Behind the scenes: Kennedy magazine

by Stine Fantoft Berg in January 2016
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The “biannual journal of curiosities”, Kennedy magazine was started by the Athens-based photographer Chris Kontos when he lost his job as a result of the Greek economic crisis.

Now, two and half years after the initial launch, having battled its way through numerous challenges, Kennedy is still going strong. I spoke to Chris about the story of the magazine and why it’s so special to him.


How did Kennedy come about in the first place?
Kennedy started as an extension of my blog. I’m a photographer by profession and the blog was always a way for me to post personal stuff and combine it with writing. I was working in Athens in the fashion industry for several years, but as the economic crisis hit, I lost my job and ended up having very little money but a lot of free time to spend thinking about my life and what I should do with it.

In August 2012 I spoke to my best friend Angelo Pandelidis, who was a designer, and he really caught on to the idea to curate a magazine filled with things we like and interviews with people we admire.

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People around you must have thought you were crazy to start a magazine in Athens at that time!
Yes, definitely – it was probably the worst time ever in the recent history of Greece to start a printed magazine. But we got a lot of support from people around us, which gave us the motivation to keep going despite the difficulties. The first issue was finished after almost a year and launched in August 2013. We were really excited to see our efforts finally paying off. But the celebration didn’t last for long; just a few days after, Angelo was in a motorcycle accident and died. I was devastated and left with a lot of questions about whether or not to continue.

In the meantime, Kennedy was really well received, and after a couple of months I managed to pull myself together to start working on the second issue. Although that year was probably the worst in my life, Kennedy brought a lot of excitement; new friends, connections, opportunities and international jobs.


How did you manage to pull together enough money to have the first issue printed?
We were really lucky to have a friend with his own printing facilities. So we made an agreement that we could print first, and pay for it after we made some money from selling it. He’s the reason why Kennedy exists really, so we’re very thankful.

How many of you are based in Athens? And do you see yourself staying there?
I’m actually the only one who’s based here, but to be honest, I find it difficult to be happy here. Greece is getting more and more isolated. The crisis has brought with it a lot of problems; people have just enough money to spend on necessities so small businesses are closing down. The whole atmosphere is pretty bleak.  What I miss most is the human factor, interacting with likeminded people and feeling like you’re part of something bigger. So I try to travel almost every weekend to meet new people and get some fresh input.


So Kennedy is your personal attempt to stay connected?
Yes, absolutely – it’s my window to the world. And hopefully I’ll be spending more time abroad soon. I love spending time here, Athens is my city, but it’s just not a good place to be at the moment.

You were saying earlier that the people you feature in Kennedy are people you look up to. Have they got anything else in common?
It may sound funny, but the people we approach are usually older people. They’re people who’ve made a name for themselves, but are not necessarily well known outside of their fields. I love talking to older people; they’ve lived longer so they have more stories to tell, and they’re more comfortable in their own skin I think. For our first issue I spoke with the DJ and producer Andrew Weatherall and that was the most gratifying conversation I ever had with someone.


One of my favourite stories from issue three is the interview with the owner of the bookshop Comptoir De L’Image in Paris by Laurent Laporte. Technically speaking it’s not the best interview, but I love how personal it is –  a conversation between two people who are really into photography books.
I’m happy you brought that up because that’s exactly what Kennedy is about. We like to do things in a quite raw way. Laurent isn’t a journalist – he’s a guy who goes to this shop all the time and has come to know the owner. I think that’s a lot more interesting than what any journalist could have done. Most of our contributors are amateurs, but they’re really passionate about the what they’re into.

I remember magCulture saying about Kennedy that it “gets a bit lost in translation”. That’s true, but I think it’s part of our identity. I’d rather be a bit lost in translation than editing away the personalities and individual voices that make Kennedy what it is.


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