Portrait: Costas Avgoulis
Words by Eleni Papaioannou
Working with him actually makes you a better professional, and we can surely say this after years of working side by side with the creative genious that single-handedly shaped the way we look at images, advertisement and magazines in contemporary Greece. From Klik and Nitro to Vogue and, most recently, L’Officiel, his magic touch is distinctive and instantly recognisable. Every time you see him he always has something to show you, a new photographer he discovered, a movie lost in the waves of time, an old video clip with crumbs of genious hidden in every shot. No artistic director has ever turned down a chance to work next to him _and learn from him, noone resists his child-like charm, ladies and gents, we give you mister P.
What exactly do you do?
I am what is commomly known as a Creative Director. A Creative Director has a vital role in all of the arts and entertainment industries. In another sense, they can be seen as another element in any product development process. The Creative Director may also assume the roles of an art director, copywriter, or lead designer. The responsibilities of a creative director include leading the communication design, interactive design, and concept forward in any work assigned. He is also known to guide a team of employees with skills and experience related to graphic design, fine arts, motion graphics, photography and other creative industry fields. Before one assumes the role of a creative director, one must have a preset of experience beforehand. Like anyone else, these types of artists start up from the very beginning in fields that can relate to motion graphics, advertisement in television, and/or book (or magazine) publishing.
Who discovered you?
I wasn’t so much discovered by anyone in particular. I just went to art school thinking that studying there would be a lot easier than going to university. After undergoing a course at British Airways to become a pilot, and after my mother’s nagging, who wasn’t so keen on the idea, I applied to art school, to do a foundation course at Hornsey School Of Art, in North London.
How did you start?
I found a book in the library on Alexey Brodovitch, AND THAT CHANGED MY LIFE. Born in Russia in 1898, he moved to the United States in 1930 and in 1934 he began working for Harper’s Bazaar, under the inspiring editor, Carmel Snow. He spent nearly 25 years at the woman’s fashion magazine, ultimately influencing the profession for future generations. Brodovitch’s work at Harper’s Bazaar was more in-depth and all encompassing than what previous art director’s had done; He not only arranged photos, illustrations and text on the page, but he conceived and commissioned all graphic art – including helping start the careers of photographers Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. His role at the magazine is now the model that contemporary profession of Art Direction is based on. While I was in the first year of my art degree at the London College Of Printing, I applied to British Vogue to become a junior in the art department. The way art colleges worked, was that every month we were assigned some projects to do, on a certain time frame, so, I had some time on my hands. It wasn’t compulsory to attend every day, as long as the projects assigned were handed in on time.
Where you one of those kids who scribbled stuff and did collages and such?
Not at all. Never drew or anything like that. I was brought up very ecclisiastical with a heavy emphasis on the catholic church, due to my early schooling, where bible studies were compulsory. We never watched TV or anything like that, it wasn’t allowed. Growing up later on I used to have an interest in cimema, and read film gossip magazines.
THE OBSESSION CAMPAIGN WAS A VERY LONG TIME AGO. I FEEL THAT I HAVE DONE A LOT MORE SINCE THEN.
What did you study?
I did a one year foundation course, then a three year degree course in art and design at the London College of printing, and then a one year film course at the Royal College Of Art, in film history. One of my tutors at college was the art director of Look Magazine, Allen F. Hurlburt. Hurlburt was acclaimed for his innovations and was given credit by many colleagues for fundamentally altering the role and function of the magazine art director. He institutionalized the idea that the design of a magazine is an integral and categorical function in the making of a magazine. In a sense, he made it more difficult for other stars to emerge, because the acceptance of his ideas elevated the standards of the whole field. I guess, because of him, I entered the world of the magazines.
How was it when you were working for British Vogue?
Generally it was an exciting period. Grace Coddington was fashion director at British Vogue, at the time, Beatrix Miller was the editor, Liz Tilberis was deputy editor, and it was an exciting time for photography with Bruce Weber, David Bailey, Demarchelier. It was also the rise of the supermodels, with Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Claudia and the rest of them. Most of my education was in the Conde Nast library, where all the photographs were stored since the inseption of the magazine in 1916.
How has working for greek magazines been different from that?
It was completly different and more primitive, and as always to the last minute. The first time I arrived on Greek shores, it was a shock to the system, as there were no computers to design the pages, and everything was done the same way as newspares, the old fashined way. There was also a lack of good photographers and stylists. In fact the last issues of KLIK magazine that I did, I brought the whole team from outside of Greece. On British Vogue and on English magazines In general, we used to work six months in advance. Everything was planned according to film releases, books, tv, and fashion.
You did the Calvin Klein campaign for Obsession. Was that how Kate Moss became a big name?
The Obsession campaign was a very long time ago. I feel that I have done a lot more since then, including magazines and advertising campaigns. It’s always best not to look back all the time, but move forward. I have improved a great deal since then, especially in my experiments in typography, which is break every rule that was tought to you at art school.
Give us some names. Who is your friend?
I have lots of friends, especially in this proffession. They range from editors, photographers, models, stylists and so forth.I still keep in touch with people from the early days of my career, like Naomi Campbell, Sam mc Knight, and occasionally Mario Sorrenti, and I alwys make new friends, as this is a fast changing world. You are always as good as your last tear sheets, as Naomi always says. It is also a very competitive world, and you always need to be one step ahead from everybody else. I am always studying new frontiers,to get new and innovative idees.
BEFORE ONE ASSUMES THE ROLE OF A CREATIVE DIRECTOR, ONE MUST HAVE A PRESET OF EXPERIENCE BEFOREHAND.
Who have you photographed over the years?
Barbra Streisand for Company Magazine, Boy George dressed as a girl for Cosmopolitan magazine, Kate Bush for Company magazine, Raquel Welch for Cosmopolitan in London, and there was Madonna for Interview magazine, Rosy de Palma on the set of George Michael’s video “Too Funky”, the super models on the set of “Freedom”, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Dolph Lundgren, Liza Bonet, Arnold Schwarzenegger for Arena Magazine, Charlie Sheen and many others. In Greece, I have a long collaboration with Anna Vissi, but I have also photographed Aliki Vougouklaki, Rena Vlahopoulou, Zoi Laskari, Nikos Kourkoulos, and a great number of singers from Haris Alexiou to Antonis Remos.
What work are you very proud of?
There have been so many…over the years, but I guess I have to say MIRROR magazine, the first period, because even now when I look at the old issues, there are still very modern and up to date. I also love the Naomi Campbell shoot for Greek Vogue for the Olympic issue. I felt proud when she included it in her recent mega book for Tashen.
How do you know if a photographer is good?
Genarally from the attitude and from the snaps that they do, (PRIVATE PHOTOS ) and not nessaserily from shoots that they have done, where the team was not right.
What is your personal style?
My style in generaly very minimalist and very humble, I guess it’s a reflection of my childhood.
Love listening to rap….such artists like Drake, Michael Jackson, as I was brought up listening to his music. Also love Motown. I was never a rock and roll person.
My favourite artist is David Hockney, because of his set designs and the swimming pool paintings.
Sebastião Salgado, who is a Brazilian social documentary photographer and photojournalist. Salgado works on long term, self-assigned projects many of which have been published as books: The Other Americas, Sahel, Workers, Migrations and Genesis. The latter three are mammoth collections with hundreds of images each from all around the world. His most famous pictures are of a gold mine in Brazil called Serra Pelada. Between 2004 and 2011, Salgado worked on “Genesis,” aiming at the presentation of the unblemished faces of nature and humanity. It consists of a series of photographs of landscapes and wildlife, as well as of human communities that continue to live in accordance with their ancestral traditions and cultures. This body of work is conceived as a potential path to humanity’s rediscovery of itself in nature.
I guess any photograph that was taken by Herb Ritts, the American fashion photographer who concentrated on black-and-white photography and portraits, often in the style of classical Greek sculpture.
Model (and why).
I guess here, from the many that I know, I have to say Linda Evangelista. She is regarded as one of the most accomplished and influential models of all time, and has been featured on over 700 magazine covers. She is often described as the”chameleon” of the fashion industry, and as a key figure among the five supermodels, Evangelista was one of the most famous women in the world during the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. Unlike her colleagues, she chose not to diversify into other ventures outside of modeling. She retired from her career in 1998 and made a comeback three years later, this time working only sporadically.
Icons you trust?
Yves Saint Laurent. Jean-Loup Sieff. David Ballamere. William Klein. Calvin Klein. Polaroids. Helmut newton. Bob Richardson. Goddard. Pasolini. Monica Vitti. Ursula Andress. David Armstrong. Federico Fellini. Helmut Berger. Lauren Hutton. Hans Feurer. Steven kLEIN. Diana Vreeland. Luchino Visconti. Bruce Weber. David Bailey. David Bowie.