There's a tendency for photographers to see their craft as a solo activity. Especially for street photographers, who walk around by themselves, shifting from street to street to photograph the diverse architecture of a city and the endless sea of strangers who go about their daily lives. In the case of Theodora (aka @theofromgreece) this is the complete opposite. Being part of the berlinonfilm community and an avid portrait taker, Theodora sees photography as a way to make true human connections. Today we talk to her about how she started photography, why she loves portraits and what it's like to be part of a photography community.
Can you start by introducing yourself and telling us how you started your analogue journey?
Dear Lomography community, I am Theodora, a Greek photographer based in Berlin. My first contact with photography was in my early school years when I watched my dad and uncles use their medium-format cameras. It was the curiosity of a child and the fact that I was too young to try the medium format cameras of my dad that got me longing to try out this craft. The actual analogue journey began when I started my studies in the conservation in ancient and fine art objects. We had photo walks weekly, photography history lessons, long darkroom hours, and conservation of an actual picture. It was a magical time for me.
How would you describe your style of photography?
I do not think that I have a style. If you look at my photos I'm open to shooting everything. I go to places and I shoot something that I see and maybe nobody else can see. I keep the image alive for myself and others.
My favorite thing to shoot though is portraits as it is like a face-to-face conversation. It is the capturing of the human spirit by just looking into somebody's eyes. Every person has a story to tell, big or small and it is through portraits I try to capture their story.
As someone studying conservation in ancient and fine art objects, has this impacted your way of viewing and composing photography? Is there anything you learned from this regarding the technicalities of photography or even when it comes to choosing what to shoot?
Conservation did not affect my style or anybody's style but it did help me get started in realizing photography is something I wanted to do. As mentioned previously we had lessons on the history of photography and darkroom classes where we had to develop the photos we took. In these classes, you could tell if a person would love or hate the process and for me, I completely fell in love and wanted to do more. The insane amount of photographs that I had to see every day through my history lessons played a huge part in my temptation to start shooting. And to be honest the photographers see what the others don't see or notice. They are there to imprint that before it's gone and to share it with the people. I wanted to do the same.
What kind of gear (camera, film stock, lens) do you use and what's your go-to setup for shooting?
Thanks to fleamarkets right now I have a large collection of cameras and I also own 4 Lomography babies, the Fisheye 1, La Sardina, a Lomo'Instant Wide, and a Holga 120N. I use them all, but mostly the Lomo'Instant because I always have an instant camera with me. I don't have a favorite. I usually use two cameras and I choose which film and how many I take with me depending on the place we go for shooting.
Who are your photography influences?
My dad used to give his rolls to Mr. Takis, he owned a small photography store/lab and my question always was why my father had to go to the other side of the city for a few rolls when we had labs closer to us. What was so special about this quiet man? Years after and when I was able to go myself and start talking with him, I found out that Mr. Takis was one of the most famous photographers in Greece. Takis Tloupas, the guy with his Vespa, traveled everywhere in Greece and gave us the chance through his black and white films to see our beautiful country and people. He is my inspiration, I will always remember him.
Besides him, I also look up to Elli Sougioultzoglou-Seraidari, or Nelly for short. She's one of the best women photographers in Greece and her photos were the opposite of Takis Tloupas' style of photography.
How important is photography in modern-day conservation?
For a conservator, the basic interest is always the physical material or object. Conservation improves the physical material. It is the understanding of the physical object and ensuring long-term survival. Photographers can help reveal clues about how, when, and where it was made. The whole idea of photo shooting and the darkroom is to give the new conservator-restorer the idea of how to treat the material.
Can you tell us about berlinonfilm and what it's like being part of the community?
Berlinonfilm is an analogue community comprised of individuals from all around the world who share a passion for photography. During our analogue walks, besides shooting each other we also love to converse and share knowledge which always keeps everyone inspired. The group started three years ago and still now many of us are good friends.
I knew Berlin through my history books but walking through and seeing the things you read about show how it is much more than the text. I was able to explore firsthand the fleamarkets, historic neighborhoods, museums, train stations, and even the abandoned places with a camera in hand and around 30 photographers from different walks of life.
Noemi, the leader of the group organizes the walks but, if someone has an idea of a new place to go she is open and supportive. During the pandemic, things slowed down but since last summer we started to have a few photo walks. We always have a guide on where to meet before the walk. The number of people joining a walk depends on every person's schedule. We had walks ranging from around 20 participants to at the most 50. The goal is to spend time with each other, and exchange ideas. Nobody is forced to finish a roll because of the walk. We are free to shoot as many photos as we want. Anyone with an analogue camera can join and all they have to do is contact our group leader to get directions.
How do you guys decide where to go and have you ever led a photowalk yourself?
I led a walk two times, one in Potsdam and the second this summer in Gleisdreiek park. Every walk has a theme and we shoot according to this. In Potsdam was a walk about architecture and nature and Gleisdreiek about portraits. We can revisit a place or just choose a new one. It always depends if we are shooting indoors or outside. Berlin is a big city, there's always something new and exciting to see.
What do you think are the pros and cons of shooting in a group and shooting alone?
I like both, during the pandemic it was a lonely situation, but I was ok. The downside is that I missed shooting with friends. Shooting as a group is cool, you can exchange a lot of ideas and we can get inspired by each other's work. I tried many times to shoot by observing how my friends would compose and take pictures. Beyond shooting the chatter and coffee breaks are always a good time to get closer to one another and eventually develop even deeper friendships. In every opportunity to come together, you take home memories, doing this with others is more fun.
What's the biggest lesson you learned from shooting with a group?
Learning by doing is what I learned from our group. It is something that really has helped my photography and I always tend to share this advice with my friends.
Can you share some of your favorite photos with us and tell us about them?
Of all my photos I love two a bit more than the others. The first was shot three years ago during a summer vacation in Greece. I bought a six Euro disposable camera and shot the whole film in two days. Most of my photos are of family and friends except one. I started to swim alone and in the distance, five or six people were talking. I had my doubts about whether to take the picture or not, I didn't want them to see me. In the end, I took the photo quickly and I went back. The result is the "Köpfe am Wasser" the title that Lomography Germany gave to my photo.
The second is the "Shadow photographers", a photo with my Fuji SQ 6. I was with berlinonfilm members on a mini walk after new years eve and we were shooting on U Bahnhof Gleisdreiek. When the train arrived and our shapes started to form, my dear friend Antje turned to me, "take a photo, please." That day I had with me my Canon AE1 Program and the Instax. I am glad that I chose the second.
What advice do you want to share with the community?
My dear fellow community members, feel the moment. Photography is a joy, is a colorful journey. Enjoy every moment that you have holding your cameras. They are part of us, they are our third eye, they see what we see and together we share beautiful memories. Thank you for the chance to share my photography journey. To my family, my analogue family, and all of you out there who now I start to know, thank you, you are my inspiration.
We like to thank Theodora for sharing her story and journey with us. Be sure to check out more of her photos on her LomoHome and Instagram and check out our past article on berlinonfilm. Are you part of any film communities? Introduce yourselves in the comments down below.