On beauty and aesthetics: An interview with Yiannis Ampatziadis
By CREAM ATHENS | June 25, 2020 9:00 BST
Tell us a bit about yourself and body of work
I grew up in the city center of Athens, near the Exarcheia area, raised by a single mother. I had the privilege to live in a home where culture was really important. I asked for a camera when I was 10 and my mum made me raise money for it. Since then I am photographing my family and friends always using a narrow/close frame focusing on portraits. The last couple of years I moved to a digital full-frame camera and tried to be involved professionally in many projects, either fashion-related or events but taking portraits is what I love to do. Lately I focused on collaborations with artists where we team up and create visual projects together.
Tell us a bit about your childhood
I am an only child raised by a single mother and grew up in a nice quite neighbourhood in the city center of Athens, where we were actually playing with my friends on the street. I was watching many movies and I was exposed to a lot of art growing up. Since a young age I had the dream to study biology at the University of Crete but also work as a photographer. I am really happy I managed to do both.
How your work as a biologist has impacted your work as an artist?
I don’t actually believe that me being a biologist has changed my view as an artist. People tend to ask me if I photograph biological settings or if I take pictures with the use of a microscope. The biological work is not as visual as people think. All our buffers and chemicals and transparent and the molecules like DNA are not visual by the human eye.
How do you wish the viewer experiences your work?
I just want the viewer to see my pictures and make his or her own conclusion. I hate when people ask questions like 'What do you want to portray here?' for example. Art is open to be interpreted by the viewer. I have only one wish, when it comes to my nudes series, I wish that the people don’t see it as sensual and don’t focus on the beauty of the model, but rather on the aesthetic of the photo.
What is beauty for you?
Beauty is something that makes you feel nice. A brainwave that is created in response to a visual stimulus. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and doesn’t have to do with beauty standards. In terms of photography it is all about the light and the framing.
How do you use the idea of gender in your work?
I try to be inclusive and shoot all genders. For my last two projects I have to admit I used only males. For the Narcissus Project, that was my choice and for the Paradox of You project that was because of safety issues with the coloured water. I believe in the art of nude -no matter what the gender is. As a biologist I do believe in the biological gender but I am really open minded when it comes to its perception or interpretation. I find men are more comfortable being naked in front of my camera and I believe this is because we share the same gender - I might be wrong.
Which are your biggest influences?
A close friend of my mother was Anna Wich, a German photographer who lived in Athens for many years. She has showed me her work including prints of the olive trees inside the Agriculture University that she did on her own and many more that I can’t take out of my mind. I also have a list of photographers that I adore like Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson that have taught me perspective. From the recent years I admire Sølve Sundsbø and I would love to go and work at this office.
What have you been working on at the moment? Any upcoming projects or exhibitions?
The project that I am working on the last couple of months is about the narcissus in the social media era. Is the screen of one’s phone the “lake” where one can drown himself or starve preoccupied with one’s image? Augmented by the positive feedback loop created by the admiration and approval of the followers in the “insta world”, the ego is inflated via selfies where one creates the best version of themselves after numerous trials and errors. The phenotype is the creation of an avatar of the digital version of narcissus via the gratification of being “like-able”. I have shoot already 15 people and I am currently in the curation process, trying to select the group of pictures that would fit together in an exhibition. There is going to be an interactive part too.
Name some of the authors and composers that inspire you at the moment.
My favourite authors are Yoko Ogawa, John Steinbeck, Hannah Kent and then my favourite composers are Alexander, Angus and Julia Stone and Erik Satie.
Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?
I admire a lot of visual artists and lately I find it really inspiring to work with people who know to take pictures. The people I like to collaborate with are those who create powerful images and together we can elevate both of our skills and practice. I can’t say only one name because there are a few. If I can be really bold then I would say that my dream would be to work on a fashion editorial with Grace Coddington. I find that her mind works in a really surprising way and I love her aesthetics.