The Swiss philhellene Frédéric Boissonnas was the first foreign photographer who extensively toured Greece for about 30 years to photograph the landscapes and people of the country.
His adventures included the first known ascent of Mount Olympus in 1913 and he visited many regions on the Greek mainland as well as sailing to many of the country’s islands.
Boissonas’ work was key to the evolution of photography in Greece during the 20th century; with his photos, he managed to attract European attention to Greece in the inter-war period.
Recognition and awards garnered during his career made him a favorite among European royalty who flocked to his Paris studio for their portraits. Among his most famous achievements, was his photograph of Mont-Blanc taken with a telephoto made in England. It was to be a photo which went around the world.
A few years later, he was commissioned to do something similar in Parnassus, Greece. He set out on his trip along with Daniel Baud-Bovy, dean of the School of Fine Arts in Geneva. They started off from Corfu, travelled to Athens and then moved to Parnassus.
An album was born in 1910 from his trips around Epidaurus, Attica and Meteora. Entitled ‘En Grece Par Monts et Par Vaux’ (Greece Through The Mountains and The Valleys) it was soon sold out, winning praise and admiration from prominent statesman Eleftherios Venizelos.
In 1911, Boisonnas visited the islands of the Aegean. After photographing Skyros, Tinos, Mykonos, Delos, Naxos, Amorgos, Santorini, Sikinos, Sifnos, Paros, and Ios, he ended the tour on Crete.
In 1913, he returned to Greece to tour the north while the government finally accepted to fund the photographic imprint of the regions of Epirus and Macedonia. “Epirus, the cradle of Greece” was an album that clearly stated the ties of the region to ancient Greece.
Over the years his works and collaborations with Greek diplomacy greatly helped promoting the country in a European context, especially during the Balkan Wars. Among his books, “Touring in Greece” includes rich photographic material from his trips around the country and his own texts as well. More of his work can be seen in this video.