Recently I saw that there was an open call for a local photography contest. The subject was one of Thessaloniki’s oldest buildings, called Bensousan Han (about 200 years old). It used to be a han, think of it as a bed-and-breakfast, only you could bring your horse too. Recently the building has been given a new life as a cultural space, where many of the city’s events take place. I first visited some years ago to see a theatrical play and instantly fell in love, wishing I could someday make a photoshoot there.
So, when I read about the contest, I jumped with excitement! Photographers were invited to participate in the contest by organizing a half-hour photoshoot anywhere inside the building. Each photographer could submit one picture to the contest. All the pictures will be exhibited inside the building on December 14th, when the names of the winners will also be announced.
I spent a couple of days trying to come up with an idea that could be easily executed in half an hour but also be relevant to the buildings character as much as possible. I asked Katerina, who is an actress I played with during my theater days, to come model for me and she excitedly said yes. So, on the day of the photoshoot we met a bit early to discuss the idea and talk about my photoshoot process, so we could make the most out of those precious thirty minutes.
Katerina really rose to the occasion and immediately got into character and nailed her pose (she is a great actress after all), so my job was fairly easy. My original idea changed as I started to shoot and I decided to go with what made more sense in terms of mood and colour.
I spent quite some time editing it and of course I would have loved it if I had another thirty minutes for the shoot, but on the other hand I enjoyed the challenge and the opportunity. I even had about five minutes get a couple more shots with Katerina, just for fun!
I am really looking forward to the exhibition!
UPDATE: I am so honoured that my photo won the first place! A big thank you to the jurors for picking me and to the sponsors for their nice gifts!
https://i0.wp.com/nickiupstairs.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/dreams-expand.jpg?fit=1000%2C1000&ssl=110001000Nicki Panouhttps://nickiupstairs.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/logo2019_main.jpgNicki Panou2018-12-13 11:01:562019-10-05 00:09:53photoshoot at Bensousan Han and exhibition
Almost three years ago I received a message from Marc, asking me if I could make a cover photo for his new music album that was in the works. Marc had seen my work for 2L8’s “the answer” and was particularly fond of it, so we tried to come up with a similar concept.
A lot of messages were exchanged for brainstorming ideas and when we decided we had a concept we liked, it was time for shooting. I took my model, my assistant (a.k.a. husband) and my then 5 month old daugher and we headed to the abandoned factories area where we had also shot “the answer”.
Marc and I exchanged a lot more messages during post-processing, so that I could achieve the exact mood he had envisioned. Finally we had a picture that we both liked. Only I had to keep it in the drawer, until the album’s release… Well, that time has come, so I can finally share this with you!
The album’s official release for “Traces of You” is October 19th and you can visit The Flares’ website to view more info and pre-order.
https://i2.wp.com/nickiupstairs.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/the-quest-1000.jpg?fit=1000%2C1000&ssl=110001000Nicki Panouhttps://nickiupstairs.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/logo2019_main.jpgNicki Panou2018-09-22 19:24:472019-10-05 00:13:16Flares-"Traces of you" cd cover photo
It feels like ages since I last uploaded a new picture, so this week I was determined to make time and edit as many as I could. It was not an easy task, since the last couple of weeks I have been swamped at work, I had to prepare prints for two exhibitions and also I had to start looking for a new home to move into. It’s been a really busy month for me so far and it has also been a bizzare combination of positive and negative situations. All in all, I feel that I’m in good place with my photography right now, I am really anxious to edit all the pictures I took during the summer and I can’t wait to shoot even more.
I started editing my seashell related concepts first, since they are closely related to summer, which is now leaving us. I thought it was best to publish these before the weather got colder, because I thought it would seem irrelevant to release them later.
While I was on vacation I wanted to make the best out of all my free time so I shot like crazy. During my stay at my hometown, I decided to use my big sister as a model, in a photoshoot including two beautiful big seashells from the Carribean. My sister spent some time working in Guadeloupe as a doctor, and we bought the seashells when we were visiting her. I liked that she somehow had a connection with them. We did the photoshoot in a nice beach that is close to my hometown. After we enjoyed a nice swim, we moved towards a more secluded part of the beach, together with all the necessary equipment, clothes and of course the seashells. Unfortunately my remote was broken at the time, so there was a lot of running back and forth for me. My sis accepted all my strange requests, she changed into two different dresses, wore a long wig and stood in the water with a blindfold on. I managed to shoot both the pictures I had planned and they turned out like I had imagined them, so I am quite pleased.
The last picture was taken during my holiday in Chalkidiki. We stayed there with my boyfriend for five days and had the chance to really empty our minds and get some rest. The beaches were lovely and I just had to take advantage of that. My remote was still broken so my boyfriend was responsible of pressing the button at my request, while I was posing. We stayed at the beach until the sun went down so I could get the kind of light I wanted. I lied on a part of the beach which was right next to the stairs that people used to come and go, so I received a lot of strange looks. I had brought the seashells with me, because I really wanted to do something with them. I usually keep them in two little frames in my home. I also used them for one more shoot, but it is more complicated so it won’t be ready for upload for quite some time.
This week I am off to Kythera to attend my exhibition, so when I get back I suppose that I will have stories to tell and pictures to show! You can keep an eye for updates on my facebook page and instagram!
“Burn Bag” is a new 4 track EP by Ledge Fortcher. Following the disbandment of the full line-up, Ledge returns to the stripped down sounds of a sole electric guitar and vocals. Recorded live, mixed and mastered by Konstantinos Fragkopoulos at Shellac Recordings studio, “Burn Bag” marks the departure from the noise fueled, alternative, grunge sound to much more minimal soundscapes. Nicki from Nicki Upstairs Fine Art Photography did the photo shooting/editing of the EP cover, enriching the initial photo concept with ideas and solutions, and carrying it through to its realization. So, it ‘s up to you, fellow friends and voyagers to listen, share and comment!
Exciting news everyone! As you might have guessed already, I had the honour of shooting the cover for the new EP by Ledge Fortcher, a local rock band! A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by the band’s frontman, who happened to see some of my pictures on facebook. He asked if I was interested in shooting the cover for their new EP and shared his ideas about the concept. Needless to say I was over the top excited, so we decided to meet so we could talk it over.
When we met he explained to me what his main concept was, but he didn’t have all the specific details figured out, so we tried to come up with ideas together. This was a rather difficult and unprecedented task for me, because up until now I was only realizing my own concepts. I have to admit that helping someone else realize their own concept is a very challenging yet incredibly creative task! I think the hardest thing was that he wanted to keep some of the concept explanations to himself, which I respect, but it made it harder for me to come up with ideas. In the end we managed to form a concept that we both liked and then came the hard part: he wanted it done in maximum two weeks time. Which means we would have to find the location, the props and above all the time to do both the shooting and also the editing. I must add that this happened during a week which was full of thunderstorms, so I had to take that under consideration too. Also I had already planned a mini vacation during the same period, which basically left me with two days for editing. After almost having a panic attack I decided that I could not let something like that stop me.
I proposed that we shoot in a place where I had already been and which was ideal for our concept. It’s inside the same abandoned army camp where I shot “remained“. We set an appointment to visit the place the day before so we could pinpoint the exact location and save us time. I picked wildflowers from around my neighboorhood and hanged them so they could dry and I burned a bunch of newspapers in my fireplace to take pictures of the flames so I could use them later. My boyfriend, who has become my trustworthy assistant, brought the lighter and the fuel can, so we were set to go. We had discussed that the faces of the two figures holding the lighter and the fuel can would be blurred or erased but I proposed the red yarn idea, as I thought it would further strengthen the concept. Luckily my model (the musician himself) agreed to having his head wrapped in yarn in mid August, so we were set to go!
On the day of the shoot I was so nervous that I might forget something, that I brought a checklist with me, which is a good idea when there’s so much going on in a picture. In the end everything went according to plan, my model was very co-operative despite of being forced to kneel and having his head wrapped in yarn on such a warm day! Luckily we were not in a crowded place or people would be really weirded out. Special thanks once again go to my beloved boyfriend/assistant who I had running around, he was a huge help to me that day!
I feel so happy that I was given the opportrunityto shoot this picture and more so that the result was satisfying for both ends. It’s amazing how much a good partnership can inspire and motivate you!
https://i2.wp.com/nickiupstairs.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/burn-bag-1000.jpg?fit=1000%2C1000&ssl=110001000Nicki Panouhttps://nickiupstairs.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/logo2019_main.jpgNicki Panou2014-08-17 13:25:522019-10-05 11:00:46burn bag - the making of Ledge Fortcher's new EP cover
For the past year I have been taking self-portraits almost exclusively. It has been a goal of mine to start shooting other people because I think at some point doing self-portraits can be rather limiting. Although I have to admit, that being both the photographer and the model has its advantages too. When Theodora asked me to take her picture of course I accepted, but right away I started feeling very nervous about it. I had no location in mind, no concept and no idea what kind of image would suit her the most. She didn’t have anything specific in mind either, so it was all on me.
I started to think about what kind of concept would be more suitable for her, because I wanted to create an image that would be somewhat representative of her as a person. I decided to shoot a more “romantic” concept, nothing too dark or creepy. Also, I had to think of something that would let her face be seen, so a bunch of ideas were rejected right away, since I usually don’t care about showing faces. Then I thought that summer is the best time to do a seaside shooting and why not use paperboats as a prop? I had a couple of different ideas about exactly what I would have her do and in the end I decided to have her stand on the shore with a boat in her hands and more boats laying on the shore close to her. Initially I had also imagined a couple boats floating in the waters but, well that did not really work out.
Theodora told me she had this fishnet dress and I thought it would be very fitting for this theme, so I asked her to wear that. My first thought about the boats was to make them out of newspapers, but they would not stand a chance near the water, so I tried making some from a magazine. I didn’t like how they looked though, so I decided to go for plain white paper and Theodora made the coloured ones. I am ashamed to admit it, but this is the first time in my life that I actually learned how to make a paperboat! It’s embarassing, I know!
As for the location, this is a small beach just outside Thessaloniki, in a place called Aggelochori (which means “the village of angels”) and as you can see, there is a lighthouse there. The thing is, when I was thinking of a location for the photoshoot, I decided to go visit the lightouse area and the beaches that are close by. I read about this lighthouse online and saw some pictures and decided that I definately wanted to check the place out because I was sure it would be a great location. You see, not only is there an old lighthouse on that cliff, but there is also an old fortress and a really great view. So on the day of the shoot, we decided to start early, so we woud have enough time to scout the area before sunset. As soon as we got there, I asked for directions to the lighthouse and the answer I got was: ” Oh, you can’t go there, because it’s a navy base and it’s close to the public. Maybe it will open next year!”. Talk about a huge disappointment! Nowhere online did it say anything like this! We headed there anyway, secretly hoping it was all a lie, only to be greeted by a huge sign reading “no entry, all photographs are prohibited”. Well, thanks a lot! It seems that a huge area around the cliff has been closed off by the navy, so there was absolutely no way we could get anywhere near the lighthouse or the fortress. Sadly we returned to the beach, where at least we could see the lighthouse from a distance.
Theodora’s photoshoot was going to be on the beach anyway, so there was no problem there. Having the lighthouse in the backgound was actually not planned, but very welcome! Luckily the sky was cloudy enough to give me the light I wanted, otherwise we would have to wait a couple of hours for the sun to set. I set up my camera, I positioned my model, and I started putting all the boats around her. I think this was the most crowded photoshoot I ever did. There was me, Theodora, a friend of hers and my boyfriend and although they were all really helpful, I was stressed. I almost forgot my ISO setting at 3200 and my focus on auto. Luckily I realised that early enough, otherwise the pictures would have been really destroyed! All in all, it was a good test for me, because I have to learn how to stay focused even when there are more people around than usual. After I had taken all the shots of Theodora that I wanted, I told everyone to throw the boats in the water so I could shoot them. It was a total disaster. Most of the boats sank right away and it just seemed like someone threw their paperwork in the sea. I think it’s better this way, because there would be too many boats everywhere and it might have been confusing.
I wasn’t sure at first about the the beam of light coming from the lighthouse, but come on! What is a lighthouse with no light, right?
It’s time for a new picture, this time featuring my lovely sister, Aggeliki! This one was shot minutes before “pathfinder“, in the exact same spot in the forest near my house, in my village. My hands were itching because I desperataly wanted to shoot in that forest, so as soon as were done with all the Easter celebrations (which bore me tremendously I must admit), I grabbed her and headed to the forest. Luckily we didn’t have to go very far, because our house is literally surrounded with it.
I had no idea what I was going to shoot, except that I knew I wanted to use a big old key that once belonged to my grandfather and has been hanging on our house wall ever since I can remember. And because my model was being shy, she didn’t want to show her face. So I just looked around for inspiration as we wandered, when I noticed a couple of huge rocks covered in moss and I knew they had to be in my picture. I set up my tripod the best I could on the slippery ground, gave my sister the key and tried to come up with a story. I thought of the two rocks as an entrance to another place and I asked my sister to pose as someone who is trying to unlock it. She was dressed in jeans and she had her jacket on because it was rather cold, so all I could do was wrap her with my favorite red sheet, like she was wearing a cape of some sort. It is the same one I used for “the inner tempest“. We tried many poses, none of which I liked. Here’s one of them, where she is holding the key trying to figure out how to use it. Or something like that.
You can see that the pose is somehow akward and you can’t really see the key or understand what is happening. Oh and the sheet is all wrinkled and messy, but hey, nobody’s perfect! I was starting to feel frustated because we were short on time, but then she stood up and said “well what if the key is lying on the rock and I am trying to reach it?”. What a marvellous idea that was! I immediately repositioned my tripod (not an easy thing to do under those circumstances) and finally I was happy with the result! The biggest challenge with this picture was getting rid of all those wrinkles on the sheet and making the key stand out more. I played around trying different methods and I am quite happy with what came up. I used frame expansion to include more scenery and I also made her hair and cape bigger. I thought that made her look more like a fairy tale character. Aggeliki loved it so much, she told me she wants to do more. Maybe we can even get those magnificent sons of hers to pose too, who knows?
The funny story behind this shoot was that at some point I asked Aggeliki to take off her rings and put them in my bag, but when we were done and about to go, she couldn’t find one of them! It is a quite expensive ring, so you can imagine the frustration. We ended up searching the whole area, turning every leaf and luckily I was able to find it after a while, quite far from were the bag was. I have no idea how it got there, but I was very relieved to find it. The ring was important to her, because it is the only piece of jewelry that was salvaged when robbers broke into her house and stole the rest. I wouldn’t bear being responsible for its loss! Not to mention that she would never agree to model for me again!
Here’s a detail of the image, so you can get a better look at the key.