Hi Nikos! Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us. It’s been a while since our last interview with you in 2016.
Hi Ashley. Nice to chat with you after so long.
Same here. You’ve been doing street photography for over a decade now, right? So, it isn’t just a phase for you. What has motivated you to keep shooting the streets?
I’ve been doing street photography since 2008. My journey to photography started earlier though, around 1997. At the time, I was working as part time photographer for an event photography agency, which I did for several years. To this day, I still enjoy walking the streets or being in nature and taking photos and I continue to want to create meaningful, beautiful photos and photo projects. So, it seems that street/documentary photography isn’t just a phase, but it’s an inner impulse – maybe a documentary impulse – and above all a pleasure, a way of entertaining myself and a way of being in the moment. This is what I think motivates me the most.
How has street photography changed in the past 10 years in your opinion? And has your own personal street photography changed over that time?
I’m not sure if street photography has changed in the last 10 years but definitely humanity and planet earth have changed a bit. For example, it is more difficult someone to make an interesting photo of people when the 90% of the people that move into the public sphere look at their cell phones like they are wired to them. It’s also more difficult someone to make an interesting photo when people wear masks and you cannot see their facial expressions or when people do not have as close contact as before the corona times. Those changes, however, do not have much effect on the process of the photographer who just goes out, observes and shoots like always.
I think that my personal style has changed a bit, not in terms of design (I’m still attracted by vibrant colors, by interesting light, atmospheric scenes and interesting characters, for example) but in terms of subject selection and my way of working. I’m more selective in the observation of humans and I’m slower in my process while working on the streets. I don’t shoot like a maniac like I did in the past. Instead, I take my time and purposely slow down. I don’t walk so fast, I feel and observe the street scenes more and I’m not running to find a better scene when I haven’t fully observed the scene I’m already in. I’m also more concentrated on my long-term projects that I will present soon to my website, so I’m not getting out so aimlessly as in the past.
Do you still live and shoot in Germany? What is it like to do street photography there? How did the pandemic affect your ability to shoot?
Yes, I still live and shoot in Hamburg, Germany and while on holiday, mainly in Chalkidiki and Thessaloniki in Greece. In the past I lived in Barcelona and Prague and I hope to go again soon. In Germany, it is more difficult to find the light but light (natural or artificial) still exists and I try to make the best use of it. Northern European light is frequently very impressive. Since I come from a hot weather country, the weather of Germany seems pretty exotic to me – for example the foggy or the snowy days – and this makes me want to go out and photograph and to even create projects where the atmosphere that the weather creates is my main subject. Moreover, since Hamburg is an international city there is a pretty interesting mix of people from all over the world that make street photography very interesting.
In the beginning of the pandemic it was somewhat difficult to find my way in the streets since there were no people around and even if they were they were wearing masks and didn’t have much contact between them. At that time I had an office job in the center of Hamburg and it was pure luck that a grandiose demolition and construction project was taking place near my office. That sparked my interest and I started photographing it before and after work and during my lunch breaks. I have photographed this project, with its workers, huge machines, demolition of big buildings and construction of new ones, for more than 2 years now, having in mind producing a photo project out of it. So yes, the pandemic affected my ability to shoot but I didn’t think much of it because I found something very interesting to shoot and for a long time.
Do you miss Greece?
I definitely miss Greece, especially lately, but I still have a lot of things to do in Hamburg so it’s not on my short-term horizon to return. Hamburg and different aspects of the city life and city landscapes has been my main photographich project for years now, and I want to present this work to Hamburg citizens and whoever else is interested before I go back to Greece.
I would imagine Greece is an easier place to do street photography than Germany, for a number of reasons. (i.e. weather, laws, colorful scenes, cultural differences) What do you think about that?
In terms of weather, Greece is definitely an easier place to do street photography because of the frequent appearance of interesting light which also contributes to colorful scenes. Even in winter months there are many days of sunshine and so the main prerequisite for good photography, which is interesting light, is almost always available. Plus, the hot and sunny weather makes people more extroverted, noisy and carefree, so the street photographer can blend more easily into human scenes without being noticed and can be also more carefree and spontaneous.
In Hamburg on the other hand, the photography as a hobby is thriving. You can see people everywhere photographing the city, meaning the city’s residents are familiar with street photographers or urban and landscape photographers and let them do their thing. So, I haven’t felt any strong difference between Greece and Germany in terms of difficulty doing street photography except the weather conditions and the fact that, in Greece, people speak my mother language. I cannot say anything about the difference in laws regarding street photography in both countries because I never felt the need to research them.
You do other kinds of photography too, right? What’s your favorite kind of photography to do? And did your commercial work affect your street photography in any way?
Besides street photography, I also like genres of photography within the documentary realm, such as urban or landscape photography, however, I’ve noticed that even when I photograph urban or nature landscapes I like to incorporate humans or animals when I can. It’s difficult to distinguish between the genres of photography and to say which is my favorite kind. In the end, I go out just for photos and those photos can be street or urban or landscapes or a combination.
Regarding the commercial genres, I like any commercial genre where I can shoot spontaneously. I also prefer projects that offer me a canvas or at least an element that I can be inspired from, like photographing vibrant events, emotional ceremonies, travel, outdoor portraiture, even constructions and production processes.
Definitely my commercial work affected my street photography style. For example my close-up street photos are a bit dramatic or theatrical and this probably stems from my experience as a wedding photographer where I had to look for dramatic and theatrical moments of the couple, the family and the friends. My courage in photographing strangers in the public sphere originated from my experience as an events-ceremonies photographer. Finally, practicing compositions in my commercial work influenced my personal work and vice versa.
In your opinion, what makes a street photograph great?
I think that a great street photograph is one that works in both the subject matter as well as the compositional level or else both in content (emotions, interactions, meaning or even atmosphere etc.) and form (aesthetics and design). The photograph provokes in the viewer various feelings and a kind of identification with or parallelism the he or she enjoys seeing because of the aesthetics. Simply put, it should be a pleasure for the soul and a pleasure for the eyes.
What’s been your most memorable moment or photo in street photography?
My most memorable moments are the ones where I’m aligned with the moment or scene that I’m photographing, I’m aware of this alignment and maybe my subjects are aware of their alignment into my scene too or at least that’s how it feels. 🙂 I’m in the moment, I hear the sounds, I feel the weather, I smell the scents, I see the compositions and my subject matter effortlessly. On those moments something magical happens and I know when it happens that it will result in a very interesting photo like it did in these:
What has street photography taught you?
By observing humanity and the environment with the tool of photography, you understand that the things that unite all humans are much greater than the things that separate us. You recognize yourself in others and others recognize themselves to you. You become more tolerant, more compassionate, more understanding and even grateful for your life and for the beauty of earth. Moreover, through my street photography experience the meaning became clear to me, literally and metaphorically, of famous quote that, “it is the journey that matters, not the destination.”
Editor’s Note: To learn more about Nikos and see more of his work, be sure to visit his Flickr photostream. This photographer was selected from our Flickr group (Street Photography Magazine), where we regularly choose photographers’ work to be published in our magazine.
Read our first interview with Nikos here, in the March 2017 issue of Street Photography Magazine.
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