Hospitality industry executive Christos Ditoras is used to being at a high-end hotel surrounded by people. Lockdown unleashed a new vision of his city and himself.
Suddenly our busy city went quiet, and still. For many, the initial instinct is to feel numb, panicked, confused. As humans, and thus creatures built to adapt, the next phase was to re-emerge from what we considered normality and focus our attention elsewhere. As an amateur photographer since his youth, Christos Ditoras turned his attention on the suddenly silent urban landscape where he has spent so many years of his life and career. He took to the streets and photographed places he had been many times before but was now seeing it in a completely new light. Here he talks about his experience and what led him to passionately create this photo project.
By Christos Ditoras
I spent my childhood in Corfu and Parga. In 2010 I had a small camera – the old ones that are only 4.0 megapixels – and started taking photos of Parga that I uploaded to a Facebook page. The photos and page became a big success, which inspired me to pursue photography. I created a Flickr account, bought a better camera, and started photographing more seriously. In 2015 I followed a 90-hour seminar in photography at Orama Photography Studies, after which I participated in an exhibition and presented photos on Urban Minimalism. From 2015 and until now I take pictures all the time, especially of landscapes, buildings and alleys that I love to discover around the city.
I’m really interested in neuroscience and psychology and follow various seminars on these topics, such as the Introduction to Psychology course at Yale through Coursera, that I’m currently doing online.
I’m really inspired by social media because it’s what helped me communicate my photos with the world. I think it’s amazing how with just one click people can share their thoughts and visions with the world. Also, the Internet played a big role in adapting to lockdown as it meant I could stay close and connected to family and friends.
My daily work involves being around a lot of people and being actively busy. In the first two to three days of lockdown, I felt like I was an actor in a movie, not living in real life. I was suddenly alone at home all day. Soon I began to go jogging, taking online courses and of course enjoying walks around the city to take photographs.
Lockdown in Athens created three new feelings in me: the sense of having free time, the discovery of the city with empty streets, and the need to tap deeper into my creativity.
Creativity is probably one of the most important things a human can experience. It has healing power; engaging in creative behaviours and pursuits is proven to improve brain function and work as a stress-buster. I believe that lockdown, globally probably prompted one of the greatest periods of creativity.
I recall a Picasso quote in which he said: “All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” We all have so many talents and I think it’s vital to discover them. Photography is something I discovered accidentally, and probably there are other talents I need to seek out within myself along the way. We should all take advantage of our creative talents so that we can experience life more fully. I cannot call myself an artist, I only do what I do as a way of expressing myself and overcoming stress.
Lockdown helped me – and I’m sure others too – realise just how beautiful Athens really is. How important it is for us to love and respect it, care for it – like keeping things clean – and really look at it. I realised how spectacular some buildings, streets, and other locations are. Usually, we walk around without even really noticing all that we pass.
It’s impossible to predict how lockdown will affect us in the long run. I think because of lockdown our senses were refocused to become more attentive. Certainly, some people go back not exactly how they were before the experience, but I think others really change forever because of it. The important thing is to keep adapting and looking out for the beauty around us.
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