Oi Polloi

Interview: Chris Kontos from Kennedy Magazine

Published: Mon Nov 14 2016

It wasn’t long ago that people were saying that magazines were on the way out. More and more readers were relying on the virtual realm, and it looked like magazines were soon going to be banished to the dusty loft in the sky.       

It didn’t happen. Instead, countless new printed ventures popped up, cutting out the more ‘newsy’ stuff, and focusing instead on longer, more in depth articles and the sort of high quality photography usually reserved for dead expensive ‘art books’.

In fact, you could say that there might be too many magazines around these days. I remember I once saw a fancy new publication on the shelves devoted to the ‘wonderful world of plants’, which featured, amongst other things, a poem written by Tilda Swinton about her favourite tree. I'm not really sure what you can say about stuff like that. Maybe it was a joke?

Anyway, Kennedy is a bit of a gem in this sometimes baffling quarry of new magazines. The photos in it are ace, and it’s full of stuff you might actually want to read… it’s also a lot less po-faced than some of these new mags knocking around, which is a definite bonus.

Seeing as we’ve just got our hands on Issue 5, now seemed like a good time to find out a bit more about it. I spoke with founder/editor/photographer/writer Chris Kontos about photography, magazines and his home country of Greece...

Portrait by Athina Delyannis, other photos by Chris himself.  

Okay, first things first, how would you describe Kennedy Magazine to someone who's never seen it? Can you give us a brief history of how it came to be? 

Kennedy started as an idea more than anything else around the end of August 2012 upon my arrival from a rather extended summer holidays I was spending at the Dodecanese islands. Making a magazine was always a dream for me and I thought the time was right.

The overgrowing economic crisis was reaching its heights and I knew that after those holidays I would not get back to work in September so the timing was perfect to concentrate on creative projects. 

I discussed the idea with my best friend Angelo Pandelidis and we decided to start discussing ideas and designs for this new publication. Our first interview was with Whit Stillman in October 2012. After that, Andrew Weatherall. We had an impressive line-up for a first issue including also Erwin Wurm. Olaf Breuning and many others.

Angelo was killed in a car crash after the release of our first issue in August 2013. It took me one year to get back on my feet. Now Kennedy has reached issue 5. Looking back at how it started I still can’t believe that something that started as a midnight summer dream came to be a tangible success for us.

What’s in the latest issue? And how do you choose what goes in? 

Our new issue is our most ambitious so far and includes Martin Parr, Tina Barney, Pierre Le Tan, Lawrence Hayward from Felt, among many. The issue is curated by me and from our contributor’s ideas and suggestions.

Which article are you most proud of? 

I think the Lawrence interview. It’s a really emotional one and really interesting to read. Plus the way it happened was special. I ran into Lawrence in the street around Covent Garden and arranged the interview. He was a teenage idol of mine so meeting him was pretty unique. 

You’ve managed to get some pretty good interviews in your magazine. Who else do you still want to interview? 

William Eggleston. Even if he did not say a word.

I know you’re into photography, and shoot a lot of the photos for the articles yourself. When did you get into photography? 

I was always a photographer. That’s my trade. I started taking photos when i was 15 with my dad’s cheap Zenit. I studied photography in university and have been working on that since then. I think it took me a lot of years to think that one of my photos was right.

What sort of photographs are you into? What makes a good photograph? What are you looking for when you take a photograph? 

I like colour photography. Perhaps the only exception is Daido Moriyama. A good photograph is one that has feeling. You know when you see a good photograph instantly. And I think photography is not something you learn. You either have it or not. It’s instinct more than anything else really. When I take photos I’m looking for something weird or unexpected, something that other people don’t see although it’s there anyway. 

You say that the best photographers ‘have it’. What is it? Do you have it? 

It's for others to judge if my work is any good, but if you asking me if I like my photos, yes, I can feel it in my guts when I take a good one. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing 35mm colour photos of people climbing over fences to write graffiti. Is there any photo you’re tired of seeing? 

I’m tired of so many photographers trying to look like Harley Weir. 

Do you ever wish people would try harder? 

I dearly do. It would make the world a better place. But most people are content at being mediocre. Can't blame them much though. It's a comfort zone. It's safe. 

Maybe a bit of a boring question, but what sort of cameras are you into. Do you think cameras matter? 

I’m into Contax film cameras. I have a few of them. I think cameras matter. A lot actually. From the ergonomics to the lenses, they do matter.

Is Kennedy a full time thing? Can a man support himself solely by running a magazine? What else do you get up to? 

It’s a full time job but it allows me to work on my photography and other projects. Kennedy is a labour of love. It’s not making any money really.

I know a few years ago everyone was saying that there wasn’t going to be any more magazines. Now it seems it’s gone the other way, and new magazines are popping up all over the place. Do you think there’s a saturation point? And how do you set your magazine apart from all the others? 

I think the saturation point is already behind us. Some ideas should stick to the web and not waste paper. It might sound hard but this is what I believe. If someone was to make a new magazine, I would ask him why does he want to make one? What is the driving force behind it? A good magazine for me that stands out is one with real content. Something you can read and will make you think for a long time.

What other magazines do you like? 

I enjoy Vestoj, Apartmento, Popeye, The Happy Reader... sometime I’m buying magazines just for their design, and don’t read them.

Why are magazines important? 

Because they are real. They smell good. They look great. They acquire space in your room. 

What are you trying to show in Kennedy magazine? 

That there are still real people in the world.

What do you think magazines will look like in 20 years? 

I think there will always be printed magazines as long as there are people reading them. I think the world will either reverse or self-destruct. I hope we will still be around in 20 years from now. I would like to get old! 

What are your thoughts on the internet? 

I think it’s a gift to mankind. But it can be tricky. It’s a bit like Pandora’s box. 

You’re from Greece aren’t you? Where abouts? I’ve never been there before but it looks pretty good. What’s it like? 

I was born in Piraeus and have lived all my life around there and Athens. It’s a great place. Easy going. Great weather. Great food. I love my city and I’m attached to it. It’s not a good place for work but a great place to live in. I recommend Athens more than anything really. The islands are cool to visit too. 

You mentioned being into Lawrence and Felt when you were growing up. What else were you into? I imagine growing up in Greece is different to growing up in England. 

When I was in high school me and my best buddy Teo were into anything indie and the Beastie Boys. We were buying adidas obsessively. We liked the Smiths a lot. It felt we were part of something bigger through music and fashion.

What are you up to today? 

Replying to emails all day long! And making some boxes with magazines to send over! And replying to your questions!

Alright, I think I've pretty much run out of questions now. Cheers for doing this. Have you got any words of wisdom you’d like to pass on? 


Get Kennedy here.