Ioannina’s luminous past, as caught on film

The city of Ioannina in northwestern Greece has a luminous past, unknown to many younger age groups, that has recently been brought back to the forefront via a current exhibition titled «Ioannina: Memory Travelogue,» featuring 120 rare photographs dating from between 1862 and 1940. The exhibition, at an impressively refurbished 19th century building, the property of the Epirus Researchers Society, was organized by the Rizareio Foundation. In more recent times, the society’s offerings have included the publication of work by the early 20th century Swiss photographer Fred Boissonas, and a publication of photographs from the area of Zagorohoria. The event marks the 90th anniversary since Ioannina became a part of modern Greece following the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. Angelos Kitsos of the Rizareio Foundation, who initiated the idea of holding this exhibition, also coordinated and culled the contributed items which came from various sources. Yiannis Dimou designed and organized the exhibition. Some old photographs needed to be digitally processed and reprinted. Side by side, the photographs acquire narrative power. They retrace, with impressive accuracy, life in Ioannina in 1900: the city, its countryside, urban dwellers and farmers. Together, they muster up the sense of romanticism and urban class in the heart of distant Epirus – with Ottoman inflections. Soldiers from the Balkan Wars, the diplomatic corps of Vilaetti, Ioannina, Turkish celebrations and theater scenes comprise some of the other subjects. For the Rizareio Foundation, this exhibition marks a strong return, one loaded with deep sensibility and a strong grasp of history, following the release of its best-selling Boissonas collection. Just thinking about all those previously unseen photographs, those waiting for the right time to either be presented in an exhibition or published as part of a new album, is fascinating. These old photographs of Ioannina, 90 years since the city’s liberation, serve to retrace a past that surprises the viewer. And that’s where the success of this exhibition lies.

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