. Catering to this external approval leaves you dependent upon an audience. It may dilute the quality of your work as you only shoot for what your audience might like. Your audience’s approval, is not your personal vision.
Shooting more, trying to answer the “Was it Worth Doing” question, and not relying on audience approval, is a process that has allowed my photographic style to develop.
When does a photograph becomes a work of art?
My question, is whether you define photography as a craft, focusing on the technical, (how it’s put together), or as art, manipulating these technical rules to create an emotional and innovative image.
For example, place 5 photographers in front of the same landscape and ask them to represent reality, based on the technical rules of how an image is put together; like aperture, f-stop, shutter-speed, camera/lens used. The final result might be 5 beautiful images that don’t really say anything new other than just being technically perfect photos.
Ask these 5 photographers to subjectively perceive the same landscape, push the technical boundaries, they already know, through digital manipulation for instance, and you start to create 5 different works of art.
We remember those photographers who broke the rules to create a new artistic vision, rather than those who aimed to be technically correct.
Through your work you present a world that already exists or do you show a world that you would like to exist?
Actually, a bit of both. I try and create an aesthetic, that questions a world that already exists, allowing the viewer to find their own personal narrative, and maybe see a world they would like to exist.
Several images are broken down into their individual components, and then rearranged, like on a movie set, to see how they interrelate in a new form. This mise-en-scène process, acts as a stage set to guide the viewer through the story they see. Hopefully also providing a little escapism from a world that already exists.
You won the second portrait prize in 2019 Head On Photo Award. We would really appreciate to share with us the story behind this photo.
This photo is of my son André.
As a father there is no “How to Raise André” rule book. Each day I relive a past moment of my own life, through my son, and get a small glimpse of where his life might be heading in the future.
Over the past 14 years of his life, we’ve shared many beach holiday adventures, but this photo marks a major turning point, for both of us. With the sun setting, playful André lies on the sand, as the ocean seems to wash away my little boy, only then to reveal the young man he is to become.
What message do you send with your work?
My art photography looks at the metaphysical distinction between the real and the unreal, fusing together the apparent with the abstract. It moves away from consensus, following a set of technical photographic principles like realism, towards questioning what you see. It asks questions of the viewer to see what is hidden in plain sight and find their own personal narrative.
Photography has more to do with leverage rather than weight. Leverage to move you beyond what you see rather than weight to hold you to a preconceived idea and see nothing new.
What consists a good photograph in your opinion? Do you think that good photography occurs when we use the camera at the right time or in the right way?
There is always a distinction between what the photographers sees and what the camera records. Good photography starts with the photographer’s ability to read light, and artfully compose their subject first, allowing us to see something new.
A camera is just a tool that records light. If the focus is only placed on the technical aspect of how a photo is put together, then nothing new is really being created. A photographer must first understand these technical aspects, so they know what rules are actually being broken to create something good. It’s just a guessing game otherwise.
Being at the right place at the right time is a great advantage, but, for consistency, rely less on chance to create a good image. Everything should be intentional to some degree.
Ansel Adams recalled that “the perfect is the enemy of the good” and that if he waited for everything to be just right in the scene he would never make a photo.
You seem to be editing your photographs quite enough. What equipment do you use for shooting and how do you edit your photos?
With an assortment of prime lenses, I use a Nikon D850, Fuji X-T3, along with my all-time favourite, the Fuji X100F. As I’ve been told, the best camera is the one you have with you at the time. Initial tonal, white balance adjustments are done through Lightroom. Photoshop, does the heavy lifting for the post production edits, with 3DLut Creator used at the end for colour grading. There are hundreds of fantastic online tutorials, if I need to learn a new editing technique.
I initially approach my editing the way a painter might work on a canvas, but my informed approach is always photographic.
Spending time away from an edited image is very important as well. It provides the opportunity to look at an image with fresh eyes, and see if any changes need to be made. I also pin final edit proof prints to the walls of my studio. If, after some time, I’m not drawn to reworking this printed proof, the image is complete.
How much and in what way has the pandemic we experience affected your creativity?
The pandemic for me, heightened everything and brought so much to the surface.
In 2020, during Melbourne’s 112-day lockdown, the everyday was showcased on a new blank canvas. The isolation at home, and empty streets revealed a new perspective between representation of reality and the so-called realities we choose to notice. Scenes that might be familiar, and yet at the same time utterly foreign.
This lockdown also provided me valuable time to sort through my photo achieves, and either revisit old projects or start new ones. I usually have more than one project on at a time, like my Lone Home, Sculptural Photography and Silhouette Street project. All very different but each providing inspiration for the other. A lot of time was spent photographing in the studio or sneaking out with the X100F during my morning walks.
Much like the photographic process itself I spoke about earlier, the period of COVID forced us all at some level to look at the world differently, to make sense of it, and find added human meaning in a way that goes beyond the facts of the moment.
All photos belong to @Chris Bekos