What do you get if you mix a superstitious Greek with a passion for fashion and love of photography? Errikos Andreou is the answer. In a time where one is so used to hearing horror stories of working with models to get the finest shots, Errikos brings to his work, a sense of inner and outer focus as well as calm as he clearly relishes the collaboration between model and photographer. The result is a heady collective of ever sensual photographs some that carry taglines as controversial as “public defender/you had to admit/you wanted the love/of a sex offender”, faces that could be characters from a Fellini film, tricks of the light enflaming the fullness of a fashion shoot and portraits that pick out the very edge of that moment of soul interaction. His work is clever. Damned clever and his relationship with light caresses the textures of each millimetre of skin, fabric and stone that dare to step towards the viewer.
Errikos’s images may be challenging for some but for others, they are the ticket to the ball, they are the mask ready for the masquerade, they are the energy of a jump so high you forgot to put down for landing. His work is most definitely signature and easily identifiable. This is a comfort in itself where mass production has removed the uniqueness of what is presented to the public. Errikos has stepped over the popular media approach and presents to the viewer, something far more mysterious, far more inviting and always with a hidden background tale to explore. In this interview for The Pandorian, Errikos dares to offer a snippet of the man behind the lens, after all, everyone likes a back story…
PP. Where does your interest in photography come from? Were you always interested in taking pictures?
EA. Originally it came from my interest in fashion. All my life I was collecting picture books and magazines but mostly for the clothes and the models. I studied fashion because I liked designing and making clothes, I never thought I would be a photographer. It was after working in fashion for a few years as a designer, as a model agent and as a stylist, that I started taking photos… and it just felt right. I found photography as a fashion medium very appealing: the results are immediate, working with different people, you can create an infinite number of visual results, you can picture a world however you want it. Working as a photographer, I found other things very inspiring: the technical and technological possibilities, how to use people’s faces or bodies to tell a story or communicate a message, how to capture an emotion.
PP. You are originally from Greece but live and work in Paris. What was your reason to move to France?
EA. It was time for me to move on. Saying that, it was also great starting in Greece where networks are considerably smaller so it was much easier to ask questions, get advice, find studios, make mistakes… Also the daylight is great, especially when you cannot afford a studio or studio lights in the beginning. But eventually I felt that I had gotten all I could get and I had to move on. It was my friend Jeni Rose from IMG Models in Paris who suggested I should come here. She had been trying to get me to leave Athens for some time and finally time was right.
PP. Do you think that Paris it the place to be for a young photographer?
EA. Paris is great! I really love living here. The city is extremely beautiful, the buildings, the streets, the museums, the galleries, people, the life… everything. Being the fashion centre of the world, there are fantastic models coming through all the time and amazing fashion being created. So combining all that, every day is a photo opportunity in Paris. However I think that the city favours more the establishment. It is a place one should come back, already successful. It is not like London that is always on the lookout for young talent but I think the experience of being a young artist in Paris brings a certain quality that is very difficult to obtain in other places.
PP. Who are your influences?
EA. That’s an endless list. Richard Avedon, Paolo Roversi, Peter Lindbergh, Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, Nick Knight, Annie Liebovitz for their vision or fashion. Henri Cartier Bresson, Aaron Siskind, Andre Kertesz, Josef Sudek, Robert Mapplethorpe for their delicate and revealing art. Louise Bourgeois, Lucian Freud, Damien Hirst, Francesco Clemente, John Isaacs, Polly Morgan, Ged Quinn, Dennis Scholl and Hugo Wilson for their dark, twisted and romantic work. Alexander McQueen, Sophia Kokosalaki, Riccardo Tisci, JP Gaultier for turning catwalks to galleries, Darren Aronofsky, for whom life is always a bit crazy and death is always graceful, my father for his melancholic gaze and my mother for her endless optimism.
PP. If you could choose only one artist as the ultimate master of photography, who would that be?
EA. I don’t know if I could pick only one because photography is so multi faceted. Perhaps Paolo Roversi. Because even though he mostly does fashion there is something very delicate about his work that transcends beauty, fashion or portraiture and is very deep and personal.
PP. What is your biggest dream as a photographer? What is your definition of success?
EA. The same thing every fashion photographer wants. To get to a level where I could work for the best magazines with the best of talent in the industry. To be able to do bigger and more exciting projects. Photography is an extremely creative field and I am being very creative even today doing what I do, but it’s certainly much more exciting to shoot Givenchy Couture than American Apparel, isn’t it?
PP. Fashion photography would not exist without models. You certainly have been working with some beautiful faces. How hard is to work with models?
EA. No, not at all. Of course there are exceptions, but in general it’s very easy and that is because they know why they are in such business. They know that their work is to accommodate the photographer’s vision and to help make the image better. Some models do it better than others, some bring more personality than others, some have more star quality than others… Those go on to become top models and it’s really great to work with top models; they give you and give you and give you… You are bound to have a brilliant picture.
PP. Don’t you think that your work is much more then a fashion photography? Your images demand reaction… When looking at them I certainly wish to know more, and for me this is art; images that go beyond their aesthetics.
EA. That’s a great compliment. Thank you. I am certainly doing this job with the same principals as an artist. I am trying to stimulate the emotions, the senses and the intellect as much as I can. I am trying to discover and expose myself through the process. But when I started I chose to do fashion and by definition that means to photograph specific kind of people (models) in a specific kind of way (make them look good). If I achieve something more than that it’s great, but it’s something I don’t realise. To call yourself an artist is almost to say that you are a virtuoso in what you do and it’s far too early in my career to say that about myself.
PP. Your work is body based. Where does your fascination with human form come from? Maybe from the Classical Greek art?
EA. Quite possibly. Greeks however conservative in some areas, have never been ashamed of the human form. We go to the museums and we see the naked statues from a very young age, we study them in our history books. The statues of ancient heroes and gods are nude, so the naked body in our heritage carries a classical value of beauty and bravery. Thus the appreciation of the human form may come a bit more easily to a Greek than to an American or a Norwegian or a Japanese. It was also never a taboo in my family. And don’t forget that Greece has very long, hot summers. Everyone is half-naked anyway.
PP. Fashion world is often connected with gay culture? Do you think so?
EA. Of course. It is not because it’s my impression, but because the evidence is overwhelming. Fashion is more connected with gay culture because it is more open to gay people. I don ‘t know how that came to be of course. I don’t know if the gentlemen buying their wives a dress at Christian Dior in 1949 were wondering if Monsieur Dior was gay, but I guess somewhere down the line if a couturier was gay and unintimidated to be obvious at that, it would be very easy to make a stereotype of the man in an industry of dresses, shoes and bags and to do so again for the man who does hair or make up or the man who makes perfume… So everything from that point on would be a game of stereotypes and a silly one at that. A gay man in business is there by accident whereas a gay man in fashion is there naturally.
PP. Do you remember your dreams?
EA. They were always and still are work related and most of them came true. They were always about doing the job I liked, the work that I wanted, to be able to have choices, free to live the life I wanted, wherever I wanted. All of that came true… I now dream of success and work hard at it.
PP. What is your definition of beauty?
EA. That which evokes your senses more than your aesthetics.
PP. Can you see yourself in 10 years time from now?
EA. I can. I wouldn’t like however to describe my vision of that, I am too superstitious! Let’s just say, moving on professionally, to bigger things.
PP. Are all Greeks superstitious?
EA. I think yes, some more than others, but I think we are. We have thousands of years of story telling, that through traditions and altered a bit, remained very much alive. In Ancient Greek tradition, to boast about oneself was considered a form of insult (ivis = ύβρις) that would evoke the wrath of Goddess Nemesis with terrible curses to bring balance in the universe. I feel very Greek when it comes to that. I feel there is a big truth hidden in those myths and do not wish to test them.
Text: © Predrag Pajdic, 2011
Images: © Errikos Andreou, 2011
Models: Laura Cieplic, Basia @ IMG & Johan Akan @ Major Models, Paris