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The art of photography
Camper & Nicholsons
28th April 2020

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The art of photography

Combining his lifelong passions of sailing and photography, Leo Kambanis’ Monte Carlo YellowKorner gallery is setting new standards both on land and at sea.

As though touched by Poseidon himself, Leo Kambanis’ life has always been intrinsically linked to the sea. And growing up on a Greek island, sailing has naturally taken centre stage.

He cut his teeth on laser dinghies before moving to offshore sailing, and later participated in racing sailing yachts, even skippering (out of competition) an America’s Cup boat in Valencia. 

“All of my life has been at sea,” he says, citing memories from Cape Cod to the Croatian coast, and Porto Cervo to sailing around Corsica. But when on dry land, Kambanis dedicates his time to the technicalities and idiosyncrasies of yachting.

A qualified marine and mechanical engineer, not to mention naval architect, Kambanis’ career has taken him from high tech consulting on next generation turbines to forming part of the design team that worked on America’s Cup sailing yacht hulls, and later ship management. Today, he runs a successful facilities management company (the one area of his profession that does not have a maritime link), and most recent of all, art photography by way of YellowKorner.

“I’ve been around people that love the sea all my life,” explains the Greek entrepreneur.
“My family are related to the sea, either through seamanship (growing up with stories of my father and grandfather that were both captains) or through studies in naval architecture – but it always comes back to the sea.”

Now based in Monte Carlo, and set against a backdrop of a lifelong love of photography, Kambanis is channelling his entrepreneurial spirit into a gallery, after a friend (and now gallery partner) introduced him to YellowKorner, a leading publisher of art photography.
“My partner has the YellowKorner franchise for Cyprus and Greece, and opened my eyes to the wider potential of the offering,” says Kambanis. “We approached Alexandre de Metz and Paul-Antoine Briat, the founders of YellowKorner, and they were very enthusiastic about the idea of opening a YellowKorner gallery in the Principality. Residents here love art and invest in it, and there are many art galleries, but this is the only dedicated art photography space in Monaco. We are unique in that we have such a wide variety of photographs.”

Keen to tie his latest venture to his experience in and knowledge of the world of yachting, Kambanis is encouraged by the amount of art photography that was on display at the 2019 Monaco Yacht Show. “One 57m yacht featured wall-to-wall prints, all chosen by the owner himself,” he enthuses. “I see many yacht interiors during the building process, and have seen that the use of photography on board is consistently increasing. So, my aim is to connect our new venue with yacht interior design.”

Working alongside yacht interior designers to supply photography that is captivating and lightweight (thanks to the art being printed on aluminium), Kambanis currently has three yacht interior projects on the go, while completing the decoration of a hotel in Paris. In addition to that, he is in the process of securing formal agreements with interior designers to use YellowKorner’s photography for future projects, with charter yachts being a particular target sector.

“Yacht interiors are selected either by interior designers or the owners themselves, and by collaborating with the designers we have the opportunity to see our product on many more yachts than if we approach individuals,” he explains. “When it comes to charter yachts, it is the interior designer who takes the lead and curates the art on more than 70% of projects.”

Founded upon the premise of making art photography accessible to all, as well as finding new talent as early as possible, once new talent has been identified, the aim is to take the photographs to market, printing them in limited numbers, and promoting them alongside established photographers. YellowKorner’s unique offering taps into both owners’ and crew’s enthusiasm for the yachting lifestyle. The publisher uses special technology that can enhance and print amateur photography to a top tier quality, even in high definition and large format.

“People on board yachts are always with cameras or smart phones taking photos of dramatic landscapes, rare marine life, and gorgeous sunsets,” he says, “memorable moments that they want to capture, and this technology gives them the opportunity to print their own pictures in even very big formats and display them on their yacht’s, home or office walls. This naturally leads to the customisation of interiors; a private photograph creates a unique ambience, and taps into the bespoke element of yachting that is so highly prized.”

More than just a businessman, Kambanis speaks from personal experience, too. Having previously owned an American sportfishing boat, he has for the past twelve years been the proud owner of 23m classic Italian motor yacht Bien Estar. “We have cruised as much as my work allows, preferring to spend time on board in Greece. But she has taken us to some
very special, isolated waters, and we have witnessed some incredible sights during our time on board. We love her.”

And what of the art that features on board his own yacht? “I am a fan of a wide variety of photographers,” says Kambanis. “Laurent Dequick, a French photographer, showed me how he uses light in his work, and he took some pictures of Monaco for display in our gallery, which are fantastic. I also really like Slim Aarons, an American photographer noted for photographing socialites, jet-setters and celebrities from the 1950s, and Peter Hankfield, a Liverpudlian photographer who has shot some of my favourite rock stars in action.

“But, on board Bien Estar, my favourite photos are of Salvador Dali (whom I adore) after he’s been swimming, and a piece called ‘Water Harmony’ by Rarindra Prakarsa, which shows young children playing in water. It’s so lively, and the children are so happy, it taps into everything that I love about being at sea. Being in touch with the elements and trying to tame the wind and water, and the sense of exploring that it gives you.
Even if you only venture to a small cove, anchoring and diving, it’s always an inspirational experience for me.”