James Robertson was one of the first prominent traveler-photographers to depict scenes of mid-nineteenth century Greece. Of Scottish descent, he has been identified as the engraver James Robertson, who worked in London around 1830. He first settled in Constantinople in 1841, where he spent forty years of his life working as a master engraver in the imperial mint. His photography career began in the early 1850’s when he opened a photographer’s studio in Peran, the European district of Constantinople. He died in 1888 in Yokohama.
James Robertson’s collection of photographs of Greece was published simultaneously in London and Constantinople. One of the few remaining portfolios (44 photos) entitled “Photographs by James Robertson, Athens and Grecian Antiquities” was donated by Rena Andreadi to the Photographic Archives of the Benaki Museum where it is treasured as a precious historical document and a rare example of early photographic art.
The topics of his photography in Greece follow the path of traveler-painters of the 19th century. The series of monuments of Athens are completed with shots of the Temples of Poseidon in Sounion, Aphaia on the island of Aegina, and Apollo in Corinth.
“Looking at the first photo albums with pictures of the Ancient Greek remains of British traveler-photographers, one can observe that they stylistically link to the corresponding editions of prints,” commented Curator Fani-Maria Tsigkalou. According to the Curator, an exception to this rule is James Robertson’s photography, in which one can see that the human element is always present.
“Keepers of antiquities dressed in official uniforms are always present next to the monuments, while men wearing the traditional uniform ”fustanela” either dressed as visitors in Western suits are represented among the ruins, or staged to highlight some interesting point of the monument, or their routine. ”
The romantic view of Robertson becomes realistic and intimate in his photographs of Istanbul and other cities of the Middle East, which is a valuable historical document.
Opening date: June 27, 8p.m.
The exhibition at the Benaki Museum runs until August 21.
Source: (Museum Benaki)