In With The Out Crowd
Photographer Georg Gatsas shoots the lives of the infamous and the underground.
Standing in a room of photographs by Georg Gatsas is a bit like finding oneself suddenly submerged in the second hour of a Fassbinder film. Coming into focus is a motley group of characters tied together in loose, provisional alliances, but each one also determinely, almost defiantly alone. The 25-year-old Gatsas succeeds in creating such a rich, outsider scene with his lens precisely because he lives in the world he shoots. The Swiss-born photographer also books shows for touring American and European acts like The Locust and Jello Biafra in his hometown of St.Gallen and neighboring Zurich, picking up his camera around musicians, artists and friends when he feels inspired. "I don't see the difference between the musicians I shoot and my friends," he explains. "It's who I hang out with, who I'm around. They all have moved me in some way to pursue something there."
The truth is, Gatsas never intended to be a photographer. His first portraits were taken spontaneously in 2002 in mythic poet/filmmaker Ira Cohen's Upper West Side apartment where he was staying on a visit to New York. "I had met Cohen in Switzerland where he was showing his films and giving readings," he says. "It was at his parents' apartment. He invited me to stay there when I didn't have a place." A few months later, Gatsas ran into Jim Thirlwell of Foetus at a show and asked the musician if he wouldn't mind being photographed. "From there, it all developed by itself," Gatsas says. Since then, such familiars as Genesis P-Orridge, Devendra Banhart, the members of Suicide, and Kembra Pfahler have taken up room on his film.
Shooting bohemian figures from the cultural sidelines is certainly not a new photographic practice, and Gatsas rough, "as-is" environments have their historic anchors in works from Goldin to McGinley. But unlike his predecessors, Gatsas doesn't seem to be trafficking some collective intimacy or tender domestic vision behind his band of night dwellers and music makers - no suffering artistic soul just like the rest of us when we get a glimpse into their bedrooms or recording studios. Rather, these performers seem to run their lives performing. They carry their personalities on and off stage without a clear shift. Strong, tightly cultivated identities set the mood here, and the subjects stare out at us as if daring to consider them.
Chris Bollen, editor Interview Magazine, in V Magazine, November 2004