Archaeology in black and white

William James Stillman’s eccentric angles, Anton Silberhuber’s human elements, the prevailing shadows of Fred Boissonas and Herbert List as well as Socratis Mavromatis’s minimalism and Gosta Hellner’s particular details are just a few of the impressions that came to mind after a tour of the new exhibition that just opened at the Pireos Street annex of the Benaki Museum, without a guided tour or other explanations. «The Creative Photograph in Archaeology» display arrived in Athens after making three stops in the United States. It presents photographs from 1853 to today that record the history of photography in archaeology and depict the personal artistic touches that each photographer in the exhibition added to their work. The display is set up in a uniform way, with black-and-white ink prints of the same size displayed alongside each other against a black background. This setting gives the show the impression of being scientific. All the photographs have been reproduced by contemporary means – either the negatives or the original photographs were used, without any other intervention. «We decided to do that so as to be able to facilitate the movement of the works of a traveling exhibition,» said Costis Antoniadis, the curator of the Benaki exhibition. «Visitors can see the theme itself, without being influenced by the feelings that a yellowing or fading print can bring out.» It is true that this uniformity in the presentation allows the audience to recognize more easily each photographer’s artistic point of view at the time that each monument, venue or object was captured by the lens, without the romanticism added by the passage of time. At the same time, the exhibition poses the following question: How much could personal viewpoints throw off photography’s factual powers? That question was also the theme of the day conference that took place in the museum’s amphitheater last Sunday, where the topics discussed were the photographers’ artistic approaches and the general image of Greece as reflected in these photographs of archaeological sites. The exhibition is accompanied by an album of 76 photographs. Benaki Museum’s Pireos Street Annex, 138 Pireos & Andronikou, tel 210.345.3111. To January 25.

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