A nostalgic new photographic display at the Benaki with images from the archives of the French School turns back the clock one century to capture a lost chapter in Athens’ eventful history.
A young lad of about 11, in a soldier’s helmet, perches barefoot upon a broken marble pillar at the Parthenon, and chats up a smiling lass in a white bonnet. A young peasant woman in a torn dress hefts a large water urn on her shoulders as she climbs a ruined path in Anafiotika nearby.
The exhibition, organized by the French School with the Benaki Museum, is comprised of photographs taken by two French soldiers turned photographers, who both served with the French expeditionary force (Armée d’Orient), originally based in Thessaloniki during the First World War.
These stunning and rare black and white images of 1917 Athens, now displayed for the first time in Greece, are a riveting keyhole into a lost era.
The exhibition illuminates the forgotten neighborhoods of our capital, street scenes from everyday life, while also revealing districts that have disappeared thanks to urban changes, or archaeological excavations. The rich visual archive documents through the eyes of these foreign soldiers their many sources of interest and inspiration drawn from a pre-Instagram world of 1917 Athens.
Experience “Athens 1917: Through the Eyes of the Army of the East” at the Benaki Museum, Pireos Annexe, Piraeus 138, from September 15 until November 12. Tickets are €7, www.benaki.gr
Insider Weekly, September 13, 2017.