Kostis Fokas: youth culture and eroticism

Kostis Fokas is a photographer working between Athens and London. His work focuses on the interplay between youth culture and eroticism and widely reflects aspects of his inner self. While on stage, he uses his models as toys, giving them the freedom to interact and playfully participate in the photographic process. By using and integrating various media and objects like cheap cameras, sex toys and masks, his objects are not necessarily stylized or staged; rather, he is photographing for the moment, capturing his subjects somewhere between reality and fantasy. Most of his subjects are covered up, hidden or nude, serving as provocative, playful and sometimes quirky.Through this process, he constantly redefines his identity and exposes himself via the subjects presented.

What is your daily routine?
I don’t have a daily routine in my life, and that’s the best thing . Every day is quite different because I’m doing so many different things. My day can be different depending on what I have to do . If I have to prepare for an exhibition, it is a totally different day from a shoot-day.

Favorite movie and why?
My favorite movie is 200 Cigarettes. It’s an MTV production comedy. The movie takes place in New York City back in 1982 at a New Year’s Eve party. It is also the year MTV music channel was created. The 80’s is my favorite decade regarding the aesthetic, the music, the art and the clothes. The soundtrack had Roxy Music, The Go-Gos, and so many more. Actually the soundtrack is one of the reasons I am so obsessed with the movie. It is one of these “feel good”, movies I’d love to watch over and over again.

When you are shooting how much of it is instinctual vs planned?
I usually spend a lot of time before the actual shoot preparing my ideas. That comes through at any time of the day. So I usually write down my ideas on my phone, or on a piece of paper, depending where I am and what I am doing. So most of the time I know what I want to shoot and I have some ideas already in my mind. On the other hand lots of things are happening during the actual shoot . Sometimes the best ideas come naturally and instinctively.  I’m very instinctive as a person in my personal life, but in my work as well. I’m in total trust with my instincts. So I can say that it’s a combination of those two. I spend a lot of time with my pictures after the shooting as well and this is one of the most creative parts of my work. When I start to analyze what I have in front of my eyes.

What was your dream job in childhood?
I always wanted to do something that has to do with the arts and I realized this at a very young age. One of my first memories was with my mother, when we used to draw together, at the age of 5, maybe younger. The first thing I remember was that I wanted to be a painter. But when I was a teenager I wanted to be an acrobat in the circus. Fortunately this obsession didn’t last for a long time. I think I started to realize that I wanted to be a photographer from a young age, maybe around the time I finished high school. I was very obsessed with fashion and art magazines. I used to spend all my money on very expensive magazines. I was obsessed with the pictures.

What do you think makes a powerful, compelling image?
I believe what makes art powerful is the message .

Which camera do you usually use for shooting? 
I don’t follow the latest photography trends. I prefer to keep it simple and in my own way. I’m more into the ideas and the aesthetic part of art. I’ve worked on a project with a disposable camera and it worked really well, believe me.

What relationship do you have with the photographed models?
I prefer to collaborate with people I already know. Most of them are already my friends, or we became friends after the shoot. I believe that we create a special bond when we shoot, and this feeling keeps us close in some very weird way. That’s the reason I keep them in my life and we keep collaborating more than one time . I really want to create mutual feelings when I realize that our intentions are the same, to create something together and this belongs to both of us. In reality, but also in a spiritual way. I appreciate that those people pose in front of my lens, I borrow their bodies and their emotions for a mutual purpose. I strongly believe in people’s energies, and their energy in front of my lens is very important. The models are the messenger of what I want to say through my work.

What do you want the viewers to take away from your work?
I want to be part of a bigger voice which has a common purpose . I want people to consider my work as part of a movement that has something to say, and I want to achieve things for the better. I know a piece of art can’t change the world, but when artists are united they can achieve bigger and better things. I believe in collective work and not in competition. I am very pleased to see that there are so many of us who have the same purpose, and I’m really proud to be in this group of artists. That makes what I do more important in my eyes.

The mirror often appears in your photos, does it have a particular meaning?
Instinctively I started using the mirrors in my photos around 4-5 years ago. From that time I am coming back to this more and more. Now I realize how much I used it over and over again. When I asked myself why I came up with the idea that has to do with the reflection of ourselves, the mirrors for me have so many meanings. It probably has to do with the relationship we have with ourselves. As we use the mirror to see how we look, but also this determines what we think about ourselves and how we feel. I guess I have a lot of work to do with myself and my relationship with my mirror. I definitely project in my work my own feelings about myself.

What inspires your work?
Reading about history of art and art movements. Going back in history is the biggest inspiration for me. Watching documentaries, reading books about big personalities, and artists. That’s how I feed myself artistically.

Is making beautiful things enough?
No it’s not. You have to have something to say as well. A good aesthetic is important in art. That’s how you get the attention you need from people because it’s in front of their eyes. But also there is beauty in what you want to say, the message and what you have inside of you.The most beautiful things have an internal need and authenticity in my opinion.

Which of your projects do you consider to be the best?
I feel so blessed for my entire journey. That’s how I see it. When I’m going back to my old stuff, I’m like “what I was thinking?” This is the beauty when you try to analyze your own work. It takes you back to your younger self. My past is part of my work and my development as an artist but as a person as well. I want to believe that I’m in a place artistically that my pre-existing work motivates me, inspires me, and drives me in a good direction. As long as I discover myself and I’m going deeper to my inner self I will be able to create “better” things I believe.

In your shots there are partial nudes and covered faces. Is identity an important part of your work?
I believe faces give the specific identity I would like to avoid. I don’t think that the bodies in my work need the faces to be complete. They are already complete and serve their purpose. It’s easier for the viewer to relate to what they see. We live in a society where our identity determines us to a great extent. I want in my pictures the protagonist to be more free, not any labels, not gay or straight. It has nothing to do with this. It’s more about human beings, human needs and human feelings.

What is the significance of nudity in your works? What kind of sensuality does it represent?
What I really want to achieve is to reward the naked body and disconnect from the sexual concept. A naked body or two naked bodies interacting can be a lot more than porn. For me the naked bodies in my work is more of a reference to the beauty and dynamic of the body. Much more about the depiction of ancient Greek statues. When the bodies are two or three it has to do with the connection, the physical but also the spiritual connection of the people.
I want my work to talk about the beauty of love, the beauty of people coming together, coming closer and not just having sex.

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