LEMAG: Hi John, you are a very versatile photographer – let us start it you giving us your ‘About me”
John Kosmopoulos: Thank you for the opportunity to engage your audience with this interview and congratulations on creating a stellar magazine and community of passionate photographers.
The professional side of me would say the following: I am a self-taught, multiple international award-winning artist from the great city of Toronto who specializes in both colour and black and white fine art photography. My work has been published and featured in international galleries, publications, promotions, art books and film.
The personal side of me would say that I have been fortunate to be able to write the above “about me” as a photographer. I am always thankful and honoured by it all. More importantly, I am also a spouse, a father and a passionate educator in the field of Psychology. I conduct photography workshops around the world. For me, psychology and photography are intimately intertwined. It is the reason why I love teaching others about photography.
LEMAG: We have specifically chosen to present your architecture images as this seems to be what lately interest you most, is that right?
John Kosmopoulos: Architecture has always captivated me but I don’t consider myself an architectural photographer. My “versatility”, as you had mentioned, comes from both a philosophical and practical way to consider my artistic imperatives as both an eclecticism of subject and (r)evolution of self. I am forever in search of a “felt aesthetic” in my photography, the feeling of being immersed in and inspired by something intellectually and imaginatively beautiful, regardless of subject. I think my “Gold & Silver Editions”, which you feature in the magazine, is a testament and statement in the way I approach photography.
LEMAG: What are your favourite locations please?
John Kosmopoulos: Toronto, New York, Chicago, Iceland, London, Paris…let’s just say all of Europe! Greenland will soon be on the list of favourite locations as I will be conducting a workshop there next summer with David Burdeny, a masterful photographer and fellow Canadian. Japan, which utterly fascinates me, is also calling out my name and I am sure it will entrance me like it has other photographers.
LEMAG: Apart from architecture, what other type of photography you enjoy doing?
John Kosmopoulos: I am equally comfortable with minimalistic landscape and abstract photography. In fact, I think refining your skills in these two areas makes you a better photographer! You start to silence the noise, cocoon your senses and find a mindful moment to intimately encapsulate the subject(s) and what you feel when you press the shutter. I have always liked the idea of photographing subjects as metaphors for something else. I also enjoy finding that standout subject (e.g., lone person, tree, etc.) in a composition to create an intimate narrative in my photography.
LEMAG: You are of Greek origin, so you have the core of being European within you. And you live in Canada, which is a modern, open society. You also travel quite a lot. Do you think that the obvious mix of your origins and Canadian lifestyle has influenced your images?
John Kosmopoulos: I have never been asked that question in that way. I think your identity, however you personally define it, is just another lens you use in photography and art. Your environment shapes who you are and become. It certainly plays a proud role in my artistic expression. I am an ambassador for both of these great worlds. At the same time, like my namesake, I am a true citizen of the world. I want to live up to that.
LEMAG: How do you choose a subject of your photograph?
John Kosmopoulos: The subject has to beguile my imagination. When you frame an interesting scene and strip away extraneous elements either though composition or editing, it is not enough for a subject to be or become interesting, it has to also seduce your artistic vision in some way. It is not always easy to view the world with awe and nascent eyes but photography often provides these gifts.
When I speak about “vision”, which I now find somewhat limiting as a subject of photography, I speak of it in terms of a spectrum of sensory experiences and born possibilities as part of artistic expression. I also consider the transfer our own learning from one context and applying it to another to achieve something impactful in our art. It becomes a way of understanding how different disciplines can enhance one another and create new fields. You just have to think about the assimilation of augmented reality and photography and considerations of neuroscientific and psychological principles of art (which I have written about and talked about extensively) to understand how sophisticated photography is and needs to be to standout in the fine arts. That is why I believe that art is both subjective and objective and your choice of subject should be eclectic. This whole notion of “jack of all trades, master of none” is faulty to its core and it limits human excellence and creativity.
LEMAG: When you think of your possible audience, what do you want them to see of feel when they look at your images?
John Kosmopoulos: I want the image to feel like it was a shared experience with another person as if they were part of the process of creation and found something that deeply resonated with them. I also want them to feel that it is different than what they have seen before and that it provides some mystery, mood and motion for their imagination. This is what I like to call a non-zero sum psychology between the artist and viewer. You want to invite a third look and not have the audience consider the rule of thirds. There is nothing wrong with considering the technical make-up of an image but it does distract from its main function which is to exalt the senses. As artists, we are often old-school Romantics but with giant steps into the future when it comes to the promise of what art is and could be for generations.
LEMAG: You are also interested in literature and amongst your favourites are such great artist as Pablo Neruda, James Joyce or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Does literature impact your work in any way?
John Kosmopoulos: It impacts it tremendously. I am avid reader and I find pure enjoyment in the way words can paint images and how an eloquent phrase can spark an idea for an image. I could easily add many other authors to that list but I also like to create my own narratives. I have always liked the idea of saying something in a sentence or statement that often takes volumes to write. That is what a photograph is to me.
LEMAG: We all have our favourite photographers and images but I wanted to ask you if any painters influence your work.
John Kosmopoulos: In some ways, it is the spirit of the painter more than the paintings that influence me. To be an outlier or respectful contrarian, to organically turn left when others turn right, is a great way to evolve as an artist. Of course, I do enjoy the work of many painters. Rothko is a big influence on me as are many abstract painters. I have also learned from Masters such as Da Vinci, El Greco, Rembrandt, Monet and Klimt. To view their work means to want to excel as a photographer.
LEMAG: John, thank you very much for your time, it has been a pleasure speaking to you.