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Street views: Athens

As one of the world's oldest cities, Athens is also one of the most well-documented. But through the eyes of Chris Kontos, the founder of Kennedy Magazine, there’s always something new to discover...

‘The centre is where the heart of the city beats: the small shops, the delis, the grand central market.’

Athens is a city of contradictions more than anything else. Of East and West. Of old and new. Of order and chaos. Of light and darkness. It might not be a beautiful city in the strictest sense of the word, but its charms lie outside of the obvious. Athens is the scent of the bitter orange blossom before Easter. Athens is its open-air cinemas. Athens is its coastline. Athens is the Acropolis, a landmark so imposing that it’s hard to ignore. Athens is most beautiful when it is bathed in the 6am light which adorns its imperfections, and the empty streets are silent from the buzz of the morning traffic.’

‘I was born here in Piraeus the “epeinion” or port of Athens, which is unknown to most. For me, the city itself and my experiences growing up here are essential to who I am and how I have evolved as a person and a creative over the years. Contrary to what people might think I have a pretty dysfunctional love hate relationship with it. Spending too much time in Athens makes me notice all its flaws! As an editor and photographer, I get to travel so much for work that the return to Athens is always welcomed with a sense of longing.’

MY CITY
‘I’m lucky to live in the centre of Athens and naturally, it’s my favourite part of the city. I like being close to everything I need from my morning coffee to shopping the essentials or grabbing a wine with friends in the evening. I like the fact that here culture is on your doorstep and socially it’s exciting to meet people spontaneously for a quick chat. The centre is where the heart of the city beats: the small shops, the delis, the grand central market. I like the fact that you can walk everywhere with no need for a car or the tube. I love the main square of Athens called Omonoia which might be rundown and forlorn but is full of hidden corners that might surprise you if you make the effort to explore. I also love the old city, Plaka, under the feet of the Acropolis.’

‘Athens has evolved in giant leaps over the last few years and I believe it’s one of the most exciting cities in Europe. The creative scene is thriving, the choices are endless and the quality is better than ever. For food I like Seychelles. It’s by far my favorite place in Athens. It’s on the square of Kerameikos the ancient cemetery of Athens. I like everything on the menu really since they change it often according to the season but a good staple is the pasta with buffalo meat and sour cheese. A perfect day in Athens? Good coffee, a tyropita in hand. Record digging in Monastiraki. Lunch at Diporto taverna, and a wine in the evening with friends under the Acropolis.’
athens

 

Image: Chris Kontos.

ON ATHENS’ EVOLUTION
‘A side of Athens’ evolution that I find tricky is the touristic growth. I’m tired of seeing hotels opening in every corner and the gentrification of every neighbourhood stealing away their originality. It’s hard to balance identity and evolution sometimes and I would hate to see Athens become like every other city in the world. It’s a problem of our times. You see the same shops and restaurants everywhere you go like they are hidden in your suitcase and pop up wherever you are.’

MY PROCESS
‘I’m naturally really curious. I take pictures all the time and I’m hardly ever without a camera in hand. I can’t detach the creative side from my everyday life. It’s part of it. I always wanted to create images that create a certain longing, a certain emotion. It amazes me how much an image can say in the most direct and sincere way. I always want to be sincere whether I’m writing or photographing.’

‘I love collecting images online and I have a vast archive on my hard drives. I’ve always believed looking at pictures is inspirational and in one way or another, this habit has influenced my aesthetics the most. I’m inspired by cinema a lot. The likes of Edward Young, Tsai Ming-liang and Wong Kar-wai have really changed the way I look at things. And photographers like Joel Meyerowitz, Takashi Honma, or Tina Barney among others.’

‘When I was younger and started taking pictures, I was influenced a lot by Christopher Doyle the cinematographer of Wong Kar-wai and found many corners in the city to fulfil my photographic dreams. I was always mesmerised by the lights in Athens and a lot of my fashion editorials are shot in the evening, especially around the areas where the Pakistani, Indian and Bangladesh community is based, parts of the city where the colours and character is really strong.’

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