|Description||Artist | Photographer | Social Worker|
After completing multiple photographic workshops in western Sydney for young emerging photographers, George had the idea to also extend his teaching to others who are looking to feel more comfortable photographing on the street.
This channel will be dedicated to sharing free content which inspired and continues to inspire me.
If you are interested in a Online mentorship or Portfolio Review please contact me on: firstname.lastname@example.org
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George worked as a staff photographer for a newspaper group in the western suburbs of Sydney for 6 years before going freelance in mid 2013. As well as teaching photographic workshops for refugees and emerging photographers, George has a passion for contemporary documentary photography and photobooks. George’s personal work consists of ongoing long term projects which have been published extensively, both domestically and in international publications, including National Geographic, Washington Post, Sydney Morning Herald and more.
George joined Oculi in 2013.
You can follow his work in western Sydney at: http://www.georgev.com.au
Little bit more about me
George Voulgaropoulos, 33, is a documentary photographer based in Merrylands in Sydney's west. After six years working as a photographer for a community newspaper, he became freelance and joined the Australian documentary photography collective, Oculi. His latest projects range from street observations across Sydney's western suburbs to tracking retreating glaciers in Switzerland, to his own search for cultural identity, beginning in Bulgaria. This interview is part of The new storytellers series, showcasing the rich new crop of young documentary photographers working from Australia.
Tell me about one particular image from your portfolio that you feel is a significant work of yours. What led to you capturing it?
This was one of the first photographs I ever took when I started roaming the streets of Auburn and Merrylands with a camera. Walking around after a long day working for the community newspaper, I would switch to my film camera to remove the instantaneous nature of digital photography and shoot with no intent other than to document my experience. It was the light reflected off a shopfront window that first drew me to that spot and I was standing there, waiting for something to come into the light. A car slowed down and the boys inside stared out at me before driving off again. I love the detail in that image, the kebab shop, the broken solicitor's sign, the clock. The image got into the Sydney Life competition. I went to the kebab shop with the image to track them down and when I finally found them and showed it to them, the first thing they said was, 'That was before we got the spoiler on the car!' This photo reminds me of why I began to photograph in the first place, a compulsion.
What is behind your urge to document?
I started documenting Western Sydney because no one else was doing it! The only coverage of we saw in the media was negative, lumping all the suburbs together – anything past Five Dock was considered the 'western suburbs', but there is 50 kilometres between Five Dock and Campbelltown and it takes an hour to drive on a good day! There is so much diversity in Sydney's suburban sprawl so I began to document it photographically, starting with my own backyard.
How did your upbringing contribute to the kinds of stories you're drawn to document?
Growing up, I attended a Greek Orthodox school where learning the Greek language was compulsory. Participating in many other religious and cultural traditions was also expected at the school, which were not always enjoyable experiences. But one thing for certain is now I have no regrets learning the language and I regard myself as very lucky.
We need to celebrate this diversity, help maintain culture. It's this diversity that makes Australia such a great country. I love to photograph people in candid situations and experience life as much as I can. The idea of globalisation or homogenisation of people scares me because if everyone were the same the world would become a stagnant place. It's this diversity that keeps things interesting. If approached with an open mind, it allows for innovation and a sharing of ideas and culture.
What are the types of subjects and situations that you are drawn to document?
Culture and how human culture is evolving through interactions and technology is an interest of mine. It's a study of sociology by skipping uni and experiencing it for myself.
Do you spend time with people before introducing the camera?
I introduce myself and my camera. I don't hide my intent to photograph although many times I have met people and not taken a single photograph with the plan to return. Most of my personal work involves a lot of walking and explaining my project.
Has your camera led you into any difficult situations?
Well there was this one time I was accused of being an ASIO officer, spying on a mosque and had the film ripped out of my camera. I later found out that the hidden mosque I was inadvertently photographing is one of the hotspots of radicalisation among its congregation, where many young kids heading off to Syria to fight originate from. I've only had a couple of difficult situations and considering I spend most of my time photographing in public spaces it does surprise people. I think if you approach people with complete honesty and try not to look like a creep with a camera on the street, most people are willing to let you photograph them. I always carry a card or some form of identification with me to reassure people that I am who I say I am, putting them at ease. Sometimes I even carry a zine or a book with some of my photographs for people to look through.
What are you working on now/next? What are your hopes for coming projects? At the moment I have started to explore my passion for science fiction, in particular, virtual reality. With the upcoming release of commercially available virtual reality headsets, I am interested in this technology and its applications in future as the technology improves. I believe that experiences will be able to be bought and who knows, maybe these virtual experiences will be better than the real thing one day!
See more of George Voulgaropoulos' work here.
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