On Mykonos, a smiling young girl descends a flight of steps leading to an alley lined with homes built in the typical Cycladic style: white, cuboid and with thick walls and small windows and doors.
The sky above is cloudless; in the background the top of a windmill can be seen. The girl is dressed for the summer, and one can almost feel the heat of the sunshine warming the rocky, uneven ground.
The black and white image would not look out of place in an ad campaign promoting Greek tourism. The archetypal Mykonian elements it contains are almost cliched – all that’s missing is a pelican.
Yet this photograph was taken in the early 1950s, at a time when tourism was still a foreign concept for Mykonos, and for much of the world ‘Cycladic’ did not yet exist as a definable style. The young girl likely grew up on the island watching as the first foreign visitors stepped off the boats and began exploring its villages and pristine beaches. The windmill in the photograph has sails not to improve tourist snapshots, but because it was still being used to grind the grain grown on Mykonos’ rolling hills.
Taken by the important Greek photographer Voula Papaioannou (1898-1990), this image is just one of thousands documenting life in Greece over the 19th and 20th centuries that are held in the Benaki Museum’s Photographic Archives Department.
First created in 1973 the Photographic Archives Department is an important repository of the work of renowned photographers such as Nelly’s, Voula Papaioannou, Pericles Papachatzidakis, Dimitris Harissiadis, Georgios Rizos, Nikolaos Tombazis and others. Their work provides an important record of life in Greece in the modern era.
It is also often beautiful and moving, capturing different aspects of the Greek reality and spirit – from pre-industrial agricultural life to the promise held in rapidly developing urban centers in the post-war period.
And better yet, you can take a piece of this history home with you: a selection of this unique collection is available for purchase in the form of high quality archival prints. The photographs are processed and printed in various dimensions within the department under the expert care of its personnel, with prices beginning at 40 euros (less for museum members).
A fantastic option for a high-quality souvenir or gift that captures the true essence of Greece, and supports the work done by the Benaki Museum.
Below are some of our favorites. To browse through all of the available prints online visit the website of the Benaki Muesum Shop.