George Tatakis

George Tatakis

George Tatakis

George Tatakis makes images, utilising the world that surrounds us. He has been published internationally, including National Geographic and partnered with brands such as Leica, Canon, Huawei, UNESCO and more. George studied and worked as an Engineer, but his true passion always lied in art, especially image making. The main means he uses to make images is through photography. The purpose of his images is to express his view of the world by directing moments taking place in front of him. Engineering dreams out of real-life moments.

Since 2013 he decided to follow his passion and slowly make the transition to a full-time image making career. He now documents social events, exhibits his work in institutions such as the Benaki Museum, in downtown Athens and provides mentoring to amateur and professional photographers.

- Images are published internationally, including National Geographic, Leica LFI/M, fstoppers and more
- Partnered with Canon, Huawei, Leica, Blue Star Ferries, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens, UNESCO
- Digital archive is held and safeguarded by the Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece

- Exhibitions:

George Tatakis is a photograph er approaching in a remarkably personal manner the sensitive subject of the Hellenic tradition, filtering it through his own perspective of modernization, which is perfectly compatible with genuine emotion. His portfolio speaks volumes and he answers to questions introducing him to us all. 

What made you get involved with photography.

Photography has always fascinated me since I was a teenager, together with any image related art. The element of mechanics was interesting to me at first as well and I was always excited to have a camera in my hands. After my studies as an Engineer, I started my career and during a later position, I had the opportunity to travel around the world for business purposes. These travels triggered my interest in photography once more and I purchased my first professional DSLR camera. Eventually, I wanted to make more out of it and dived more into the art of photography, so much that I even set up a darkroom in my bedroom. I soon realised that photographing was what made me happier and that I could never get this satisfaction from my profession as an engineer. I therefore decided to quit my job and change my career into making images.

Which aspects of yourself are you revealing through your work?

The work of any creator should reflect the creator himself. If there is one aspect that art should have, that would be the quality of honesty. The creator should eliminate his art’s means and be able to sync his work with his mind and his heart, so that it resonates with his inner concerns and obsessions. Therefore I think that each of my individual works does not simply reveal an aspect of myself, but rather IS the whole essence of my individuality.

What inspired you to include Greece as part of your work, an aspect many people do not promote and people abroad are not familiar with?

I can answer that with something I teach to my students and I think it is very important in the world of any art form. Inspiration comes with work. People who are just starting in the world of art or have never been in the creation process, believe that creators sit on their couch and think hard until they come up with an idea which they execute. Art does not work like that. All that matters is to be honest with your work and the work itself will guide you to expressyour obsessions and thoughts. It will take you to the right path, as long as you give it the necessary time and put the required effort.

A simple paradigm of a creator’s work can be given with an artisan making bread. When we start creating, what we have in front of us is flour and water. We start by thinking about all the options, like making cookies, bread, cake, pizza and so many other things (street photography, landscape, studio portraits etc). But when we start working, a product starts developing. We leave some flour with water for a few days and turn into sourdough (wild yeast), and later we make the dough for the bread. Gluten strands now develop and we leave it to rest so they become harder and the sourdough causes it to rise. When we have a significant body of work (the risen dough), there is so much we can do to shape it and take it further. It is now an entity with its own inertia. We may have ideas, but we change the shape so much every time. The work itself drives our inspiration. We can shape it into a baguette, or round, or loaf, but we cannot change it into a pair of jeans.

So my work took me to this path so far. The whole body of my work currently is the Greek tradition. I do not do any side projects. I consider my work to be a single body, rather than the sum of smaller projects. What I do however is to make images. My work is not a mere documentation of the Greek traditions. They are images that reside in my mind, inspired by the Greek tradition.

What else are you involved with? 

I like to do many things, like cooking, playing the piano, reading books and watching nice movies. However, everything I do helps my path in photography. I am trying to develop myself in order to have more interesting things to ‘say’ through my work. Art is a form of communication. What art needs is the input and viewpoint of each individual creator, since this is the only unique ‘idea’ that we have. Therefore the work of each creator reflects the things he has to say to the world. It is not enough to study and learn about your art means and techniques, but you must also develop yourself in order to have something interesting to say through your work.

What has been your most astoun ding moment regarding thistype  of photos? 

I have lived so many exciting and even shocking moments along my path, other frightening, like having to sleep uncovered over a pile of old and dirty magazines inside an open stadium in Turkey, to avoid freezing to death, or driving through one of the most dangerous roads in Greece in the middle of a snowstorm, other touching, like having an 95-year-old man in Santorini crying while talking about his wife who passed away 20 years ago and showing her picture to ask me: “isn’t she beautiful?” and other funny and awkward, like a whole village fighting amongst themselves, similar to the villagers of Asterixvillage, with myself in the middle, on my second day of being there.

However, I find them all interesting experiences and you always come up with a story to tell. The most frightening test that creators constantly live, is the artistic concern and the inner fight with themselves. I have been so often angry with my work, depressed, wanting to quit or delete everything and start over, I have passed significant periods in which I couldn’t even sleep at nights thinking about my work and so on (I’d rather not have been able to eat instead, but anyways). This is a very stressful situation, oftentimes; however  it is a healthy creative process. Creators resemble the Phoenix. They come to a glorious state, at which they burn to ashes in order to be born again.
You have even tried religious themes. Indeed this field is difficult to decode. 

Religion is a very interesting subject for me for many different reasons. The simplest would be the aesthetic quality that can add to my work. Religious art is visually interesting to me. There are very strong symbols in religion, like the cross, icons and more, but also very interesting fashion, shapes etc.

Furthermore, religion is very important in the line of my work’s inspiration, since it plays a significant role in shaping our tradition and customs. Most of our traditional events relate to a religious milestone or celebration.

Finally, religion to me is very important philosophically. I classify religions into philosophical movements. Religions have been amongst the most significant, if not the most significant, philosophies of our world and shaped entirecultures. Western civilization has been molded through Christianity, for better or worse. Since my work is man-centered and in close relation to tradition, such a philosophy would naturally infuse its concerns in it.

You have travelled a lot. What  have those trips offered to y ou, perhaps even with regard to the Greek light. 

What I have gained with my trips over the years is to mainly broaden my mind and cultivate my own self-sufficiency. I believe it is very important for any person to learn how to live by himself alone and really enjoy this situation. You will be surprised how difficult this is for many people.

During this pandemic period for example that we all have to stay confined, you see that many people find this unbearable. This is a clear sign that you have not yet learned to love yourself. Many people need other people’s company or other people’s approval in order to feel defined. Maybe this situation will give the opportunity to many of us to learn how to feel good with ourselves.

Regarding the Greek light, I might disappoint you in sayingthat although it is a fact that Greek light has a unique bright luminance in it, I would generally prefer gloomy and cold weather with the sky filled with black thunderclouds, rain, snow or fog. On a sunny day, I would generally make images indoors.

However, having said that, the bright light of Greece does make you want to be outdoors, so in that sense, it helps me feel more like travelling all the time.

Talk to us about your recent exhibitions (especially the ones that took place abroad).

I have so far exhibited my work in two institutes and took part in one group outdoor exhibition. I am very cautious with where and how I exhibit my work, because I mainly try to respect the visitors, but I also want to be sure of what it is I want to communicate publicly.
The first exhibition named “Ethos - Another side of Greece” took place at the Benaki Museum of Greek Culture at Kolonaki and presented my work related to the Greek cultural events and tradition. The second one was at the Fragonard Museum in Grasse (Cannes), France, with the same name, only this time specific to female traditional costumes in Greece. Fragonard is one of the most important perfume manufacturers in France, so the exhibition was adjusted to the house’s essence.

The most satisfying moment I believe during this exhibition was when Agnes Costa, the president of the Fragonard empire, made a toast for us during the press reception and said that: “It is an honor for our House to have such photographers sitting with us at our table today”. It is very rewarding to see appreciation, especially by people who have little relation to your work’s subject, i.e. the tradition of Greece.

Both of these exhibitions were solo with my images and my partner’s Michael Pappas, with whom we usually travel together for our work.

In between these exhibitions I took participated in one more, a group outdoor exhibition, named “Another Europe”, organized by the Austrian Cultural Forum in London and the EU Commission (EUNIC). This exhibition consisted of one image per member state, about the country’s tradition. Greece was represented by one of my images and the opening took place at Kings Cross inLondon. The next stop was Romania and it is intended to travel all over Europe.

Is there something you learnt about life through your lens?

There is no differentiation for me between my life and my photography, since my photographic work is in essence myself. The camera is merely a means to translate my thoughts and obsessions and show them to the world. They must be the ones that drive your camera rather than the other way around.

What I have realized is what also our great novelist N. Kazantzakis suggests: that our work is our purpose in life. I have practically realized that my work path is my purpose in life and I enjoy working, giving up hope or wish for any other results, like fame, money etc. This is why when people ask me which one is my favorite photograph, I cannot really answer. What I enjoy is the process of photography, I do not care much about the photographs I already made.

Maybe not all of us believe that our work is our purpose in life. I would however advise that, just in case, take a moment to think if what you are currently doing in your work, really defines you as a person.

Describe the artist Tatakis in one phrase!

I do not define myself as an artist, this is really for other people to say. What I do is just be myself and try to leave a trace of that through photography. I have an inner urgency to create, so I really can’t help it.