Panagiotis Eliopoulos (photographer)

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Panagiotis Eliopoulos, self portrait

Panagiotis Eliopoulos (also Panos Iliopoulos) was born in the village of Philiatra, Messinia in 1897 and died in Kyparissia in 1985.

An orphan from an early age, Eliopoulos fought in the Asia Minor campaign and witnessed the ensuing great disaster. Destitute and with no hope for a better future at home, he decided to try his luck in the United States. Traveling via Mexico as an illegal immigrant, he arrived in Detroit, Michigan, in 1923 where he worked in the railway construction business.

A few years later, he discovered his inclination for art and photography and joined Chicago's School of Photography – a branch of New York's Institute of Photography, where he took classes in photography, painting and cinema.

With the economic depression of the late 1920s, Eliopoulos returned to Greece, back to his hometown of Philiatra, a village in Messinia where he set up his first photographic studio.

Returning to Greece in 1930, he opened a photography studio at Philiatra, where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1947 he opened a second studio in Kyparissia. In 1964 he shut down his shop but continued to be involved in photography on a personal level.

His photographic oeuvre mainly includes studio portraits, outdoor portraits and scenes. Besides portraits, Eliopoulos also took documentary images that have historic value. Scenes from the Asia Minor campaign or events related to the history of his hometown – for example the visit by Ioannis Metaxas to Kyparissia in 1939 – are among them. They are all included in the Eliopoulos archive of 3,500 negatives and a great number of photographs that the Eliopoulos family donated to the Benaki Photographic Archive along with other documents and photographic equipment that belonged to the artist.

What makes him an important photographer, however, is the quality of his work, which far exceeds the level of a countryside professional photographer.