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Kostis Fokas, born in Athens, Greece, is a conceptual photographer whose artistic practice revolves around the exploration of the complexities of the human body.
Fokas’s works have been exhibited in the USA and Europe including, The Louvre Museum, Colette in Paris, Art Basel Miami, the Benaki Museum in Athens and the Museum of Modern Art in Thessaloniki and Crete among others.
Fokas has collaborated with and published his work in Zeit Magazine, Les Inrockuptibles,L’obs , i-D, Dazed and Confused, The advocate, Gay times, Gayletter magazine and many more international publications, websites and art books.
This year Fokas produced his first self published art book, “Kostis Fokas”, which covers a selection of more than 120 photographs spanning 7 years of photographic work.
His work looks at and investigates the complexities of gender, sexuality, and identity through pictorial representations of the human body. In an attempt to capture the social panorama of contemporary life, the artist offers a discreet look at the body as a site of desire, fantasy, submission, and oppression.
Unlike sentimental depictions or explicit narratives where sexuality and desire have been co-opted to fit in the broad swath of social and public life, Fokas’ approach to the body is rather detached. Like a Cartesian mechanical eye, Fokas observes from the position of the spectator, scrutinizing himself and his subjects with a tantalizing pleasure. Bodies and fragmentary body parts set in bizarre and vulnerable positions are juxtaposed with wild landscapes and the striking beauty of the Greek summer.
Where are you based? Where are you from? Can you tell us a little about both?
I was born and raised in Athens, Greece. My father is Greek and my mother is from Istanbul, Turkey. I have lived almost all of my life in Athens. I studied photography at Focus School of Photography, and when I finished, I started working in Greek fashion magazines. But after four years in fashion I decided to stop, and in 2013 I moved to the island of Crete. The island really helped me to develop the ideas of my work. It gave me the inspiration and motivation to create, and from then I have never stopped photographing.
How long have you been shooting for and what go you into photography?
I discovered photography at a very young age, around 11 years old. My first contact was when I discovered magazines like i-D, Dazed and Confused, The Face, WAD, and many more. I was really obsessed with fashion photographs, and I remember spending all my money on magazines. Even today I still have them. I find it difficult to separate from them, because they are full of memories for me.
At the age of 20 a good friend of mine gave me a very old analogue camera. I instantly started photographing with a passion. That was the beginning of everything. Some years later I finished with photography school and started working for Greek magazines. Things didn’t turn out as expected, and I was lacking the creative freedom I needed.
It was completely different than how I had imagined. I was a dreamer and a romantic, I wanted something more. So I started photographing what I had inside of me, my thoughts, my ideas, my dreams, and it was liberating. It was exactly how I wanted it to be. I was free to discover myself and my world. The most important part of my work is that I’m doing it my own way and I’m doing it for myself. Freedom is the most important thing in life.
How did you come about shooting the distinctive style you do?
It all came naturally and instinctively, probably due to photographic material accumulated in my subconscious. I think my style contains elements of all my favorite artists. It’s a composition of every art piece I love, and has inspired me throughout my life. I started photographing myself. At that time my body was my only tool. I used it as an empty canvas, placed naked in front of my camera. I created in my own way. I gave to it different forms and shapes. It was a game, but it was important at the same time. I’ve always been very shy as a person. It was a chance to challenge myself, to be vulnerable and open. And it worked, for me at least. My work is the safest space for me.
You’ve exhibited on a global scale, is there an exhibition that has stood out for you the most?
In 2018 I participated in a big group exhibition that took place at The Louvre Museum. That was definitely a highlight in my life, and an honor for it to happen so quickly, with a relatively short career. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine to have my work exhibited at The Louvre Museum. I’ll never forget that moment.
Is there somewhere in specific you would love for your works to be shown?
I would love to have the opportunity to show my work all over the world.
A lot of your work is shot in Greece, what is it that you enjoy about shooting here?
I live in Greece so many of my photographs are shot here. Greece offers extremely beautiful and strong lighting. What more could I ask for as a photographer?
Greece also offers beautiful weather and temperature which makes it easier to shoot outdoors. It has mountains and beaches which are very important elements in my work. When the sun is up I grab my camera and go outside.
There has been a lot of progression recently in regards to gender roles, sexuality and the culture surrounding it. How do you feel your work represents this?
It really makes me feel good when i speak with younger generation artists and people who are at their twenties and telling me that they draw inspiration from my work .
Or that i represent in some way a group of people who are trying through their work to bring a more positive way of thinking ,more positive way of life .I think acceptance and freedom are the right words to describe what i want to pass to others through my work .I know an artist or a piece of art cant change the world but if you can inspire younger people to be themselves and to not afraid speak their truth ,and be different .This is great achievement for me.
Also i believe in collective work.I know i m not alone ,we are lots of artists with common purpose.All together we can make a change.I m happy to be part of these people who wants to change and the better for the world we live in.
Is there somewhere / somebody you would love to work with?
Every single person I have worked with is important to me.
Have you any specific projects throughout 2020 you would like to share with us?
I’m extremely happy that I’m already working on four different shows in the upcoming months. The most important thing for me is to have the opportunity to show my work outside the internet. Where my photographs become real, not just files on my computer. When I’m next to people who have come to see my work, it’s something I really appreciate.
Where can we find you online?