Capturing life in the city
‘Daily life is part of world history and just as important to document as world news’, states LUMIX Ambassador Daimon Xanthopoulos. This Amsterdam-based, multi-award winning documentary photographer and filmmaker uses the full-frame LUMIX S cameras for his storytelling work and explores life on the streets of Amsterdam with the LUMIX S5.
Photographing daily life in the city is something he does often when working in new countries. ‘When I work somewhere I don’t know that well yet, the first thing I do is walk around the streets and markets and try to capture a sense of that society with my camera. This is also where I discover unique stories and connect with the subjects I want to capture. It gives you a sense as a photographer about life and culture in places you’re going to cover.’ The Covid pandemic restricted all travel and a lot of Daimon’s ongoing projects had to be put on hold because the locations became inaccessible. ‘I suddenly had a lot more time to explore my own city and country and seek stories closer to home.
Documenting how people were dealing with the lockdowns and photographing on the streets was a lot of fun, as I was freed from the pressure of having to create a specific story, and could focus on random moments or the composition.’ City life is dramatically different because of Covid: normally, hundreds of thousands of tourists criss-cross Amsterdam on a daily basis. Over the past few years I’ve seen how tourism has affected the lives of people who actually reside in the city. But at the start of the Covid pandemic, residents explored their cities in new ways and enjoyed their uncrowded beauty. The empty streets are also history-in-the-making and you never know which images will prove to be significant in the future.’
When Daimon works on assignments he takes high-resolution photos with his LUMIX S1 and S1R and films on his LUMIX S1H, using L-mount Panasonic, Leica and Sigma lenses. ‘They’re great cameras to work with and I’m impressed by the wide range of lenses I can natively use with them. They’re so versatile and reliable and I love the fact that I can change the camera body for a more specialised function. The S5 is a new addition to this already very complete line-up. The LUMIX S1 is my go-to camera because of its low-light performance, perfect video features and excellent resolution. Having said that, the S5 has all these S1 features, but in a smaller, lighter housing, making it ideal as a carry-along camera. Because the S5 works quickly and is so responsive, it’s perfect for photographing city life or when I want to be less visible as a photographer. The LUMIX S5 is an absolute performer that easily compares with the other LUMIX S-system cameras.’ ‘For this project I used different lens combinations on different days.
The LUMIX S 20-60mm is a great all-round lens as it covers almost all interesting focal lengths with decent aperture values and is small, so a great combo with the S5. Also, the Sigma DG DN series (24mm, 35mm, 60mm), designed for the L-mount, are a great trio, as they are small but excellent primes. It’s really handy that I can use lenses made by different manufacturers without having to use weird adapters. Great photography or film is not just made by great cameras: I see a camera as an instrument, one that I consciously choose to create the images, and building up a connection with it makes it a partner in the creative process. So, in that sense, the right camera and lens are very important and can make a huge difference, because when it matters the most I don’t want to have to think about what I’m going to do with my camera. It all has to happen intuitively and not distract me. The LUMIX S1, S1R and S1H do exactly that, and the new compact LUMIX S5 is no different: it’s a fun and reliable camera to use on a daily basis and maybe the perfect camera to capture life in the city.’
Since the year 2000, Daimon Xanthopoulos has dedicated himself to documenting stories he believes need to be told. Photography is a unique way to communicate because it’s not bound by language, and this allows him to focus on social issues, injustice and human rights, as well as the plight of people, especially children, in the aftermath of conflict. The photos can be disturbing, bearing witness, often eliciting an emotional response, but at the same time they can be artistically beautiful. “In my work,” he explains, “I always try to combine these elements and so connect people to the themes I visualize.”