Voula Papaioannou Cabinet
23.11.2019 – 16.02.2020
Curator: Jorge Blasco Gallardo
Opening: Friday 22th November 2019, 7 pm
Free guided tours, from November 30th: Tuesday at 6 pm; Saturday and Sunday at noon
The work of Voula Papaioannou (Lamia, 1898 – Athens, 1990) has been classed within the so-called “humanitarian photography” that abounded in Europe in the 1940s, around the time of the Second World War. However, the collections in her archive give grounds to talk of an articulated documentary project, with criteria that transcend more nostalgic or dramatic representations.
This exhibition, organised in collaboration with the Benaki Museum of Athens and the Luis Seoane Foundation in A Coruña, is the first to be held in Spain on Voula Papaioannou (Lamia, 1898 - Athens, 1990). It brings together 284 images that offer us a glimpse of a documentary project that goes far beyond the humanitarian shots with which the photographer has traditionally been identified.
Voula Papaioannou began her career as a photographer in the 1930s, with an initial output that focused on the landscape of Greece, architectural monuments and ancient works of art, and was presented in several exhibitions, all approached in a refined, nostalgic style.
As of 1940, after the outbreak of the Second World War, her relationship with the photographic medium changed drastically: she documented the background to the conflict and the care given to the first victims, followed by the period of German and Italian occupation, the economic blockade and the great famine of 1941-42.
After liberation, she joined the photographic unit of the UNRRA, a United Nations body dedicated to assisting and repatriating refugees. There she portrayed the hardships of a population devastated by the Civil War (1946-1949), especially in rural areas. This was when she took her most well-known pictures, often showing families and particularly children leading their lives under inhumane conditions.
Throughout the 1950s, Voula Papaioannou’s work expressed a certain amount of optimism in the wake of an entire decade in which Greece suffered two armed conflicts, with thousands of dead and victims of reprisals.
Voula Papaioannou Cabinet seeks to shed light on the photographer’s work criteria, her iconography and storylines, and the persistence of certain methodologies which reveal some of her thematic cycles. Hence the exhibition presentation, which invokes the contact prints preserved in her photographic archives.
A co-production with Benaki Museum and Fundación Luís Seoane