Monday, December 3, 2018

Q & A with Charalampos Kydonakis

Charalampos Kydonakis (aka Dirty Harrry) is a photographer based in Crete, Greece. His recent self-published photo book is Warn'd In Vain, "An Argonautica inspired NYC story". 

What brought you to New York City? How did you decide where to shoot and explore?

I first went to NYC to visit a friend in 2014 and finally spent about 7 months between 2014-2017. It took me some time to move away from the busy avenues, where I got bored of people looking at their cellphones. Manhattan is the main Metropolis landmark, but Queens, Brooklyn, and Bronx have their own character too. My book's final cut is a mosaic with images from all the above places.

What is your general photomaking process? You walk down the street with your camera...Then what?...

One thing that matters to me is how much time I can devote; nothing has ever come to me in the first 5 minutes somewhere. Maybe after months or years a body of work can be revealed. Or it may not. All I knew when I got to NYC was that my time was limited, so my everyday goal was to stay outside as much as I could. Searching for images seems a bit like an archeological survey; there might be nothing around; there might also be signs or evidence that could lead somewhere. These signs depend on what one is attracted to. 

A main difference this time compared to other places I've been was alcohol; I often make beer breaks when I'm shooting, but NYC is expensive. I had no money for bars, etc. The Warn'd in vain book has been injected with alcohol grades only during the editing period, not before. Who knows, if the Big Apple was cheaper the book could be more interesting!

Did you have the book and Argonautica theme in mind when you made the photos?  

In the beginning I had nothing in my mind but a question; what can be seen inside the world's most photographed city? 

What is the connection in your mind between ancient Greek myth and contemporary New York?

After some time I tried to search for connecting lines between my presence in NYC and what I came across there. Greek mythology gave me some ideas to sequence my thoughts in this place across the ocean; a contemporary Colchis, the city that was considered the end of the ancient world. Gradually I started searching for metaphors that could form something after my time in the city expired. 

For someone unfamiliar with the Argonautica storyline, can you briefly summarize it?  

Argonautica is an epic poem of Apollonius Rhodius about the glorious and tragic story of Jason. It's a myth of a big adventure about struggle for power, love, betrayal & revenge. There are a few related movies. My favorite ones are Medea by Paolo Pasolini (1969) and Medea by Lars von Trier (1988). 

Was New York what you expected? 

I don't know if I discovered where the Golden Fleece was hanging. In other words I don't know what I expected from New York. A good thing is that for the first time I had much free time to search and focus on something. I walked in places I had no idea where I was each time; there were times that some reactions were a bit cliché and expected :
  • "You took my picture, asshole?"  (Girl , Midtown Manhattan)
  • "Get out of Harlem, fuckin' cop"  (Dude, Harlem)
or more original and unexpected :
  • "We don't appreciate someone who is taking pictures"  (Rabbi, Williamsburg)
  • "I would fuck you but I'm busy"  (Dude, Jackson Heights)
I once got hit for 3-4 minutes by five guys inside a weird neighbourhood near Delancey street... There's no need for someone to risk a lot, but weird places are more interesting than normal ones, aren't they?

How did your experience making photos in New York change your impressions of the city?

Now that I am back in Crete, I think of New York and I miss some great people I met, people I feel are friends now no matter the distance. I think this is finally the most precious thing out of this journey.

How did you go about making the book?

After returning to Crete I had to start working again, so I edited the book in the evenings. Some average stats below:
  • Shooting : 7 months * about 8 hours per day = 7*30*8 = 1680 hours
  • Edit and design : 1.5 year =  18 months * about 3 hours per day = 18*30*3 = 1620 hours
I wasted a lot of time with decisions that someone with more experience probably would make instantly; I went to sleep every night almost sure that I had finished and the next day I saw what I had done and didn't like it at all, so I changed the book on and on till the last day. Now there are still things I would change, but at some moment I had to move on, otherwise I could recycle the same dilemmas forever. 

My Ayse and some friends helped me a lot, especially Gus Powell, Pavlos Fysakis, Elena Mamoulaki, Adonis Volanakis, Yorgos Yatromanolakis, Engin Güneysu, Giorgis Kapelonis, Natalie Matutschovsky and others. Gölnur Cengiz & Fotoğrafevi in Istanbul encouraged and guided me with the printing process, a field that I had no idea about. The book was funded through a crowd-source campaign and then I printed it in Istanbul with the support of some lovely people (Okan Ulusan , Ilknur Mutlu & 'Kanuni' Suleyman Gördebil) in Bilnet company where some books by Bruno Barbey, Nikos Economopoulos, Ara Guler and others have been printed. In conclusion I wouldn't be able to make this book without the help of my friends.

What are the graphical elements inserted into the chapter breaks?

They 're Greek alphabet fonts I designed and they refer to each chapter of the book. 'WARN'D IN VAIN' has 12 chapters from A - M , a Minotaur inspired future twin book from Crete, named 'BACK TO NOWHERE' will have the N - Ω chapters.

Did the book turn out as expected, or were there surprises along the way?

I had made about 10 photocopy dummies while editing, none of them was exactly as the book turned out in the end. Since it was my first attempt, I think everything along the way was a bit surprising.

What are some of your favorite New York City books by other photographers?

Weegee, Naked City

Ken Schles, Nightwalk and Invisible City

Meryl Meisler, A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick and Sassy '70s

Diane Arbus, Revelations

Keizo Kitajima, New York

Gus Powell, The Company Of Strangers

Bruce Davidson, Subway

Jeff Mermelstein, Sidewalk

Andrew Savulich, The City

(All photos above by Charalampos Kydonakis, except book images which were selected by him)


Sowing Season said...

Great interview! thanks for posting it.

Marilyn Andrews said...

Extraordinary photos, extraordinary interview. I propose that we go to Crete and hang out with Harry.

Leica fan said...

First time here. Nice job.

Sowing Season said...

Can I come too? (Joe Aguirre)

Julia Bradshaw said...

Planning on taking a look at the book. Thank you

Firstgen said...

Just when you think this SP shit's all played out.

phase_new said...

Hovering somewhere between the forehead and eye.