I started cleaning out my hard drive today and came across some pictures I took back in November while shooting inside Mardi Gras World with FremantleMedia. For those unfamiliar with Mardi Gras World it is a working warehouse & tourist attraction that sits along the Mississippi river in New Orleans, Louisiana. It houses many of the floats for Mardi Gras and serves as an indoor stage for the Buku Music Festival in March.
The first person I wanted to highlight for my new "profiles" series was the uber talented George Christakis. George is a fantastic photographer, painter, and digital manipulator who creates truly unique images.
His synergy of several art forms produces stunning surreal landscapes and secluded dreamscapes that immediately engage viewers and serve as a reminder of the artistic latitude and boundless creativity we have in today’s digital age.
Thankfully, George Christakis is as gracious as he is talented and took some time to chat with me about his work, his process, and himself.
What drove you to photography as an artistic medium?
I can’t think of any particular reason other than the fact that I've always enjoyed looking at pictures and was specifically interested in surreal, conceptual, and landscape photographs. But I never tried to get involved more seriously.
Eventually I saved some money and bought my first DSLR and shooting scenes became my new hobby. Soon I discovered that simply just taking photographs was not producing what I wanted to see on my monitor . . . and, here we are now.
In many ways I see you as a digital artist or image-maker more than just a photographer. Would you agree with this assessment?
I can’t deny your opinion. Some may call me photographer, others an artist. I'm taking a lot of pictures, I use a camera, and I borrow stuff (digital images) sometimes as well. But the final result is never a pure photograph since I’m using techniques to manipulate them such as paint, Photoshop, and more.
I don't really know in what field or category I belong, but this is the way I like to work with images. For me, the only value is in the final image not in what type of artist people consider me.
How long would you estimate each image takes to create?
In the past I used to work many hours only for a single process, for example cutting photos. Now I'm a bit faster, although I typically need a couple of hours to create most of the scene. It can take multiple days to create just a single image when you consider everything from brainstorming, adding details, improving visual quality, problems that arise throughout the process, etc. It really just depends on the picture and each one has its own journey and value.
Are your Photoshop & editing skills largely self-taught or did you study the craft at university or with a mentor?
When I started in this field I was totally self-taught. What I mean by "totally self-taught" is I didn’t even look for tutorials or books on the subject. I just opened the software and played with it. I would spend my time trying to understand what all that buttons do and how to best use them.
I never had a mentor or anything. However, I used to show some pre and post works to friends to see what they thought. So, in a sense, they were my mentors.
Your images tend to evoke a surreal dreamscape like feeling that resonates with the viewer – is that part of your goal with each image or is it purely an organic creation from something that comes to mind that you enjoy?
I think my mind tends to gravitate toward creating pictures that involve some surreal qualities within a natural environment. I can't describe why or how I end up with that style, it just happens. A lot of my pictures are non-motivated.
I enjoy looking at works of people who are forcing their ideas at pictures, even if there are not technically right.
You’re from Crete and many of your photographs were taken in Heraklion. Has growing up in such a historically rich city impacted you artistically and personally?
Greece is a very beautiful country in general and Heraklion city has many memorable places. Everyone who visits these historical monuments, can find inspiration and feel at home with past generations
During the last few years you have likely heard about the situation in Greece. Almost every Greek citizen knows the meaning and seriousness of the current economic crisis. Every young person is constantly facing the fear of a blank future, and I’m not an exception to that.
You’ll notice that I started working with pictures when the crisis in Greece started. So, if anything the current situation in my home country has impacted me more than its rich history. Seeing the problems facing people in the present and the uncertain future is what truly affects me.
You said that music has a large impact on your creative process. How so and who’s getting the most play on your iTunes at the moment?
Most recently I was listening to some Nevermind the Name and Sigur Ros tracks. In general I listen to all genres of music, Rock, Metal, Dance, Trance, etc.
When I'm making pictures I prefer listening to music without vocals, like post-rock. It helps me to concentrate.
What was the moment where you said to yourself I can be really good at this?
I don't remember such a moment (laughs). However I remember myself trying, and wondering, how all that stuff works. When I made my very first picture it was exciting because I knew that I could make one more and from there I just kept going. I had no idea where it will lead me though.
How did you create the balls in John’s Funny World image (pictured above)
The landscape is a mix of photographs and paint work. But for balls, I used a new method for me. I created them with three-dimensional software. I used a virtual sky to cover reflections and apply soft shadows on them. When I finished I converted it back into 2D to reprocess it. People who know better about that stuff will agree that what I did is not something special. But the idea is what counts, which is true with a lot of my work.
But the process I used on that picture was completely new to me and I hope it leads me into some more beautiful looking results in the future.
I've noticed many of your images contain a form of transportation – planes, spacecraft, cars, boats, balloons, blimps, etc. Any reason behind this?
I love to make images that involve engineering and man. The contrast is interesting to me.
If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?
Hmmmm, probably . . . lost.
Any big plans or projects for the future in the works?
I can’t say a lot about this right now, but you can be sure you haven’t seen my most interesting pictures yet.