A Personal View of a National Crisis
Although he may now be known for his stunning and imaginative reportage photography, Greek photographer Menelaos Myrillas actually started his career as a portrait photographer.
© Menelaos Myrillas | Sony α9 | FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS | 1/500s @ f/4.0, ISO 800
It was at the turn of the decade, when the financial crisis in Greece started to take hold, that the decadence of the celebrity and fashion worlds started to sit uncomfortably with Menelaos, and ultimately led him into the world of photojournalism.
© Menelaos Myrillas | Sony α9 | FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | 1/320s @ f/2.8, ISO 200
“Lifestyle started to bother me to be honest,” he explains. “I don’t have anything against it, but when your country is in such a mess...well, I was feeling a little bit awkward taking such images. That’s when I started to really get into photojournalism, to document what was happening around me.”
© Menelaos Myrillas | Sony α9 | FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS | 1/80s @ f/18, ISO 2000
One of the things that makes Menelaos’ images different is that he is open about giving his opinion through his photography.
“I think good photography showcases the photographer’s personal view,” he tells us. “You will hear people talk about just documenting and being neutral, but I don’t believe in neutrality, especially when it comes to a story in your home country. If you go to a war zone you will be there with someone who has taken you there, who is from one of the two sides, so you will always just be covering things from one side. So I’m unsure how objective reportage photography can ever be, but I’m not afraid to say that I’m not neutral at all!”
© Menelaos Myrillas | Sony α9 | FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS | 1/250s @ f/4.0, ISO 6400
Along with his unique angles, Menelaos also has a unconventional approach to how he actually takes his images. Rather than having two cameras with different lenses on, which is the standard practice for most photojournalists, he tends to only use one camera at a time. Instead, he uses lens changes as an opportunity to give himself those few seconds to think. “I like to give myself a breather when I change lenses, I know it isn’t very ‘photojournalism’, but it gives me a moment to reflect.”
© Menelaos Myrillas | Sony α9 | FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS | 1/60s @ f/4.0, ISO 6400
As a result, you will usually find the FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM or 24-70mm f/4 ZA attached to Menelaos’ Sony α9, with the FE 70-200mm f/4 G ready and waiting by his side. This range of 24-200mm covers most of what he needs to take his images.
This time he uses to think means there is always a deeper meaning to Menelaos’ photos, which are often personal to him, and require some context and understanding of the larger story. One such image depicts a politician masked by scorched brown leaves as he walks through some bushes.
© Menelaos Myrillas | Sony α9 | FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS | 1/250s @ f/8.0, ISO 100
“I have a photo of the leader of the opposition party, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, at a ceremony to mark the start of the school year, where you can’t see his face. Just a few months earlier, over 100 people had been burnt in the wildfires in the area this was taken. There is a saying in Greece that when you enter political office you ‘receive the burned earth’, so that is what I had in mind when I took the image. Because every politician does this, I wanted to make it general and didn’t show his face.”
It was his kit which really helped him to capture such a unique image. “It would have been a lot harder to take this image without my α9, because of the amazing way that it locks focus. It’s totally changed the way that I photograph people when they are walking or running, as I don’t have to follow them anymore. Because the α9 has up to 20fps available, I know that I’ll get the exact frame that I need. In this instance I saw where he was going to enter the frame, I pressed the Eye AF button to lock on to his eye and then his face and then I waited. The moment I saw him entering the frame I kept the shutter button held down, knowing I would get the frame I wanted in focus.”
© Menelaos Myrillas | Sony α9 | FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS | 1/160s @ f/4.0, ISO 2500
One of the most important things about the α9 for Menelaos is the electronic viewfinder, meaning he doesn’t have to keep looking back on the screen like he used to with his DSLR camera.
“I don’t need to look back at the images I have shot,” he says, “I know I can trust the exposure and the focusing of the camera and concentrate on my images. The camera just makes it easier so that I can focus on my idea for an image and whether I can make it work – meaning my attention can stay on the message I want to tell.”