Pav Mastixis – travel photographer, cancer survivor and his first exhibition.

I first met Pav back in 2004 when I was delivering management training at the organisation he worked for.  I remember doing a time management session and Pav really noticing his ambition to become a photographer.  A couple of years after the course he took to the world and I followed his amazing photography in the following years through wonderful countries and then through his work nearer home during his battle with cancer.  I have always loved his work.  Here is my chat with my mate Pav about celebrating cultural diversity, overcoming cancer and his new show.

How did you get into photography?

‘Before I was born, my dad used to be a portrait photographer in a park in Famagusta Cyprus. He had one of those old fashioned box cameras. So when I was a child growing up in London in the 60/70s there were cameras in our house before everybody had one. We used to go to Cyprus on most summers, before everybody started going abroad..And it seemed natural for me to take a Camera with me. Dad often got annoyed when I tried to do anything arty that had nothing to do with smile/ cheese family portraits. So I developed my photography in a different style from dad. I had no formal training, other than adult education evening classes in my forties.’

‘After the family trips to Cyprus, I continued to take the camera with me to far away places in Asia and Latin America. I had a great passion for exploring different cultures and immersing myself into local communities where possible. My focus was more here than doing only the usual tourist stuff. I would use the camera to interpret iconic images that said something about a given culture., exploring unique textures and lifestyles, particularly traditional ones. Above all, I used the camera to build a rapport with local people, In places like Cuba, people loved being photographed and it was a great way to connect with people, whilst walking the streets and exploring. Eventually, the photography became a main focus along with the experience of the trip themselves.’

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What did you discover about yourself through your photography?

‘I was never good at art in terms of drawing, painting etc at school. However, with photography, I began to realise some creative potential in me, with the encouragement of a few friends. Photography became a tool for connecting with different cultures. It made me more observant, in terms of noticing things that I didn’t see, including beauty or cultural significance in mundane objects. It also energised me a lot. At one moment in New Mexico, I shouted at my friends “stop the car. We can’t miss that fantastic light” during a glorious sunset that was about to go. I have fond memories going around many narrow streets in historical towns in Asia and the Arab world, chasing shadows in many alleyways. About ten years ago, I took a years sabbatical from my day job in local government to develop my passion for travel and photography more fully.’

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What influence has overcoming cancer had on you?

‘In 2008 I was diagnosed with cancer. Although I am now cancer free, I am living with many chronic side effects from the treatment, especially fatigue and not being able to sustain a job. I did phototherapy to help me come to terms with me illness. It’s a form of psychotherapy or a sub branch of art therapy. I used my photos to express myself  in sessions with a psychotherapist. See these 2 articles I wrote. The first one is about the benefits I had from phototherapy.

Article 1 – Using photography to recover after a stem cell transplant

‘The second one focuses on how I used photography to manage chronic fatigue. See Page 44 in the Anthony Nolan fatigue booklet, which I also took the photos of and helped determine content and got involved with editing to give a patients perspective.

Using photography to manage chronic fatigue

‘Basically, it taught me how to focus on the things that I can do rather than cannot do. I learnt how to gain pleasure from smaller scale activity. For example, I didn’t have to go to India to photograph the Taj Mahal , when I could enjoy being just as creative with photographing St. Paul’s cathedral, round the corner from my hospital. I couldn’t to Cuba to watch live music (another focus of my Cuban trips) , but I could enjoy excellent live Cuban music at my local bar where the exhibition is being held. I often use the expression “Ok, so I can’t go to Cuba , but I’ll be damned if I miss Cuba when it comes to me”. Significantly, the Cuban band is actually playing at the launch of the exhibition.

‘Originally, I couldn’t see the subliminal meanings behind my work. I just took photos of things that I liked. But this changed when doing phototherapy. For example, I was consciously taking photos of energetic people dancing away at Notting Hill carnival to help me come to terms with the fact that my own energy levels have deteriorated.   My photos of energetic music performances in venues like Jam in a Jar are from the same mindset. It helps me to admire the energy of youngsters, healthier people, without being resentful.’

‘One of the other side effects from the cancer treatment has been pretty serious problems with my eyes. A big challenge for any photographer.’

What would you say are the main influences on your work?

‘My main influences have been a combination travel photography and the kind of ethnographic stuff you get in national geographic. This has also influenced my current style, making ordinary places in London look like amazing far away destinations. I often tease on social media. For example, I once posted a photo I took in a Moroccan cafe near my hospital, where I had lunch after an appointment. A friend thought I was in Morocco and well enough to travel again!’

 

Tell me about your new show 

‘Apart from travel and photography, one of my other great passions is world music. I loved going to gigs and music festivals when I was healthy. It was difficult to do this after I became ill. About three years ago, I was blessed when an intimate bar/live music venue opened on my doorstep called Jam in a Jar. They played the high quality world music that I like. It attracts many people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, so socialising there sometimes feels like my world travels. As I don’t go very far now, I travel the world in Jam in a Jar, meeting people from different cultures and enjoying the amazing music. The camera always goes with me there, as if on my travels. Initially, I was just doing this for fun. But I realised that I had a unique visual record of the creative events there. That’s where the idea of the exhibition was born, to celebrate the cultural diversity of a great local music scene.’

‘My photos also reflect my values in terms of appreciating cultural diversity.  As a former travel photographer, I tried to capture unique qualities of different cultures around the globe.

Now my lens is focusing on the rich cultural diversity of London, reflected in the music scene at Jam in a Jar. These photos are a celebration of of that scene. Again I am dong what I used to do around the globe, but on my own doorstep. I am still the same person. This work has all been part of helping me maintain my former identity, cancer or no cancer.’

Can you tell me something about a couple of the photographs that people will see?

Processed with Snapseed.

‘This is of Whisky moonface and Dakota Jim,Whisky Moonface and Dakota Jim: combining traditional jazz with Eastern European folk and other traditions. Here we see Jim on the double bass and Louise on accordion. Although the music is beautiful in its own rights the Mus of cultures ( jazz and Eastern European) fascinates me. For me it represents a kind of creativity developing in our part of London where the different cultures mix and create something new. With the black and white photos I tried to create a kind of timeless feel with pics if traditional, instruments  etc.’

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‘The one is of Lokandes playing beautiful traditional music from the Andes of South America. Like in my travel photos, I was looking for detail in the traditional stuff. Taking the photo and listening to the music helps give me similar pleasures on my doorstep that I could previously only find in sixth America. I took many shots to try and capture this one, showing the dynamic energy on the singers face (Kanti quena)’

Is there anything else about the show?

‘A significant proportion of sales will go to the charity “access to Education in Sierra Leone”. This is to acknowledge the wonderful support of The founder of the charity Laura Petkute  in helping me organise the exhibition. Laura also works in jam in a jar and her role involves supporting the artists exhibiting.’

What have other’s said about the show?

‘Pavlos Carvallio (musician) on my current work kindly said:

“I think you are creating something quite unique…not just the beautiful photos themselves…but also a community of different strands of music and cultures brought together and made aware of each other through your warm and loving lens. It is quite incredible”

The exhibition runs now till the end of August

Jam in a jar, 599 Green Lanes, harringay, london, N8 0RE

Where can people see your work?

‘My posts on social media are a form of online exhibiting , as people have taken an interest in my old and new work through this.’

Pav Mastixis on Facebook          Instagram

Take a look at his work folks – believe me it’s worth it.

 

 

 

 

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