Page 1

Magnum in Istanbul: A CHAT WITH Nikos Economopoulos


ikos Economopoulos, a Greek member of the legendary Magnum photo agency, first came to Istanbul as a photographer to better understand a country and a culture that were held in a negative light in his native country. What he discovered, however, was a kind of second home. Julius Motal caught up with Economopoulos ahead of his Istanbul workshop last month to talk about Turkey, his work and switching to color photography. 30 July 2015

What brought you to Turkey originally? When I came here the first time, around ’85, it was to find something very interesting to do for the next years. It felt very nice here. It felt like home in a way, but 30 years before. At that time, Turkey was a not like now. I came many times here and traveled a lot by car. It was like finding my childhood again.

like 100 portfolios, and I had to select 15. Then they follow me two times a month for a year, and they’re supposed to photograph immigrants in Athens. They show me the results; I edit them and select the final photographs for a book and an exhibition. That was the first time I did something like this. From there came the idea to do my own workshops.

Did you come here as a photographer? I had read that you were a journalist first. I came and traveled around as a photographer, only to take photographs. Not for other things. Not for tourism. Not for journalism. Just photography.

Do you think your teaching style has changed over the years? In the beginning, I was a little bit more of a critic to the people. Now, I’m critic, but in the same time, I don’t start from the negative part. In the beginning, I thought, “Say the bad things, but after slowly find the good things.” Now, I do the contrary. Everybody has something good, everybody. If you start from that, they develop themselves because they feel more confident. I think it’s good to start with the positive stuff.

What made the switch for you from journalism to photography? Journalism was just a profession. When I found photography, I felt that’s what I wanted to do. Photography was something much more personal. When I started to do that, I remained a journalist for another 10 years before I quit everything.

©Nikos Economopoulos/ Magnum Photos, Istanbul, 2000 ©Nikos Economopoulos/ Magnum Photos, Turkey 1988

What has being a part of Magnum been like? Magnum is a good place to be. You have a feeling that you are free to do what you want. For me, doing assignments never was a nice thing. You’ve said you like to be surprised by what’s around you. Yeah, in a way, and at the same time I don’t like to be anxious because the picture editor wants something and I want something else. So surviving without doing a lot of compromises was perfect for me, you know. And when I found this way to do workshops, I was so happy. When did that start? That started in 2007. The British Council in Athens asked publicly for young photographers from 20 to 30 to send their portfolio to them. They showed me something

Do you have any favorite spots during your workshops in Istanbul? Yeah, many. The weekends I like being very close to the sea, from Eminönü to Kumkapı. People there do a lot of things. Of course, I like Balat and Fatih, these traditional parts. There are something like ten places I suggest my students go. How has the city changed over the years that you’ve been coming here? When I came here the first time, it was a very Turkish city, very Turkish. Now, it’s much more international, and you can see it in the shops, you can see it in the restaurants, everywhere. At that time, there were only Turkish restaurants, you know, very small Turkish restaurants, very cheap, and now, you can find everything. The way of life has become very international. Back then, it was like Fatih. All Istanbul was like this. I don’t know if it’s better. But the city still keeps something

Nikos Economopoulos ©Ira Stepanuk, Istanbul 2012

interesting. I think Istanbul is a little bit like New York. It’s a big city, and at the same time, you have a place for you here. Not many big cities are like this. I don’t know if you can see that, but for a foreigner arriving in New York, you feel that there is a place for you. No problem. You can live there. Doesn’t happen in Paris or in London. After all those years doing black and white photography, you recently jumped to color. What made you make the switch? I consider myself a black and white photographer. I never thought that color could be interesting for me. I did a charity assignment in Kenya, which was the first time I used digital and color. In the past when I was trying to do color, I was never happy with the results. With digital, it was so easy from the beginning, and the result was so good. When I photograph in black and white, I know I can have good pictures, so it’s a little bit boring. It’s like after being with a woman for 30 years, you meet someone younger. It’s another way of seeing things. The color was something new that awoke my curiosity. I feel very much in the beginning with color. I don’t feel that I know much, so I have to find out. Nikos Economopoulos's next workshop in Istanbul will be held between August 26 - September 2. For more information, go to

July 2015 31

Profile for Julius Motal

Magnum in Istabul: A Chat with Nikos Economopoulos  

Interview with Magnum photographer Nikos Economopoulos about his work in Turkey for Time Out Istanbul in English.

Magnum in Istabul: A Chat with Nikos Economopoulos  

Interview with Magnum photographer Nikos Economopoulos about his work in Turkey for Time Out Istanbul in English.