Photo-journalist Konstantinos Megalokonomou, simply referred to as “the professor” by his peers and colleagues, amassed an extraordinary archive of photographs during his career. These images offer snapshots of Modern Greek society and culture from the inter-war years through the 1970s. In 2007, Topos Books published a selection of these photographs depicting the social and political events of the country as captured by Megalokonomou in a volume entitled An Unknown Greece, 1950-1965
, with accompanying text by Aris Maragkopoulos
Topos Books has just released a second volume, Just a Spectator: Greek Theatre, 1950-1960
, with photos from Megalokonomou’s photographic archives depicting Greek cultural life during the period. The material was selected, and is introduced, by writer Yannis Xanthoulis whose experience and wit help readers place these images in the context of the social and cultural trends of the period.
The rare, and largely unpublished, images offer a powerful testament to Megalokonomou’s brilliance and exceptional ability to capture forces that influenced Greek society without stripping the theatre, in this case, of any of its magic.
Viewing the images, it is apparent that the theatre possesses a different type of charm than the cinema. The same actors cast a different image on stage than they do on screen, performing a scene live in front of an audience without the ability for a second or third take. Audiences also draw different enjoyment from the performances they view on the stage and on the screen.
In the period covered by Megalokonomou, theatre was a vital force in Greek culture and most of the actors featured in this collection of photographs had their roots, and their hearts, on the stage. The images of Dimitris Horn, Ellie Lambeti, Dimitris Myrat, and Katerina –to name a few– aren’t just fixed in the images but in Greeks’ collective cultural memory.
It is this reality that emerges from the volume: theatre lives in the collective memory. Theatre is live, it ferments in viewers’ souls. Megalokonomou did not simply capture scenes from rehearsals or performances in the Fifties and Sixties but offers an imprint of its inner life as conveyed through the intensity but also the relief of the actors’ gestures, postures, and gaze. His photographs of the Greek theatre’s greats –actors with dramatic or comic genius like Alekos Alexandrakis, Kostas Hatzichristos, Aliki Vouyiouklaki, Lambros Konstandaras, Dionyssis Papayannopoulos, Georgia Vassiliadou, Jenny Karezi, Anna Fonsou, Katina Paxinou, Alexis Minotis, Alexis Solomos, and others – go beyond nostalgia and awaken a collective cultural consciousness.
The superb images are not just aesthetically stunning or technically outstanding. Like An Unknown Greece, 1950-1965
, they offer readers a different portrait of Greece during a vital period in its modern history.