Dr Alexandra Moschovi
Part of a wider-in-scope project that is entitled ‘Redefining Greekness in Photographic Representations of Greece, c. 1920-1970s’, the research project proposed for the Friends of the Princeton University Library / Stanley J. Seeger Research Grant aimed to examine the ways Greece was depicted by foreign photographers in order to decipher how morphological elements, thematic choices, imported loans and folkloric/picturesque references stand for, in each instance, a historically and culturally defined ideologeme of “Greekness”, at home and abroad. Towards these ends, two photographic bodies of work, that of Alison Frantz, a classicist who photographed the Agora excavations in Athens from 1933 to 1968 on behalf of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens and a Cultural Attaché for the U.S. Embassy in Athens from 1946 to 1949, and that of Nancy Crawshaw, a special correspondent for the Manchester Guardian in Greece from 1949 to 1959 and Cyprus from 1955 to 1959, both of which are kept in the Rare Book Division in the Firestone Library, have been selected as comparative studies.
Alison Frantz photographed monuments, ruins, people, and everyday life in various Greek cities for almost half a century, from 1925 when she first visited Greece during her graduate Grand Tour, to her casual visits in the early 1970s after her official retirement. Even though her primary academic interest laid in Early Christian and Byzantine archaeology and thus much of the imagery that she produced relates to these fields, her photographs of the Greek vernacular are full of what anthropologists and human geographers describe as material information. Equally, Nancy Crawshaw’s photographic albums “Greece: Notes and Photographs” and “Greece Topical and Political”, realized in the late 1940s and circulated in Europe in the 1950s, with extensive captions and explanatory texts, provide not only a unique insight into the post-war rehabilitation of Greece, but also a counter example against which the documentation of the country’s reconstruction produced by local photographers, such as Elli Papademetriou, Maria Chroussaki, Spyros Meletzis, and Dimitris Harissiadis, may be discussed.
During the term of a Stanley J. Seeger Visiting Research Fellowship in the Hellenic Studies Department in 2008/9, I had the opportunity to research the Alison Frantz Papers in significant depth and breadth; a substantial piece of research that the current visit has allowed me to complete. The cross-referencing of the photographs that Frantz took in Sicily, Spain, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Turkey, Yugoslavia, England, the Netherlands, and France has enabled me to sketch out the differing ways in which she photographed the Greek landscape and vernacular and determine whether her approach was indeed specific to the Greek idiosyncracies and the historical conditions in the period in question. I also had the chance to examine a private collection of colour slides taken by Frantz since the late 1940s. Constituting one of the earliest representations of Greece in colour, this collection has made a most significant contribution to my project.
Although considerably smaller when compared to the voluminous collection of the Alison Frantz Papers, the Nancy Crawshaw archive also revealed unexpected marvels as far as the documentation of the early post-war period of Greece’s reconstruction is concerned. With 309 contact prints and accompanying captions, the album ‘Greece: Notes and Photographs’ is a thematically organized album with quasi- ethnographic, quasi-anthropological purpose, featuring landscapes, specimens of flora, typologies of architecture and the Greek people, traditional occupations, and stereotypical symbols of Greekness. As stated in the introductory note, it specifically targeted educational publishers and as such it dealt with “permanent aspects of Greek life” rather than providing historical, economic or political information. Captions are lengthier and descriptive of the political situation in Greece at the end of the 1940s in the album ‘Greece: Topical and Political’. Given that Crawshaw was at the time an independent journalist, she was able to adopt a much more straightforward approach, both in terms of subject matter and with regards to reporting political events that local photojournalists or photographers working with relief organizations, could not.
Regarding Crawshaw’s photographic practice, negatives and thumbnails with cropping marks as well as existing exhibition prints and lantern slides have been scrutinized in order to deduct information not only on the way she photographed, but also on how she edited and (re)synthesized her photographs. In order to discover the aesthetic and conceptual specifics of her formation as a photographer, the early photographs and negatives that she produced while she was a photography student were also studied. In the same vein, the captions in the albums have been cross-referenced with the articles and reports that she wrote on Greece at the time as well as the letters that she sent to her husband J. T. Crawshaw. Furthermore, aiming to provide a more comprehensive contextualization of her work, her academic publications, namely The Cyprus Revolt (1978) and the Collection of Greek Newspapers from 1942-1953 were examined. The research in the Greek press of the period indicated that most publications did not include photographs other than portraits of politicians or army leaders, whilst periodicals, such as AERA, reproduced images from the United Nations’ press releases but overall avoided any political discussion of or reference to the Civil War. Still, images of Greek landmarks and people, similar to those produced by Frantz and Crawshaw, were a recurrent theme in several of those publications.
During my visit to the Princeton University Library, I also had the opportunity to conduct research in the United Nations Archives in New York and look at the material produced by the Greek photographers Costas Emmanuel, Voula Papaioannou, and Dimitris Harissiadis in the immediate post-war period.
It is expected that this research will result in a journal article on Nancy Crawshaw’s early photojournalist work whilst the Alison Frantz material will form part of an exhibition and publication, discussions of which are already in place with institutions in Athens.
I should like to take this opportunity to thank the Friends of the Princeton University Library, the Committee on Hellenic Studies and Mr Stanley J. Seeger for awarding me this research grant and for making this research project possible. Thanks are also due to the Firestone Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections staff for their professionalism, expert insight and overall support.
4 June 2010