George Georgiou on seeing through preconceived notions of place

18 April 2014

A longtime Sony photographer, George Georgiou explores Europe, Asia, and other places around the world to lose the burden of the images already seen and present these places through a new lens. We spoke with George to learn how he approaches photography and how he comes to understand a country and its people.

Describe the moment when photography changed your life.
I wouldn't say that it was a single moment, but a period of time from 1999 to 2002 when I was working in Kosovo and Serbia. It was in Kosovo that I started to question the abrupt nature of news and my role as a storyteller. During this time I allowed my work to evolve and change directions as I discovered and learned more of the place and its people. This led to me moving to Serbia, working on evolving long-term projects and leaving home (England). Selling my apartment and moving to different countries allowed me to learn to live without the fear of security and to take risks. It completely changed my life.

Describe what kind of photographer you consider yourself to be.
A photographer. I'm very happy with that name.

If you had one word to describe your work, what would that be?

What is the most important photograph or body of work you have worked on to date?
I always feel that my latest project is my most important work, but if I was pushed, I would say "Fault Lines: Turkey/East/West". When I moved to Turkey, I was a black-and-white photographer and I quickly realized that it was important for me to work on a contemporary narrative of Turkey and to find the right visual language, which led me to color.

I arrived in 2003 -- one year after the newly formed AK party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan came into power. Over the five years I lived there, Turkey was undergoing a huge transformation; landscapes, cities, towns and villages were being reshaped; an extensive road network was under construction; town centers "beautified"; large apartment blocks were springing up at a rapid rate around every town and city; and big shopping malls were being built. Almost always, architecture and infrastructure follow the same blueprint. Cities are becoming carbon copies of each other. I was interested in questioning what was being built, and what it would do to community. Although the book follows this path to unrestricted modernization, I wanted to end on a note of hope and individuality, the portraits of young Turks moving through Taksim Square. In many ways, the demonstration in Turkey this year is a response by these young people to this modernization, and what is being built and created in their country.

Give us your top three "must-do" photo assignments or personal projects you want to someday shoot.
The project I have started now in the US has been something I have wanted to do for years. Another project that I have finished -- photographing London through the window of a bus -- I would love to continue in other cities in the world. And finally, I would love to shoot the football World Cup in Brazil.

What do you think about the Global Imaging Ambassadors program?
I've always been comfortable sharing information and experience with others, and if it in any way inspires someone else to take their next step in photography, then it is worthwhile.

What is your favorite feature about the Sony RX1 or other Sony products you have used?
I have been using Sony cameras for almost ten years now, and they all have features that I like. My first Sony camera was the prosumer hybrid camera, the R1. I used this camera exclusively for at least six years. It filled a lot of roles for me. It was silent, it had a great Carl Zeiss zoom lens, a rotating screen, and I liked the way it processed color. Its main drawback was the size of the sensor; it processed raw too slowly and was useless in low-light conditions. These are all features that are great on the RX1. I love the silence of the shutter and the quality in low light; I just wish it had a rotating screen.

Learn more about George Georgiou here.