Thank you Stavros Stamatiou for being the honorable Guest Mentor of In-Street Monthly Thematic Contest, June 2020.
We are very happy to publish an exclusive interview with Stavros Stamatiou to know his view and approach to Photography.
– Please tell us a bit about yourself and How did you start in photography?
[SS] I am 55 years old and I work as a primary school teacher. I started taking pictures since I was a student, but it took me many years and a lot of effort to develop a personal view about art photography.
– What makes street photography so special for you and what according to you makes a good street shot?
[SS] Street is only one aspect of photography that I am interested in. What I love about street photography is that it allows the “unpredictable to occur”. It requires a strong visual perception and a good knowledge of the camera that we use, so we can rapidly distinguish what is really worthy and to take the picture in a way that its form serves the theme in the best way. In street photography all these crucial decisions have to be made instantly and this is what it makes it so interesting.
A good picture, not only in street photography but in general, is the one that is able to arise questions and provoke feelings, a picture that impels the viewer to observe it for more than two seconds. It’s a picture that will “stick” in the viewer’s mind for a long time.
-These days we are seeing so many great works of current photographers and masters available on the Internet and otherwise. As such, how can we try to be original in our approach?
[SS] In theatre, every question has been put and every answer has been given, from the ancient Greek tragedians and, later on, from W. Shakespeare. But humanity still continues to produce theatrical acts and motion pictures. Photography is a much newer art and it is continuously supported by new technology. So it shouldn’t have to worry about it. Everything can be said again, according to our era. A photographer’s concern has to be the proper way that it will be said. All people are unique and this is what we should preserve. So we study the works of the great photographers but we also give ourselves space so we can gradually shape our own visual vocabulary. If we want to make original pictures, we first have to be original persons. And to achieve authenticity, we have to care about the things that we take pictures of.
– Tell us about your approach on the streets.
[SS] I try to be invisible and quick. People’s reactions change if they sense a camera pointing at them. Sometimes I use techniques, like reflections. In this case it’s much easier to take a picture, as no one can understand what I see through the lens, and I do not need to hide my presence. Speaking of reflections, they also give me a pure photography tool. I can combine elements in order to make some surreal pictures, which I really love.
– Projects or single images? If so why?
[SS] If we really want to “say” something, we need to develop projects. But this is something that can’t be forced, unless we use the conceptual approach. I usually take random pictures and, when some of them start to form a coherent and meaningful set, they point me a direction that has to be explored and enriched. So the idea of a project arises unintentionally but it continues and it is completed with a lot of work.
– The important lesson you’ve learned being a street photographer.
[SS] The importance of a single second. There are a lot of pictures in my head that were never taken because I hesitated more than one second.
– What advice would you offer any aspiring street photographers?
[SS] To study the masters and to work, a lot! We have to be prepared when the perfect theme will appear in front of our eyes. Or else, we will either have a bad picture or no picture at all..
– Your favourite photographers and any reference books?
[SS] Andre Kertesz, Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand , Daidō Moriyama, Masahisa Fukase, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Todd Hido, Trent Parke, Michael Ackerman, Nikos Economopoulos, Jason Eskenazi and a lot more. But I would also like to add a film director in this list, my beloved Andrei Tarkovsky, whose vision has always been an inspiration to me.