CULTURE

One French artist is wooed by the beauty of the Greek light

«When the fish make it to the market in the morning, it’s like actors arriving to fill the stage. There’s a vibrant theatrical quality about the Athens Market where vendors boast about the quality of their fish and resort to improvisation. It’s like the speeches given at Hyde Park,» remarked the photographer Jean-Francois Bonhomme, who first came to Greece in 1979, then paid frequent visits during the 1980s before eventually declaring the country his second home. These days, Bonhomme, who has just released his latest collection, «Schismes Photos» (Light Incisions), published by Olko Press – a series of black-and-white shots taken from around Greece over the past 15 years – divides his time between Greece and Paris. Though Bonhomme has roamed the country for over 20 years, capturing the landscape and its people, the contrasts and spontaneity through his lens, the experience continues to hand him potent surprises. With a penetrating lens, or the «eye’s extension» in hand, Bonhomme’s efforts have been focused on piercing the surface of reality in search of a more spiritual experience. Jean-Francois Bonhomme’s previous offerings include a series of photo portraits of the artist Nikos Hadzikyriakos-Ghika between 1989 and 1997, as well as an album on the capital, «Athens: Under the Acropolis’s Shadow» (Olkos Press, 1996), with texts by Jacques Derida. In «Light Incisions,» Bonhomme’s latest work, the photographer’s strong philosophical bent, his travel experiences, and insightful observation of humanity have all combined to create a profound depiction of «the Greek way.» The shots, taken over the past 15 years, include scenes from Athens, Mount Athos, Spetses, Patmos, and Argos, while the edition also features previously unpublished passages by Thanassis Valtinos. «In Greece, I like to photograph things that have sunk into oblivion. I always go to the [central] market or Monastiraki where I always search for the unexpected amid old photographs and family portraits,» he says. A collector himself of these «little nothings,» as he says, such as old banknotes, postcards, and photos, Bonhomme attaches immense nostalgic value to relics of the past, an approach that reflects his work method. The country’s natural light also plays a major role in Bonhomme’s attraction to Greece. «In Italy, too, the light is good, but different. In Spain, it’s harsher,» he notes. «But in Greece, it’s unique, especially during spring and fall.» «The truth is that even today I don’t understand how it was so successful. My friends tell me that I’m being unfair. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s because the period during which we filmed was such – Melina was ill – that we had to look at things lightheartedly, to laugh when working. But I know that where there is music in ‘Topkapi,’ it works, it helps the film.»