Georges Salameh. Τhe Way We Were
Courtesy of the artist
Τhe Way We Were: A Photo Album from Carlovassia and Beyond
In collaboration with
Οpening: 3rd August, 8 pm
- 4.08 – 30.09.23
But does a smile and a gaze ever die? I wondered.
– Georges Salameh
The Schwarz Foundation is pleased to present the exhibition Τhe Way We Were: A Photo Album from Carlovassia and Beyond, its annual summer exhibition at Art Space Pythagorion, the foundation’s venue in Samos since 2012. The exhibition, which will open on the 3rd of August, was developed out of a collaboration between visual artist and filmmaker Georges Salameh and Photonisos, a Samos-based collective of photographers founded in 2014.The exhibition aims to showcase the rich social history of the island and identify the threads that connect it to its present.
In 2020 Photonisos started the digitisation of family albums belonging to residents of Kontakeika village in Samos, and from 2022, the programme was extended to include the archives of residents of Karlovasi town–the second largest town on the island – as well as other neighbouring Samian villages. Karlovasi has a rich cultural and industrial history; in the first half of the twentieth century, it had a reputation for its tanneries and was a tobacco manufacturing centre. This period of prosperity is reflected in the magnificent neoclassical mansions of the period as well as the remains of the large stone-built factories by the seaside. After the Second World War and the collapse of the leather market, the economy shifted to small-scale trade and retail and, locally, ceramics production. Today the city bears prominent traces of its former self - like many places with a significant industrial or commercial past and is seeking to redefine its character, while retaining the charm and distinctive character of island urbanity.
The Photonisos archive has been instrumental in preserving the legacy of Karlovasi and its environs. It currently contains over 3,700 digitised photographs and documents which together form a coherent record of the island’s social history of the last one hundred years. A selection of images from these family albums will be presented alongside photographs of contemporary Samos taken by Georges Salameh during his residency on the island, in an attempt to create a dialogue between them. The exhibition is a meditation on both continuity but also transformation and change as the island has transitioned from agriculture and small industry to tourism. The selection of archival photographs together with Salameh’s images reveal unknown micro-histories, latent or unseen aspects of the island's life and traces connecting threads between the present and the past of Karlovassi and the surrounding areas. The title of the exhibition is a reference to the town’s original name “Carlovassia”, according to the Samian historian Epaminondas Stamatiadis, which originates from the Turkish words Karli- ovasi meaning snowy valley.
The images included in the exhibition range in tone and theme – from photographs of people working and groups of friends on holidays to outings, local festivals, athletic and other community events. They thread together aspects of the social, cultural, commercial and political history of the island from early twentieth century to the 1980s, before the advent of digital photography. Τhe Way We Were: A Photo Album from Carlovassia and Beyond explores photography’s role in documenting everyday lives and recording personal but also collective memories. Family photo albums contain emotional, psychological, and affective qualities that reach further than the individual owner, they carry with them stories that are part of a collective memory and that often exist outside mainstream historical narratives. At a time when the whole of the Aegean archipelago is undergoing significant transformations under the pressures of tourism and the pursuit of economic monocultures, the exhibition reminds us of a time when islands were more self-sufficient, communities more close-knit and consumerism had not distorted peoples’ understanding of identity. At the same time, it highlights many of the values and practices that carry on today, and could constitute future models of existence and co-existence.
Edited by Katerina Zacharopoulou
For a Moment... curated and designed by Katerina Zacharopoulou.
The programme is based on the essence of photography itself, which is the capture of a moment in life in a specific place and time. Following the photographs from the Fotonisos archive and the approaches of George Salame, the students of the schools of Samos - with a Polaroid camera as a basic tool - are invited to reflect on how "in" and "for" a moment photography connects "us" and "them", then and now, how we see the past again through what is preserved and what has definitely passed away. The extracted images attributed by the children will form a re-narrative as a commentary on archives and new realities. A record of their own will emerge which in turn will show the future "what we were like back then".
- The Schwarz Foundation and the curators especially wish to thank Apostolis Giannakopoulos, one of the founding members of Photonisos, who single-handedly spearheaded the digitisation of the archives.