Flickr is a giant ocean filled with amazing photographic talent to simply knock you out with fantastic images! Ioannis Lelakis is such an artist of light we came across on Flickr and looked at his photostream in awe and admiration. You’ll love the variety and creative length of his work. His shiny B&W street portraits and ‘out of this world’ color images speak for themselves. Ioannis is also one the most approachable artists there at Flickr and his courtesy hints at him being at total ease while he is shooting perfect strangers in an almost alien environment. With his curious imagination he’s able to capture some of the most unusual street shots we have ever seen. Truly a gifted artist Ioannis is, he also helped us in getting the best out of him in this interview showcase. Meet the artist:
I’m 39 years old. I was born in Norway, with a Greek father and a Norwegian mother. My preschool years included a lot of traveling between my two home countries; across Europe on a train or in a car. Luckily, this was in 70’s when that type of transportation was still much more affordable than flying. I have many fascinating childhood memories of beautiful European landscapes passing outside the windows of a train.
I believe that growing up partially within a journey, influenced the great love I have for travelling today. I went to school and lived in both countries, until I decided in the mid 90’s to live more or less permanently in Norway. It was also a wonderful experience growing up in 2 relatively different countries socially and culturally. It gives you broader and different perspectives on life.
I was around 15 when I discovered my passion for photography. Even before owning a camera, I started to read books on the subject, and decided it was the profession I wanted to follow. I got my first camera( a film SLR) when I was almost 16. Then followed a year of self-education. It was an expensive hobby for a teenager, needing to pay the minilab for the development and printing of my trigger-happy young ambitions. It was actually the same minilab in Greece that would start to give me some photography-assignments a year later while I was still in high school.
At age 18 I returned for a year to Norway, and studied at a photo-school. It was there I learned a lot about darkroom work(both b/w, colour-negative and slide). Still today it stays as a magic moment for me; that unforgettable experience of the first paper development fading in to life under the red light.
Then followed some years of working here and there… not all jobs photo-related. It was a hard time, but I am glad I never gave up my true passion. During those years I also went to an art-photography school in Oslo, that gave me some new motivation & inspiration.
Photography truly means so much to me. And I can see, as the years passes by, that my passion for this visual channel of communication only grows stronger and stronger. It is the optimal way to express myself. My reflections of life, my feelings, my artistic ambitions, my fascination and documentation of the world we live in.
I do not specialize in only one specific photographic genre. I like to do what I truly love. Life is a journey, and I don’t want be be stuck in one corner only. But even if the visual gap between some of my photographic works seems wide, you will notice there is a red thread there. A human presence and/or some emotion will almost always be represented.
Equipment is not important! But if you’re curious, keep reading.
I have 2 “full frame” DSLRs, with enough lenses to cover my needs. Anyhow, For the last 2-3 years I have started to use compact cameras more and more. The image quality and manual control is getting better year by year, and it came to a point then specially for travelling, I started to leave the DSLRs and heavy glass behind, and brought a compact or two instead. The compact cameras specially made an enormous impact on my street photography. A small camera is much less intrusive in crowded urban environments. I can also confirm the importance of a very true fact: the best camera is the one you always have with you. Now I have no excuse anymore, and one of my smaller digital compacts is always with me.
As mentioned before, I started photography with film. But to be perfectly honest, I have not shot a roll of film for about 10 years. I still have my film cameras, and my darkroom equipment. I just don’t feel the need for it right now. Perhaps when I get older… hopefully film, paper and darkroom chemicals will still be available 10-20 years from now. But I am very glad I went through the learning process of photography back in the analog film days. It truly gave me a deep respect of the profession as a true handicraft. I see that many photography schools nowadays have film and darkroom included in their study-plan. That is very good of course. But the students will always have in the back of their mind that there is another option. Back in the old film-days there was only 1 option.
Norway is a beautiful country with some breathtaking scenery. Even if I have been North, South, East & West, I must admit that I have only explored a fraction of my country. It is quite wast and long geographically. Most of the breathtaking fjords are along the west coast. Experiencing the aurora borealis in the north during the winter is just magic. But even here in the south-east of Norway where I live there are many hidden gems of scenery.
Same goes for Greece of course; I have not seen many of the spectacular places that country has to offer either. Even the relatively small island of Crete where I lived so many years; until recently I had only experienced small parts of it. But finally, 2 years ago I had 10 days, a car, my camera, and myself alone to get around to see the true beauty of that island. I have a tip: if you’re going on a photographic road-trip, you should either do it alone, or with another person/persons/friends that shares the same interest and passion. As a photographer you can drive your wife/gf/bf/kids/friends crazy with all the spontaneous stops and detours.
For me regardless of country or scenery, the most important is the human presence, expression and emotion. And even if it’s quite diverse from country to country; it’s beauty will always lay ahead of you to be unfolded and discovered in different ways.
Photography is both my profession and my hobby. It’s a fact that most of the images I have had in exhibitions and also showcased on my website and other social media, are not the ones that earns my daily bread & butter. I clearly notice that there’s a relatively big distance between my professional photography and my personal photography. By personal I mean pretty much everything I post online. The professional assignments are mostly real-estate, editorial, some fashion and rarely some weddings. So I truly wish I could manage to close that gap. I need to become more active on hunting for professional assignments that makes my heart beat faster.
In my opinion the most inspiring words about the subject comes from Don McCullin: “Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.”
McCullin truly hits the essence of my personal reflection on photography here; Feelings are so important! You need to get into the soul of the moment you capture. You can look at hundreds of thousands of stunning, technically perfect, breathtakingly beautiful photos… that still feel empty with their lack of an emotion, an expression or mood… no feelings awaken for the spectators. So I think we as photographers need to be more open, honest and vulnerable towards the moments we capture. The majority(or the most important minority) of viewers will absolutely notice the difference!
Motivated? Well I will be 40 this winter, and what keeps me motivated is that I still have a lot to learn. Yes I have been working with photography for over 23 years, but I choose to reflect on that with a humble mind and great excitement. I can always look at my present works and compare them to what I did 2, 5 or 10 years ago. Analyze what I feel about the photographic path I am walking on, my growth, and accept that my visual journey of life will just keep growing as long as I live.
Most important is to connect yourself emotionally with the photographic style your heart is pursuing. Always remember to enjoy what you do, as often as possible. Be yourself – that means really discover your true self – and avoid to imitate others. Don’t forget the feelings, the expressions and emotions! Your works should really mean something! Practice working on series instead of single moments only. Don’t get too hooked up on gears and techniques, those are practicalities that can be learned and perfected later. If you let those practicalities dominate you, they might even get in the way of the growth of your own personal vision while it is still true & honest.