Vo­los ex­hi­bi­tion of­fers glimpse into by­gone era

Kathimerini English - - Focus - MARIA COVEOU

Visi­tors to the Vo­los City Mu­seum are con­fronted with im­ages of the city in black and white, but none you might en­counter in any of­fi­cial his­tory book. This is the very per­sonal nar­ra­tive of a lo­cal photographer who chose to im­mor­tal­ize as­pects of the port city that usu­ally went un­no­ticed. The itin­er­ant photographer, the mar­ket ven­dor, the shoe­maker, the beg­gar all be­come sym­bols of the sim­ple bread­win­ner on the mar­gins of a city in tran­si­tion, where cars, bill­boards and lay­ers of ce­ment are be­gin­ning to take over a for­mer calm, pro­vin­cial town.

Born in Anaka­sia, on the out­skirts of Vo­los, Dim­itris Let­sios (1910-2008) ranks among the coun­try’s great pho­tog­ra­phers, along with Kostas Balafas, Takis Tloupas and Spy­ros Melet­zis, and was to a great ex­tent self-taught. For over 60 years, Let­sios used his lens to cap­ture the Greek land­scape, folk cul­ture and ru­ral life in his dis­tinc­tively per­sonal style. Al­though he im­mor­tal­ized scenes from all over Greece, there is a no­tice­able fo­cus on his own home re­gion, Thes­saly, with im­ages from Pilio, the Thes­saly plain, the Spo­rades is­lands, Vo­los and Makrynitsa, cap­tured on ex­cur­sions or dur­ing long walks in the coun­try­side – mo­ments of respite for an artist who oth­er­wise toiled in his fa­ther’s bak­ery.

His archive was do­nated to the Thes­sa­loniki Mu­seum of Pho­tog­ra­phy a cou­ple of years be­fore his death. It num­bers more than 56,000 pho­to­graphs. Fifty of those, taken in Vo­los and most of which have never be­fore been shown in pub­lic, are now ex­hib­ited at Vo­los City Mu­seum. In the words of Irak­lis Pa­paioan­nou, the ex­hi­bi­tion’s cu­ra­tor, Let­sios “tra­versed the body of the city in a quest to dis­cover, be­yond an elab­o­rate stag­ing, un­seen as­pects of the pe­ri­ods af­ter the war and in the early years af­ter the 1974 restora­tion of democ­racy – mo­ments and scenes that were clearly dis­tanced from the of­fi­cial ide­o­log­i­cal fa­cade of the times… He ul­ti­mately re­vealed an el­lip­ti­cal yet pro­foundly hu­man face of Vo­los.”

The ex­hi­bi­tion, “Dim­itris Let­sios: A Por­trait of Vo­los,” runs through Fe­bru­ary 19 and is or­ga­nized by the Thes­sa­loniki Mu­seum of Pho­tog­ra­phy and the Direc­torate of Archives, Mu­se­ums & Li­braries of Vo­los in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Vo­los Pho­tog­ra­phy Club.

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