For a 28-year-old, Constantinos Sofikitis has done a lot. He has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in economics from the UK. He’s traveled through much of Latin America, and visited Cuba and Vietnam. As a child he would scout for filming locations together with his father and the legendary filmmaker Theodoros Angelopoulos. And now in 2017 he has picked up the Sony World Photography Award for best street photograph.
“I’m in a state of chaos, getting ready to go to Cuba and some Indians are calling me repeatedly offering retouching services for my photographs. By the tenth time it had started to become annoying so when I pick up and hear English I think ‘damn, it’s them again,’ and almost hang up. It was from Sony. ‘Don’t hang up,’ they told me, ‘it’s important, it’s something good!’”
Constantinos Sofikitis pulled off a double win in this year’s Sony awards, being named the best Greek photographer in the open national competition, as well as winning the Open Street Photography category with his photograph ‘Halloween Protagonists‘. In the crowd on 6th Avenue during Halloween, Sofikitis saw a menacing Joker rapidly approaching. He quickly adjusted his settings and shot, somewhat unsure of what the final result would be.
“What works for me so well in this picture is the contrast between the center of our attention and his surroundings,” said Damien Demolder, Chair of the Open competition, journalist and photographer, about the photo. “The people on the street don’t seem to have noticed the Joker at all. And that makes it even more chilling.”
Sofikitis doesn’t hold his camera up to his face, but near his chest. But he knows it well enough to know what he is shooting – he has been doing this since childhood. His father, Dimitris Sofikitis is a well known photographer himself and his path has also been followed by Constantinos’s brother, Petros, meaning that a good camera has always been close to hand. From his schooldays Constantinos has always carried one with him, effectively keeping a visual diary.
This reminds me of the current obsession of iPhone users, who photograph first and experience second, and I put this to him. “All that makes me uncomfortable – that you want everyone to know that you are having a good time,” he responds. “Personally on my holidays I don’t have a mobile. It is one of the most valuable things in life, to give time to yourself.”
He recalls times when he would get in the car with his father and Theodoros Angelopoulos. Dimitiris Sofikitis and Angelopoulos were good friends and would read scripts together, discuss them and drive around scouting for locations. “He was very humble and at the same time very intense as a personality, you felt him in the room,” Constantinos recalls. “Possibly involuntarily I caught the bug for the magical world of photography.”
Before settling on his current career, Constantinos studied applied mathematics and economics, followed by a master’s degree in economics and environmental studies. He went on to co-found a consultancy but the business foundered. With his severance package he took a road trip to Latin America. “A trip to the Andes is like reading ten books.”
Today he is the official photographer for GoogleHellas and TEDx Athens, and also runs the studio CP Sofikitis with his brother, Petros. They shoot ad campaigns, cities around the world for travel magazines and, of course, weddings.
“Wedding photography is misunderstood because it has many kitsch elements. However it requires you to know many different kinds of photography, so it is not easy. We do photo-reportage so nothing is staged. That’s why we usually work best with foreigners, Greeks have a very different mentality.”
Over the past two years, due to the refugee crisis, thousands of images from Greek photographers have traveled around the world. Many of these have become famous, winning awards – something that doesn’t always sit well with Constantinos. “News photography is a very important part and there needs to be a record, but it’s not glamour… Personally I wouldn’t want it to happen to me. To wash up on a shore somewhere, and like all that wasn’t enough, to be photographed and have someone get a million likes and awards with my portrait… I consider it at the very least vulgar. I like the fact that his year in Sony, not one such photo was awarded.”