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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 27 September 2014
16 SATURDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 2014 Through Angelos Angelos Giotopoulos has called Athens home for a decade: ten tumultuous years that began with the optimism of the Olympics followed by the uncertainty of the crisis. Michael Sweet paints a picture of the Melbourne-born photographer and filmmaker I've skyped Angelos Giotopoulos just as he's about to head off to a meeting downtown for his next project. "It's hush hush - a friend's baby," says Angelos, "a thriller, but I can't say too much," he adds mysteriously. But then this creative Aussie Athenian is always up to something new. It'll be his second foray into film making. Better known for his powerful documentary photography, his first film, made earlier this year, was a poetic reflection on the Athens suburb of Psiri. Its title, Melanthiou - a sunny street for shady people, is the perfect tagline for what it portrays - a gentle slice of life in inner-city Athens - but it also hints at something deeper - Giotopoulos' playful inquiring nature and his work as a compelling storyteller through the lens. Born in 1977, the youngest of two brothers, Angelos grew up in Melbourne, "like any other Greek Aussie, a blue collar home, and living in the suburbs". Mulgrave was his stomping ground, his father (from Larissa) a baker, and mother (from Mytiline), a seamstress. "Both my parents worked like champs 'to give us a better life', as they kept telling us, and in essence, they provided that," says Angelos. "Our generation was a fortunate one." In 1986 the family moved to Greece, but didn't stick. A year later he found himself back in Victoria. While teachers praised his potential, Angelos admits he wasn't a model pupil. "I used to go to school to see my mates, really, I didn't take it too seriously; I was one of the smart arses." Though not particularly academically motivated, an artistic flair began to filter through. He drew. Secondary college followed, after which he took a sports therapy course enabling him to work as a therapist. A string of odd jobs came and went. A move to Byron Bay for a year saw him taking photos for the local rag - the Byron Shire News, but soon the metropolis was calling him home. Back in Melbourne, Angelos reconnected with his mates, who happened to be studying photography at RMIT. "I tried to get in some lectures," says Angelos, "but I'd get kicked out, so I'd hang out with the dude in control of giving out equipment to the students." "I was shooting for myself at that stage - a sort of rogue photographer." Angelos' informal relationship with RMIT proved increasingly productive. Allowed to include some of his prints as part of a students' show, it was there he would sell his first photograph - a landscape of Half Moon Bay at Black Rock, with the buyer being the noted Melbourne artist Richard Morrison. After this first taste of success, Angelos combined shooting with work in one of Melbourne's great industries - coffee. "I worked freelance for a few magazines while being a coffee delivery boy, and in doing so I learned so much about Melbourne - the ins and outs of the culture. "It's amazing what a bit of coffee bean can offer you and who you can meet. It's the same as the camera. It grants you access to places - an ID to go practically anywhere." And anywhere - away from Australia - was where Angelos was headed. By the early 2000s the streets of the Victorian capital had become all too familiar. There was another world out there and Giotopoulos wanted to experience it. The time had come 'to do Europe'. "I didn't really 'move' to Greece," he says. "I arrived in Athens in 2004 as a starting point for a 'Euro trek', but I had a one way ticket." As the Olympic Games returned triumphantly to their place of birth, Angelos and a mate landed a job with the biggest sporting extravaganza in the world - part of a team helping set up a merchandise superstore near the Olympic village. It was a means to an end. "It was about making coin for future unplanned endeavours," says Angelos. The Olympics - and the euphoria that arrived with it - came and went. Meanwhile, the Greek capital was now home to Angelos and soon he was plying his trade as a freelance photographer - pitching photo stories to Athens-based magazines with ever greater success. "I just kept running around and selling to the domestic industry, then slowly Dancer Clementine Beluy performs Bamboo Blues by world-renowned choreographer Pina Bausch.
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