August 10, 2010


Earlier this summer the Hellenic Literary & Historical Archive, more familiarly known as ELIA from its Greek initials, released researcher Alkis Xanthakis’ Directory of Greek & Foreign Photographers in Greece, 1839-1960 in CD format. This extremely useful tool has entries for many if not most of the photographers known to have worked in Greece during the period specified, with the emphasis necessarily on native photographers; inevitably, the entries for some of the more obscure practitioners can be on the sparse side. Each entry includes (where known) basic information such as date of birth and death, nationality and place and period of principal activity; a brief biography; and one or more examples of the photographer’s work. The information is available in English and Spanish as well as Greek.

The photographers can be consulted alphabetically by surname, by date, by nationality and by location; the latter is particularly useful, given that many professionals in the 19th and early 20th centuries tended to confine their activities to a single town or geographical area, often extremely restricted. Unfortunately, the Windows-only CD has no true search function, so that one has to wade through what are in effect very short menu pages to find something (96 of them, in the case of surnames beginning with ‘P’). In general, this otherwise highly commendable effort is rather let down by a very inflexible and old-fashioned digital execution; for example, whilst actually occupying a relatively small screen area, it refuses to run in windowed mode, thereby making it impossible to switch between it and other applications – a major limitation in what is a research tool rather an entertainment CD.

The entire database will eventually be available online. In the meantime, ELIA has very courteously announced that copies of the CD can be obtained free of charge by personal application either from the Archive or from the National Bank of Greece’s Cultural Institute, both in Athens. Researchers abroad should write to the Photography Archive at ELIA, Agiou Andreou 5, Athens 10556.

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