Volos exhibition offers glimpse into bygone era
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.