Miltos Kourmpoglou, better known in Greeka.com by his nickname milko, is one of our community’s most prominent members. He has already published two books inspired by his greatest loves, Greece and photography. The latest one, “Colorific Greece” was published recently by Asteropi Publications and has already caused a sensation both in Greece and abroad. How did you begin getting involved with photography and what was your motive?
Photography has been my longtime passion and joy. It all started at my early 20s, when I discovered photography as a powerful medium to express myself and communicate with others without any language or cultural barriers; it has been my window to the world, the tool that helps me unleash my creativity and innovation. In my photographs I try to express my feelings, to tell my own story and, most important of all, evoke emotions in the viewers.
As a photographer I have one chief motive: to share and communicate my photographic work, that is, to make my inner self visible to the world. Which elements do you consider as important in a photograph?
Should I select the most important, from a technical point-of-view, elements that make up a photograph, I would say: light, light, light. Other elements such as colour, form, composition and subject are definitely important but for me photography is an endless play with light; a struggle to tame, control and manipulate light.
However, there is more than technical aspects in photography. Many times I enjoy or even admire photographs that are not technically perfectly executed. To me, the factor that defines a photograph as interesting is not its technical perfection, which of course plays a role but not a decisive one. The most important element in a photograph is its ability to engage the viewer, to generate emotions, to touch the hearts and minds of those who see it. What motivated you into travelling throughout the whole country with a van to do your photoshoots?
Travelling all over Greece is my personal obsession. I consider travelling as the most efficient way of feeding one’s soul. I personally travel for travel’s sake. I am motivated by Cavafy’s words: “The essential thing in life is the journey, not the destination”.
My photographic journeys throughout Greece are, for me, a challenging spiritual procedure. In my eyes Greece is a not merely a popular tourist destination with sugar-cube whitewashed houses, blue sky and crystal-clear waters. It is a unique place full of natural beauties, history, culture and character. Through my photographs I try to capture and propagate all these elements of my homeland. My hope is to help readers rediscover Greece as a unique emotional concept affecting both the body and soul. Which is your favorite destination in Greece and why?
I am passionate about Greece and I have travelled extensively all around the country, visiting many exciting destinations of unparalleled beauty. There are so many places that I like and enjoy but it's only one I have fallen for: the island of Anafi.
Located in the centre of the Aegean Sea, Anafi is a little unspoiled island that lies outside the mainstream tourist routes. Whenever I visit Anafi I feel like a time traveler landing my capsule on my own tiny planet, back to times when life was genuine, simpler and easier.
I am enchanted by Anafi's slow-paced lifestyle, the warmth of its people, the stunning and in many cases unworldly landscape, its impressive sandy beaches and the exhilarating smell of thyme and salty sea breeze. Anafi is a sorceress who casts a spell over easy-going travelers like me. Which destination would you suggest to someone who visits Greece for the first time and why?
No matter if one comes to Greece as a family holiday maker, leisure or adventure or culture or religious tourist, I think that visiting Athens is a must-do. I do not believe that any visitor can get a comprehensive perception of Greece and its lifestyle without visiting and spending some days in Athens.
Athens, the cradle of Western civilization, is a city full of cultural richness and history. The apogee of its past glory is the Acropolis, a world heritage monument that one should definitely visit in their lifetimes. However, as an Athenian I would like to emphasize that there is much more to Athens than monuments and history. Athens is a vibrant city, where most of the action takes place outside, even during winter. Cafés and bars are packed most of the hours of the day, loads of tavernas and restaurants cater for satisfying all tastes and shopping options range from bazaars and open-markets to multilevel upscale malls.
At the same time, Athens is the hub for short one-day excursions to splendid archaeological sites such as Cape Sounion, Marathon, Delphi and Mycenae or to picturesque nearby islands such as Poros and Hydra. Is there a destination that, according to you, is undervalued by Greek and foreign tourists alike?
There are many quite interesting destinations that are ignored by travel guides and overlooked by the crowds. Some are isolated and remote, others simply neglected. To my opinion, one of the most characteristic examples of mismatch between beauty and popularity is the island of Serifos.
hough its fame is overshadowed by other neighbouring islands such as Sifnos and Milos, Serifos possesses “the full package” of the Cycladic spell: a fascinating top-hill Chora with whitewashed houses, mazy alleys, little churches with sky-blue or white domes, hiking paths, quaint tavernas and coffee shops. The locals claim that the accessible sandy beaches of the island are more than 50 and maybe this is not an exaggeration. Your first photo album “Coffee Routes” was originally published in 2013. What was your original inspiration?
With my photographic work I have always tried to highlight aspects of Greece, which reveal the real essence of our culture.The traditional coffee shops are part of our cultural identity. They are the epicenter of the social life of the local communities in modern Greece, places where people meet, exchange news and ideas, socialize and have fun. A modern day agora.
The traditional coffee shop (kafeneion) has been, and still remains, an integral part of the Greek lifestyle. It is exactly this role that “Coffee Routes” attempted to register and convey to the readers. My photographic approach was to put emphasis not merely on the architectural characteristics of the buildings but mainly on the people: the owner and the customers, elderly or young, retirees or workers, local governors or members of the clergy, a fascinating mosaic of the society of modern Greece. The creation of this book has been an unforgettable personal experience, an immersion into the universe of the Greek tradition. What would you say was the impression that the book left to the audience? From what we know, it was very successful and has been sold out by the publishing house.
Yes, this is true. The book received exceptional acclaim and it was sold out within a month after its publication. I can attribute this to the novel concept of the book: a photographic journey throughout Greece, following the steps of the ancient Greek geographers Pausanias and Strabo. However, instead of shooting monuments and antiquities, the main theme of the book was the photographic collection and illustration, in all their glorious simplicity, of numerous traditional coffee shops from all 50 geographical regions of Greece.
From the acknowledgement of “Coffee Routes” by the audience it is clear, and very encouraging at the same time, that people, old and young generations alike, are still attracted to read books that are inspired by the culture and traditions of our country. Your new photo album, “Colorific Greece” came out just one month ago. Would you like to share a few words regarding the initial idea behind the album’s creation as well as its realization?
The idea for the creation of “Colorific Greece” came up several years ago during a business meeting, where I had to present briefly, in a few words, the elements that characterize Greece and its people. I remember that I tried to concentrate and recall in my memory all those features which, experientially, I had associated with Greece.
To my great surprise I realized that all my memories of Greece were primarily a colour sense and feeling and then an object or event: the peach sunset in Milos, the dazzling white of the summer noon, the gray-green carpet of Amfissa olive groves, the pink tulips in Omalos plateau in Crete, the ocher walls in the houses of Symi.
From that very moment colour became my inspiration and the photographic tool with which I aspired to capture and illustrate the icon of Greece as the dominion of colours. The colours of composition and contrast, the colours of inspiration and creativity. The Greek colours. “Colorific Greece” is a personal recollection of memories from my homeland classified in colour sections. Your amazing photos are accompanied by the poems of Konstantina Tassopoulou. Would you like to tell us more about this collaboration?
When I conceived the concept of “Colorific Greece” my sole intention was to make a photography book, not simply a book with photos. In our days it is so easy to find and enjoy numerous truly beautiful photographs. You just google for a few seconds and right in front of you plenty of dazzling photos spurt. However, for me a photography book is something different. A photography book is a very complex, and thus intriguing, intellectual project. It has form, narrative, and should definitely “tell a story”. I believe that, just as one picture is worth a thousand words, also one word is worth a thousand pictures.
In that respect, all I needed along with my own photographs was captivating text that would be the structural element of the book, binding the photographs to the common concept: travelling all over Greece from one colour to the next.
A friend of mine introduced me to Konstantina Tassopoulou. After describing and explaining to her my concept, it took just a few minutes before I understood that with Konstantina we were sharing common ideas and vision. Soon after, all the colours of Greece that in the course of the years were embedded in Konstantina’s soul as emotions, boiled over the bottom of her heart and became words. Where can we get “Colorific Greece” in Greece as well as abroad?
“Colorific Greece” can be found at the following bookstores, which can handle both domestic and international orders. POLITEIA BOOKSTORE Asklepiou 1-3, 106 79 Athens, Greece Tel. +30 210 3600235 LIBRO BOOKSTORE PatriarchouIoakeim 8, 106 74 Athens, Greece Tel. +30 210 7247116 LITTLE TREE BOOKS & COFFEE Kavalloti 2, 117 42 Athens, Greece Tel. +30 210 9243762 PERIPLE / ARTS ET LETTRES HELLENIQUES 115 rue Froissant, 1040 Bruxelles, Belgium Tel. +322 2309335