Another side of Nikos Alia­gas

The French-Greek TV host has for years been moon­light­ing as a pho­tog­ra­pher to the stars

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY DIM­ITRIS RIGOPOULOS *

French-Greek jour­nal­ist and en­ter­tainer Nikos Alia­gas has, to date, been largely over­looked in Greece as a skilled pho­tog­ra­pher. How­ever, the celebrity host has been fas­ci­nated with pho­tog­ra­phy since child­hood and last year held a show at the Concierg­erie venue in Paris ti­tled “Body & Soul.”

“Be­lieve it or not, from the age of 10 I was as con­cerned as I am today with the is­sue of time, about how to cap­ture a mo­ment,” says Alia­gas, who is known in France for his in­ter­views as well as his por- traits of world-fa­mous stars.

His love of black-and-white pho­tog­ra­phy be­gan in his teens, when he started tak­ing an in­ter­est in the works of Josef Koudelka and Se­bas­tiao Sal­gado, but Alia­gas’s real eu­reka mo­ment came when he dis­cov­ered David Bai­ley, the pho­tog­ra­pher who cap­tured the “Swing­ing Lon­don” of the 1960s.

“The first time I saw a pho­to­graph by Bai­ley – I think it was the Rolling Stones – I was blown away,” he says. “What I love most about his work is the di­men­sion of time. Bai­ley pho­tographed his mod­els again and again decades apart.”

Back in De­cem­ber, Alia­gas pho­tographed screen vet­eran Jack Ni­chol­son, mak­ing a fas­ci­nat­ing jux­ta­po­si­tion with other por­traits of the star 20 and even 30 years ago. In the past decade he has also built a pow­er­ful port­fo­lio of other well­known per­son­al­i­ties.

“Black-and-white film has a cer­tain mys­tery that I feel is very per­ti­nent. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, I would say pho­tog­ra­phy in­ter- ests me when it brings out the hu­man fac­tor; I’m not in­ter­ested in the glam­our of star­dom. Sure, in the be­gin­ning I may have posed with the star sit­ting for me, but even­tu­ally this ran its course and sim­ply wasn’t enough,” says Alia­gas. “The por­traits we are talk­ing about today started about 10 years ago, and came at around the same time as the so­cial me­dia ex­plo­sion on Flickr, Twit­ter and In­sta­gram. It was and is purely a hobby and has no com­mer­cial di­men­sion.”

Alia­gas ad­mits that many of his sub­jects were hes­i­tant to pose for him at first, mainly be­cause they knew him as a tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity.

“I man­aged to gain their trust and they un­der­stood that I would not of­fend or ex­ploit them. I am a good lis­tener and let them talk, open up. I ask them about their lives but I do not gos­sip,” he says. “I usu­ally ask them to look in the mir­ror in the dress­ing room and ask them what they see. This makes them more in­tro­spec­tive, more ready to risk some­thing less con­ven­tional. The im­por­tant thing is to help them feel safe. When they feel safe, they talk, they let go.”

With time, the pre­sen­ter known for his peo­ple skills and tact ac­quired a rep­u­ta­tion and earned the star in­dus­try’s trust. This even­tu­ally led to a steady col­lab­o­ra­tion with French magazine Paris Match, where Alia­gas now has a weekly column that in­cludes a black-and-white por­trait and a brief story about the sub­ject.

His pow­er­ful but seem­ingly re­laxed shots be­lie the in­ten­sity of the ex­pe­ri­ence. “What the pub­lic doesn’t know is how quickly these shoots hap­pen; we’re talk­ing about two or three shots at most,” he says. “How­ever, I con­fess that I have reached the point where I am more stressed about tak­ing the pic­ture cor­rectly than the in­ter­view it­self, which is my ac­tual job.”

Today, his port­fo­lio numbers thou­sands of por­traits; it is not lim­ited to stars, but also in­cludes or­di­nary peo­ple. * This ar­ti­cle first ap­peared in K, Kathimerini’s Sun­day sup­ple­ment. ‘Amer­i­can Flag (pink twins)’ (2014) is one of the works on dis­play at the mu­seum. The ‘New Hori­zons’ ex­hi­bi­tion has been set up in themes, al­low­ing for di­a­logues to be struck up be­tween the works, even though they may be from dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions.

Nikos Alia­gas is seen shoot­ing a por­trait of French ac­tor and film­maker Ger­ard Depar­dieu.

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