Paros-Paris through the eye of my Fuji X-T1

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Bontosoglou Vassilis

"I’ve been living and traveling around the world until recently when I returned to Paros Island in the Greek Cyclades where I consider home.
Photography has been a life long passion but only lately has become more of a preoccupation. I love environmental portraiture although I have recently begun enjoying the life of street photography as well.
My latest favorite camera gear is Fuji XT-1."

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Photography has been a lifetime passion of mine. As an EU diplomat I have been living and travelling all over the world for many years and my camera has been my constant companion.

I am self-taught in photography. Over the years I have learned a lot by following other photographers and studying their work. Knowing my camera and what it can do in any situation as well as crafting an effective digital photo workflow have always been the two guiding principals in my work.

I am genuinely interested in capturing people in their surrounding whether it be working playing or praying. I love environmental portraiture a term that is open ended with endless possibilities. Combining environmental and street photography is a concept I am working to develop further. I have begun photographing local people in the Cyclades islands as an on-going documentary project providing a deeper insight into their works and lives.

Since last year I am living permanently on the Greek island of Paros where I have had the opportunity to join the Aegean Centre for The Fine Arts directed by John Pack. The photography workshops at the Centre address how use of technical control informs our ideas and creative voice. In these workshops we are producing images of the highest quality and permanence using Jon Cone’s incomparable Piezography carbon black ink sets.

I rarely work on projects defined in advance. I have the feeling that as I go on, themes will emerge more clearly. Overall I operate on instinct and chance, whatever comes into view. I let the photographs lead me rather than going out with preconceived ideas.

I normally work in RAW and use LR for any necessary adjustments. I always use PS when converting a photo to B&W and refining my conversion. Sometimes I use Efex Pro 2 to speed up operations. I display my work on my website www.vassilisbonto.com and few times I post photos on Flickr and Instagram.


From Nikon to Fuji XT1 a sense of liberation.
Two years ago I decided to sell all my Nikon gears (with the exception of my vintage FM2) switching to Fuji XT-1. One of the biggest factors forcing my move was the weight and the heft of my previous gears and the permanent discomfort they were creating. The transition was not easy at all. As many other photographer fellows I also had to pass from a period of angst frustration and stress about my decision until I started getting control of my new XT1. On the other hand my needs were evolving which naturally induced me to move to a more discreet and silent equipment. Once I began to find myself liking the results from the XT-1 I realised that it suits me better and fits to my needs giving me a sense of liberation and fun as the camera felt much more comfortable in my hands compared to my DSLR cameras. The Fuji XT-1 is a solid modern camera and the image quality is just great even in very low lighting. The image preview in the EVF is a dream to use. Inversely the big downside of the XT1 is the short battery life. You need therefore to always to keep an eye on your battery and have a second or even a third full charged battery in your bag. I essentially use prime XF lenses. Depending the circumstances I use 14mm/2.8R, 23mm/1.4R, 35mm/1.4R, 60mm/2.4 macro and 56mm/1.2R APD. I also have a 50-140mm/2.8 zoom, which I use occasionally.


Holy Week Paros
For many years I have been visiting the monasteries on Paros island, photographing the daily life of the monks. I have always been interested by the religious practices of the monks, full of mysticism and contemplation and wanted to find the best moment to depict this in a body of work. Easter on Paros Island, as in many places in Greece, is definitely a spiritual experience. I have the feeling that this atmosphere is felt much stronger in churches inside remote monasteries on the island. There you can have the one-of-a-kind opportunity to delve into an overwhelming mystical atmosphere and participate into sacred rituals, ancient-old traditions. The Holy Week-Paros project was carried out during two consecutive years in 2015 and in 2016 at the wee hours of the holy week liturgies. I had to work very quietly in moving around with my Fuji XT-1 to avoid any discontent among the monks and the few pilgrims present. Inside the churches darkness was dominating as few candles or some old electric devices were the sole source of light. Only in the very early morning there was some light coming in from the windows. I didn’t use a tripod, as I didn’t want my presence to be noticed. I worked constantly on manual mode at high ISO. Using image preview was almost impossible particularly during dark moments thus judging focus and exposure was a challenge. I was very happy with the end results from the 35mm 1.4 and 56mm 1.2 lenses. The RAW files were converted to B&W in PS with subtle post refining adjustments necessary to whisper the serene atmosphere during the prayers. Holy Week Paros was presented during the Antiparos International Photo Festival in July 2016.


Streets of Paris
I visit Paris often and I always have a sensational feeling that it is a magical place for photography. I walk around in the streets of Paris for hours regardless the weather conditions and I always carry my camera with me looking to capture candid moments not posed. I never chase people I typically walk around and try and find a great scene and hope for the right person to walk past. I try to remain inconspicuous and natural when shooting and I hardly interact with my subjects. It’s more point and shoot and move on. I love shooting during rainy days and wet reflections are also an element in my street photography in the Paris streets.

Streets of Paris is an ongoing work on street photography. Many of the presented photos were taken following an inspiring experience I had during a workshop I attended in January 2016 organized by Valerie Jardin in Paris. It was during Vallerie’s workshop that I discovered the excitement and uncandid possibilities in the streets. Street photography I believe is a process that requires a lot of self-confidence and patience. One needs to learn to trust his instincts react quickly and mostly acquire special set of eyes for capturing gestures and emotions at the right moment. You need to command in advance your camera, as you cannot control all the variables when you’re out shooting. It’s very challenging but can also be most gratifying particularly once your photos go beyond the ordinary and the déjà vu.

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  • Michael Ryan

    Great presentation, Vassilis, looking forward to your next portfolio

  • Tassos Belessiotis

    Absolutely great portfolio, excellent work!