There is a bit of Josef Koudelka in Andreas Vassiliou’s images of Cyprus — the Koudelka immersed in gypsy communities; one might also make a connection with the photographer Antoine Agoudjian’s experience among the Armenians. Black-and-white images, portraits of women and men attached to their soil: defending it, sustaining it, proud of it. Vassiliou’s adventure began with a meeting with photographer William Albert Allard, a former member of Magnum agency, who was about to travel to Cyprus on a National Geographic assignment. Vassiliou was his guide, his fixer.
One day before depature, William Albert Allard agreed to go through Vassiliou’s portfolio of black-and-white photos of special needs children that he was quite proud of and wanted to show. William Albert Allard flipped through the images, then glanced at Andreas and said a few words that stuck with him: “The theme of the photo itself won’t be sufficient to make a good photo. You ought to understand why and what you are photographing. To be respectful and patient towards your subject.”
This remark was like a epiphany for the young photographer. “Everything became clear”: he realized then that he had only taken a few baby steps in the profession. Since then, Vassiliou has never stopped photographing Cyprus and the Cypriots. He wanders the country and captures the people, their youth, their old age, and their traditions with the endless quest to understand his own roots. “Cyprus and its Cypriots have thousands of years of tradition, history, and I wanted to capture it all. Till this day, I continue traveling, collecting and constructing a mosaic of the country and the everyday struggles of its people.”
Andreas Vassiliou, Cypriots, Tritone Press, 40 pp., €8.