Who is Nicolas Karakatsanis?

‘Photography is my emotional outlet. I tend to have difficulties to express my emotions in my everyday life, which is why I use my photos to express my feelings. They are moments in time, shot very intuitively. I never leave the house with the idea, ‘Today I’m going to take this type of photo’. That doesn’t work for me, that is too deliberate. I want to capture a real emotion.’ 

PORTRAIT
 ‘When I take of a photo of somebody I prefer to do it when she or he doesn't realise it. Because otherwise they will pose anyway, whether consciously or subconsciously. Even when they are aware of me and my camera I simply wait until they are fed up of me and then I press the button. I don’t care if someone has a pretty face or nice eyes; I am looking for something more universal, something iconic. The easiest model, I think, is someone who is having a smoke in a corner, looking bored. The drama of everyday life.’ 'Nor will I ever orchestrate a photo, or force somebody to adopt a certain pose. It has to be a candid moment. I may tweak the photo aesthetically afterwards, to emphasise the drama a little more, but that’s all.’

PAINTING

 ‘I like brown, golden hues; that warm glow which is so typical of the paintings of Caravaggio, Permeke and Borremans. This dark, muted atmosphere also ensures that people sometimes have to search a little longer to see what is exactly going on in the photo and I like that. Just don’t call it sepia, because that drives me mad...’ ‘I also often take photos of paintings, mostly of lesser known works. And then I process them in the same way as with portraits: I use a tilt shift, or darken the photo or highlight a specific detail. I’m not interested in the name of the painter, or what he wanted to express. My photo translates what I felt when I took the photo.’

ARCHITECTURE 
‘There is something very lonely about architecture. Especially when they did not look at the bigger picture when building something, but simply juxtaposed elements: we need a door here, a corridor there, a floor here... In some cases the result is an unexpected geometry, which I just happen to notice. A lost moment. And even though a piece of concrete is something purely functional, to be walked on, I can sense a certain emotion in it, some sort of loneliness.'

HUMOUR
‘This loneliness seems to be a regular theme in my work: one individual vis-à-vis a greater whole. But I also try to inject a sense of humour in my photos, without taking ‘funny’ photos. Just look at the black man in the desert, whose head I have darkened even more. You’ve got to admit that this photo is strange? I continuously encounter such absurd and impossible situations in advertising. I could have taken a frontal photo, I suppose, but then you would have seen the entire set behind him, and that doesn’t fascinate me. Now I hope that you, the onlooker, will think, ‘Yes, but what IS it?’

SUGGESTION
 ‘At my previous exhibition I had put up a photo that people had a hard time deciphering: a hand in a cloud of smoke, a photo which I happened to take on a film set. They thought it had been taken under water: ‘How did you do it?’ I prefer not to answer this question because that’s how you destroy a photo’s charisma. Just enjoy what you see – or what you think you see. Suggestion is a powerful tool, in photography and in film. I like this kind of pared down, simple imagery, which elicits a story, or at least a question.

THE LEICA ELITE
 ‘I hated the whole Leica thing for quite some time. To me Leica was not about photography, but about image. A brand for smart people, who need to have the best of the best and who won’t hesitate to pay 10,000 euros for a lens. This is ridiculous, especially if nine of out the ten Leica photos you see are plain shit.’ 'But recently I happened to find a lens in my closet: it was a Leica, I had no idea. I started shooting with it, and the crispness of the image... It really dawned on me then. Suddenly I understood why people buy this stuff. And currently I can’t think of anything better than the lack of focus of a Leica lens. I am even thinking of selling all my other stuff, and only working with these lenses.’

BLACK AND WHITE
 ‘In the past I never felt an affinity with black and white. Black and white to me represented a boring, old-fashioned approach to photography. I thought it was too easy: if you don’t have any colour in your photo you don’t have to take it into account either.’ ‘But in the last few months I have been taking more black and white photos. And it's all because I bought a new camera: the colours sucked, so I thought, ‘I can’t do anything with this.’ But it had a really nice, filmic grain, especially in black and white. And the more photos I took, the more I had to admit, ‘Black and white does work’. It‘s not up to me to say whether they are nice pictures, but I think they do look better in black and white.

PHOTO versus FILM
‘In a sense, photography is a response to my work as a camera man. I often have a sense of déjà-vu with film, especially with advertising. Often the director merely wants to reproduce something that he saw elsewhere. Luckily things are gradually changing: I feel as if these days people request me because of my style and not because I can push a button. I can do my work without too many compromises, which is nice. But in photography I’m really free and I can quietly study ‘my thing', whatever it is. “It’s funny: People mainly know me as a camera man, while I find photography infinitely more exciting to be fair. It is more satisfying. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t live without film: as a camera man you get to travel to places which you never would have dreamt of visiting and I still think it's thrilling to start on a new object. But don’t ask me which films I’ve made in the last two years because I don’t remember myself. No, if you really want to know who I am, then you need to look at my photos.'

Alice Gallery -