In 1839 the year that Photography was invented, Pierre-Gustave-Gaspard Joly de Lotbinière arrived in Athens on the first stop of his trip to the Middle East and took some photos of the Acropolis. These photos are the very first photos of the Acropolis, the first pictures taken in Greece and everything shows that they are the first travel pictures ever taken by the first “travel photographer”.
Athens first photos October 1839
Unfortunately, none of the 92 original photos taken by Pierre-Gustave have been preserved from his trip to Greece, Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Turkey.
Athens first photos October 1839
The only ones that have survived and we know of nowadays are those which were printed in two books ‘Excursions daguerriennes : vues et monuments les plus remarquables de globe – Daguerreotype Excursions: the world’s most spectacular views and monuments’ in which we can see some photos of the Acropolis and in the ‘Panorama d’Égypte et de Nubie avec un Portrait de Mèhemet-Ali et un text orné de vignettes – Panorama of Egypt and Nubia with a portrait of Mèhemet-Ali and a text illustrated with vignettes’ in which we can see some photos from Egypt.
The first images of Athens and the Acropolis and the first travel logs took a long time to be published in books. We should not forget that during the Middle Ages, Athens was just a small village with only the ancient ruins reminiscent of its former ancient glory. But who cared in those times? The Renaissance was the reason that the interest in antiquities had put the spotlight back on Athens, while the invention of printing made it possible for the implementation and rapid spread of travel logs, drawings, engravings and later in the 19th century the photograph.
The truth is that the conquest of the Greek lands by the Ottoman Empire that ended after 1453 and the fall of Constantinople had made it quite difficult for westerners to travel to Greece. So most of the texts, maps and other representations of Greece and Greek antiquities – which seemed to be at the time the Eldorado of looters – was more of a tour in the texts of ancient authors, the work of their imagination and their wishful thinking rather than the result of actual fieldwork. One of the first scientists with an interest in antiquity who actually travelled to Greece and whose logs and drawings made a huge impression in Europe was Jacques Spon (1647-1685) who had studied as a doctor and was seen by others as a pioneer in the field of archeology but I would say that he was more of a pioneer in the pillaging of antiquities, together with his travel companion Sir George Wheler.
The first years that Athens began to draw the interest of travelers, painting and mapping were such difficult practices, requiring inspiration, talent and a lot of effort, most of the authors and publishers just published books with information for Athens by copying each other. Looking at the first published paintings, engravings and drawings of Athens, I chose two to present to you due to their great interest – because they are the first realistic depictions of Athens and the Acropolis – and also because in my opinion either one of them is a copy of the other or both of them are alterations of a third, already existing drawing.
I present two drawings and one of my photos of modern Athens taken from about the same location where these first drawings were made and you can draw your own conclusions.
CORONELLI, Vincenzo. Repubblica di Venezia p. IV. Citta, Fortezze, ed altri Luoghi principali dell’ Albania, Epiro e Livadia, e particolarmente i posseduti da Veneti descritti e delineati dal p. Coronelli, Venice, 1688. FANELLI, Francesco. Atene Attica Descritta da suoi Principii sino all’ acquisto fatto dall’ Armi Venete nel 1687… Divisa in quattro parti. Con varieta di medaglie, ritratti, e dissegni, Venice, Antonio Bortoli, 1707.
Source of the drawings http://eng.travelogues.gr/
Athens is the city in which I grew up and still live today. It is a city that according to all indications has been inhabited without interruption since the Neolithic Age; i.e. its prehistory can reach back as far as 10,000 years. Besides its ancient history, Athens became famous during the Classic era (508-322 BC) when achievements in the arts, literature, politics and philosophy became the basis of modern Western civilization.
Today Athens is a modern European metropolis with an excellent travel infrastructure. The new airport of Athens Eleftherios Venizelos which opened in 2001 is one of the best and safest airports in the world. While its port, the port of Piraeus is the largest port in Europe in passenger traffic. The city of Athens also has a Metro which opened in 2000 and Trams that connect the city with the seafront, while in the historic center you can admire among others cultural landmarks such as the Acropolis and the Parthenon and also the brand new Acropolis Museum, which opened its doors in 2009 and is among the best museums in the World, while the Athens Archaeological Museum is the museum with the most extensive collections and the most important Greek antiquities in the World.
Athens is the capital city and the center of Greece in all sectors. Although many parts of Greece has direct connections with many countries around the world, the best way to travel anywhere in Greece is to first come and see Athens. Among the other features that Athens has to offer is the excellent climate with warm summers and mild winters, but above all (speaking from a photographer’s view) Athens has an excellent light. I will try mainly through my photos, but also through descriptions by travelers, poets and writers from around the world to offer you the authentic character of Athens, my city, that has been a source of inspiration for artists and intellectuals for more than 2500 years.