A nostalgic new photographic display that opens at the Benaki this week 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. Horses and buggies trawl the inner-city streets nearby where Greek flags fly proudly from every building.
These stunning and rare black and white images of 1917 Athens, about to be displayed for the first time in Greece at the Benaki Museum (Pireos annexe), provide a riveting keyhole into a lost era.
The material comes from the French military archives, and 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.
The exhibition, which will open on September 15, 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 has been kept in Paris and documents through the eyes of these foreign soldiers, their many sources of interest and inspiration drawn from a pre-Instagram world of 1917 Athens (one wonders what images of 2017 Athens might prevail and fascinate in another century’s time!).
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.