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May 23, 2022

Photographs of Summer Tourists on the Acropolis in Athens in the Early 1980s

In 1983–84, American photographer Tod Papageorge spent a month each summer on the Acropolis in Athens, capturing the people who followed the same path, finding their way up to the ancient building to see what all the fuss was about and take photographs to prove they’d been there. His resulting body of work seems lost in time, fusing the ancient with the modern.

“I wanted to capture the high, white light of the Acropolis and the bright stone of its schist and monuments,” said Papageorge. “I stayed at a nice hotel, the Zafolia, five minutes from the Acropolis, where every surface in my room was marble, and where I did laps in the pool everyevening, driving the hotel staff crazy.”

“I took the photographs in the summers of 1983 and 1984, during intense sunshine and heat. Since we are at the far end of the tonal scale, postures and gestures become very clearly differentiated. They looked to me like a pair of figures on a Greek vase, arranged in a symmetrical fashion.”

“Athena’s mythical home set me buzzing every time I visited, thrilled to be approaching the glorious place. Who could have known, in 1984, how the haircuts and clothes of the day would, 35 years later, appear both timeless and current? That’s a gift of photography. A dance-like moment on the exterior wall of the Acropolis, above a row of lights used to illuminate the Parthenon at night. Many of my pictures echo the dramas of Greek myth –always physical and often verging on violence – even as they capture the routines and rhythms of visitors.”

(Photos © Tod Papageorge)

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