Sissi Archaeological (Photographic) Project
Photographing archaeology in all its forms is hardly new. The two disciplines have been inextricably bound since the 1830’s when they set about, revitalising and interpreting a European antiquity that ultimately led them to open up the Near East and especially ancient Egypt to a rapidly growing global audience.
Nearly two centuries later my own photographic journey at the Bronze Age excavations at the Minoan Palace at Sissi, in eastern Crete has furthered this evolution, and although I have not often engaged in imaging the many artifactual objects recovered from during the excavations, I have focussed on the daily working activities at both the dig and at the apothiki (storage and workshop), highlighting the human interaction of the present connecting with the ancient past and as well the prospective future of the three hectare site, which at some stage will be opened, and rightly so, to the public.
Currently there are more than 100 excavators at the site and also those at the apothiki (workshop), involved in stripping back layer after layer of the four thousand-year-old Minoan palace (2600-1200 BC). This archaeological‘destructiveness’ is a necessary and well documented process, including through photography. Indeed, as the French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson concluded '...photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.’ This is never more so than at the Sissi excavations.
A decade on at the Sissi (photographic) Project has so far involved daily 'strolls' from one archaeological zone to the next, making discrete, up, close and personal images of colleagues on centre stage but not stage managed. This is the world of unpredictability, anticipation, improvisation. Being at the right place at the right time to snap that fleeting opportunity.
Photographing is in colour (RAW), converted to a preferred black-and-white, an imagery which for nearly 200 years has been a first choice genre in archaeology. Perhaps it is the timelessness, aesthetic, realistic qualities of black-and-white. As we say, it is how we 'look at colour’ compared with the way we 'look into black-and-white’.
The frontline tools included an Olympus E-510 SLR and a mirrorless Olympus OM-D E-MI Mark II and a M5 MII. M.ZUIKO Digital ED lenses included: 11-22mm wide angle; 9-18mm ultra-wide; 7-14mm; 40-150mm; 8mm.
A publication on the first seven years of the Sissi Archaeological Project - Minoan Extractions - has been published by Archaeopress, Oxford: