Antiparos is the smallest island in the Cyclades, and every year since 2013 it has hosted what is arguably the smallest international photography festival in the world. We talk to the man behind it.
The festival was the brainchild of three people: Mary Chatzaki, who runs the local ‘Anti’ art gallery; Yannis Bagourdas, an engineer and amateur photographer; and David Frazer Wray, a summer visitor.
“We wanted to give something back to the island,” says Frazer Wray. “Given our mutual interests, a photography festival seemed the obvious choice.
“We started on a very small scale in 2013, with exhibition space in the ‘Anti’ gallery and in an empty apartment lent by a friend. We featured work by local and Greek photographers and a few photographers from other countries. We were surprised at the response – not just from summer visitors but from locals too.”
“In 2014, we decided to upscale. We got permission to use the Kastro – the 15th century Venetian castle in the centre of Antiparos – and, for the first time, we exhibited work outdoors on the ancient walls.
“This brought a few problems. First of all, the Kastro had been neglected, so we had to clean it, paint it, and light it. And you can’t just lock the Kastro at the end of every evening, so all of the photographs had to be taken down, stored and then re-hung the next evening – for 10 days. We had to tie the photographs to the walls with nylon fishing line!”
“But we had more international participation, and recognition. Our photographers were mostly professional or semi-professional – Magnum Photos photographer Gueorgui Pinkhassov gave a workshop.
“For the locals, not only were we visibly a serious festival, but we had cleaned up the Kastro. People who had lived next-door to the church for years were suddenly able to admire it.”
“But in 2015, funds started to dry up. We had been lucky so far but finally the economic crisis had begun to hit us. We started a crowdfunding project but it didn’t provide enough money to cover our costs.
“At the same time, photographers were almost queuing up to take part. Our guest of honour that year was Vasilis Artikos – one of Greece’s most respected photographers. We had contributions from Austria, Switzerland, Great Britain and the USA. But we had no money, and we ended up in debt.”
“But we never give up. This year, we’ve applied for status as an officially registered non-profit organisation, which we have actually been since day one. The status would enable us to apply for EU funding, for example. We would probably have had that status by now, were it not for the strike of the Greek Bar Association. No lawyers, no registration, so no money.
“We’ve always believed in encouraging new talent – there’s so much out there. So far this year, we’ve got participants from Greece, Italy and France, and submissions are not yet closed. So much interest, so many photographers wanting to take part and so little money.”
“The Antiparos International Photo Festival is unique – a result of the island and the people of the island. As far as I know, we are the only international photo festival to exhibit in the open air. The Kastro makes that very special. But most of all, it’s down to love. The love that we share for the island, and the love that we have for each other.”
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