GEORGE I. BOUGIOUKAS / dit: GEO BOUCAS (Greece 1879-1941 / act: London, Smyrna, Athens)

George Boucas Geo Boucas was born George I. Bougioukas in 1879 in Agia Paraskevi, a town of Mytilini on Lesbos Island, Greece. He was the senior of two other brothers, who were also artistic (Eustace became a photographer, while Costas became known as maker of popular poems).

In 1896, at the brink of the Greek-Ottoman war of 1897, when George was 17 years-old, he fled with his brother Eustace for England. While in London, George first studied in a school of painting, then turned to photography and worked for a photographic firm. He married an English lady and opened a photographic studio at 120 Mile End Road in the East End of London. At that time he founded the 'Geo Boucas' firm which became very well known. In photography Boucas put into effect his skills in painting. Parallel to that he also made paintings, especially portraits in oil and charcoal. In 1912 he opened a studio in Smyrna, while retaining his London studio (the 'Amalthia' newspaper of 8 January 1912 records the founding of its operation: "G. Boucas. PHOTOGRAPHER. (Just arrived from London). Masterful Workmanship, Machines Recently Invented. European Street (across Xenopoulou [Street])". The photographs of this period are stamped in English with thick red ink: "THE BOUCAS STUDIO. GEO BOUCAS SMYRNA AND LONDON". In 1914, when the First World War broke out, Boucas was forced to shut his studio in Smyrna since he was a British Citizen, and returned to London. In 1917, however, when Greece entered the Entente, he moved to Athens and held a studio at 28 Filhellinon Street, across the Anglican Church. In a short while, having already had international fame, Boucas became the photographer of the intellectuals in Athens, as well as of important politicians. Eventually, he became the official photographer of the Greek royal family and court.

Boucas had great skill in approaching his models and managing not only to capture the image, but also to portray the character of his sitters, as if his prints are psychographs of them. He avoided using electric light, and chose instead natural lighting that he controlled with shutters and curtains that furnished the glass ceiling of his studio. This procedure was complicated and required great knowledge of lighting in order to control its effects. In his work he was a very demanding and a perfectionist, a fact which distanced him from his assistants.

His correspondence proves that Boucas kept a studio in London, whose operation was supervised by a colleague. According to his assistant Spyros Meletzis, he woul frequently leave Athens to check for himself the progress of his London studio.

Interestingly, Boucas was the earliest known photographer to have sought copyright protection, over his portrait of Krisnamourti who led the Batallion of the Star. When Boucas found out that Krisnamourti's supporters had given their leader's portrait by him to another photographer to reproduce, he took them to court and won his case against, making this the first instance of photographic copyright.

Geo Boucas died in 1941 at the age of 62, amidst the difficulties of the Second World War. His photographs are hard to come by, because the greatest part of his archive was sold by his second wife to an artisanship who used his negative plates to produce mirrors!"

[Megakles Rogakos 06/2006]

XANTHAKIS, ALKIS X. History of Greek Photography 1839-1960 1994 Kastaniotis Editions, Athens, p.186-188 [Greek]
XANTHAKIS, ALKIS X. George Boucas: The Great Portraitist of the Inter-Wars Period 01-02/1996 Opticon #31, Athens [Greek]
XANTHAKIS, ALKIS X. History of Greek Photography 1839-1970 2008 Papyros Publishing Company, Athens, p.291-295 [Greek]