The poignant words of Benaki Museum director Angelos Delivorias opened a recent press conference on an exhibition of photographs by Kostas Balafas.
?The time has come for us to honor the debt we have toward the people to whom we owe the fact that we are not ashamed of being ?Neoellines? [Modern Greeks] today,? said Delivorias.
Running to April 30, ?Kostas Balafas: The Resistance Movement in Epirus, 1941-1944,? is currently on display at the museum?s Pireos Street annex. Consisting of 79 images, the exhibition presents the most important part of the photographer?s archive, which 94-year-old Balafas donated to the Benaki Museum in 2007.
According to Georgia Ismiridou, the exhibition?s curator, at the time of the donation, Balafas had a special request regarding his ?Antartiko? (guerrilla warfare) series and asked the museum?s administrators to handle the material with extra care.
During the Nazi Occupation, Balafas was enlisted in the 85th Regiment of ELAS as a rifleman and proceeded to record the marches and battles of the resistance fighters, as well as the celebrations that followed the liberation of the city of Ioannina.
Fearing that the material could be confiscated, at the beginning of the Greek Civil War Balafas entrusted the photographs to a family friend, Ioulia Gorgoli. She hid the material underneath the wooden floorboards of a house in Ioannina, where it remained, practically untouched, for the next 31 years.
At the press conference, Benaki officials noted that plenty of hard work went into digitalizing the photographs going on display. Balafas used film stock — smaller in size than photographic film — and made few if any interventions during the printing process.
Historian Tassos Sakellaropoulos, in charge of the museum?s historical archives, noted that the photographer?s oeuvre went beyond esthetics, recording patriotic sentiment, as well as the peak and subsequent ending of the Leftist movement that had grown during the occupation.
A one-day conference on ?Photography during the Resistance Years, Greece, 1941-1944? will take place at the Benaki Museum on February 27.
Benaki Museum, 138 Pireos