Thursday, 22 January 2009

George Georgiou

I interviewed George Georgiou for the BJP last month. Below is the text and you can see the images in a pdf George made of the piece here

‘Happy is he who calls himself a Turk’

“When you first arrive in a place, you are so informed by images you have already seen that it is a burden you have to lose,” says George Georgiou, the London-based photographer who has recently returned from 8 years working in Turkey, the Balkans and Eastern Europe. “The next thing you do is look for difference, which is something else you need time to get over. Once you have done that, you start to look at what is familiar and then, and only, then can you appreciate what is different - because only then can you appreciate that it is really different.”

The differences of Turkey became apparent to Georgiou from the start of his four year residency in the country. Whilst working on a feature on where Europe ends and Asia begins. Georgiou quickly discovered the diversity of a country where the secular and religious, the military and the civil, the traditional and the modern coexist in an uneasy harmony. “To start to understand a place, you need to stay a long time,” says Georgiou. “So I started working on this idea of Turkey being the meeting point of east and west.”

The result of that work is Fault Lines, a book (to be published later in the year) that reveals the complexities of a country that is struggling to reconcile its multiple personalities. Taking centre stage in that work is the Turkish landscape. “We are used to seeing Istanbul or the Mediterranean resorts,” says Georgiou, “but most of Turkey is on a huge plateau above 1,000 m. I wanted to get this non-romantic version of Turkey where the landscape represents the harshness of its geography and its topographical place in the east.”

Continue reading here.


Anonymous said...

Do you do a lot of work for the BJP? I remember a great piece you did on Soth's Mississippi a few years ago.

How does it work - do they call you or you them?

Just curious.

colin pantall said...

Thank you - sometimes they call me, sometimes I call them. For this piece, George asked if I could write the piece because he'd seen something I'd said about him on the blog that appeared to hit the spot.

In general though, if you have an idea, a good idea, then you make a proposal and take it from there. Some people will talk to writers they don't know, some won't. I'm pretty slack at this, so I'm not the best person to ask.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to find out a little about the process. Thanks for sharing :)

I saw Simon Roberts ('Motherland', 'We English') give a talk a little while ago. I was really surprised to hear how many of his magazine/newspaper commissions used to come from proposals and from just shooting the thing and shopping it around. I guess I just don't imagine it working like that. Seems so... unromantic.

If you don't mind me asking... What's the deal with you? I read your blog and sometimes see your name in BJP, and I also saw your photograph in the NPG show. What would you say is your main thing? Photographer? Writer? Something else or in-between? How do you reconcile being a photographer attempting to 'compete' in the contemporary art field whilst also being a writer and blogger about it? I remember Soth mentioning a while back that his blog had probably had at least a slightly negative effect on his art-world standing. Are you worried at all about diluting your 'brand', or do you think that any exposure is a good thing and potential source of income?

Anyway - I don't mean to pry. I'm just curious to peek behind te curtain.

colin pantall said...

Hi Anonymous, what's your name by the way? Are you involved in photography?

Anyway, good questions.

Unromantic - I think photography is very unromantic, especially in terms of the financing. Unless you are doing high-end commercial work on a regular basis, it's going to be a struggle - and if you are doing editiorial, it's all about selling your work as best you can, through a range of outlets. It's about selling and marketing which is very unromantic and very costly.

I would guess that there isn't a single photographer/artist in the UK solely making money from print sales/the art end for example - instead they supplement their income with commercial work/lecturing/editorial if they are desperate/anything else that comes their way. Unless you are wealthy already and have large amounts of capital to fall back on - then you can just concentrate on your art and your contacts (that's a real big help too).

If you don't have large amounts of capital lying around, you have to fund yourself (George Georgiou and Vanessa Winship did this by selling a , Simon Roberts laid out £25,000 for his Motherland trip, Marcus Bleasdale used to work in the city so I'm guessing that helped with his early Congo work, but then Pieter Hugo started his hyena men pictures with a £1,000 trip to Nigeria).

As for me, I have many different roles, one of which is photographer. I don't really make money from, rather it costs money, but it is my creative love and something I pursue long-term - it's something I believe in and something I have a very high opinion of. In terms of a brand, I don't have a brand, or if I do it is rather a limited one that doesn't have too much reference outside a very small and limited world. So the Soth comments don't apply to me at all.

But he is probably right in terms of his blog having a negative effect on his art cachet. Soth was quite open and communicative and demystified things. If you want to preserve a brand, or indeed create one, you do the opposite. For me th blog is both a way of sharing ideas, images and photographers - and giving myself the illusion I am actually working somewhere with other people (I work in a closed and isolated environment) - but also a way of getting myself to have a visual/written notebook on various things that I encounter in my everyday life. If I wanted to be more of a brand, I wouldn't have one - in fact I would do a whole lot of things very differently.

Does that make sense?

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