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Inspirational People from Corfu #5: Marcos Avlonitis

I love Corfu. Even though I live in England, there’s something about the island that won’t let go of my imagination. I was baptised there, spent almost all my childhood summer holidays there and even lived there for two and a half years. But however long I spend on the island and however much I see of it, I always want to go back. This summer was no different.

My father is from Sidari on the north coast of Corfu and while he normally lives in England too, he had gone back for a few months to look after my Pappou. This gave me a perfect excuse to take a trip out and see the family. Not a big fan of the summer heat, I chose to fly across in September when the weather is still gorgeous but the craziness of summer and the tourist season has begun to die down.

As a photographer and videographer, I’m always carrying at least one camera with me and I’ve taken hundreds of photos of Corfu before but this time I wanted to do something different – I wanted to capture the island in motion. Kerkyra isn’t the busiest island (especially away from the beaches) but it’s very much alive and only taking still photos felt like I was missing out on so much of the life going on around me. So this time I decided I would focus on video.

I have a lot of camera gear (maybe too much…) but as this was meant to be a holiday, I didn’t want to take all my equipment. Instead, I chose a couple of my favourite lenses, an ND filter that darkens the sunlight if it gets too bright and a Gorillapod Focus which is a small tripod with flexible legs that allows you to clamp the camera onto walls, chairs – even upside down! It’s like being able to put a tripod wherever you want and as it’s very light, you don’t have to worry about carrying it around all day.

I had also bought a new slider and this would be the perfect time to put it to use. Sliders allow you to move the camera smoothly from side to side (or backwards and forwards). Obviously, this isn’t much use for photography, but for video it can create a cinematic motion that livens up otherwise boring shots.

However, when I got it out and set it up for the first shot I discovered I had forgotten to pack the adaptor that connects the camera to the slider! Not a great start. But rather than leave it in the bag I found I could just about hold the camera onto the slider with my hands as I moved it side-to-side. This wasn’t as stable as if it had been properly attached and it took me much longer to get each shot but was still better than no slider at all!

But as tricky as that was, the hardest part of the experience was actually trying to decide what to film. The beautiful Venetian Corfu town was an obvious choice, as was my Pappou’s old workshop. And how could I miss the opportunity to film in Perithea – the old ghost town built as a refuge from pirates? But the more I filmed, the more places I found to film – old backstreets I’d never travelled before, cliff-roads with beautiful coastal views, lush valleys, unexplored olive groves… the list goes on.

Everywhere you turn on Corfu, there’s something interesting to see – it might be hidden behind a modern apartment block, or down some forgotten track, but it’s there. The problem is, I didn’t have the time to capture everything. Eventually I realised the only way I was going to get by was to pick a few locations, focus on those and ignore the rest.

At first that frustrated me but slowly I realised that this is part of the joy – no matter how many times I go back and however many photos I take or films I make, I know there will always be something else to see and yet another reason to go back.

Marcos Avlonitis is a writer, photographer and filmmaker. You can find more of his work at his website at his Vimeo account as well as his production company.

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