At the very beginning of this interview, would you please give a brief introduction about VOID to our Chinese readers?
We are 3 photographers running Void: Myrto, Sylvia & João. We started it with the mindset of those who are looking for a place that would deal with photography the way we thought it should work for us: low-fi, human-scale, artist-oriented. So Void was created firstly to cover our own needs, we were looking for a way in which we could explore photography in a more independent way, less “institutionalized”, and that allowed us full creativity freedom. By that time, we felt there was no such place in Athens, and we decided to do it by ourselves. We are quite DIY in many ways.
I know that there were only three staffs when VOID was founded initially, so why do you three guys want to focus on photobook?
We never started focusing on photobooks. We actually started with our space in Athens. Doing a quick exhibition and 9 zines for emerging Greek photographers, to the opening. Our intention was to explore alternatives to showcase photography in and from Greece, but always with an international ambition. We soon understood that the publications had more appeal to the audience than the exhibition itself. Not regarding the content, but mostly market-wise. People cannot afford a fine art print, but they can happily have a zine or a book, if they love the work.
We were seduced by the excitement that the zine making universe offered us, and also we had an overwhelming response from the public. One step leads to the other and we soon were doing photobooks, and focusing our efforts on this platform.
Void still holds workshops and exhibitions. Though, the publishing universe takes so much time, passion and effort. Since we are only 3, we need a bit of focus, and for now, it is the publishing side of it. But we are very keen to experiment with different ways of supporting photography and artists.
Did you meet any difficulties when you started this work? What made you feel tough the most?
Being a self-funded independent venture on photography is a hard thing anywhere today. It is not a Greece-exclusive struggle. Photography is becoming each time more a niche, and the photobook, a niche-within-the-niche. Therefore, either you invest a lot of you passion to build something - and accept something different than money as a pay - or you will not last long doing it.
Mentioning photography and photobook of Europe, most people think about UK or France at the first place, could you tell us the condition of photography and publishing in Greece?
Starting a project from a peripheric European country is way more difficult than from central places as Berlin, Paris or London. Even though we strain to have be international approach, Greek reality makes things twice as difficult. The local photo scene and market is reduced, we have less institutional support as grants and funds, and even geography makes things more costly: to attend fairs and festivals implies in logistic issues that you don’t face if you are in a central hub capital.
Even though we have a flux of international artists coming to Greece, the art/photo scene has not established yet in a solid way. We have more people producing than consuming photography. And usually consumed by the same who produces. Slowly we can see new collectives, spaces and projects popping up, but nothing that you can compare to the cited France and UK.
Why do you choose VOID as the title of your organization? And the word VOID is smeared by a thick horizontal line, do this logo indicate any artistic expression or artistic preference of your own?
We are all quite dark so Void sounded like a nice way to call us. We picked up the name in a nihilistic moment of ourselves. We can say that Void does have, indeed, an artistic expression itself. It can be seen through curatorial decisions, chosen themes and subjects of our publications and projects, the artists we work with and our design.
The mentioned scratch on the logo became an element we keep using on many of our design material. We have not only one logo, but 12 different ones that we use randomly. It shows a bit of human interference in a computer designed typography. It is a subtle but important statement for us: we are very oppiniative on the projects we do. And we like to leave a trace of our identity on the things we touch.
There are four books from VOID in our library, most of which give me a sense of dark, torn, fragmented, bloody and naked, so can I say that you prefer this kind of style?
As we said before, we are quite dark and this is showing a lot in our editorial decisions. But this doesn’t mean we are not open to different things. We are, actually struggling to have a bit more of light in what we do. If you follow our communication on social media, we always try to be light, funny and unpretentious... not taking this darkness of the name and aesthetic so serious. What happened is that we started collaborating with some quite dark artists (that we appreciate a lot), and this sparked the curiosity of likewise dark artist, and this was a snowball. We are usually approached by like-minded artists.
But, as said above, we are trying to cast a light on different directions. We are too young to keep repeating ourselves.
What’s your criteria to select artist and their work?
As said above, we are approached a lot by artist that relates to work we did before, and if we engage with their material, we are keen to collaborate. We also have a radar on artist we admire and feel like to work together with. In 2018 we worked a lot in this way. Olivier-Pin Fat, Bérangère Fromont, Leif Sandberg, amongst others we admire and were lucky to work with. Also, ‘Hunger’ project opened so many doors to us for artist that we would not have a chance to work with in a regular project.
Actually, Yorgos Yatromanolakis’s book is the first work by VOID that I touched. Personally speaking, I like this series very much, showing some kind of dreamy, and the design is simple but clean. The whole book presents some differences comparing the other books of VOID. Would you please tell the reason that you choose this artist, and how you designed this book?
Myrto and Sylvia knew him and his work. Yorgos was always supportive with Void since our start. He was always around, so we were aware he was developing this project back in his homeland: Crete. Once we knew it was completed, we offered him to be published, as the project has the beauty and melancholy that would fit our editorial line.
Yorgos is very meticulous with his own work. He had his mind done regarding sequencing and the full bleed spreads. The book structure was ready when he presented us. We respected this, as we also believed it was actually the right decision for the publication. Though, we gave our final touch on cover, typography and side-design elements as endpapers, and all promotional material.
During the process of producing a book, how do you communicate with artist about the design of the book, such as the paper selecting or color?
We are more keen to work with people who allow us with more creative freedom. Void tries hard to understand the artist’s universe and voice, and mixing it with our own aesthetic, making a 2+2=5 equation. The more freedom we have, the further we improve the final publication. For us, there’s a direct connection between the book we did that we appreciate the most, with the ones that we were more free to do it.
Void has worked in different ways: from photographers that come to us with a very strict idea of what they want, to the ones that let us do everything, including creative changes on the photographs. Of course, we prefer much more to work with the second ones. And, for sure, they are the ones that are happier with us the most as well.
Apart from the photobook, I know that VOID would hold some seminars, workshops and other experimental projects. Would these bring influence to photobook?
Void is only 2-year old. We are still learning. From every single partnership and collaboration, we learn a bit. Even from a painful collaboration, we learn. Probably, those are the ones we learn the most. So, every chance to be amongst creative people and minds are an improvement to Void itself. We learn a lot from the students in seminars as much we do from the leading teachers. And we are glad that many collaborations we fruitful and inspiring. So, in a sense, even in collateral ways, every workshop, seminar, talk, festival will have its tiny influence in the next projects we publish.
Up until now, from all of the photobooks that VOID made, which one you like the most and why?
It is impossible not to be diplomatic here. And we are afraid of hurting artists’ feelings.
Though, we can say that late 2018 blowed us with great excitement. We had amazing collaborations that were very important to us: Oscurana by Antoine d’Agata, Beyond the Mirror by Leif Sandberg, Except the Clouds by Bérangère Fromont, and Meat by Olivier Pin-Fat.
As we mentioned before, there’s a direct connection between the trust invested on us by the artist with mutual happiness on the final project. (We are looking at you, Antoine Oli, Bérangère and Leif).
From your perspective, what is the meaning of the existence of photobook? In other word, why do people need photobook?
Photobooks are the memory of a photographer with his own tone of voice.
One can see Fukase’s Ravens on internet. But you will only understand what’s his real tone, when you touch the object, experience the narrative turning page by page, feel the photos on your fingers, possessing the artist by the timeframe you hold the paper in your hands. One will never feel it on a website.
Have you ever paid attention to Chinese photography? Actually there are two artbook festivals in China now, one is abC-Art Book in China, and another is Shanghai Art book Fair. Recently, Chinese readers show their passion to artbook. Thus, welcome to China and hope to see you one day!
We’d like to learn more about it, as most of what we know is great work. Ren Hang did a good job on showing a contemporary face of Chinese photography. But we probably know him because he is mainstream and maybe he’s not representative of the real local production. Jiazazhi is doing an amazing work to spread some other artists. White Light by Feng Li is an amazing book (Void chose it as one of the best books of the year for LensCulture in 2017). We had the chance to meet in Athens with Zhao Qian, and we really like his work: Offcut, the Edge is a very nice book. And we love the crafts of Cheng Xinhao’s Time from Different Source & The Naming of a River.
It would be a pleasure to visit and learn more from your festivals. We are pretty sure it would be a great experience.