CULTURE

Photographic art showcased in event

Each year around this time, the visual arts scene in Athens begins with a celebration of photography. More than 20 exhibitions are spread throughout the city’s cultural venues and art galleries, offering a diverse choice from historical photographic archives to the work of contemporary photographers. The International Month of Photography, which is the name of the event, is being organized by the Hellenic Center for Photography (HCP) and held for the 12th time this year. It was established in the late 1980s and is the oldest uninterrupted event on photography in this country. The history of Greek photography is an aspect that the International Month of Photography highlights each time. This year, a forthcoming exhibition on the work of Dimitris Letsios at the Piraeus Street branch of the Benaki Museum (Herakles Papaioannou is curator) sheds light on the work of one of the most important figures in postwar, human-interest Greek photography. Letsios, like Costas Balafas, Spyros Meletzis and Takis Tloupas, documented life in rural Greece and presented it as a poor yet noble and dignified existence. Letsios’s pictures consist of portraits but mostly of images of the rural landscape, particularly of the area of Thessaly where he had grown up and lived most of his life. A self-taught photographer, Letsios began taking pictures in the mid-1930s, going to great lengths to purchase a photographic camera. He fought in the resistance and was sent into exile. He became a co-founder of the Hellenic Photographic society in the early ’50s, an important association that helped the promotion of Greek photography. Another interesting and quite original exhibition on the history of photography presents images of the past that have been destroyed (they are printed from destroyed photographic plates) to the point where their content is hardly noticeable. This is what makes many of the pictures seem more like abstract paintings than photographs. The exhibition which, again, is being held at the Benaki Museum, is drawn from the museum’s photographic archive. It is an exhibition that draws attention to the wear and tear of photography as well as its conservation. The exhibition is curated by Leonidas Kourgiantakis and Aliki Tsirgialou. The International Month for Photography also focuses on contemporary photography. The event «Fournos, Center for Digital Culture» considers the future of photography. «Capturing Utopia,» which is the name of the project, points to a new perception of photography through digital, virtual-reality images. The International Month for Photography also showcases the work of international photographers. A group exhibition at E31 Gallery (31-33 Evripidou) on the work of German or Germany-based photographers George Agelakis, Peter Garfield, Franka Hoernschemeyer, Volker Kreidler and Michael Kunze is an example. Within the exhibition on the work of Greek photographers, examples include Christina Calbari’s portfolio on childhood abuse (at the Batagianni Gallery), or on a completely different note, fashion photography by Greek-Italian photographer Roberta Nitsos (at the Angelon Vima, a newly opened cultural venue). There is also the standard group exhibition on young Greek photographers, curated each year by Stavros Moresopoulos, founder of the Hellenic Center for Photography and coordinator of the International Month of Photography. The work of young artists is also the focus of an exhibition held at the Athens School of Fine Arts. Curated by Manolis Babousis, who established a photography workshop at the school, the exhibition shows pictures produced by students of photography at the School of Fine Arts. Covering a broad range from Greek photography of the interwar period to our time, this prestigious event, known as the International Month for Photography, offers the viewer a diverse selection of a medium whose popularity is also increasingly entering into the art market. Info at www.hcp.gr. A prestigious happening The International Month of Photography is one of the main projects organized by the Hellenic Center for Photography since 1987. It soon grew into a reputable undertaking involving international collaborations. In 1989 the HCP, together with the Photomonth in Paris, planned an initiative for a pan-European photography biennale. However, a lack of funds have prevented the HCP from participating in the project, which was implemented for the first time last year. Back in 1989, the HCP also organized in the context of the Month of Photography an international symposium on Photography. Since 1997, the Month of Photography has also collaborated with the Hellenic Association of Art Galleries. The Benaki Museum and the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography have joined the rest of the participating venues as of last year. If given consistent and adequate support, the Month of Photography could grow into its full potential. Stavros Morespoulos believes that photography can be an inexpensive as well as dynamic means for exporting Greek culture. Well-organized traveling exhibitions could work toward that direction. Moresopoulos cites the example of Jacques Chirac’s policy for the promotion of French photography as a successful model. Beginning in the ’80s, Chirac helped establish the Month of Photography in Paris and the European Museum of Photography also in Paris, both of them successful. In Greece, plans for a cultural policy for photography were drafted by a working group brought together by the Ministry of Culture in 1994. The HCP participated in this working group. Moresopoulos believes that if the group’s proposals could be a solid starting point for a higher-profile Greek policy on photography. The International Month of Photography is subsidized by the Ministry of Culture.