# 7 CHARALAMPOS KYDONAKIS, Rethymnon Street Photographer
Leica Liker is honored to have Charalampos Kydonakis, a Rethymnon (Crete) Street Photographer as our #7 guest. He’s also known as Dirty Harrry [sic], author of a very informative and purely visual street photography blog – Dirty Blog.
If you’re like me, I began my street photography journey by poring over countless photography books and of course, the ubiquitous internet. One of the first websites I came across was Harrry’s ‘Dirty Blog’. It is a wealth of information. Photos upon photos, conveniently organized into categories and alphabetized. You can see some very inspirational photos by masters, contemporaries and even little known photographers.
What really drew my attention was not Harrry’s encyclopedic endeavors, although I very much appreciate it, but rather his own photographic work. Many of his photos are raw images (raw in the sense of visceral) of people and animals at night, instilled with a surprised and sometimes nightmarish vision. They occasionally hark of alcoholic induced momentary flashes (literal with flash lighting) of the figurative paintings of existentialist painter Francis Bacon. And with a little inspiration from master street photographer, Bruce Gilden to boot.
Harrry’s street photography work takes surrealism to another level, in particular his multiple exposure photographs. His use of allegory is whimsical, adding a layer to street photography that is not often seen. My favorite being the feature image here with the dog’s face overlaid over a woman smoking. Some have a twisted sense of humor which often appears even in his less ambitious street photographs. And his subjects are not always shown in the most positive light.
We live in a world where we are bombarded by images of flawless people, photo-shopped to absolute perfection no matter if you live in a developed or underdeveloped country. So it’s refreshing to see artistic images that poke fun or simply point out the banal side of our human selves.
Here is my interview with CHARALAMPOS KYDONAKIS.
Nick Name: Dirty Harrry
Currently living in: Rethymnon, Crete
Motto: If I get to 80 years old, maybe I ‘ll have one.
Street Photographer since: I started shooting street photos in 2008. But I consider myself just a guy with a camera shooting and not strictly a street photographer.
Street Photography Blogger since: March 2011
Websites: http://dirtyharrry.blogspot.com and http://mydreamsyournightmare.blogspot.com
Favorite Street Camera & Lens: Canon E60D with a Voigtlander Colorskopar 20mm , f3.5
Back-up Street Camera & Lens: I don’t carry a backup camera. I always carry a second battery and a second memory card. When the batteries run out or the cards fill up then it’s time to put the camera back in the bag and go get some rest.
Favorite photography gadget: My bicycle and my sport shoes.
Favorite street food: Beer
Do you listen to music while shooting? No
Favorite music when editing Photos: Astor Piazzola, Vicente Amigo and many more.
Favorite photo software: I open the raw archives with Lightroom 3 and the jpegs with Photoshop CS4.
3 Favorite Master Photographers: Weegee, Martin Parr, Garry Winogrand, and Diane Arbus. Sorry. I couldn’t end up with 3.
3 Favorite Contemporary Photographers: Martin Parr, Bruce Davidson, Trent Parke
Which 3 photographers’ prints do you own? Unfortunately I don’t have prints by others. The only prints I own are about 30 of mine. Unfortunately, I have not been able to see all my photos printed.
Color or Black and White? In the past, I shot only black and white. Now, I think about 5-10% of what I shoot end up in black and white. I only turn to it for a few photos, mainly the ones that I shoot at night. It’s difficult for someone to throw away the easy vintage-romanticism of black and white photography and create something with valour in color terms. But I believe this is the challenge. I still like black and white photography and haven’t rejected it. But I think the future belongs to color.
Shoot Film or Digital? If there were someone to develop and print for me for free, maybe I would shoot film. Right now I think spending time and money in developing and printing can make someone a better printer, but not a better photographer. Time is more important to me than exposure tolerance, grain etc..
Is there a special time of the day you like to shoot or is any time good? I like to shoot early in the morning (unfortunately this can happen only on weekends and vacation), or 1-2 hours before sunset. The light in the beginning and the end of the day is beautiful.
But most of the time I prefer to shoot at night. It somehow has different rules from the day. In the day you can be invisible. At night I use a flash. You can’t be invisible and I don’t’ care. I just shoot. Most of the time it doesn’t work. But once in a while you get lucky. You just have to shoot a lot. It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night. The more you shoot; the more you read; the more you see what other people shoot; the more it helps your photography.
Why did you choose Street Photography and not another form of photography or stamp collecting? I bought my first analog camera in 1997 while I was at university. It was required for my studies and work. At that time, I shot only buildings and urban spaces. In 2008 I bought a digital camera and started to shoot more. Then I saw some Magnum photos and realized that I would like my photos to tell human stories.
Street photography is what gives me adrenaline. But lately I have started to shoot anything and everything, not only street.
What motivates you to photograph the streets? I like the surprising wind that blows out there. You never know what to expect. It’s a challenge to walk endless hours trying to discover things around me.
Is Street Photography an obsession? I think photography is an obsession, no matter if it’s street or not.
Are you a lone shooter or do you like shooting with friends or a group? When I shoot strangers I want to be alone. It’s definitley fun to go out shooting with friends but if I look at the final result, all the times that we didn’t separate while walking I ended up with nothing. I need to concentrate. But I do have a few photos of my family and friends that I like. And finally, I don’t care if the subject is of strangers or friends or whatever. I just care that I end up with something worth viewing.
Favorite street photography city: I ‘ve shot in some European cities and it’s nice to shoot anywhere. But as everyone’s finest work is a result of how much time he has spent somewhere, I must say that my favorite photos I have are shot in my town, Rethymnon in Crete.
What inspires your photography?
-The work of masters of photography and a lot of contemporary photographers
-Movies by Sam Peckinpah, Akira Kurosawa and Luis Bunuel
-Books by Nikos Kazantzakis and Gabriel Garcia Marquez
What do you look for in a good photograph? The composition and the possible story that might come out of something unimportant that passed before the photographer’s eyes.
How do you go about shooting a street photograph? I always carry my camera with me. Whenever I see something that catches my attention I go close and shoot one or more photos.
Is there a philosophy or aesthetic behind your compositions that you apply to your photos? Back in 1997 when I was in university, we had a drawing and painting course. Instead of just drawing, my professor wanted us to present black and white photos of what we saw. So I bought my first camera. I learned how to ‘see’ and compose that way.
The main thing is I shoot a lot. I also spend time looking at other people’s photos. Maybe I get some ideas that way. I’m sure it’s in the back of my mind. So when I go out and shoot, I might see something and find a connection between what inspired me and what is in the street. But none of it is conscious.
As for aesthetic – My images may seem surreal but it is my effort to interpret reality. What I mean is, you see something real and then you give metamorphosis to it. If there is no metamorphosis, then you are just documenting life. Documentation is somehow objective and I want it to be subjective. I want to tell my story. I’m not interested in documenting life.
I also love spontaneity. When I drink alcohol, I always experience spontaneity.
You’ve been shooting more multiple exposure shots. Is that your new aesthetic? I get bored doing the same thing. I wanted to try new things. There was a time I did ‘Gilden-type’ street portraits. This has its limits. I needed to get over it and move on. And street photography has its limits. We must be as open minded as we can. In the end, I don’t care about labels- I just care about what I see and if I like it or not.
Are the multiple exposure images planned or random? With multiple exposures, you only see the first frame. The second, third or subsequent layers are done by instinct. I know the focal length and I know my 35mm lens well and the specific angle I will get from a specific distance. That’s it.
When doing multiple exposures it’s more conceptual and less spontaneous. I have to think 2 or 3 frames in advance although the shots are made up of spontaneous un-posed moments. But in the back of my mind I have to try to combine these things.
Why did you start a street photography blog? I began with a Flickr account to post my work. But I wanted to really show my images. At the same time, I was looking at a lot of photos from other photographers. And I would come across photographic diamonds. I discovered so many good things that I wanted to share them. I also want to see these gems again and again because they are inspirational to me. So I decided to present their work in my blog along with my own images.
You’ll notice my blog is about showing photos and not a lot about my opinion of the work or the photographers. I just want to show photos. I get bored reading too much. For instance, I don’t care to read about tips. Photography is about images. I don’t care if the photographer is famous or not.
Why did you name your blog “Dirty Harrry Blog” (now titled Dirty Blog)? I don’t know. Harry is short for Charalampos. It’s pronounced ‘Haralampos’. The ‘C’ is silent in Greek. And then there are my dirty photos.
Best 3 tips for shooting the streets:
What I usually do is:
-Try to forget everything and concentrate on what is happening around me.
-I shoot without thinking if it is right or ethical to shoot.
-When I ‘m out in the night, I drink beers.
Best single advice on how to improve your work: Forget anyone’s tips and just open your eyes.
- If edit is referring to processing: don’t edit too much.
- If edit is referring to curation of your own stuff: ask 2 fellow photographers whose talent you trust 100% and have them tell you their opinion about your projects.
Best single advice for someone who wants to get into street photography: Shoot whatever can tell a story, no matter if it’s peopled subjects or unpeopled. No matter if it’s pure street or not.
What’s the best moment in your street photography career? I don’t have a career, that’s why I don’t know its best moment. However, I know the 2 most funny moments while shooting:
- In 2008 I went to Barcelona and the first day I took a photo of a girl walking. After one week I was shooting around, at some moment I went inside a church to rest a little and I saw her sitting nearby. I remembered her and showed her the photo in the camera and afterwards we went in the neighboring park of Ciudadella to ride a boat. Suddenly she started to sing Spanish songs as she was moving the paddles!
- Once it was evening in my town and in an empty road there was only me and a couple hand in hand on the other side of the road. I went and took a flash portrait of the girl from a very close distance. Her boyfriend got mad with me and started to push me. I told him to relax and we started to talk. After 5 minutes he told me that he had a lens that he didn’t use and asked me if I was interested in buying it!
What’s the worst moment in your street photography career? Once I went alone into a decadent bar to shoot photos at 4 o’clock in the morning. Everybody in that bar were like gangsters and criminals. I was excited to come upon such a subject. Unfortunately, I didn’t succeed in taking any photos because the owner of the bar pushed me out when he saw me with a camera in my hands. He threatened my life if he saw me again. The bad thing wasn’t that I was kicked out of that place or that I was threatened. The bad thing was that I didn’t take any pictures there.
What projects are you working on? I’ve been shooting street photography for many years. Now I think I am interested in anything: Landscape, portraits, still life. Every form has its difficulty and its charm. Shooting anything (or almost anything) helps me to observe better.
Where do you want to be in 5 years with regard to street photography? In the future I will try just not to get bored of what I shoot. Which finally means not to get bored of myself. If my photography will be street or whatever, I don’t really care.
Are there exhibitions planned in the future? I have an exhibition titled ‘CIVITAS RETHYMNAE’ from July 8 to August 30 at two different locations here in Crete, together with my friends Lukas Vasilikos (Leica Liker Interview #2) and Ania Vouloudi . Everyone is welcome :-)
Leica Liker thanks Harrry for sharing his experience and inspirational advice with us. We look forward to checking in on him in the future.
You can check out Harrry’s gear under “Liker Bags’n Gear here.
This is Harrry’s self portrait.