Interviewing Ivan Adamidis: When Hobby Turns into Passion

Ivan Adamidis is a Kazakhstan-born self-taught hobbyist photographer who lives in Greece. Having graduated from Technological Institute of Athens, Department of Medical Laboratories, currently he is working in civil protection and aerial fire-fighting. Notwithstanding his education and work, he managed to build a strong and mesmerizing portfolio and received various awards like Winner (2nd prize) of 2011 Travelogue Magazine Travel Photography Contest, Finalist of 2011 Athens Photo Inspiration Contest, and 2012’s International Photography Awards (IPA) Competition: Awarded with Honorable Mention in Special - Travel/Tourism category for the winning entry "A Way Life-long". His winning photo “10 after 10” has been exhibited on the central metro station of Athens, “Syntagma Square”, as well as during the mobile city exhibition. You can check out his profile page at our KeepSnap Directory.

KeepSnap: Hi Ivan! We are proud to welcome you to KeepSnap blog. How is it going? First things first. Your biography is both surprising and weird. Please tell our readers how and when you did you get familiar with photography the first time ever and was there something special that made you take a camera and start shooting?

Ivan Adamidis: Hi! Well, first of all, it’s great to be on the KeepSnap blog. Thanks for the opportunity. By the way, I don’t know what you mean by weird biography. I guess all biographies are kinda weird, which is great, isn’t it? The world would be boring without weird biographies. As for photography, I always had this craving for visual arts (which didn’t prevent me from remaining an absolute dolt in painting). I remember when I was like 5 or 6 years old, my older brother bought this terrific FED-3 camera… So he used to shoot on a slide-film, you know, and afterwards we would watch all the slides he made. It was a family ritual. So, I guess this was like my first contact with photography. It’s funny that a couple years ago I bought myself a FED-3 rangefinder, and I just adore it! It’s slightly broken so I can’t really see if the focus is ok through the viewfinder, but still it’s possible to adjust the distance on the lens. What else to say… I always felt interested in taking photos, but without thinking about it too much. I mean, it was just making snapshots. Do you remember those first Nokias with 0.3 megapixel cameras? I was totally into it! Also I had some simple point and shoot cameras through the years. I still use them sometimes. The “10 after 10” photo was captured by a simple point and shoot camera. So it was a snapshooting era until 2010 when I ran into my old army-fellow with whom we have been serving together in a boot camp a few years earlier, and he was all into photography. He had a DSLR and some lenses, flashes, umbrellas (who knows what else, I didn’t know the purpose of all those things he was telling me about). So I understood that the guy is pretty serious about the whole thing. I liked some of his photos – he was quite good. At the same time I could clearly see that technically it was nearly impossible to have similar results using the simple gear I had, so I thought about buying what I called back then “a professional camera”. Long story short, for my birthday I had a Nikon D90 with a kit lens. Which is still one of my main cameras. So then I started to take photography more seriously and thoughtfully. I started to study composition, color theory, photography history, watching great photographers work. And started to apply all these in taking pictures.

KeepSnap: You mentioned that you work in the field of civil protection and aerial fire-fighting, right? It surely sounds exciting and pretty risky. But what exactly do you do and did you ever take photos at work for your personal pleasure or commercial needs? Or do you differentiate your work and your hobby?

Ivan Adamidis: Well, it’s not that risky as it sounds. After all, 90% of my work is just office work. But the rest 10% is pretty exciting indeed. I remember that one time in 2007 we had some disastrous forest-fires here in Greece, and our company brought then some foreign airplanes and helicopters for fire-fighting. One of these was a Be-200 amphibian which is a beautiful aircraft! I was coordinating the interaction between Greek authorities and foreign pilots. Anyways, I remember one day, when I worked on board with our crew. There were three sorties on that day, extremely rough conditions, more than 9 hours up in the air and more than 25 scoops (the plane is gliding on the water’s surface and scooping water) and drops. We were flying inside ravines, where some small Greek villages were burning, so the fire was everywhere and you could see the burning mountainsides just a few meters from our wingtips. Why am I telling you all this? So you would understand that I was scared to death and feeling sick almost permanently (I was throwing out like a virgin after the senior prom, haha). So in order to pull myself together, I took a camera and started taking pictures. Oh… I took many on that day! None of them was of significant artistic interest, but holding the camera and pressing the shutter button helped a lot.

KeepSnap: Your photos are awesome. They are really atmospheric, warm, and I can even say that some of them make me feel nostalgic although I’ve never been to places that you shot. Did you shape your style yourself or was there someone who you were aspiring to or something like special photography equipment that helped you shape it?

Ivan Adamidis: Thanks for your kind words. I try to achieve… to transmit the feelings through a picture. As many good photographers say: “There’s nothing more boring than a technically perfect picture without a feeling”. And I usually take pictures of places or circumstances that move me. So I guess my feelings naturally infiltrate into the picture. Now… as for shaping my style, of course I want to tell you that it’s all me, myself and my unique and unexampled vision reinforced with unsurpassed taste! But really it’s always an influence, or even influences. It’s what (or who) one choose to be influenced by what makes one unique, wouldn’t you agree? And the combination of those influences. As for this nostalgic feeling you mention, remember I told you about slides? I think, that subconsciously I try to reproduce that style, that kind of vision. Colour-grading etc made in post production. Sometimes I use film, sometimes I deliberately use expired film. But trying not to push it too far. Although I have had my “scratches and old film Lo Fi look” period ;)

KeepSnap: What was the camera that you used to make your first professional picture and what camera and lenses do you use now?

Ivan Adamidis: As I mentioned, my first serious camera was and remains Nikon D90. And I definitely still consider it as a serious camera. It’s very good for the enthusiast level. I have used Nikon D3s (not mine, I’d borrowed it) with Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8, which is an absolutely superb combination. One of my favorite lenses is Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8 AF-D and I use it a lot. I also use Nikkor 50 mm f1,4G and a kit 18-105mm lens. As I told you I have FED-3 with 52 mm f2.8 Industar lens. Also have a Nikon F65 and a Sony DSC-W290 point and shoot camera. In addition I use my smartphone a lot, it used to be Samsung Galaxy S2, now it’s a Samsung Note 4. Cameras on smartphones nowadays are ridiculously good!

KeepSnap: You have quite a lot photography awards for a hobbyist photographer, which is really great and, as I think, should be an example to follow for everyone. Was there a tipping point that made you go professional and start taking winning photos? Tell us how it all happened.

Ivan Adamidis: I didn’t go professional. I mean, a professional photographer is one who makes a living, or at least gets paid for photography. I earned too little with my pictures, so I can’t say that I’d really consider myself a pro. An amateur photographer can also make winning photos ;) For me one of the biggest awards was a Honourable Mention within IPA Competition (ok, ok, it wasn’t a Grand Prize, but it still counts!), because it’s a really big event, it’s like the Oscars for photographers. The picture that won was taken in India. I brought many pictures from India and I believe that trip made me learn a lot. After all, taking many pictures is the best school. There is a good photographer from Saint Petersburg Alexander Petrosyan, so he said: “You can’t imagine how significantly your chances to take a good picture increase if you go out of your house”.

KeepSnap: You say that photography is your hobby although your photos look professional. And if so, would you like it to become more like your career than a hobby or would you like it to remain as it is?

Ivan Adamidis: Yeah, I would definitely like to become more involved with photography. I also have some plans about organising workshops and similar educational activities for fellow photographers. I’m not that good yet, so I myself can’t teach, but I surely know some really good photographers from abroad who would like to share their knowledge and vision. Now I’m working on financing this project.

KeepSnap: Ivan, you are a self-taught photographer. Do you think it’s important for a photographer to have a special education and fancy equipment in order to become professional and recognized around the world?

Ivan Adamidis: There are many ways of learning nowadays. Online, magazines, video-lessons, workshops etc. But I wouldn’t say that special education is unnecessary. So I buy some courses for theoretical knowledge and post production. Plus, I’m planning within a year to learn from some really good pros who organise photo-tours and photo-safaris. Fancy equipment also helps, if you ask me. But, for sure, it’s not a decisive factor. A photographer needs to be technically equipped, but a 645DF+ Phase One camera won’t give you a vision, or a taste, or a feeling to impart. I saw some brilliant pictures taken with a smartphone or the most simple cameras. Therefore, before you go and buy a professional camera ask yourself if your pictures  really need that technical excellence. Basically the pictures are born inside your head, not in camera.

KeepSnap: Your work is pretty emotional and most often emotions are associated with people. What is your favorite photography style and why?

Ivan Adamidis: I like what I call urban stories. Street portraits. Candid portraits feel like frames from a movie, like a part of a bigger story. And who doesn’t like stories, right? Travel photography as a wider concept of urban stories. I also like taking pictures of children and horses. Both children and horses are genuine, and they usually need no retouching, haha.

KeepSnap: Let’s talk a bit more about portrait, street, lifestyle, and event photography. Well, any photography style that implies making photos of people. What qualities a good photographer that works with people needs to have and what does it take to capture a candid portrait shot?

Ivan Adamidis: I guess… there’s one answer to all that. You have to be in love with your subject. If you want to have a similar response. Or… you have to be sad about your subject… The point is that you gotta be deeply emotionally involved. What else… You have not to be a jerk. People don’t like jerks taking photos of them. That’s pretty much it.

KeepSnap: As far as I understand, you travelled to quite a few countries. Where the majority of your photos were taken and what country or place is your favorite for making pictures?

Ivan Adamidis: Oh… Well that’s a great question. Yeah I travel a lot. And I plan to travel more as I believe it’s the best way to know yourself and people around you. I wouldn’t say that I have a favourite country for making pictures. They all are favourite. Also, if you think about it, your own country or your own city give you the best opportunities for great shots. As I mentioned, I took many pictures in India. It’s a very interesting and graphical country. I’ve heard that photographers’ joke: “Good photographers get to be reborn and shoot India”. I also brought many beautiful pictures from Indonesia. Catalonia is amazing. Barcelona is one of my favourite cities. I don’t really like London, but it’s great for street photography. Malaysian Borneo is fantastic for naturalistic photography, birds, plants etc. (Not to offend other parts of the island, I’m sure the rest of it is terrific also, but I’ve been only to Malaysian part). I plan to go to Tanzania to travel from Dar Es Salaam all the way north to Kilimanjaro. That’s an amazing destination. I’ve been there on a business trip and I definitely want to come back there with my camera. Iceland and Norway are also up in my list. Japan (outside Tokyo). Siberia. And of course I love shooting Greece. It’s one of the most beautiful and multifarious countries I know. There are many beautiful places on Earth to go to. And to photograph.

KeepSnap: And now a special question. Your work takes courage. Were there any stories that that you happened to live during your life as a photographer where you had to apply this quality? Please tell us one.

Ivan Adamidis: Yeah… As I told you, it’s not courage, it’s more like trying to cope with your fears. (I know it sound like a cheesy line from old school action movie, but it’s true!) You know what helps? Curiosity. Photography involves climbing, taking pictures in not so good conditions, running, hanging on a train with your camera, or shooting during protests and demonstrations. Curiosity. It’s the eagerness to learn, to understand more. And sometimes to brag about yourself seeing something extraordinary or being somewhere special. That’s one way to pass through some images and some knowledge, isn’t it? I don’t remember any special stories. I mean they are quite special for me, but they are not actually stories, more like moments. It’ll be boring for your readers to read the details about how I was shooting during Athens riots with all the teargas and people running. After all it didn’t feel all that special. It was more like a fussy situation. I take picture of horses. Sometimes one gotta have strong nerves and be quite concentrated on what’s going on. Nobody wants a horse in fever to crush on him and his gear. But in order to take an interesting picture you have to be on the trajectory of the running horse. So, good nerves and a good tele-lens usually help ;)     

KeepSnap: And any funny or ridiculous stories that are associated with photography?

Ivan Adamidis: When I go on a trip and my goal is to take some pictures, I bring this bag of mine… Well 90% of the bag is gear. And 10% is all the rest – clothes, socks, underwear. Some of my friends think it’s ridiculous.

KeepSnap: What do you do now when it comes to photography and what plans do you have?

Ivan Adamidis: Now, as I mentioned, I’m in the phase of making money in order to go on with my photography plans. I plan to pay for some lessons and to go to some photo-tours. I’ve started planning the educational program I told you about and already talked to some National Geographic photographers about it. Eventually I want to upgrade my gear. These days when I have a free hour or two, I watch some courses about post-processing and mobile photography.

KeepSnap: What professional literature can you recommend to our readers?

Ivan Adamidis: There is a great book by Rudolf Arnheim called “Art and Visual Perception” and the “Model: a Book on the Problems of Posing” by William Mortensen. Also, I’d recommend to watch documentaries on photography and photographers. There’s a documentary series by BBC “The Genius of Photography”, there is a documentary about Annie Leibovitz “Life through a Lens”, there is an amazing new documentary about Sebastião Salgado “The Salt of the Earth” by Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and Wim Wenders.

KeepSnap: And the last thing. What do you think about KeepSnap’s idea and is there something that you would like to tell to KeepSnap’s photographers that will make their professional life easier and help them improve their photography quicker and make fewer mistakes?

Ivan Adamidis: I think it’s a brilliant idea. And surely it is a great instrument for amateur photographers to monetise their hobby. What would I say to photographers in order for them to improve and make fewer mistakes? Make more mistakes, guys! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It’s a part of the plan! The more you move, the more you make things happen, the more you improve. Only those who do nothing make no mistakes.

KeepSnap: Ivan, thanks a lot for your time, good vibe, and awesome answers. It was great to have you with us in KeepSnap blog. Good luck!

Ivan Adamidis: Thank you! It was a pleasure being here with you! I hope that your readers find our chat inspiring. Wish your project to grow even bigger!

Feel inspired? Sign up as an independent photographer with KeepSnap right now, go out to snap people, use our platform to sell your photos, and earn at least 70% of the photo value. Earning your living with your passion is really easy. And completely free for photographers.