Rfotofolio is pleased to share the work of Paul Athanas.
Would you please tell us about yourself?
I graduated from Columbia College in Chicago where I earned my degree in Filmmaking and Photography. That was in 1976 and since then I have owned and been running several restaurants in Massachusetts with my brothers. My wife and I now live in Key West Florida most of the year. We live in Rome in the fall and Boston in the summer. I have never stopped taking photographs, but now that I am 62 I have been able to slow down my involvement in the restaurant business and concentrate on my first love. I don’t want to end up as another Vivian Maier story . . . I am still breathing.
How did you get started in photography?
When I was growing up we were lucky enough to have several good cameras in our house (both still cameras and a 16mm movie camera). My parents had no idea how to use them, so I poured over the manuals and figured it out . . . I was probably 8 or 9. After a few years of over and under exposures, I convinced my mother to buy me a light meter. When I was in the 7th grade I got a darkroom set-up for Christmas; along with that came lessons at a local camera shop. When I got to boarding school, I ended up being the school newspaper photographer and yearbook photography editor. I am sure this is a typical path of most young photographers.
Did you have a mentor?
Not now, but I would say the person who most helped me was my favorite instructor at Columbia College, Charlie Traub. He helped me find my voice as a photographer. And he was the first person to ever buy one of my photographs!
If you could spend a day with any other photographer living or from the past who would it be?
Well, I did spend the day with one of my idols, Garry Winogrand. He was instructing at The Chicago Institute of Design in the early 70’s when I was a student at Columbia, I saw him speak there and he sat in and spoke at one of Charlie’s classes at Columbia. I was shooting the 1972 Chicago Saint Patrick’s Day Parade and I as I was taking a photo of a float, I looked to my right and there he was, capturing the same image (I’m sure his result was much better). I talked to him for a short while and he was actually quite nice . . . not the gruff image he usually projected.
But as far as an impossible dream day, I would like to travel in a time machine and end up in France. There I would meet Jacques Henri Latrigue, we would both be young again and we would have a wonderful lunch at his family home after we would take photos of the family at play and rest and later walk into town with our cameras.
What do you hope people will take from your images?
To see something they wouldn’t see.
Is there one thing that you would like to tell people about your creative process?
The waste to non-waste ratio is extremely high. Pre-digital there were few circled images on my contact sheets. I have come to realize that my favorite images (the low number in the ratio) are the ones that feel to me as if I have found them . . . discovered in the pile of rejects. Perhaps taken by another person (or third person). I am thinking while shooting on the street . . . looking for things. But maybe when I stop thinking for a 100th of a second I am a better photographer.
What is next?
Trying to pull a show together here in Rome with the help of my friend Cirico Acampa.
Thank you Paul for sharing your work and words with Rfotofolio.
To learn more about Paul Athanas please visit his site, at P.D. Athanas.
Thank you to the photographers that inspire us.
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