Greek veteran war photographer Costas Balafas, noted for his photographic coverage of WWII and the National Resistance in Greece, died on Monday at the age of 91. Balafas was born in 1920 in the mountain village of Kypseli in Arta, the child of a poor a farming family, and at the age of 11 went to Athens to seek work.
His first contact with photography and a camera was at the age of 13, when relatives of his boss came to Greece from the US and, wishing to please then, the boss took them on a sightseeing tour of Athens. One day, during a visit to Mt. Parnitha, the boss took young Costas along to take photographs of the entire family with a small, easy-to-use camera they had brought with them. And the rest is history.
After that day on Parnitha, the young boy's dream was to acquire a camera of his own, and it was not until he was university student in Ioannina that he managed to buy one, selling his wristwatch to supplement his meager savings for the purchase.
In Italy later, he befriended an employee at a neighborhood photographer's shop, next to whom he learned the art of the dark room and developing films, and traded in his camera for a newer one.
It was with that new camera that he photographed the Greek army's advance to the Albanian front, the German occupation in Greece, and the Civil War, snapping scenes of war crimes at the risk of his life, and of fellow combatants during battle.
Balafas' funeral was scheduled for Monday afternoon at the cemetery in the Athens suburb of Halandri.