* “Master Profiles” is a series profiling all the great photographers of uncontrolled life. Unlike the rest of the blog, I’m doing these in a straight profile format to make it easy for quick access to facts, quotes and knowledge on all the masters. I’ll also group them together here every time I add a new one.
Constantine Manos (1934-present)
An American photographer with a long history in photography, but more recently known for his work capturing American life in vivid color.
Born: 1934, Columbia, South Carolina, United States
Born in South Carolina to Greek immigrant parents, Constantine Manos began taking photos in high school when he joined his school’s camera club at the age of 13. In only a few years, he was working professionally as an official photographer for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. His first published worked came from this in 1961, titled Portrait of a Symphony.
During his teens, he also shot a photographic essay of a young boy’s life on Daufuskie Island, a small island off the South Carolina coast inhabited by descendants of plantation slaves. In 1955, Manos graduated from the University of South Carolina, majoring in English Literature. After serving in the military, he moved to New York City, photographing for different popular magazines.
From 1961-1965, Manos decided to live in Greece, photographing the people and landscape. This work helped him get accepted as a full member of Magnum Photos in 1965. Later, the work also won awards and was published in 1972, titled A Greek Portfolio.
After Greece, he moved back to Boston, where he continued working as a photographer. He worked on projects for Time-Life Books and was also hired by the city to create photographs for an exhibition celebrating Boston’s 200th anniversary, titled Where’s Boston?
Manos went through a period where he started looking for new inspiration in photography. He found this inspiration photographing American culture in vivid color. In 1995, American Color was published, which showcases a photographic style that many relate to Manos now, although it’s noticeably different from his earlier work. He uses layers, colors, shadows and interesting scenes to help make the ordinary of day-to-day life look extraordinary.
In 2003, Manos was awarded the Leica Medal of Excellence for American Color. He continued photographing across the U.S. and in 2010 released American Color 2, which showcases more of American life, in vivid color and shadows.
While teaching workshops now, Constantine continues photographing today, and capturing more of American culture and life like only he can.
- Intense Colors
- Sunlight & Shadow
- “Making the ordinary extraordinary“
Camera: Leica M Lens: 28mm Summicron
Manos has been a loyal Leica user. He used the Leica M series rangefinders from early on and continued with them when they went digital. For his first “American Color,” he only shot on Kodachrome 64 color slide film, but with “American Color 2,” he actually shot both film and digital.
When it comes to lens choice, while he has used other focal lengths in the past, the 28mm prime has been his preferred lens.
“The flow of people in a setting, their changing relationships to each other and their environment, and their constantly changing expressions and movements – all combine to create dynamic situations that provide the photographer with limitless choices of when to push the button. By choosing a precise intersection between subject and time, he may transform the ordinary into the extraordinary and the real into the surreal.”
“Try not to take pictures which simply show what something looks like. By the way you put the elements of an image together in a frame show us something we have never seen before and will never see again.”
“Taking good pictures is easy. Making very good pictures is difficult. Making great pictures is almost impossible.”
“The world, for me, is just raw material for an image.”
Constantine Manos is one of my personal favorites. The way he uses light, color and shadows to bring so much life to the ordinary is a beautiful thing to see. Tell me what you all think about his work in the comments below! Do you have any favorite shots? Does his work impact you as much as others?