Konstantinos Tsakalidis

I can’t tell for sure what is it that makes a photo document stand out. Maybe it has to forge an emotional bond with the audience, to give it the lead role

Konstantinos Tsakalidis

At the right place, at the right time

Text: Chryssa Nanou || Photographs: Konstantinos Tsakalidis's Archive
Konstantinos Tsakalidis
Konstantinos Tsakalidis

In our tech-governed times, where the production and consumption of images is incessant and humongous, one photo became the signature frame of the wild fire ordeal Greece suffered last summer. It was taken by photojournalist Konstantinos Tsakalidis in Gouves, Evia, featuring an old lady immersed in despair before the destruction, standing against the backdrop of an orange horizon, riddled with flames and smokes. “It takes nanoseconds to capture an image”, explains Konstantinos Tsakalidis. “But the image lasts forever, and if you’re lucky enough, it would stay carved in people’s minds, moving (or infuriating) the generations to come. I can’t tell for sure what is it that makes a photo document stand out. Maybe it has to forge an emotional bond with the audience, to give it the lead role. For certain, though, a good frame of a high level of technique is not enough.”

Konstantinos Tsakalidis was born in Serres and studied Computers in Thessaloniki. In tandem with his studies, he developed a keen interest in photojournalism. “During the seminars I attended at Stereosis school of photography, one of my first teachers, Angelos Zymaras, showed us the photos taken by Alexandros Michailidis, also a Stereosis student. That’s when I started hitting the streets, covering local current affairs. In the beginning, I published my photo stories on the online platforms of the time, such as demotix. My first collaboration with a Greek photo agency came in 2012, amidst the pre-electoral campaign for the upcoming national elections, with FOS Photos agency. A photo of mine, portraying a pre-electoral rally held by the Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, was published online at The Guardian website was my ticket for this collaboration, during the second round of the national elections. FOS was a newly established agency in the field of photojournalism, placing emphasis, like myself, on the “different” image. A few years later, along with Menelaos Myrillas, Nikos Palaiologos and Nikos Libertas, we cofounded our own team, SOOC.”

What is his approach on photojournalism and the people he wishes to photograph? “As a photographer, covering actuality topics, I try to remain unseen in the whole process, so that I can capture more spontaneous expressions. Whenever I’m assigned to make a portrait, I try to come up with a conversation topic and discreetly get into a person’s mind, to achieve an unforced picture and minimize the feeling of a staged posing.”

In the summer of 2021, Konstantinos Tsakalidis was sent to cover the wild fires in Evia and captured a series of iconic highlights of the disaster.  “What stuck in my mind is the locals’ fight to protect their villages and fortunes, without the due support from the part of the state. Their agony and despair, portrayed on their faces as the flames were closing in, was heart wrenching. Everyone was assigned to a particular task: providing the residents and the firefighters with water supplies, putting out small-scale spots of fire with tree branches, opening up fireproof passages with their agricultural vehicles in the forest to halt the fire and facilitate the passage of the firefighters. Their contribution was priceless.”

During his 10-year stint as a photojournalist he remarks that technology has brought upon huge changes. “I have no clear image of how things used to be, but the most significant changes are to be found in the equipment used by photo journalists and the speed of the publishing flow. On the other hand, the evolution of technology has triggered a series of difficulties for professional photojournalists, photographers and cameramen. In our times, every cell phone works as photo camera providing high quality pictures and videos. As a result, many media owners would rather hire a single person for a workload that would normally be divided between three professionals (text, photos, videos), generating a substantial problem in our field.”

Technological advance, however, is not the only game changer in photojournalism. “Media’s lack of interest to produce original content or even to publish the work of a freelancer collaborator is a far greater problem. In the good old days, as I’ve been told, newspapers would hire professionals for lengthy missions both in Greece and abroad, even in war-stricken areas. Nowadays, all we get are tailor-made pieces written in the comfort of the office, a plain reproducing of government press releases and guidelines. Only a handful of today’s media feel the need to make a thorough journalistic research, and most of them are independent media lacking the necessary resources and means. Unfortunately, the audience is part of the problem as well, as it opts for any slipshod TV presentation rather then watching a documentary, reading a piece in a newspaper or a magazine, or subscribing to an online specialized platform”.

Apart from photojournalism, he is engaged in other forms of photography “for livelihood reasons”, as he points out. “From architecture photography to photographing still objects in a studio. I am particularly into travelogues that break free from card postal aesthetics.” As to whether his profession has influenced him on a more personal level, he stresses out: “Photojournalism gives you the opportunity to witness things and events as they occur, to form your own point of view, to know if they took place they way they were presented to you. This could change the way you perceive certain political and social issues of everyday life and lead you to adopt a more realistic approach. As I far as I am concerned, I believe this is the case.”




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