Getting a taste of an Athens of yore

There are at least two reasons that make the «City of Marbles» photography exhibition, housed at 4 Andreou in Plaka, worth a visit. The first is the display of unique photographs of Athens, mainly from the 19th century, some of which are very rare. The second is the opportunity to see the new exhibition hall of the Greek Literary and Historical Archives (ELIA), which has expanded to a 1930s building situated right opposite ELIA’s main building. On entering the beautifully renovated building, which is behind Athens Cathedral, it is possible for visitors to go up a flight of stairs to the ELIA shop, one of the best spots in town to pick up personal gifts and souvenirs. On the right is the door that leads to the exhibition hall, where one can find original historical photographs of Athens, nicely exhibited, which give the impression of entering the living room of an old apartment. All the photographs come from the ELIA archives and narrate the relationship between the city and its monuments. The greater part are devoted to the 19th century, while some of the photographs date to before 1870. A smaller section of the exhibition, in the second hall, highlights two milestones in Athens’s history: French soldiers standing on the Acropolis during World War I, in 1917, and Dmitri Kessel’s (1902-1995) famous photographs of the English soldiers during the battles of December 1944. A short video projection renders the atmosphere of the era by projecting postcards over 100 years old, all of them from Athens. The exhibition is particularly valuable for those interested in historical photography. There are photographs by acclaimed photographers such as the Romaidis brothers, Greeks from Romania who specialized in archaeological photography and ran their own photography shop at Ermou Street from 1876. There are also photographs by Petros Moraitis (from Tinos, 1835-1905), the Swiss Frederick Boissonas (1858-1946), who took a large number of photographs in Greece, Nikos Zografos (from Smyrna, 1881-1967) and Baron Paul des Granges, who was born in Greece into a family of philhellenes. Most of the photographs are large, which helps those who want to study the details. Yet the exhibition’s main charm is that it appeals to the wider public, namely to whoever is fascinated by the course of Athens’s transformation. The photographs, placed in wooden frames with ceramic-colored cloth passe-partouts, reflect the atmosphere of Athenian 19th century bourgeois homes. The exhibition will be on until October 31 and is open Wednesdays to Fridays noon to 8 p.m. and noon to 4 p.m. at weekends.