PETROS KOUBLIS. INLANDS
Tell us about your current photographic research?
Petros Koublis (PK): I am working on a new body of work that focuses on the way we perceive this world through our senses. My research includes the study of books and ideas written by philosophers during the first half of the previous millennium. The philosophical thought of that period was consistently trying to express everything through unified theories that were including both their observations on the physical world and their studies on the intelligible one as well. These unified theories were performing an enchanting balance between scientific thought and the metaphysical ideas which dominated the world during the ancient times, resulting both to what became the foundation of modern science but also to a complicated corpus of allegories and obscured interpretations over the human experience. Through my new project, I am not attempting an iconographic visualization of this school of thought, but a leap to an autosuggestive process that overrides the reflexes of our mind and releases the perceiving force of our senses. It is a project that challenges the authority of the mind and ends up questioning reality itself.
Let’s talk about the project ‘Inlands’?
PK: This was something I made a few years ago, in 2012-13. In many ways it was like a prelude to the landscape series I did the last two years. Inlands is a projects that tries to investigate the landscape through small individual fragments. Those miniature scenes are approached as if they were completely independent existences, released from their surrounding space and identity, therefore they can be openly interpreted, as bearers of symbols and equivalents. When we abandon knowledge and familiarity we find ourselves disorientated, trying to rely only in our senses. The narrative of the project is based on this disorientation. The images examine the limits of a landscape, moving inwards, in a process that looks both perpetual and enchanted. The interpretation of the images as individual fragments remains open, but in the same time it aims to maintain a certain obscurity. This is also an element of the series’ narrative, the mystique, the unenforceable transformation that take place beneath the surface of things. As a process though, it was more of an instinctive exploration based on sense and intuition and less of an intellectual act.
How did you get the idea for the book?
PK: The initial idea itself belongs to the publishers. They had seen the images of this project and they felt it was fitting the aesthetics of their editions, so they contacted me with a proposal to create a book out of this series. Since this project was already a completed one and all the material was there, I thought we could actually make the next step indeed and try put together a book out of it.
It’s your first monograph. Why and how did you choose the editor Black Mountain? How did you managed it?
PK: Black Mountain Books consists of Raúl Hernández and Martha Kaputt, who recently moved their base from Spain to Hong Kong, where the book was actually printed. The initiative was theirs and when they contacted me they already had some ideas about how this book could look and feel like. There was the right chemistry from our first meeting and I felt really comfortable working with them. They had the desire to invest time and attention in detail in order to make this happen in way that would enclose both their vision about the design of the book and mine’s about the context of this series. I find it extremely important that they wanted to go through every step together with me and make sure that the book maintains the spirit of this series.
What about the process? Choosing and selecting images. And text? How did you participate in it? What about the graphic and design?
PK: Everything was the result of a constant cooperation between me and the editors. So in the end I think that somehow everything reflects this balance, from the selection of the images to the final layout. For the text I decided to use a poem I had written when I was working on the images for ‘Inlands’. I felt that it had an abstractness that was aligned with the atmosphere of the series and in the same time it was introducing the reader to the sensibility that runs through the rest of the book. In fact I think we approached the whole book as a visual poem. The narrative of the book is unfolded with the abstractness of a poem, as a sequence of verses. The beautiful texture of the matte paper, the delicate binding with the black thread, the dazzling scent of the ink and the whole feel of the book, they’re all part of this poem. I was also fortunate to have a beautiful introduction text written by Tom Griggs, photographer, writer and editor of Fototazo.
What did you learn from this experience, plus and minus?
PK: Since this was my first publication, this whole process had a certain educative aspect as well. When it comes to publishing a book there are so many variables to take into account in order to be able to produce a solid aesthetical proposal. A book is more than just a sequence of images, it has more aspects to it and it requires a vision that will embrace them all. Through this process I was able to expose my thought in all of this and I certainly earned a lot on many different levels.
Plans for the future?
PK: Besides the project I already mentioned, there are many others in progress which involve both new publications and collaborations.
Can you suggest us 3 photography books that you liked?
1. ‘The Stanford Albums’ by Carleton Watkins (Stanford University Press 2014)
2. ‘Islands of the Blest’ by Bryan Schutmaat and Ashlyn Davis (Silas Finch 2014)
3. ‘Easter and Oak Trees’ by Bertien Van Manen (Mack Books 2013)
Black Mountain Books