This week we welcome Dimitris Makrygiannakis, a Greek-born photographer now based in Stockholm where he works as a medical doctor. Dimitris has been shooting street photographs since 2010, and is a member of Burn My Eye collective.
Hey Dimitris, thanks for your time. Do you remember the first picture you took and liked in a serious way? Which one was it and why did you like it?
In December 2009 I broke my lower leg badly. A six hour operation and two months in bed was the result of it. During those months I started reading about photography with the hope to develop an interest I had since long time ago but never really had the time for it. The day I got rid of the cast and could walk again, first thing I did was to shoot this photo. Although not a photo I consider having any artistic value today, I remember I was back then fascinated by the fact that I chose a composition that included all the elements that played an important role in my life those last two months. And that I could in a somehow more abstract way tell my story.
Sounds a bit like Rear Window. How did you evolve as a photographer since this photo?
It’s nine years since then and nine years is long enough for someone to evolve in something when passion, love and everyday interest are involved. This is how I feel about photography. I read, I try to write with my camera, I think and I enjoy my photowalks. All this process led naturally to me evolving as a photographer. During the process I tried to experience different things, everything from street photography which feels like my largest part of work, to more personal work such as my family, and lately almost exclusively unpeopled photos. During the process I also understood that what matters most is to capture photos that talk to my soul and senses.
How does your approach in public space relate to your approach of more personal themes like family?
Since I started with street photography, this kind of aesthetics are also evident in my family but also unpeopled photos. So in terms of aesthetics I think all my photos relate, at least in my eyes. I also strongly feel that the environment is just the occasion we find ourselves in when shooting, but what is most important is the mind of the photographer. Since I am looking for the same things indoors and outdoors, there is some relation on those terms as well.
What are you looking for?
I am looking for (but not always able to find) meaning, symbolisms, surrealism, thoughtful juxtapositions and photos that raise questions and make the mind flow.
When does a juxtaposition become thoughtful for you?
English is not my mother tongue and I realise now and after using google translate that thoughtful can be used in various ways. What I meant is that I always appreciate juxtapositions that have something (hopefully new) to offer and that show the intention of the photographer. Juxtapositions that I will feel the need to come back to more than one time in the future.
What do you think about juxtaposition nowadays, being a subject of repetition in street photography and often seen as a cliche?
I think that juxtaposition still can be very effective if it offers new information to the viewer. It is true that we see a lot of clichés but luckily from time to time strong photos as well.
How about your own work, do you sometimes catch yourself echoing an existing image or concept?
In the very beginning, let’s say the first two or three years this was a necessary way to go through, by echoing. I think this cannot be avoided and it also should not be avoided. I feel that gradually I developed my own language and that this echoing became less and less, but I can’t talk about how my subconscious thinks and acts.
When you are featured on StreetRepeat, what do you think about seeing your work next to similar images of other photographers?
Most of the triplets I see in StreetRepeat make me think how difficult it is to make a unique photo. And when I see one of my photos in those triplets, I just think I have to try harder to find that unique photo.
Fair enough. Earlier in this interview you said that your recent work doesn’t include (many) people. How did you get to the point of ‘unpeopled’ photography?
An almost complete interest to people in the first years gradually got to a point where I tried more and more unpeopled photos, and nowadays almost exclusively. I guess this is part of the evolution process as well as my inner need to try different things in photography. My view is that a photographer should not stick to one kind of photography. But I still enjoy good photos with people and I can’t exclude the possibility of going back to that in the future. But well, now that I think of it, I still shoot family and friends from time to time, but I am far away from that people in the street kind of photography.
It sounds like you are cautious when it comes to self repetition. Is it ever a conflict between your need to try something different and your interest in a certain subject?
No, not really a conflict. It just happens naturally. I remember in December 2016 I was in Bangkok for a week for a workshop I taught. It was a successful week in terms of classic street I would say. Coming back I found a lot of snow here in Stockholm, and passed one month in the parks and forests shooting unpeopled photos. And from that moment it continued. It felt little strange but I perceived it as a natural call that I had to follow, and I never regretted.
So the people in your recent photos are those who are closest to you, when at the same time you stopped including the strangers from the streets. Can you explain the difference?
The biggest difference is the fact that I can go back to the street and shoot those photos of strangers anytime again, tomorrow or in 15 years, it will not make a difference. But my kid who is five years old now is growing and I want to follow him photographically, so although unpeopled photos is my thing now, I still feel the need for those family photos. Another thing that would be interesting to mention is the stress factor. I spent many years shooting photos of strangers, everything from in your face flashing to more discreet photos. But there was always some stress when doing so, how they would react. Not that it was a big problem but it was something to think of always and be cautious with people who didn’t look friendly. Now with the turn my photography has taken, I don’t have to think of that at least, which is kind of a small relief.
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