Spiros Zervoudakis, from the "Epiphany" series
A few weeks ago, I went to the Benaki Museum's Pireos Street Annex to see an exhibit entitled "Greek Seas" (Ελληνικές Θάλασσες). This was my first time at the museum, and really, one of my first times wandering through the Athenian neighborhood of Gazi, which is a fascinating mixture of restaurants, clubs, and graffiti. Photographing its streets is on my "to-do" list for future photographic projects in Athens.
As for the exhibit itself, "Greek Seas" displays 350 photographs from a variety of photographers, both Greeks and foreigners. Besides being the usual crash-course in Modern Greek terminology (αργυροτυπία, anyone?), one can literally see the development of photography from as early as the mid-19th century all the way up to the present day. As such, there is also a change in feel throughout the exhibit: at the start, most of the images concentrate on the presence of ships and boats in Greek harbors. As time progresses, however, the focus shifts towards the people in environments surrounding the water, and the sea becomes a backdrop in many instances. Other themes include times of war, the development of tourism and the sea's role in it, and the relationships between the sea and such subjects as the economy, leisure, and historical events.
My only criticism of the exhibit was that I noticed that many of the photographs were produced as inkjet prints. The reasons for this were not clear - where are or were the original photos? And if only negatives were available, why were original prints not made from them? While recognizing the benefits of time and economy that are possible with inkjet prints and digital technology, there's no escaping the magic of the darkroom, of dodging and burning, of the chemical process of exposures and time and light...but this is a minor quibble, and one that should not distract from an otherwise well-displayed, thoughtful exhibition.
The exhibit is up until January 5, 2014, if you're in Athens and want to check it out (as a bonus, there's a chocolate factory across the street, and the entire area smells like the best hot chocolate on a cold day).