GEORGES KARDIAKIDES (Ottoman Empire, Cesme 1883-1958 / act: Athens)

Georges Kardiakides Georges Kardiakides was born in 1883 at Cesme (the Greek Krene), on the coast of Asia Minor. He completed only the first four levels of the primary school and then went to Smyrna, where he did casual work. Dreaming a better life he went to Tigani of Chios Island and worked as an apprentice to a photographer. With the money he saved he opened there his own photographic studio. Realizing, however, that he had many shortcomings, he decided in 1912 to go to Paris to perfect himself. He returned to Greece shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. He worked then at the photostudio of Anastasios Gaziades. Acknowledging his abilities Gaziades handed over to him the control of his studio in Piraeus, when he opened a studio in Athens.

The persecution of Turks against Greeks and Armenians led to Kardiakides to return to Cesme. There he was arrested by the Turks, who forced him to enlist in the Turkish army. Takisn a great risk he deserted and in an adventurous way managed to return to Greece. In 1919, while preparing to open his own photographic studio, began the Asia Minor Campaign. Then he decided to return to Smyrna, although the Turks considered him a desreter. Following the Greek army, he photographed soldiers who wanted to send a souvenir of the campaign to their families and thus managed to gather much money. At the same time however his camera recorded the shocking scenes of the Turks' atrocities. Of these documents survive but a few photographs, while the negatives were destroyed.

He returned to Athens in the late 1920s and rented the first floor of the two-storey building of the Trikoupis family, which still stands at 5 Patission Street. A twisting staircase led to the office of the secretary and right afterwards to the waiting room, which was decoarted with large photographs on easels. Then there was a room where the retouching of negatives and paper took place. Then followed the studio, which was 15 meters long and 7 meters wide, with large windows on one side and on the ceiling, which were covered by many stripes of curtains. Further back was the dark chamber and the lab. The photostudio had huge commercial success since the beginning of its operation. Kardiakides participated in two world exhibitions, in Rome and Paris, where he was awarded the Médailles d'Or and Grand Prix respectively.

He dealt exclusively with the studio portrait and hardly photographed landscapes or other outdoor scenes. He was, however, excellent in studio lighting and constantly experimented with new ways. He was particularly fond of the lighting of the type of Rembrandt, a dramatic lighting that used a dark background and strong contrast of black and white.

Taking advantage of the central position of his studio, he had set a projector on a balcony to project in the evening vertically onto the sidewalk black and white transparencies of his works. His studio has managed to overcome the difficult years of Occupation and the Civil War and continued to function until the death of the photographer in 1958.

[Alkis X. Xanthakis 2008 / translated by Megakles Rogakos]

XANTHAKIS, ALKIS X. Georges Kardiakides 05/2001 Opticon #93, p.58
XANTHAKIS, ALKIS X. History of Greek Photography 1839-1970 2008 Papyros Publishing Company, Athens, p.287-288 [Greek]