The unbearable lightness of being

Since I worked on a couple of photoshoots for Vanessa’s theatre project and her group, I was asked by her sister Ann-Venette to take portraits and photographs of a vampire LARP group.

This group plays Vampire – The Requiem. It’s basically three storytelling events that take place at the same time and same in-game world, one of them is being told by Charis Siozios in Athens. The other two take place in Thessaloniki by Alexios Mavronas and Heraklion by Nikos Mimidis.

Of course I accepted their request and immediately I remembered my time in Washington D.C., when I got myself two story stelling books from “World of Darkness” – “Vampire Requiem” and “Invictus“. I used to spend my time on Saturday mornings in a huge book store with an interior café and I used to read hundreds of photozines and fantasy books.

And I still love the vampire setting, due to it’s heavy (chliché) look and atmosphere. I’m planning to publish a series of portraits one day of vampires with heavy costumes and makeup. But before that happens, I still got to work in depth on my photography and retouching skills.

The Elysium took place in Petralona, a safe location of the Circle of the Crone a covenant.

An open invitation for every vampire here in the city. And the only human at that time – me.

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Melanthos from Lancea Sanctum and Iris from Ordo Dracul discussing their strategy for the Elysium.

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Nikos and Georgia. It was still early in the evening and everybody was relaxed and prepared their costumes and makeup.

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I took the time to gather random impressions of the players.

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It would have been very easy to expect only geeks and nerds here, but that wasn’t the case. I encountered normal people, that pursued their hobby with concentrated passion.

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Tonia.

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Ann-Venette took care of the last steps for a perfect transformation from human into vampire.

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Tonia and Armando in a chat – I tried to stay as much as possible behind the scenes, not to compromise the players concentration and not to stumble across them, during their play.

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Phillip before he turns into Magnus PeccatorLancea Sanctum.

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They all had a good time.

I captured these portraits mostly with my Canon 35mm f1.4 and my Canon 85mm f1.2. No flash was used, only available light.

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Siegfried von MagnusLancea Sanctum Covenant.

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It was stunning to see how well some of the players performed while being portrayed.

I just placed them in front of a white wall, directed some really cheap electric bulbs into their faces and they impersonised their characters in such a good way, that I was actually quite impressed.

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Sabiente from Ordo Dracul.

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Nina. Her eyes were remarkably catching.

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A stare into your soul.

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Pietro Lamora.

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The bathroom was crowded and occupied until the begin of the play. Time for a last inspection.

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And chat of course – lead by Antonis.

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Charlotte SkouzéCircle of the Crone. One of my favorite portraits of that evening. Her face looks pale and undead and with a blank stare eying me.

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Bite me – if you can.

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I caught Nina in a moment contemplating about her morbid life.

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And I tried to stay behind the scenes as much as possible.

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Dimos Momferatos – also from Circle of the Crone.

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I wanted to bring my remote flashes, but I barely had any time left – due to my dayjob – to prepare myself for that photoshoot. I quickly read some articles about LARP plays and checked some instagram and pinterest accounts, to compare what’s out there.

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Since I don’t like to copy any other styles, I chose to work as I alsways do. I try to capture beauty. Simple as that.

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Pietro gave me the creeps – in a positive way. Very strong and stunning play.

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A scarred Lakis Ntoumas  and Andreas Melios – both from Invictus.

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Nontas Ntantakas from the Circle of the Crone.

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Betray me and you will die a slow and painful death. It is your choice.

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Charlotte, Cleo, Mother Alice, Dimos and Nontas. A group portrait of the Circle of the Crone.

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Selina from the Carthian Movement Covenant.

One portrait that I like in particular. It reminds me of these old photographs from the late 20’s.  Hard shadows, a pale face, dark hair and a beautiful dynamic posing. Picture perfect.

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On the other side of the rooftop. Life went on, while the Elysium took place. Hidden underneath the shadows of the skyline.

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The light setup.

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The whole Ordo Dracul Covenant – Sabiente, Evangelos Vogianztis, Io, Nina, Iris Maltezou and Alex Evans.

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A fallen angel? I doubt that. Don’t get confused with the outer apperance of a vampire.

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Evangelos Vogiatzis of Ordo Dracul.

I literaly had seconds to capture their portraits, due to the sunset. I ran out of light and it got nearly impossible to focus right in the dark.

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Iris Maltezou of Ordo Dracul.

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And Eliza Smith an unaligned Kindred.

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Cleo’s makeup was just terrific.

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I don’t know what happened to him, but he seemed to be very anxious and scared. Almost catatonic.

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In his preparation: Petros a.k.a. Father George the Archbishop – Lancea Sanctum.

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During the portrait sessions, things started to get lively and intense.

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I tried my best to capture as many as possible, before light faded away and the scenery went completely dark – at least for a photographer.

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They all did a great job on their costumes and makeup.

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Tonia from Ordo Dracul.

She was the one, that did not want to be portrayed. But I talked her into it – I just had to capture these beautiful beings. She did a perfect job.

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I loved the lighting. Sometimes less is more. No need for fancy light setups, bright flashes and dozens of reflectors. Sometimes a simple indirect light from a lamp is enough to create stunning effects and shadows.

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Petros prepared his talon.

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A rare moment of stillness, before the main plot took off.

Belmon Rodanthis of the Carthian Movement and Alex Evans of Ordo Dracul.

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Charis gathered the players and gave them their last instructions.

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Everybody payed attention carefully.

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Time to take some images.

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Another building across the street. Nobody was on their balconies, because we had a stormy night. It seems as if everybody took shelter in their apartments.

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Only a few lightbulbs and candles enlightened the scenery.

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The moment before the Elysium took place. I captured the location without its inhabitants.

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A small altar with refreshments and fruits.

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The players gathered down the alley before showtime started. It was about time.

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Another stillife.

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And the door opened to the Elysium.

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Charlotte was a kind, but demanding host.

The Vampires had to change their locations.

Security reasons. Hunters, The Seven, Werewolves and potential traitors amongst them.

The new Keeper of the Elysium, suggested a place. The Athenian Kindred accepted the invitation and came along with plenty of new arrivals in town.

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As always the debates came very close to revealing the fangs, but immortality trains diplomacy and patience in most of them. No blood is allowed to be spilled and the word of the Archbishop, is more or less a command.

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We are many kinds of monster. But we are all Kindred, for we were once human.

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Vampire is a game of visceral drama and personal horror.

Vampire is about sex and murder, about power and wild defiance. It’s about urban squalor and the romance of the city.

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It’s about what’s wrong with you — yes, you — and how that shapes the monster you’ll become.

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Vampire is also about thrilling action and nail-biting paranoia. It’s about dying young and being a great-looking corpse.

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And of course it’s about having a great time and fun.

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Vampire is a game about dead people and it should make you feel alive.

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Characters try to stay in the cool, comfortable grays, but they can’t hide all the time. And, hey, they look good in black.

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Mortals are dinner, but they’re also what you’ve got for dates.

No matter how callous you become, you’ll need to move among them. How will you keep your connection to Humanity, even as a sham? That’s the Masquerade.

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Tryth & lies.

VAMPIRES DRINK BLOOD: True.

Feeding is a rush like nothing else — for us and our paramours. The blood sustains us, lets us wake each night to paint the town red.

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VAMPIRES ARE IMMORTAL: Almost.

There’s very little that can harm us. Sun. Fire. Maybe a heart broken by a wooden stake, followed by losing your head to a hacksaw. Other than that, the years stretch out like a banquet.

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A VAMPIRE’S PREY BECOMES A VAMPIRE: You wouldn’t be here if they didn’t.

Most of the time the prey needs a dose of the Blood to wakey-wake. But there are exceptions, and you damn well don’t want to meet one.

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VAMPIRES HAVE TERRIFYING POWERS: So very true.

I can crush your hand before you can make a fist, make you want to kiss me when I’m covered in blood, and I know a guy who can sniff your dirty secrets from the sweat on your skin.

 Artemis Mpakaseta of Lancea Sanctum is one of them.

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VAMPIRES DON’T SHOW UP IN MIRRORS: Not so much that we don’t.

More that you never see us coming.

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THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS VAMPIRES: Poor baby.

There’s you. There’s me. And there’re some folks who are dying to meet you.

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I guess it’s all of them.

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Time to share a dance.

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And time for some discussions. I felt a certain sence of paranoia. Everybody kept an eye on everybody.

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Especially the Archbishop of Athens.

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The undying father.

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And undead beauty.

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They all payed very close attention.

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Unfortunately I didn’t understand what was going on, due to my lack of greek language skills. But I caught the stress in their faces.

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Sometimes he spoke loud and clear, sometimes he just whispered. But I was sure, he had everyones attention.

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Except for Io maybe. A brief moment of lacking concentration? Or a moment of contemplation? Only she knows.

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Beautiful play of light here.

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And some vampires hid in the dark. I had to shoot constantly on open aperture to get any light at all.

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But I’m very happy with the outcome. It was hard work, but it was worth it. I captured intense moments, behind the scenes material and very beautiful and stunning portraits of people that transform into characters, stories and blood haunting creatures.

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Charlie. A damsel in distress.

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Listen closely, Kindred.

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He did.

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A sign of remorse ?

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Or a feeling of guilt ?

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I guess the speech of the Archbishop had a certain impact on the fellow kindreds.

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And others lurked in the shadows and obsessed their own aims and factions.

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Charis is a caretaking storyteller and gamemaster. With his 15 years of experience, he was a huge support for the players.

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Time for a little rest.

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My ears catched the word “ghoul” in between their discussions.

There is one waiting for instructions.

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While his masters are plotting.

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A closeup of Petros gear and weaponry.

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And just a few shots in colour as experiment for further sessions.

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It was a stormy, but warm summer night.

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In the end I took about 600 photographs and chose these roughly hundred pieces to give you a little impression of the players hard work, masquerade and skill.

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Since they gather up each 21 days, I’m sure I’ll attend to more of their meetings to take more photographs and portraits of them.

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It was a pleasure to be there and a stunning experience to withness people turning their hobby into a live action roleplay, that does not have to hide from professionals.

You guys did a stunning Elysium.

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