The Hellenic Museum in Melbourne opened on Thursday an exhibition paying tribute to photographer Nelly, one of Greece’s most famous and controversial artists.
“Against the ruins, Photographs by Nelly’s”, is a collection from the Benaki Museum Photographic Archives.
Divided into three exhibition spaces and corresponding themes (Dancing on the Acropolis, The Delphic Festivals and La Mode Grècque), the selected images explore the use of the ancient archaeological sites as a background setting but most importantly as a source of inspiration for her photographic oeuvre throughout the interwar period.
Elli Sougioultzoglou, known as Nelly’s, arrived in Athens in late 1924, after completing her photography studies in Germany (1921-1923). Born a member of the Greek community in the city of Aydin in late Ottoman Asia Minor, she had never before traveled to Greece.
Her first images of ancient Greece were formed in her imagination through the stories of her father who passed on to her his enthusiasm and admiration for ancient Greek civilization.
“On arriving in Greece, I went straight to the Acropolis” she writes in her autobiographical account.
At the young age of 25, she wasted no time and visited the archaeological sites, photographing the monuments and exhibiting her works.
The dedication with which she applied herself to document the antiquities seems to have fulfilled her need to become more deeply acquainted with her ancestral roots, to return to the past, while also presenting her with the challenge to come face-to-face with the greatest monuments of all times.
It is this admiration and her romantic approach of the ancient world that led her to create a body of works presented in the exhibition.