Kostis Argyriadis, with a series of individual and collective exhibitions under his belt, hosted both in Greece and abroad, seems to have discovered an artistic homeland in the expressiveness and the narrative frugality of black-and-white photography.
The work of photographer Kostis Argyriadis, born in Thessaloniki in 1981, an apprentice of Stratos Kalafatis and a graduate of the ESP Photography School of Continuing Education, intertwines the mundane and the everyday with the multiple aspects of a fluid reality, disguising human figures and the urban landscape as deforming mirrors of hallucinations and illusions of the individual and the collective subconscious. In his most recent exhibition, titled DD/MM/YYYY, showcased both in Greece and abroad, he explores the remnants of time, what is left in the cracks of life and existence. What was the triggering stimulus that ignited the first spark of love and passion for photography?
“I used to take pictures as a kid, using a compact camera to frame other people’s lives and the trivial moments and situations that I experienced. At some point in high school, my father gave the ‘official’ camera of our house as a gift, a really beautiful SLR. Later on, I met Stratos Kalafatis, who taught what photography is all about through his seminars and his overall take on life. I became his apprentice while studying with a scholarship in the ESP Photography School of Continuing Education, where mentors such as Iraklis Papaioannou, Manolis Skoufias, Avgita Louisa and Evdoxia Radi generously offered me their knowledge and support so as to find my own path. The first moment I felt I wanted to become a photographer came as a revelation, while watching a documentary on the Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama, during a seminar delivered by Stratos Kalafatis. I felt a strange bond with this artist who roamed through his city, taking pictures. Ten years have passed since that moment.”
Kostis Argyriadis, with a series of individual and collective exhibitions under his belt, hosted both in Greece and abroad, seems to have discovered an artistic homeland in the expressiveness and the narrative frugality of black-and-white photography. His project titled To Love, Fear and Consume reshapes the countless facets of the cities into a human geography chronicle within the brave new world of the transformation of vital space. “Black-and-white photography has the ability to become more abstract, focusing more easily and directly than colored photography on subtle notions. It is more minimal and symbolic, If I may put it this way. Black-and-white photography is one of the many mother tongues of photography, the one that currently fits my purpose. According to Anders Petersen, black-and-white photography leaves more room for action to the beholder, as it incites the viewer to shift from black and white to the colors of real life. My compositions emanate from my research object: in street photography many factors are left to chance and randomness, producing a brilliant outcome. It is a preordained form of randomness triggered by faults, governed by a trial-and-error axiom, that’s why high-level street photography is matched by a huge volume of photos, at least in my approach and line of work. In my inner journeys as a photographer, the frame is strictly defined, as I am an adherent of the squared form. With regard to the technical aspect, I abide by the general rule to intervene as if I were in the dark chamber, nothing more, nothing less.”
A fragmented recalling of the experienced time, as well as a retro-futuristic touch, like a repatriation and a dystopia at the same time, are the predominant features in Kostis Argyriadis’ work. Is photography the only form of art that can capture and embalm the flow of time? Here’s what he has to say; “The notion of time has always been in the core of art and every thinking being. Sometimes it fuels creation (the death agony in Goya’s painting Saturn Devouring His Son) without being traceable or intact, while other times is serves as the underlying cause (Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a painting that bring forth concurrency, or the color
experimentations by Sonia and Robert Delauney). Seen through this prism, photography literally embalms time. However, I am more focused on how time transcends us, on its remnants and the things it sweeps aways and carries along. Our never-ending evolution as human beings, as well as the leaps of technology that we keep experiencing while growing up and feeling older and older, give birth to feelings of repatriation and dystopia, respectively. Repatriation, as I am no longer the person I used to be ten years ago and that frightens me, urging my mind to seek refuge to “simpler times”. Dystopia, as we are faced with the dread of becoming useless items within a new and unfamiliar world.”
Over the last years, both in Thessaloniki and nationwide, art photography and street photography have grown really popular. What are his thoughts on this trend? “I am really glad, as I consider street photography to be a profoundly liberating medium. The street is the stepping stone for a poetic journey that can lead a photographer to different paths and questions that evoke issues of identity. It is inextricably linked with the activity of roaming around the city, a scenery that you usually feel deeply rooted to, while other times you feel completely detached. These two tendencies create a problematic that paves the way to new and bigger questions, unveiling the open terrain that stands between us and the city, us and the others, waiting to be photographed – and if possible – interpreted. As the renowned Greek painter Dimitris Mytaras once said, art is the answer to a question that was never asked.”
Wishing to express all the suppressed dispositions and identity alterations that we experienced during the quarantine, Kostis Argyriadis turned his lens to the compulsory habits of this awkward period, through a series of video call portraits, dominated by distorted human figures, nearly cut off from their identifying features. The same nuance of identity mutation can be seen in his portrayal of the urban landscape. After all, and in contrast with the prevailing view, is photography destined to present the human condition in a given space-time context rather than capture an illusion of reality? “I had the intention of portraying the identity loss we experienced, stripped down of all the social labels we pin on ourselves, or others pin on us, such as our profession, the clothes we wear to step out of the house and body language, elements and features that define our identity to a great extent. Confined in our homes, we had a clearer and yet more disoriented perception of who we are and what defines us. I photographed that brand new version of ourselves, void of labels and tags,” he explains.
“As far as the urban landscape is concerned, I opt for a more idealistic approach (idealism is a philosophical theory that privileges human spirit and conscience in the fundamental philosophical debate of the relation between mankind and the external world, between conscience and materiality), focusing on the notions themselves rather than on their material form, portraying therefore the landmarks of a city – blocks of flats, streets, tamed nature – freed from any identification, such as street names and addresses, leaving more room to the viewer’s imagination. You are right to say that photography portrays mankind in a given context, on one hand hooked to geography and social space, and the one other hand tied to the primordial time we carry within us, our individual and collective past, present and future. The viewers are invited to internalize what stands before their eyes and this process may lead to a distant illusion of reality pretty much like reading a book or watching a film,” he concluded.