Real images of leading Greeks

For more than 37 years Takis Diamantopoulos has been focusing on people, in most cases distinguished personalities – Roman Polanski, Paloma Picasso and the late Melina Mercouri, to mention but a few – who have all been captured on film by Diamantopoulos’s penetrating photographic lens. An exhibition showcasing 204 faces shot by Diamantopoulos for a book is currently on display at the Zoumboulakis Galleries’ Kolonaki square branch. «200+4 of the Most Distinguished Greeks,» originally published by Liberis Publications last year, features images of leading dignitaries in the fields of the arts and science. At the gallery – out of the pages and onto the walls – the photographs take on dramatic, novel dimensions. These are piercing images of individuals, tracing expressions and characters, while at the same time acting as a reminder of the importance of portraiture in the art of photography. «A lot of the personalities featured here are from the 1930s generation,» says Diamantopoulos. «They are people who have come full circle.» Not everybody puts on a happy face for Diamantopoulos – the majority appear pensive – though a few do seem to be having a blast, such as the late, eminent intellectual Renos Apostolidis. Realistic, bare-all images, these black-and-white portraits can be haunting: Actors, directors, artists, scientists, authors, publishers, architects, designers and museum directors meet with a few diaspora Greeks, such as London-based interior designer John Stefanidis and critically acclaimed Greek-American author Jeffrey Eugenides. Seasoned comedian Thanassis Vengos seems perplexed; actress-politician Anna Synodinou strikes a dramatic pose; singer Marinella flashes her star-quality smile; Jules Dassin looks amused; a striking Irene Pappas is clad in white lace; actor and National Theater director Nikos Kourkoulos looks relaxed in a hat; Costa-Gavras bears his wisdom; actress-director Roula Paterakis is in costume, and shadow theater performer Evgenios Spatharis poses with the traditional shadow puppet «Karagiozis» character in the background. Only 10 of the photographs were already part of Diamantopoulos’s body of work and archive; the rest were shot exclusively for the book, with the bulk of the shoots carried out during 2003. Though the photographer’s studio work is usually based on well-orchestrated takes, this project was more about the impromptu moments. «Each sitting didn’t last for more than two or three minutes, so that no one would start doing his own thing,» says Diamantopoulos. «It had to be natural.» Did any of the subjects ask for any kind of special treatment? «Actress Tasso Kavadia, well-known for portraying nasty women in Greek cinema, asked for all her wrinkles to show, while another prominent actress, Aleka Paizi, said that while she didn’t mind some kind of editing of her biographical note, she wanted to make sure that the final text included the fact that she had been exiled.» In the case of Diamantopoulos, photography runs in the family. His grandfather was a photographer in Asia Minor, while his father Thanassis was a prominent professional who also collaborated with the National Theater. His brother, Dinos, is also a leading photographer and together the two siblings have dominated the local field in the last few decades. Besides working with celebrities, Diamantopoulos has also left his mark on fashion. Since his first fashion assignment – a shoot for French Vogue in 1972, which was followed by stints in Paris and Milan – the photographer has been a key figure during the explosion of fashion publications in this country, particularly with the introduction of foreign titles. For all his experience, however, the photographer remains faithful to what he actually sees. «There is a certain misconception when it comes to beauty,» says Diamantopoulos, «What is beautiful is what is real.» Zoumboulakis Galleries, 20 Kolonaki Square, tel 210.360.8278. The show runs to February 5.