‘The World is One:’ Exhibition of works by Yiannis Psillakis

One quality which seems to have gone astray these days is compassion: to feel that our neighbor’s misery is an outrage and makes us suffer as well, not as a fleeting thought, but in a profound way which affects our own way of living. For photographer Yiannis Psillakis, who passed away recently, the world was one. That is why the phrase became the title of a wonderful exhibition of his work which opened at the Benaki Museum earlier this week. Besides the exhibition, which features photographs from Psillakis’s archives, a rich, 300-page catalog covering his photographic adventures has also been published. Anti-conventionalist Born in 1967, Psillakis studied world history in London, where he also developed an interest in photography. Though he could have followed a completely conventional course, his curiosity for faraway lands and his innate love of people urged him to take a different path: discovering difficult places and studying local tribes, such as the Kalas in Pakistan, the Tuareg in the Western Sahara and the Masai in eastern Africa. Travel eventually became Psillakis’s entire life. He disappeared for weeks without anyone knowing where he was. As soon as he was back, his mind was already galloping on to his next destination. Wherever his travels took him, he had great tenderness and respect for those he met. Cultures unknown to the West enchanted him and he, in turn, turned his back on a world he did not accept, said journalist Alexis Papachelas at a press conference recently. Quite often he preferred to observe and live with the members of a tribe, rather than put his lens between them. Even so, what he left behind is a rich and well-organized archive. The photographer kept notes of all that he came across. A few phrases are scattered on the exhibition’s walls: »I do not regret coming here. I want to see the other side of the world we live in. To ignore that these conditions exist is handy, but is not real.» The Benaki Museum tribute is not simply an aesthetic journey through various photographic compositions, but an anthropological study of garments, jewelry, agricultural techniques and faces expressing joy and sadness. A colorful puzzle made of genuine, rare ingredients. New look According to Eleni Athanassiou, the exhibition’s curator, Psillakis allows his audience to develop a new way of looking at things, to share his thirst for a better humankind. To feel that, indeed, the world is one, but we just happen to live apart. Benaki Museum, 17 Vas. Sofias & 1 Koumbari, Kolonaki, tel 210.367.1000. To December 4.

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