RHOMAÏDÈS FRÈRES (Greece, Epirus, Konitsa / act: Bucharest, Athens, Patras)

Rhomaïdès Frères The Rhomaïdès Frères are amongst the most important Greek photographers of last 20 years of 19th century. The firm was formed by three brothers - Constantine († 1896), Aristote († 1916) and Dimitri - who were all born in Konitsa of Epirus, Greece. Little is known about their first steps. From available testimonies it appears that since 1868, the first two maintained a photographic studio in Bucharest, on Mosilor Street opposite the London Hotel. A little later they appear in Ioannina as "Rhomaïdès Frères".

It appeared however that this small city did not cover their requirements. Thus, in December 1873 "they founded a photostudio at Georgiou Square", in Patras, which they maintained until 31 August 1876. Little before they left Patras they were commissioned by the German Archaeological Institute, which executed excavations in Olympia, to photograph the unearthed antiquities as well as the course of excavations. This was also the first experience of photographers with archaeological photography, for which they later became famous. The photographs of Rhomaïdès Frères were published enthetic in a series of annual books of large format that the German Institute published. The books were entitled Die Ausgrabungen zu Olympia (The Excavations in Olympia), covered the period from 1875 up to 1881 and had been printed in Berlin. The rights of publication of these photographs belonged to the German Institute. After 1896 the German Institute terminated its collaboration with Greek photographers and hired a permanent photographer that worked for its archive. From then and up to the Second World War its photographers were German.

In the end of 1876 the Rhomaïdès Frères opened their first photographic studio in Athens. "Having founded a photostudio on the Hermaic Street opposite the jewellery shop of Mr. Ioannis Stefanou, we inform the artloving gentlemen and ladies about our work's beginning" [newspaper Efimeris #341, 28/11/1876]. It is impressive to note the speed by which they became known in the Athenian public. It appears that in this contributed the technical and aesthetic perfection of their work. Until the end of 19th century they remained fashionable photographers for studio portrait shoooting. At the same time they created a vast archive from the existing Greek antiquities and progressively they became exclusive photographers of excavations by the Greek Archaeological Society, but also of foreigner schools in Greece. They had a close friendship with Heinrich Schliemann, who indeed baptized also Aristote's daughter, Lilika. At the World Exhibition of Paris in 1878 the Rhomaïdès Frères presented an album with their photographs from the excavations of Schliemann in Mycenae, as well as landscapes from Olympia e.a.

The great profits they made, a certain amount of which however emanated from the enterprising activities of Constantine, allowed them to build privately-owned mansions. On the ground floor of one of them, at 24-26 Nikis Street, they had opened a subsidiary outlet of their studio, which they called "Deposit of Ancient Monuments". In order to cover the entirety of Greece at the time, they commissioned assistants or simple collaborators to take photographs on their behalf. It is known that with them apprenticed Anastasios Gaziades, Antonis Milionis, Dimitrios Pagonis, Ioannis Xanthakis, and others. With them collaborated for exterior shoots also Spyros Milionis. In the beginning of the 1880s they were the first photographers in Greece to apply the method of 'photocopy' (calotype), that allowed the systematic and cheap reproduction of ph otgraphs with the press process, up to 500 copies for each plate.

In the fall of 1886 they opened again a subsidiary outlet in Patras. For this end Aristotle went there and rented a shop on Saint Nicolas and Rigas Feraios Street, at the Focas residence. He assigned its operation to the photographer Ioannis Dimopoulos. They closed this photostudio in July 1890. In 1889 they participated again in the World Exhibition of Paris and were awarded the silver medal.

The motive power of their activities was Constantine (herewith pictured), who nevertheless died in 1896 at a relatively young age. Aristote undertook then to run the enterprise alone without collaborating with his other brother. Dimitri, even though absent from commercial guides at the time, run shops for selling photocopies and photographs of antiquities, at Syntagma Square, under the Victoria Hotel.

[Alkis X. Xanthakis 2008, p.177-179 / translated by Megakles Rogakos - 12/2009]

XANTHAKIS, ALKIS X. History of Greek Photography 1839-1960 1994 Kastaniotis Editions, Athens [Greek]
XANTHAKIS, ALKIS X. Rhomaïdès Frères: A Great Family of Photographers 2004 Photographer #132 [Greek]
XANTHAKIS, ALKIS X. History of Greek Photography 1839-1970 2008 Papyros Publishing Company, Athens, p.177-179 [Greek]