In the brief biography of the photographer Yiorgos Depollas we can read:
Yiorgos Depollas was born in 1947 in Athens. He studied film direction and, from 1975 until today, he has dealt systematically with applied and creative photography. He is co-founder of IMAGE STUDIO (1975), the Photography Center of Athens (1979) and the publishing company FOTORAMA (1983). Since 1984 he has taught photography at Vakalo School. His work has been published and exhibited repeatedly both in Greece and abroad.
However, nowhere in this last paragraph does it mention the contribution of Yiorgos Depollas to the birth of “Contemporary Greek Photography”, as established from 1980 nor the importance of his personal work in the photographic scene of Greece. Perhaps the Greek general public does not know that this is a photographer whose name has already gone down in Greek history. His name is included in the list of important Greek photographers that are officially referred to in articles on Greek Photography, in textbooks and also exhibited/presented in Greece and abroad. Perhaps he has contributed to his “anonymity”, by refraining from using the web and by presenting his work mainly by publications and exhibitions. Of course, the interest of the people who love photography and admire his work, has resulted in personal contact with him, which is clearly superior to a survey via the Internet.
On Friday, 27 February 2015, those who were in the city of Volos had the opportunity to experience such a contact with Yiorgos Depollas, who presented his nearly fifty-year path in the photographic area, through pictures of different connections of his work, as a guest of the Photographic Club . The description of the event that was titled "Yiorgos Depollas - 50 years Photography", reported that "the honoured will attempt a flashback to different kinds of photography in which he has been involved, whilst at the same time presenting samples of his creative work of both of the first period, which belongs in the field of straight photography and the second, which belongs to the staged photography. Selected photographs will be shown and commented upon, there will be discussion with the attendees and he will answer possible related questions and photographic content questions". However, all these hardly approach the delightful and exceptionally interesting four hours, enjoyed by all the people who were there. We must note that the following interview, which the photographer gave us in a written format before the speech, cannot, under any circumstances, convey the atmosphere that existed in the hall of the “Nea Ionia” Cultural Centre, during the intense and natural presence of Yiorgos Depollas’, his fluent speech, the humor, the deep personal relationship with photography and his attitude towards life, which delighted the audience.
What was the situation of photography in Greece when you started getting involved with the subject?
I started when I was 15 as an amateur. At that time, in the mid-60s, it was very difficult to be informed and thus to see what exactly was happening in Greek Photography. There was of course the Ε.Φ.Ε (Hellenic Photographic Society) but this is a special place. You can imagine that due to the low level in photography but also because of the political circumstances of that time period, works by Kostas Balafas and Spiros Meletzis could not be displayed.
What kind of photography did you do at that time and how easy it was to be accepted by the Greek public?
A little later, in the mid-70s, beyond my professional activities, I started becoming involved in parallel with many different kinds of photography, such as portrait, still life, sequences, etc. To show your work then was difficult or even impossible. I had the opportunity, because two very interesting people who had some small exhibition places, appreciated what I was doing and gave me the opportunity to exhibit my work. One was George Kotanidis, in the bookstore that he kept at the STUDIO cinema and the other was Odysseas Hatzopoulos (KAKTOS), in his first bookstore in Kypseli Street. I would say that the public reception was specifically warm.
Did your relationship with Cinema influence your photographic work?
Certainly and fortunately it influenced it. Also, in parallel, it was influenced by literature, painting, political cartoons and especially the Rock culture.
How experiential could you characterize your photography?
Up until today I do not have a special relationship with the commercialization of my personal work (producing images that appeal to specific audiences so they can easily be moved in this circuit, etc.), I would say that, indeed, all my work to a large extent is experiential. Since I started until now there have been two main issues that concerned me. My interest in my fellow man and my attempt to explore the limits and possibilities of this 'new', amazing medium that is photography.
Your parallel preoccupation with applied and artistic photography was an easy or difficult case?
All “ventures” have two sides. In time I realized that to have the ability to live from the proceeds of my (personal) photography was completely useless. That's why I chose to deal professionally in advertising photography and later in travel (photography), so that in parallel I would have the comfort to also do photos to my liking, without having to be purchased and without having to follow the “current” trends of the art market. However, to try to balance by stepping on two different boats, it is not the most interesting experience.
For many years now you have been teaching photography. What do you think about the way photography is taught in Greece?
Unfortunately in our country, at a high level, photography is only taught at the Athens TEI (Technological Public Institution) and you know very well that in the Public there are actually several great teachers, but, unfortunately, many parachuters too. (People coming from the sky).
Where is the Greek photography now in relation to the international context?
If we try to make a comparison with the situation prevailing in America, Europe and elsewhere, our level is specifically low. It is not only the issue of education, it is also what you do after that, what infrastructure there is and how they work, what options you have to exhibit, to publish, etc. your work.
After “50 Years of Photography" you continue to be actively involved with photography. Has anything changed in your photography or in the subjects that concern you?
There have been a lot of changes in my work, if we think about how I started, but to also remember the great Theo. Angelopoulos, maybe we wriggle our entire lives around the same thing.
Are you preparing something new?
I have already prepared a new work while in parallel I have been working for some time now on two or three different ideas.
Access to your photo gallery, online at least, is not easy. However, there is great interest from young photographers and photography students for this. Do you think of proceeding sometime in a retrospective version of your work that is not contained in existing versions, or post it on a web site on the Internet?
The truth is that I still have some concerns about how photography is shown on the internet and I certainly prefer it printed. Some years ago I had a serious proposal by a prominent body of one of my major retrospective exhibitions but, unfortunately, because of the known current circumstances (in Greece) it has been postponed twice. I hope, if sometime it is done, to follow it up with the creation of my personal site.
Συντάκτης: Νατάσσα Καρακατσάνη