BOISSONNAS, Frédéric. L’Image de la Grèce. Smyrne. Photographies de Edmond Boissonnas Introduction de Ed. Chapuisat, Geneva, Boissonnas, 1919.
Fr.-Fr. Boissonnas, nicknamed Fred (1858-1946) came from a Swiss family of photographers. An enthusiastic trekker, he started out on his journey from Geneve together with his inseparable friend and travel companion, Greek scholar Daniel Baud-Bovy, rector in the Geneva school of Fine Arts.
From their first journey in 1903 until 1920, carrying a baggage of stereotypes on Greece passed on by travellers of the previous centuries, they toured and took photographs everywhere, from Epirus to the Peloponnese and from Ithaca to Olympus and Mount Athos. Boissonnas and Baud-Bovy together with Greek hunter Christos Caccalos were the first to climb Myticas, the peak of Olympus in August 1913. Boissonnas managed the photographer’s laboratory that he inherited from his father together with his brother, chemist Edmond Victor Boissonnas. The Boissonnas brothers were the inventors of the orthochromatic plate, which, compared to existing techniques, gave an enhanced photographic result.
As a photographer, Boissonnas grappled with the Greek light, beauty and memory. He served this cause for more than thirty years with zeal and tenacious work, and rendered a Greece of his own, in its past, its present, and inscribing itself into the future. Boissonnas served the art of photography in his own pioneering manner and showed the country in the translucid uniqueness bequeathed to it by the light. Thanks to the passion, the talent and the sensibility of the visionary that was Boissonnas, a new perspective on monuments, people and landscapes recalls the harmony that has always existed in this space. Light, landscapes, history and people are united in a unique imprint, which teaches respect for one another, something that just a century later has already been lost. Doric simplicity marks the figures as they stand against the lyrical landscapes, a Doric vigour envelops the monuments whose whiteness glints playfully as the light shines directly above them; everything bathes in Ionic splendour. Fascinated with country life, Boissonnas lived this experience essentially as a search for his own roots, as he was descended from Southern France, near the Rhones river, a territory colonized by Greek seafarers in antiquity. He handed on seven thousand shots from Greece. He was married to Augusta Magnin and of his nine children three became photographers. Apart from the Greek world he depicted, we are today able to see in his pictures the deep faith, the admiration and adoration in which Boissonass, unique combination of an artist, photographer and philhellene, held everything Greek.
Albums on Epirus, Thessaloniki, Western Macedonia, ancient and modern Athens came out as part of the same series. In the introduction to the album, E. Chapuisat calls Smyrna the “Amazon” and exalts its prestigious past, which he presents briefly but without failing to mention any of the important figures in the city’s history. The photographs render images of Greek ships in the port, the Greek army parading on the coast, picturesque scenes from everyday life in Greek and Turkish neighbourhoods, the market, bridges and aqueducts in wider Smyrna area. These are all rare photos of Smyrna before its destruction in 1922.
Written by Ioli Vingopoulou