A new exhibition of photographs by Nelly’s, organized by the Benaki Museum’s Photographic Archive and the Fotograficus art company, seems to have found the perfect loctation in the Long Room, a venue in Pikermi, east of Athens, that resembles a 16th-century monastery and is set amid lush greenery.
Photographs of nude dancers in the Parthenon – which had shocked the public at their first unveiling – muscular athletes resembling ancient Greek statues, details of sculptures and daily scenes from the historical Athenian neighborhood of Plaka are Nelly’s signature works.
The Pikermi exhibition, which has been put together by Ioanna Vasdeki and Jeff Vanderpool, comprises some 60 works by the photographer, who is also known by her real name, Elli Souyioultzoglou-Seraidari, making for a comprehensive approach to the body of her work.
Nelly’s (1899-1998) came from a wealthy Greek family in Asia Minor and studied photography in Dresden in 1921 beside acclaimed German photographers Hugo Erfurth and Franz Fiedler.
She moved to Athens in 1924 following her family’s expulsion from Turkey and focused her lens on themes that she saw as being purely Greek. Her portraits of people from all walks of life, and especially of high society, have provided us with valuable information concerning Greek society in the inter-war years, but her most famous pieces are those of ancient monuments elevated to symbols of magnificence and her bold shots of dancers on the Parthenon, odes to the female body and the embodiment of the classical ideals of beauty and fitness.
In the Greek countryside, Nelly’s saw bucolic beauty all around and emphasized the harmonious coexistence of man with nature, while in the United States, where she spent 25 years of her life, she experimented with color and advertising photography.
The exhibition on Nelly’s runs through June 23 at the Long Room (Adamopoulou Street, 19th kilometer of Marathon Avenue heading from Athens, left at the Drafi turning). For information, call 211.184.1997. Opening hours are Saturday and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.