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"Trip to Mount Athos" through the eyes of Frédéric Boissonnas

16 September 2009 / 12:09:40  GRReporter
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The photography exhibition in Sofia of the famous Swiss photographer Frédéric Boissonnas “Fred Boissonnas: Trips to Mount Athos 1928-1930” is organized with the cooperation of the Photography Museum in Thessaloniki. The story of the exhibition “Treasures of Mount Athos” starts in 1997, when the “Mount Athos management” took the initiative to show photos from the archive of Fred Boissonnas for the first time in Thessaloniki, when the city was Europe’s cultural capital. The 400 photographs presented at the exhibition show a cross section of the Swiss photographer’s two visits to Athos in August 1928 and October 1930.

Fred Boissonnas is definitely the most important photographer in Greece during the first decade of the 20th century, who leaves behind him high quality art material with priceless historic value. His archive, which for the past few years has been in the Photography Museum of Thessaloniki, is an important comparison basis for everyone who wants to see Greece before it passed through the quick changes after World War Two.

“On one hand the meaning of Boissonnas’ photographs is hidden in their art value and in the professional use of light and shadow but on the other – in their priceless historical value,” says Dimitris Roumbos, director of the Hellenic Foundation for Culture.

Fred Boissonnas was born in Geneva, Switzerland on June 18, 1858 and he studied art in Stuttgart and Budapest. After few publications the talented photographer wins a gold medal on the Paris International Exhibition in 1900 for his photograph on Mont Blanc, which makes him famous worldwide.

During his first visit to Greece he makes few thousand photographs and in 1910 publishes the collection La Grèce par monts et par vaux. His love for Greek culture takes him back to Greece again. this is how many collections come along like като "L'Acropole d'Athènes" (1914), "La Grèce immortelle" (1919) or "Dans le sillage d'Ulysse" (1933, with Victor Bérard). His other trips take him to Egypt, Nubia, Sinai Peninsula and Mount Athos. Fred Boissonnas has published a total of 50 collections with photographs and in 1919 he founds Boissonnas publishing. In few words Dimitris Roumbos tells us about the exhibition and the future plans of the Hellenic Foundation for Culture.

What is particularly interesting and what should people pay attention to at the exhibition?

The fact that Boissonnas tries to show the architecture of the monasteries from different angles, he shows views from inner yards, he points the lens also to the people, who are photographed while working or while being in groups. It is also interesting that Boissonnas’ photographs do not include religious ceremonies and masses, which is proof of the fact that he was strictly following the canons and rules of the monastery community in Mount Athos.

The monks’ lives and their images, sealed in Boissonnas’ camera are extremely popular in Greece. But why did you decide to show his photographs and not Greece through the eyes of a more contemporary photographer?

On one hand Boissonnas’ photographs are priceless documents for Greek history during the early 20th century but on the other, the exhibitions aims to emphasize on Europeans artists, who have been inspired by the beauty of Greek nature and architecture achievements. His photographs and collections contribute for the formation of the European public opinion regarding Greece, by making him an ambassador and discoverer of contemporary Greece. He was the first photographer to travel on Greek soil and to do it in such radius, leaving incredible images for generations to see.

What plans does the Hellenic Foundation for Culture have for the upcoming years, what should we expect?

The cultural events program for next year is still not ready. We are planning to have events connected to the 100 anniversary of Yannis Ritzos, book openings, caricature exhibitions, appearances dedicated to the Christmas holidays and last but not least, a new program for learning Greek “We speak Greek” is starting on October 12, which will continue for nine months and will end on June 12, 2010.

The exhibition “treasures of Mount Athos” is organized in cooperation with the Culture department of Sofia municipality on the occasion of the celebration “Sofia – 130 years capital of Bulgaria”. The official opening of the exhibition will be done by the director of the foundation Mr. Roumbos, together with an expert from the Culture department of Sofia municipality. Present at the event will be a representative from Mount Athos management, the executive director of Photography Museum in Thessaloniki and other officials.

You can see the photographs at the Hellenic Foundation for Culture building in Sofia and the exhibition will continue from September 16 until October 25, 2009. Entrance is free and doors will be open weekdays between 09:00Am and 05:00PM.

Official opening:

September 16, 2009

07:00PM, Hellenic Foundation for Culture – Sofia

Address: 51 G. Benkovski street


Marina Nikolova

Tags: NewsNine musesArts Photography exhibition Sofia Greece
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