Some, languid and quiet, stretch out on a block of ancient ruins like lizards, abandoning themselves to the sun. Others, including children, stroll around, a camera in hand, looking for an ideal vantage point on this vast plateau always teeming with tourists. Tod Papageorge goes against the grain of this vain enterprise and prefers the suntanned limbs of young visitors discovering this symbol of European civilization to the massive ancient columns.
Trained alongside some of the biggest names in American street photography, such as Joël Meyerowitz and Garry Winogrand, Papageorge has an eye for the theatre of life: places that are a stage to everyday tragedies and comedies. Like he had in New York’s Central Park, the photographer enjoyed tracking down silly expressions and human tenderness under the sweltering Athenian sun.
Dazzled by sunlight
Summer is the season when the city is flooded with tourists. But it is also the time when the sun is the brightest and reaches the highest point in the sky. The dazzling light crushes perspectives, treating the landscape as a block of marble ready to be carved. As Papageorge put it, “to me, these photographs are like painted Greek vases or bas-reliefs.” The beauty of his photographs undoubtedly lies in their softness and the many shades of grey that foreground the forms and underscore the dramatic character of the scene.
In a place where passersby go about their lives while the stones remain mute and immutable, the pictured scenes capture the ephemeral. In his unassuming way, the photographer thus wants to leave his mark on eternity, recording moments that belong to this site and to no other. The photographs emanate a certain sense of nostalgia, reminding those fortunate enough to have set foot in the place of the happiness of having been there.
By Coline Olsina & Jean-Baptiste Gauvin
Published by STANLEY/BARKER
128 pages, £40.00