Photographer goes for the stars

The name of Leon Frantzis (1889-1965) was a familiar one to actors of the Greek stage, especially the National Theater, in the period spanning the 1930s to the 1950s. Popular, sagacious and highly educated, Frantzis was a self-taught photographer who regularly took pictures of theater and opera performances throughout this period, gradually amassing a photographic gallery of the great leading actors of his day. A selection from this wonderful collection, which is as yet unknown to the public, is being presented now by the Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive (ELIA), both in an album and an exhibition (funded by the Ministry of Culture). The exhibition runs to tomorrow at the Horo Technis 24 (38 Spefsippou, Kolonaki). The album, titled «Leon Frantzis: Photographs of Greek Actors, 1937-1946» both relates the history of an extraordinary personage and also turns the readers’ gaze to the sacres monstres of the stage: highly popular and beloved actors – in their day – who, during the 1930s, were either just starting out or were at the height of their fame. The album contains portraits of the actors performing their roles or posed pictures of performers in formal or semi-formal style, all autographed. «To Leon Frantzis,» we read, «the excellent artist and inestimable person» – a dedication by acclaimed stage actress Eleni Papadaki (1908-1944) in a script of rare elegance. One photograph of the actress is particularly arresting because of its high artistic quality, quite in line with European fashion photographers of the 1930s. All the names – including stars such as Irene Pappas and Katina Paxinou – are on view here, whether their star is still bright or has since dimmed. The photographs are bathed in the aura bestowed by an unsurpassable fusion of theater with photography. The photographic archive was bought by ELIA in 1993. Today, with the publication of the photographs of theatrical interest, the name of Leon Frantzis should be included among the cream of the self-taught, bourgeois photographers who operated during the first half of the 20th century. Rolleiflex in hand, Frantzis gave vent to his artistic nature and his thirst for knowledge, experience and social contact.

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