Taking in the exhibition “Mnimi tis Polis” (Memory of the City) at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki is like taking a long walk through the metropolis itself. Thanks to the art of photography and its power of poetry and metaphor, the visitor is able to peel back the layers of this complex city, whose monuments form milestones on the long road of history, bearing witness to the civilizations whose power has grown and waned over the ages at this crossroads of the Balkans.
The specific photographic exhibition is the result of a collaboration between the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki with the non-profit f14 Photographers’ Commune. Over a period of almost two years, the members of f14, all amateur photographers from 25 to 75 years old, roamed the streets with the aim of rediscovering their city.
As an exercise, their task was to capture Thessaloniki’s multicultural character and to probe its collective memory. The result was an expansive body of work, from which f14’s artistic committee composed the exhibition, a rich photographic panorama of the monuments and buildings of the city. 111 works, shot in color, black and white, and infrared; on film and digitally, are displayed in one of the museum’s temporary exhibition halls.
The aim of the museum’s collaboration with f14 – which has been teaching photography since 2006 – is to transport visitors along the winding paths of Thessaloniki’s rich history, from its founding in antiquity to the early 20th century.
The modern traveler exploring this 2,500-year-old city feels at once a sense of familiarity and surprise. They continually come across islands of yesterday within the dense fabric of today. Exploring the city’s history, they realize that from its founding until today, it has always been by far Greece’s most multicultural city.
Thessaloniki was founded on the shores of the Thermaic Gulf by the general Cassander, one of the claimants of Alexander the Great’s empire upon his death, who named the city after his wife. It became an important metropolis of the Roman, and later the Byzantine empire.
It has seen Norman conquerors, the Palaiologan Renaissance, was a thriving center under the Ottomans, and finally became part of the Greek state. Thanks to its continual growth and its geographic position, throughout the centuries it has been a mixing pot of different peoples: Greeks, Turks, Jews, Italians, Austrians, French and Armenians, to name just a few.
Beyond its artistic merit, the exhibition “Mnimi tis Polis” provides the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki with yet another opportunity to foster and promote contemporary artistic creation in the city, as it has for decades.
This article was originally published at kathimerini.gr