The 30-year long wanderings of the Franco-Swiss philhellene and renowned photographer, Frédéric Boissonnas in our country turned to be particularly fortuitous for Mount Olympus. From the journeys he had taken in Greece, between 1903 and 1935, we have inherited valuable and rare imagery, acknowledged today as part of our mobile heritage. Among other things, Boissonnas had been a fanatical alpinist. In 1913, while in Northern Greece for the creation of a photo album ordered by the Greek government, he decided to ascend Mount Olympus. Together with his friend, Daniel Baud-Bovy, Dean of the Geneva School of Fine Arts, and the local guide, Christos Kakkalos, they became the first to conquer the mountain of Gods, reaching Mytikas, its highest peak. There have been three other visits made by Boissonnas to Olympus, resulting in some of the most amazing shots of the mountain. Through the photographer’s exhibitions, Mount Olympus, as well as Greece, became known all over Europe.
As stated by Marcel Kurtz, Olympus is much more than a mountain: it is an upland area, elsewhere dry and elsewhere heavily forested, elsewhere smooth and elsewhere rough, full of different strands, torn by earth’s age-old turbulence. An entire world of contrast, colors, light and shadow.
In 2012, on behalf of the Municipality of Litochoro, the photo album “Boissonnas’ Olympus” was published by “Zarzonis Publications”. The initial selection of photographs was done by Giannis Zarzonis, who was, also, responsible for the curation and art direction of the final collection. During his visit to Geneva, Zarzonis became acquainted with a significant part of the Swiss photographer’s massive archive. Two years later, the Greek Ministry of Culture started making efforts regarding the acquisition of Boissonnas’ Greek archive. Giannis Zarzonis acted as intermediary, due to his earlier relationship with the representatives of the Boissonnas estate. Visits to Geneva followed. The relevant to Greece sections of the archive began being registered by Zarzonis and sometime later by a team sent by the Greek Ministry of Culture. At first, the legal representatives of the archive were negatively disposed towards the acquisition as they did not wish to compartmentalize the material, but rather keep it in its entirety under the Boissonnas Estate. By the end, they agreed and the amazing material reached Greece.
Apart from the photographic material referring to Greece, there has, also, been an agreement for the archive of Smyrna. Of equal importance were the photographer’s personal notes, which brought to light his own impressions and commentary for whatever his camera captured. They were extensive and were, also, delivered as part of the agreement.
Nowadays, the “Boissonnas archive” belongs to the collection of the Thessaloniki Photography Museum. It involves approximately 13.000 items (images, prints, photographic plates, negatives, books, diaries and correspondence) covering the period from 1903 to 1935.