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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Mary Paraskeva

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Born: Mary Gripari 
Born: Mary Griparis 
Dates:  1882 - 1951
Born:  Greece, Mykonos
Died:  Greece, Mykonos
Mary Paraskeva was born on the Greek island of Mykonos, in the Cyclades, in 1882. Her father, Nicolas (Nikolaos) Gripari was a scion of one of the oldest island families, with extensive mercantile interests in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Together with his brother, they owned a flourishing grain exporting business based in Odessa, itself at the time a cosmopolitan city with a significant Greek population. Nicolas Gripari, who in 1904 was raised to the rank of Imperial Councillor and hereditary noble by the Tsar, owned the vast 12,000 hectare estate of Baranovka in the Volynia region of NW Ukraine (now Baranivka, in the oblast of Zhitomir).
Mary Gripari, as she was then, was raised largely in the Crimea, alternating between Baranovka and Odessa. In her late teens or early twenties she developed an interest in photography which she maintained over a long period of time, making her the first recorded Greek woman photographer who work has survived in any quantity. In 1903 she married Nikos Paraskevas, a Greek engineer based in Alexandria, which was to become her home for many decades. However, she also travelled widely across Europe and the Mediterranean, mostly in the pre-war years, and maintained a second home on Mykonos. She died there in 1951.
Her photographs survive in the form of a large number of glass positives, almost all of them stereoscopic glass plates (many in two separate parts), a small number of larger glass positives and a very few glass negatives. The bulk of these have been donated by her great-nephew Petros Griparis to the photographic archive of the Benaki Museum in Athens, where an exhibition of her work in the form of contemporary digital prints is scheduled for June 2011.
Mary Paraskeva’s photography did not break any new ground, artistically speaking, and her technical skills were on the whole poor, probably due to her being self-taught. She also seems not to have kept up-to-date with technical developments in the medium, sticking to what must have been essentially turn-of-the-century equipment, with all that this implies in terms of limited speed and latitude. However, to a large extent her evident enthusiasm made up for these limitations, and her best work has an undeniable vivacity and freshness. It includes photographs of Greece, Egypt, France, Venice and the Alps, as well as a large body of maritime imagery of all kinds. The most important part, both qualitatively and in terms of its historical importance, is her record of life in pre-revolutionary Crimea, which includes intimate upper-class portraits as well as scenes of village and town life. At their best, her family photographs from Baranovka have some of the light-hearted joie de vivre of Lartigue.
John Stathatos
[9 January 2011]

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Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Mary Paraskeva.] 
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