NEW YORK – Yannis Psathas, one of the official photographers for WOMEX (the World Music Expo) and Thessaloniki native, spoke with The National Herald about his life and work. He started out studying chemistry, but his career path took a dramatic turn via music and photography.
Psathas discovered his passion for music photography while taking his first steps in Thessaloniki’s music scene in 1997. After finishing his photography studies in Spain in 2004, he worked for the national edition of Rolling Stone magazine for almost three years, covering many major music events and artists. Recently, he has completed assignments for artists, record companies and media from Greece, Spain and overseas. Since 2007, he lives and works in Thessaloniki as a freelancer specializing in landscape, architecture, advertising, and music photography.
His extraordinary images capture the heart and soul of music, the spirit and energy of the music makers and the audiences that love them. Psathas’ work takes him around the world. Each year, he travels to New York City for three months invited by his photography mentor, friend, and renowned Greek-American artist Philip Tsiaras. In New York, he utilizes his photographic and digital post-processing skills to collaborate with Mr. Tsiaras on a range of international exhibition projects.
Psathas spoke with TNH about his journey and his upcoming projects, noting that his association with music began in 1997 when he was working at Mylos, a cultural venue/club in Thessaloniki which was unique at the time for bringing together artists in a repurposed building, a former mill, where each floor offered artists in various mediums the opportunity to display their work, collaborate with other artists, and reach audiences who appreciated art and the creative spirit in its many incarnations. It happened that on one occasion, a photographer was unable to make it and Psathas stepped in and found his passion. Self-taught, he worked for a time there gaining valuable experience before his military service after which he went to Spain to study photography.
As part of his studies, he sent out his work for external review and he was hired at various media outlets, among those in Spain, collaborating with Grupo Prisa (El Pais), La Revista Cuarenta Principales (edition of the Spanish Top 40 radio), and through the years he continues to collaborate with the most famous artists right now. Among his work, a dynamic cover photo of U2 for Rolling Stone.
“In 2007, I had to interrupt my career and move back to Thessaloniki… and one of my major projects was Thessaloniki360? and Halkidiki360?,” he told TNH. Offering virtual tours of the cities with updated information, maps, and text in Greek and in English, the sites showcased another aspect of Psathas’ work and opened up new opportunities through his photographs of architecture, landscapes, hotels and tourism in general.
“Since 2012, I got invited to join WOMEX which is one of the biggest expositions and [music] festivals at the same time, worldwide, and I’m back into the performing arts photography again,” Psathas noted.
He added that “it’s not that much rock and roll anymore, it’s more like the world, ethnic scene.”
WOMEX is the most international music meeting in the world and the biggest conference of the global music scene, featuring a trade fair, talks, films, and a showcase festival.
Over 2,700 professionals (including 300 performing artists) come together every October from more than 90 countries, making WOMEX not only the number one networking platform for the world music industry, but also the most diverse music meeting worldwide. Its musical spectrum is unparalleled in the international showcase festival scene, ranging from the most traditional to the new global local underground, embracing folk, roots, local and diaspora cultures, and urban and electronic sounds from all over the globe as well as all musical juxtapositions of these. Jazz and classical are also welcome. WOMEX features seven stages, 750+ exhibiting companies, 100 speakers, films, an opening concert, and an award ceremony.
Of his upcoming projects, Psathas told TNH that WOMEX will be in Finland next and in 2020, he will likely exhibit his work on the life of Madrid and street portraiture. Pointing out that it will be 15 years since he shot these photos and 40 years after the Movida counterculture movement in Spain following the death of Franco in 1975, Psathas will likely take new photos in Madrid to compare and contrast then and now.
He said, “Imagine spontaneous street portraits of people, music fans who belong to certain music tribes, rockabilly to punk to goth, all these things side by side with people that still on Sundays were very classic Madrid, Christian, they would go out, the everyday people and immigrants.
“Madrid was special as a landscape of faces and souls since there is more contrast between the traditional and the new, there is even more contrast than in New York which has a fantastic multitude, but the contrast you come across in Madrid is more edgy, one next to the other,” Psathas noted.
More information about Yannis Psathas and his work is available online: www.littleplanet.gr/music