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The Corona diaries

Q: Hello, how are you?
A: Hello to you, too!
Q: Well, let’s make this quick, because that’s the thing with you artists… Once you start babbling, you forget to stop.
A: Oh, yes, I know what you mean! I don’t trust these rascals, myself.
Q: So, this thing called the Corona diaries, what’s it about?
A: It’s a photographic documentation of the city and the people (and their absence) during the COVID lockdown.
Q: And how did it come about?
A: Well, it didn’t take much thought actually: Lockdown hit us hard, without warning, and its impact on the urban environment and the people living in it was so devastating and direct, that it was impossible to ignore.
Q: People? What people? Everyone was locked in at home!
A: Ha! Only those of us who were lucky enough to have a home, or could do that. The others, the less fortunate, those rendered invisible by “normality” in “mainstream” society, remained out there, and became the majority in the streets of a city that had closed up shop completely. I didn’t even have to think or plan anything. I just picked the medium and went out.
Q: The medium? What do you mean by that?
A: Well, luckily, a batch of expired film fell into my hands recently. A few of those rolls and a 30-year old pocket-sized camera was all I needed.
Q: Film, really? How come?
A: Because film works as a kind of torque limiter. Its technical limitations in comparison to digital media, as well as its finite length, compel the photographer to shoot more consciously, to engage their mind and utilize their experience, eventually providing them with more satisfaction, because the resulting captures are much more their OWN, and not the outcome of a pre-selected or default setting or post-processing. With film, you get ONE sensitivity setting, ONE color profile, ONE balance setting and 36 frames to do what you’ve got to do. So you have to be alert, selective and efficient, if you want to end up with
something after the shoot.

Q: And how about the development procedure?
A: Film labs were all closed during lockdown, so I was aware that the film rolls would remain stashed away undeveloped for some time and that I wouldn’t see the results (good or bad) until the end of lockdown. That may sound strange to someone who is used to the speed and immediacy of digital technology, but the feeling of anticipation for the outcome can only be compared to the thrill of waiting for Santa to arrive at Christmas.
Q: Ok, but the final images are really inferior in terms of quality. I mean, I can shoot better photos with my phone, more vivid, without blemishes or finger-marks. Plus, I have hundreds of filters to choose from, to give them a special “character”.
A: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the perception of beauty is subjective. You can create beautiful images with any medium, but film, being an analog medium, is unique in that the element of chance is inherent in it. The grain and softness of film, as well as outside factors like dust, or a scratch on the negatives, are integral to the unique character of the medium and the aesthetic appeal of the end result. Like the clicks and pops in the grooves of a favorite record you’ve played a thousand times, or a wrinkle on the face of a loved one. 
That’s why I purposely choose not to fix these imperfections, even though it would be easy for me to do so.

Q: Yes, but film is also very expensive!
A: Sure, it’s not cheap to buy and develop film, but the cost is not entirely prohibitive, provided you use it in moderation. Also, everyone has an analog camera lying unused somewhere at home, so the cost of the equipment is usually nil, or at least considerably lower than its digital counterpart (body and lens), which often requires a budget of hundreds, if not thousands, of euro.
Q: Right. So, what are you saying here? That we should go back to the Stone Age?
A: Of course not! As I said earlier, you can do things with any medium, though the medium is not – or shouldn’t be – an end in itself, but rather a means. It’s just that some paths seem more interesting and more fun than others, and at the end of the day, if I have to choose between a straight, safe highway and a sloping, curving mountain road, nine times out of ten I will choose the latter.
Q: So, you prefer living on the edge?
A: Exactly! And also… horses for courses!

English translation by Panos Tomaras

For a full-sized slide show click here.
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