Stavros Niflis

Interview: Pavlos Methenitis | Photo: Nikos Zappas

My camera is an extension of my hand

Stavros Niflis was ten years old when he entered a darkroom for the first time to print photos taken by his brother, an amateur photographer, in the streets of Piraeus, where they were growing up.

Today, forty-four years later, Stavros keeps his camera close at hand at all times. This camera has earned him professional recognition: four of his photos were exhibited as representative of Greece on the sidelines of the Beijing Olympics. He has four children and a career in Paros, the island he has always loved, as the whole ambiance takes him back to his childhood.

What does photography mean to you?
Photography, to me, is a lifestyle. I see the world, its essence, its psyche, through a camera. What pleases me most is going outdoors to look for gripping pictures, being on a perpetual quest for beauty. Photography brings me close to nature and the human condition. I love street photography; I’m keen on documenting people’s daily lives. I’ve travelled to the U.S., India, Africa…

What do you photograph in Paros?
Mainly landscapes. I’m also into architectural photography, but the exigencies of making a living led me to take on any event photography job requested on an island like Paros: weddings, christenings…

Can a wedding photograph be a work of art?
Photographing weddings is for me a labour of love, never a chore. I try to reach into the soul of my subjects, record their joy. To do this, one must engage with them, grasp its peculiarities. Every wedding is a singular occasion, just like every landscape and every person have their own beauty. Yes, a christening or a wedding photograph can be a work of art, because the meaningful moment I capture may be relevant to more people than just a couple of newly-weds who will hang it in their living room.

A photographer raises his camera to click a shot – is this is an offensive or a defensive act?
It can cause tension; it may look like an aggressive move, as the photographer seems to be pointing, while the camera is like a gun. But it’s not an attack; to me, it’s a process of approximation. Photography makes you more sensitive. You look for what’s good and important around you, noticing details most people readily overlook. But you have to be as inconspicuous as possible, as discreet and silent as you can be. And, of course, always on the go.

What about your dreams and ambitions?
I’d love to have the time to photograph, just for myself, the people and the landscapes of Paros. I’m overwhelmed by the place; I know it so well – its light, its soul; I know where to go, which images to capture…

Analogue or digital photography?
Although the digital shift in photography has made it possible for anyone to take a snapshot of anything at any time, a good photo doesn’t come about every day. What is essential is not the camera; it’s the eye of the photographer and the moment, the timing. Then again, sometimes, there’s a degree of grandeur in averting the camera’s eye from a beautiful image you’ve caught sight of. The memory card or film roll may not fill up, but your soul will…

Summer 2015