Searching and rereading photographs and the photographers of the battle in Athens, in December 1944. Manolis Kasimatis

From the professional photographers and their press photos, to the amateurs and their memorial photography till the photographers - employees of a variety of services with their propagandistic shooting of a constructed reality.
In the present era, the historians of photography have recognized and classified the photographs and the photographers:
as Documentary Photography (press photographer),
as Humanistic Photography (photographers of the humanity),
as Memorial Photography (amateur photographers),
as Fabricated-Propagandistic Photography (employees photographers).
Can the evaluation of the photographic art be altered depending on the political beliefs of the researcher or can some objective definitions in classification be set?
Until now, the research on the documentary photography for the December in order to lead to a variety of conclusions has not been made due to the larger burden of the historians' political and social analysis. From the perspective of the historians of Greek photography, it is rather proved that they have not managed to combine the research in both the photographic and the political-social field and this is the reason why there is so much silence especially in difficult historical periods. However, the analysis of both the photographs and the actual action of the photographers as historical subjects can offer much more comprehensive data for reading the historical process.
The photographic coverage of the battles, all those which had been preceded and followed, were documented by two different views; the view of the most of the professional photojournalists, of Greek and foreign media and other foreign services, as well and the view of some citizens who carried a camera, something quite rare in that era.
From the perspective of ELAS despite that there was its cinematographic crew (which was consisted by Dimitris Megalidis, head cinematographer - painter, and Nysiriou and Papadoukas, photographers - cameramen), there has not been found any document to prove its presence in Athens.
Thus, the published photographs as recorded documents of the December came from the side of the winners while there are only a few samples from the defeated side. It is necessary to be noted that in Greece, the political situation from 1945 to 1974 couldn't be described as normal; imprisonments, tortures, persecution, disappearances, executions, exile were the main characteristics of the Greek society, and the finding and possession of various documents of the left, was considered as proof for the sentencing of the owners and this is why so many documents were destroyed.
Documents do exist, some of them are buried in the state's archives, ministries of national defense and public order while some others have been kept in other government departments and they are partially accessible. Some of these documents are in archives of political parties and only a part of them is accessible. Equally accessible (or soon to be) are the photography archives, in collections of various museums and institutions. The transparency of the access for study, to all of these historical relics of the struggle of the Greek people for democracy, popular sovereignty, and freedom must be obvious to all.
Some goals of this study are:
- To find and certify the names of photographers, the recovery and simultaneously the evaluation of their work,
- To be recorded the services that some photographers from that period offered to foreign missions,
- The opportunity to seek further information for those (specifically the young photojournalists) who want to know what happened that period (the before and the after),
- To explore the possibilities of establishing a code of ethics for professional photographers and its compliance,
- To analyze the function of the various photographic archives in museums and in private collections,
- The attempt of gathering digital copies of all the documents of this specific period (and wider) and at the same time the creation of a common data base, accessible to scholars.
More specifically, for the photographic archives I mention the following: in ERT there is the archive of Petros Poulidis (the data base of his photos has already been published on the web).
Petros Poulidis, who is considered to be one of the older press photographers, since 1912-4 (although the occupation period is the most obscure of his life), continued his activity during and after the liberation.
In Benaki museum, there are the archives of Dimitris Harisiadis and Voula Papaioannou but they both photographed the after and the dead ones. Their operation of having their camera under the service of his majesty, the propaganda, is obvious although some historians of photography classify them to the pioneers of the so-called Humanistic Photography, in Greece.
Harisiadis worked (from 1944 to 1956) on behalf of foreign assistance (political-economical-military) missions and Papaioannou worked while she was the leading manager of the photographic departments of the assistance missions. (And many press photographers worked openly or secretly on behalf of the assistance missions, too).
In the ELIA photographic archive, there are (the data bases have already been published on the internet) the Dimitris Papadimos' photo-archive. Papadimos served the Greek army at Egypt, as a war photographer, he went to Greece during the liberation and the events in December, the photo-archive of an amateur, Yorgos Vafiadakis, a part of the photojournalist Vasilis Tsakirakis' photo-archive, who is the only one, till now, that recorded wider the side of ELAS, as well. There are also, the photographs from the photo-book of the American press photographer Kessel, the photographs by the press photographer Spyros Halkidis and some photographs by the press photographer Kyriakos Kourpetis.
In the photographic archive at the War Museum, there are some 330-340 photographs, a lot of them with nationalistic content, 150-170 of them have been received from the British War Museum while the rest of them were shot by Greek photographers with no documentation.
In the Nikos Tolis' photographic archive/collection there are many pictures from the agency Photojournalists United and the press photographer Thomas Ionas and we are expecting a study with the collaboration of the Michalis Tsagaris' photo-archive/collection.
Several photographs are in photo-archives of the resistance organizations, but they are mostly memorial photographs of the ELAS fighters and pictures from disasters.
Several pictures were found in old and new books, the most of them badly printed and with no credits although we managed to credit some of them by comparing. Finally, it should be pointed out that there are also photographs from the forensic service but unfortunately, they are scattered and further research is needed. In the study, there is a special chapter on photographing corpses (along with the game of numbers) and their usage for the media and the corresponding chapter dedicated to the role of caption in photography.

A short passage from an interview of ours with the photographer Kostas Balafas is indicative:
- is the photographer's caption needed to be under the photograph?
"The role of the news photographer is difficult. In photography, the caption is necessary and this is so, because it can differentiate things.Photography which slavishly serves the purpose is a crime.The photographer should have a responsible opinion in the text that follows".

However, shortly after the Liberation, the using of the photographers in the political game had already started, too.........
Chapters in detail
1) photos before the battle
2) photos from the battlefields
3) photos from disasters
4) photos of dead corpses
simultaneously a short video (18 minutes) is screened, with corresponding pictures of the December 1944.
Manolis Kasimatis - cultural company Fotografizontas
Προταση εισηγησης που απορριφθηκε για το συνεδριο Greek (Hi)stories through the Lens Conference 8 -11 June 2011, King’s College London. Η ιδια εισηγηση με ελαχιστα διαφοροποιημενο κειμενο ειχε παρουσιαστει το συνεδριο του Δικτιου Μελετης Εμφυλιων πολεμων στις Πρεσπες το 2010.

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