Ever questioned your professional path and wondered if the job you loved 5 years ago still gives you the same feeling of satisfaction that it used to? Maybe you’ve thought about pursuing one of your creative passions, but have been too afraid of the possibility of failure, and all the “what-if’s” that come with it?
In July 2014, Athens-based PR professional Nicholas Mastoras left his job at a high profile agency and took a leap of faith to pursue his love of photography. Three years later, his PR prowess and stunning photography work has made him one of Greece’s most in-demand content creators.
Having worked with a list of top brands including Adidas, Grey Goose, Tommy Hilfiger, Mini Ouzo and fashion label Attrativo to name just a few, Nicholas talks to GCT about his big leap of faith and all the unforgettable experiences that have come with it.
Tell us about the early years of your career…
Ten years ago, I was working at one of Athens’ leading PR agencies, managing clients and creating PR campaigns. I had studied my Bachelor’s degree in London, where I also took a side course in photography, which was just a hobby at the time. I worked hard to establish myself in the PR game. When social media was in its infancy in Greece, I was the guy trying to convince clients to put some of their marketing budgets towards a social media presence on Facebook and Instagram. That was a big ask at the time!
When did you start to realise that it might be time to make a career change?
As I worked on creating social media accounts and content for the agency’s clients, my love for photography resurfaced. After a few years, I started to realise that this hobby for photography was something that not only suited me, but also made me very happy. At first I wasn’t sure if I could actually turn it into a full-time job, but with time I started believing more in myself, and believing it could actually become a profession for me. It was incredibly hard to quit a job that I had been at for 7 years, but I couldn’t ignore that photography was making me happy and very content. After much consideration and discussion with close friends, I finally took the leap!
That must have been a scary and exciting time! Who was your first client?
Instagram was an important platform for me when I was starting out, because it was really the space where I had gained a following and been able to pursue my personal creativity. In the early days, clients would contact me via my Instagram account. My first gig was with Coca-Cola who hired me to create content for their social media accounts. Working with such a global brand did a good job of settling any doubts and worries that I had taken the wrong decision. Plus, a client that provided an ongoing stable source of income was exactly what I needed when I was starting out!
The inevitable question: How did you make this change and survive during the brunt of the Greek financial crisis?
When the crisis started, we had all this fear that we wouldn’t be able to have what we were used to having. I realised quickly that in the end, it’s all exactly just that – stuff. I think letting go of material possessions that you can live without allows you to focus more on what really matters. I have lost a lot of material things but I’ve gained something greater and I’ve never felt more content.
What has been one of your most memorable moments?
A memorable moment for me was when Apple contacted me to license one of my images taken with the iPhone 6s. The image was used as part of their global “Shot on iPhone” campaign. I’m an Apple fan-boy, so I would have given them my image for free! Seeing my image on billboards around the world was a very big moment.
You recently returned from a trip to Uganda with Action Aid Hellas. What was that like?
Never did I think that photography would take me to Africa! I was so honoured to be asked by Action Aid Hellas to accompany them on their recent trip. I was able to take photos of remote villages and their locals. Had I not pursued my dreams, this is an experience I probably would never have had. The photos taken from the trip were auctioned at the Museum of Cycladic to raise funds to assist Action Aid in Greece.
So, you’re a photographer in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. Is it possible to choose a favourite part of Greece for taking photos?
I try not to limit myself photographically when pursuing my own personal photography projects, however a lot of my photos have a human element in a vast landscape. Luckily, Greece is a very diverse country with amazing seascapes, landscapes and even snow-scapes. Although we are a small country I feel so lucky to have so much variety at my doorstep. Some of my favourite images that I’ve shot are on the islands of Kythira and Karpathos. Of course, the Cycladic islands are always amazing and you might be surprised to know there are parts of Mykonos that are still unspoiled and provide amazing backdrops for a photographer!
Finally, what would you say to any budding photographers out there?
Go out there and shoot as many photos as you can. Don’t be scared. Try, and fail. With lots of experimentation, your photos will eventually get better. Slowly, you will open your eyes and see the light and slowly start learning how to control it.