Greek Automobiles – Foto Arte 2007

United Photojournalists Agency. Automobiles 1944-1964.

Given that I had gone to Brasilia to give a talk that – among other subjects – reflected on the disastrous environmental impact of the car in the twentieth century (and continuing) the show Automobiles at the Gallery Bulcão Athos (part of the National Theatre Claudio Santoro) might not have been the most appropriate for me.

Image from the Foto Arte 2007 web site.

However one of the pictures on-line at the Foto Arte site – and one of the more striking in a show, did show a car “wheels-up”, sitting on its roof like a stranded whale on some beach, with an an out of focus figure in a dark skirt and white socks looking on from the left background, which was perhaps more suitable.

The show was by four Greek photographers, Euripidis Martoglou, Dimitris Triantafillou, Dimitris Floros and Dimitris Foteinopoulos, who from 1944-1964 worked as the “United Photojournalists Agency.” The sixty pictures, from the collection of Nikos E. Tolis, were first shown at the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry in April-May 2007 as a part of the 19th International Photography Meeting organised by the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, the only photography musuem in Greece. You may be more succesful than me in finding out more about this ‘Photobieenale’ (which has until now been an annual event) on its ‘cleverly designed’ web site (perhaps it has problems with Firefox.) There are times when I think that if most photography festival’s web site budget was cut by around 90% we would all be better served. On the web, simpler (and thus cheaper) design is nearly always better.

To see all the pictures from the show that are on the Foto Arte site, I think you also need to look at the artists pages for Dimitris Floros, Dimitris Foteinopoulous and Dimitris Triantafillou, as well as that for Euripidis Martoglou given previously, although most pictures appear on several of the pages. Disappointingly it doesn’t appear possible to identify which photographer took each picture – which come from an earlier, more primitive age of disrespect for the moral rights of photographers who are not attributed as the authors of their work. Of course this is a fight that photographers have yet to win, with newspapers and magazines in the UK seldom bothering to properly identify the source of their images. The show could also have benefited from rather tighter editing.

The show itself was actually a fascinating reflection on what now seems a distant age (and as the theme of the Greek festival in which it was first shown was ‘Time’, fittingly so, though it is harder to see how it fits Foto Arte’s ‘Nature, the Environment and Sustainability,) a real period piece, with the views of cars and the people around them – including a ‘Miss Greece‘ – providing a window onto the the immediate post-war years – liberation, the Marshall plan (which brought US autos), civil war, austerity, wide open streets and more. As well as the cars, the clothing also is very much a time machine.

You can see a few more pictures, although none of them among the more interesting in the show, at the Greek Ministry of Culture.

The show as a whole was a fine demonstration of how time alters how we view images. Many of those on show at the time would have seemed such obvious, ordinary statements as not to deserve the attention of the camera. (I used to tell my students, when showing them Stieglitz’s ‘The Terminal‘ that they should go down and take pictures like him at the local bus garage – but then they closed the garage, knocked it down and built some dreary offices on the site.) Some pictures, though certainly not all, acquire very different meanings over time.

My own view on the car is rather different, and I’ll write more on that – based on a part of the talk I gave in Brasilia – here on this site shortly.

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