Following the successful delivery of the lighting revamp of Syntagma Square in the heart of Athens as his swan song in architectural lighting design in 2018, Greek trained electrical engineer and architectural lighting designer Gavriil Papadiotis is gaining international acclaim in his new creative field; the rare niche of lighting design photography.
Endowed with an enviable portfolio as a lighting designer, ranging from high-end hotels, super yachts and luxurious residential developments to restaurants and art galleries, the London-based creative says he now enjoys a much shorter creative turnaround in his new career of photographer. That allows him to gain an insider’s view on far more projects and interact with an extensive number of creative professionals from interrelated industries.
“The progression from one field to the other happened very naturally over the course of a few years. Essentially, photography is lighting; Carefully framing and exposing a photograph and selectively editing the final image to accentuate points of interest is very similar to designing the lighting for a space. You get to choose what to light and what to leave in the shadow and everything in between, whilst both fields combine aesthetics with technical knowledge”, Papadiotis tells Greek Reporter in an exclusive interview.
As a designer for some of London’s best known lighting design firms, accustomed to working on multiple projects at one time for several years, he would often save time and budget by taking his own photographs to document the creative process while attending his assigned projects on-site. In time, he would be asked to do so for projects of other colleagues from the firm and then for projects of lighting designer and architect friends. Until turning to full-time architectural photography, with a specialization in capturing lighting design schemes, came into view as the best way forward.
“I realized early on how much I enjoy photography. It gives me access to a vast number of exciting projects, which I might have not had the possibility to take up as a lighting designer. Every visit to these projects, every single discussion with anyone involved, is so very educative as I get to see different perspectives of utmost creative people on each site”, he explains.
Although it has been only a couple of years since the full time switch, Papadiotis’s photographs of the Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel in London have already won the prestigious IALD Radiance Award for excellence in Lighting Design. He has also been commissioned to photograph the lighting at the National Museum of Qatar – which he describes as a magnificent but challenging project to capture. Moving from the interior galleries to the exterior courtyard in the limited photography time windows provided, meant a huge jump in the temperature and humidity levels, pushing the camera gear to its limits.
Looking back at his years as an architectural lighting designer, Papadiotis says his last project before changing fields, at a most famous landmark in the city of Athens, has probably been the highlight of his lighting design portfolio. He worked on it with Lighting Design International in 2017, and delivered it just before Christmas of the same year.
“The redesign of the lighting in Athens’s Syntagma Square was a project that felt too close to home. I never saw it as just another project, it meant something more powerful to me”, he says.
“Of course there was a lot of research involved about the Square’s existing design and how its layout came about, and what issues could such a public space be facing as one of the most touristic sites of the Greek capital. Although it is a jewel in the very centre of Athens, it being adjacent to the Hellenic Parliament makes it a frequent victim of vandalism, and all these had to be taken into consideration”.
The revamp needed to be complete with as less obstructive work as possible, and be approved by both the client and the city council.
“Our approach was focused on revitalizing the square and its surroundings. With various architectural styles around the square and with so many different light source types previously installed within it, a holistic lighting design approach could really help with bringing cohesion to the night-time appearance of the square, creating a more legible and attractive space, reducing the fear of crime, helping promote the night-time economy and ultimately promoting the identity of Syntagma”, Papadiotis explains.
Retaining the existing listed lamp posts, his team improved the lighting quality and distribution while also minimizing potential glare. Spotlights were installed on existing poles next to the main marble staircase leading from the Square up to the Parliament level, which was previously completely dark – a safety concern asides from an aesthetic discord.
They also gave more depth to the green areas around the Square by lighting the tree canopies using discreet ground recessed uplighters. At the busy traffic lights leading to Ermou street, gobo projectors with a broken leaf pattern were used, to imitate the effect of the moonlight going through leaves. That gives a shadowy light pattern on the ground, in a slightly cooler white color.
“The existing colour-changing lights in the central fountain and the water features on the side were also reviewed. Fewer and less saturated colors were reprogrammed to smoothly change, maintaining a subtler colorful element, which would still be in-line with the nature of the Square”, he describes.
Currently working on another, as-of-now undisclosed, high-profile project in an Athenian landmark as a light and architecture photographer, Papadiotis spends his spare time practicing different types of photography such as street or landscape, each of which nurtures his skills further. Street photography, for instance, helps him anticipate moments which leads to better behind-the-scenes action type of photos.
“In a way, my artistic view has also been influenced by the distinct Greek light. Born and raised in Greece, Ι have learned to enjoy the bright midday sun during the laidback summers, while eagerly waiting for the warmer colour palette you get during sunset or sunrise. Then spending 9 years in the moodier, usually cloudier, and always busy city of London, I have come to appreciate the opposite side of the spectrum. This has taught me to see beauty in every season and to be able to isolate unique moments and frames, even at the most otherwise dull locations. Moments and frames that try to tell an intriguing story”, he reflects.