“What is rare is a human being that is authentic, who is in accordance with one’s own heart.”
Alexis Vasilikos (born 1977) is a Greek photographer known for his unconventional approach of photography. Refusing to get labeled, he regards his images as something more than a visual representation of a particular moment.
For Alexis Vasilikos photography inherits the power to transcend the phenomenal plane of things, leading us to get an understanding of the transient nature of life.
His images don’t intend to convey a certain message to the observer.
Alexis Vasilikos puts it this way: “There is nothing to fill in because there is nothing to understand in an image. If you can, allow your mind to be empty and see without trying to figure something out you will know what I’m talking about.”
Alexis Vasilikos is one of the founders and editors of the online photography blog “Phases Photography Blog”.
Interview with Alexis Vasilikos
Alexis, your images very often show seemingly random things and leave a lot of blanks for the observer to fill in. Is that your intention or do you consider the observation to be wrong?
“I don’t want to tell people what to think.”
This is not wrong because I can see where this observation is coming from. You are referring to the editing, because the images are what you see and you see already. So there is no question of “blanks” in the seeing. The sense that “it leaves a lot of blanks” comes from the mind that is looking for meaning.
There is nothing to fill in because there is nothing to understand in an image. If you can, allow your mind to be empty and see without trying to figure something out you will know what I’m talking about. This is not my intention, this is my wish because I don’t want to tell people what to think.
I want to tell that we don’t have to think, what we can simply see. Beauty is one way through which the mind stops. There are other ways of course.
What reaction is it that you’d like to provoke in people looking at your images?
See with the heart and ignore the mind!
Is there a common thread throughout your work?
What is the common thread of everything?
That is the common thread of my work because I don’t stand apart from everything else.
What comes first: the idea for a series or single images that at some point fit and fall into place to form a particular body of work?
Sometimes an idea comes and then the images manifest and other times some pictures mysteriously start to hang out together in a folder and they look nice together. Maybe they are having a good time, enjoying each other’s company and then a body of images emerges slowly and it starts to grow.
It is a very organic process and often it takes many years to “finish” a series.
What do you think is important to stand out with one’s work? Especially keeping in mind the over abundance of photographic imagery in today’s society.
I think everything should be seen in relation to the greater perspective that gives us a sense of scale of the importance each thing has or doesn’t have.
Coming back to your question it’s not so important to stand out or to be special it’s just an ego trip, what is rare is a human being that is authentic, who is in accordance with one’s own heart. I think this should be our aspiration not just to be good at what we do.
And then if great art will arise out of it or not will not make much of a difference, because you’ll know that you did what felt right in your heart and you’ll be in harmony with whatever life brings.
Susan Sontag once said “The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own”. How has photography changed the way you look at the world and what have you learned about yourself?
Photography made me more aware of my surroundings, of the little things that I wouldn’t have notice otherwise and it also brought an awareness of the transience of all phenomena and that very understanding of the transient nature of life is what pushes the mind to go beyond the phenomenal plane.
“I don’t think that it’s the camera that makes us feel like tourists.”
Regarding Susan Sontag’s quote I’d say: If the camera was the cause of our sense of alienation it would have been solved by throwing away the camera, but I don’t think that it’s the camera that makes us feel like tourists.
Maybe through the camera it becomes evident this state of being, but the camera is not the cause. I think that if we want to understand this sense of alienation we have to dig a bit deeper than this, as Alan Watts beautifully puts it why do we say that we “come into this world” rather than say that we “come out of it”?
You see it’s already there this sense of separation from the very birth of our bodies we feel that we are tourists in this existence that we are coming from somewhere else.
Every photographer is going through different stages in his formation. Which “landmarks” do you recall that have marked you and brought you to the place where you are today as a photographer?
For many years I was trying to come to an edit of my work that could satisfy me and I was failing. I think I was trying for 10 years. I was looking for a way to edit images that wasn’t based on some narrative or conceptual context ’cause I‘m not interested in any story in particular.
Then at some point a form arose that felt right and after that I saw I could apply it on every occasion. It was a breakthrough experience, it’s as if the focus changed and I could see the images from the inside. I started to experience them energetically, as vibrations.
Besides working as a photographer, you also work as a curator for the online photography magazine “phases magazine” which you’ve founded with Jerome Montagne. What is it about?
It’s about sharing the photography we enjoy and it’s also about collaboration. It‘s amazing how life brings together two people from different backgrounds and different countries to work on something. We’ve been working on it for one year and it’s been a fantastic experience – a true blessing. Have a look at “Phases Photography Magazine” – you might find some beauty there.
What do you like about curating photography and what makes a good curator in your eyes?
“Love loves to love. It’s nothing personal.”
I like to share the things that touch me deeply, it feels very natural. I don’t know what makes a good curator but I know that if you love what you do this love is felt by the people you share it with. As Mooji puts it:
“Love loves to love. It’s nothing personal.”
Are you working on something now?
Yes I’m working on a series of images from my travels to India.
I would like to publish my first book with them this year. The name of the series is “Pralay” and you can see some of the images at my website.
The pictures I send you to illustrate this interview are from this series. I hope you’ll enjoy them.