Silent Portraits

a look at the music of Vangelis Papathanassiou

Well if there is such a thing as a Holy Grail for Vangelis-collectors, then this must be it. Sought after for many years, for a long time the name "Silent Portraits" was only known as an entry in the Spheric-list. At some point it became clear there had to be a link with an Italian photography project. But it wasn't until 2004 that suddenly a boxset appeared on Ebay that explained everything...

"Silent Portraits" actually is a photobook by renowned Italian photographer Gian Paolo Barbieri. Not only that, the book is coupled with a record pressed especially for the occasion, containing Vangelis' music inspired by Barbieri's photos and released only as part of the exclusive boxset...

Actually "Silent Portraits" is sub-titled "Polaroid from Seychelles", as it is the inhabitants of the Seychelles (a group of islands in the Indian Ocean) that are the subject of Barbieri's camera. The photobook, housed in a hardcover velvet-lined box, contains tens and tens of black-and-white photos, all shot on Polaroid T55 film. A couple of these photos are linked at the bottom of this page.

Both the outside box and the photobook are presented with a hard cover decorated in luxurious cloth. Within the cloth is the lining of leaf and flower-like images, a styling that is consistently used throughout the pages of the photobook as well.

It is not clear how French documentary-director Frédéric Rossif got involved in the project, but being a good friend of Vangelis at the time it is likely he introduced them to eachother. It is Rossif who opens the book with a foreword in French, together with a translation to English.

The 12" record is enclosed with the outside box on top of the book, and comes in a photo-covered cardboard sleeve (back), without any text. Inside the pciture-sleeve is the record itself, protected by a standard white paper-sleeve. The labels on the record simply state "1" and "2" not revealing anything of the actual content... The styling of the labels however reveal that it the record is printed by Polydor, Vangelis' record label at the time, as these labels also appear on other promotional records by Polydor.

Most striking of all however is the music of Silent Portraits, one track on each side of the record. The first track is a slow (electric) piano piece of just over 9 minutes, slowly building with added flute-like synths. Reminiscent of some music for "The Bounty" it is my instant favorite! The second track is a rythmic piece almost 11 minutes in length, building around electronic percussion and halfway adding a wonderful synth-layer on top. "Silent Portraits" is unique in many ways and an excellent example of Vangelis at his most inspired.


Tracklist and Credits
The record that comes with Silent Portraits does not contain titles in reference to the music on either side. The record labels simply state "1" and "2".

  1. (9:17)
  2. (10:52)

"Silent Portraits - Polaroid from Seychelles".
Photos by Gian Paolo Barbieri
Introduction by Frédéric Rossif
Music by Vangelis

Edited by Massimo Baldini Editore.
Art Director - Designer: Eros Candusso
Photographer Assistent:Claudio Alessandri

A special thank to Rene Youpa for his generous help during the work on the islands.


1984 Silent Portraits (without catalog number) Polydor Italy
Sleeve front - Sleeve back - Record label 1  - Record label 2

The boxset including the photobook and record is limited to 600 copies and extremely difficult to find. Each copy is numbered and hand-signed by Gian Paolo Barbieri.


Recording Studio
Although not confirmed, I have no doubt that the music for Silent Portraits is recorded in Nemo Studios in London.



bulletSome of Gian Paolo Barbieri's photos of  as displayed in the book:
photo 1, photo 2, photo 3, photo 4, photo 5, photo 6