DIALOGUES: In the Shadow of a Prime Minister - November 2019

Standout photographs, the limits of photography as a medium, and the peculiar nature of the work of a photographer who is “in the shadow of a Prime Minister” came to the foreground at the latest Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) DIALOGUES discussion. Dimitris Papamitsos and Andrea Bonetti, the personal photographers, respectively, of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and former Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition Alexis Tsipras, talked about the challenges of their work and the power of images. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mistotakis honored the event with his presence. The event took place on Wednesday, November 27, at the Irene Papas Athens School at 52 Piraeus Street in Athens.

Greece has a lot of… juice. There is a great deal of motivation for getting involved in photojournalism. There is always something interesting to cover here! My profession is very important for me, because I believe that if something is to change for the better, it can only happen through politics. If there is the will, everything can change, even within a single day,” said Andrea Bonetti, who has been following former Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition Alexis Tsipras since 2014. Bonetti was born in Switzerland and studied biology. He has a passion for travel photography and spoke about his life as the personal photographer of Alexis Tsipras, sharing his favorite photographs with the audience.

Dimitris Papamitsos, personal photographer of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, started working as a photojournalist while he was still a student. His first meeting with the Prime Minister took place in 2016 during the New Democracy party’s internal elections. Since then, he has been Mr. Mitsotakis’s personal photographer, capturing exceptional shots of the Prime Minister. “Through my profession, I feel as though I am recording my country’s modern history. Wherever I am, I try to focus on people, take portraits, and highlight moments, many times outside the ‘agenda.’ The profession of photographer is evolving rapidly through new technologies and through the younger generations who are getting involved in it. It has evolved significantly.”

Co-President of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Andreas Dracopoulos extended a written greeting, thanking both the Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and the Leader of the Opposition, Alexis Tsipras, for their participation in the DIALOGUES event. He also thanked the members of the audience, who strengthen the institution of public discourse by joining the DIALOGUES events. “We live in an environment, both domestically and globally, of extreme polarization,” he said, “polarization that does not lead to pleasant results and which must be confronted primarily through continuous communication and dialogue, regardless of how easy or difficult the topic is. I would say, with high confidence, that today’s topic falls into the category of ‘easy!’”

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was present at the event, and commented during the Q &A, “I would like to congratulate you for this extremely interesting event. It was very enlightening for me to hear Andrea’s outlook on how he perceived his role as Alexis Tsipras’ personal photographer. For me, the most interesting photos are the ones that usually never get published, which reveal more about the person, about their emotional world, photos that show us tired, sweaty, confused, a state not very uncommon for a public person. At the end of the day, today there is no such thing as a protected public image. When each of us has a smartphone and can shoot a video, the idea of controlling image as we knew it from the previous generation of politicians does not exist. So, let’s make sure that the photos we present are true and beautiful. I have great respect for your work and the work of all photojournalists. It takes a lot of work for the public to see the good results it does.”

Leader of the Opposition Alexis Tsipras extended a written greeting, saying, “I could use a cliché and say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but a picture is so much more. It is emotions, tension, anxiety, joy, sadness, expectation. It is energy, power, or fatigue. It is revealing or communicative, it is the moment that defines you, the moment that captures what is permanently recorded and defines memory. It is, in one sense, a recording of history. This is what photographers do: they tirelessly capture these moments. That is the job of Andrea and Dimitris, your guests today, who will recount these special moments in a way very different from what we are used to. In yet another extremely interesting event in the Stavros Niarchos Foundation DIALOGUES series, which unfortunately I cannot attend in person, due to my obligations abroad, the two photographers leave the ‘shadow of the Prime Minister’ and enter the frame. I am certain that, even in front of the cameras, they will offer us their most beautiful pictures.”

Athens Photo World, an initiative made possible through the support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, is a cultural event centered on photojournalism and its practitioners.
The DIALOGUES will convene again on December 18 for a discussion on “YouTube: its own parallel universe” and a special party, celebrating two years of productive DIALOGUES.

The DIALOGUES are curated and moderated by Anna-Kynthia Bousdoukou.

 

Listen to the extracted audio below: