venerdì 21 febbraio 2014


Kostas Balafas was one of the leading Greek exponents of humanist photography both during the war and in the post-war period.
His work was dedicated to ordinary working-class people and, particularly, to the inhabitants of isolated villages in Epirus. 

He was born in 1920 in a village in Epirus Greece.
At the age of 11 went to Athens to work, and study at a night school. It was at this period that he had his first contact with photography. He was working as a clerk in a shop, where his boss received a visit from his brothers from America. The boss sent young Balafas to escort the family for their tour in Athens monuments and help take photos of the whole family with a Kodak camera.

Later when he settled in Ioannina for his University studies, bought a Robot camera. He befriended a local photographer who taught him how to develop film.
At that time, the Italian and German army occupied Greece, and young Balafas aimed to capture the attrocities of the war and the state of the Greek army in the Albanian front. However the films were hard to find. But fortune favors the bold. Film literally fell from the sky.

An Italian bomber was shot down and fell near Ioannina. In the scattered wreckage of the plane, a sealed metal box with several feet of Ferrania Capelli film stock was found. Balafas bought it and by cutting pieces of the film, started using it in his camera.
He enlisted in the 85th Regiment of ELAS in 1945. Well aware that he was recording historical moments for future generations, photographed the struggle of the people of Epirus against the invaders, destroyed villages, the plotting involved in the start of the guerrilla warfare, the marches and battles of the resistance fighters, mourning mothers, as well as celebrations on the liberation of Ioannina.

The historical negatives of Balafas stayed hidden from 1944 in the wooden roof of a house in Ioannina. Part of them were damaged by moisture, but the rest remained intact and were salvaged by him in 1975.

After the war, Balafas continued to photograph the lives of people in the remote villages of Epirus. He also started shooting and directing documentaries for the Greek television. He shot more that 60 documentaries.

Yesterday, October 9 2011, Kostas Balafas died at the age of 91.

All images © Kostas Balafas 

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