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Minoan Extractions: A Photographic Journey 2009-2016
Sissi Archaeological Project by Gavin McGuire. Viii+168 pages; illustrated throughout with 137 black and white photographs. Text in English and Greek. 347 2017. ISBN 9781784916367.
Book contents page
Archaeologist and award-winning photographer Gavin McGuire’s involvement with the Sissi Archaeological Project, where he conducted a seven year photographic study of the Bronze Age Minoan excavations under the auspices of the Belgian School in Athens, Université Catholique de Louvain, offered an extraordinary opportunity to capture moments of human interaction during excavations as they interconnected with an ancient Minoan culture, stretching back millennia (2600-1200 BC).

With the Sissi Photography Project, at a unique coastal landscape four kilometres from Malia Palace in Crete, McGuire follows a proud photographic tradition that is now facing yet another major technological change – from digital to virtual, from handheld cameras to drones and to live excavation access. It is also the age of the smartphone – easy for anyone to use, producing high quality images that regularly engages a global general audience.

McGuire’s approach revolves around being at the right place and at the right fleeting moment, making images that highlight motion and emotion from the more than 80 ‘players’ on the archaeological stage for the excavation season during each July-August. There are images of scientists at work – archaeologists, anthropologists, technical specialists, local workmen digging (many proudly following in the wake of their forefathers) and restorers and conservators dealing with the thousands of finds housed at the apothiki or workshop.

Yet the Sissi Project encompasses not only the dig period but includes images of the site throughout the year, showing, in part, the impact of the environment.

137 black and white photographs are accompanied by a series of short essays presented in English and Greek providing an overview of the project’s photographic approach and an introduction to the long and complex relationship between archaeology and photography from their 19th century beginnings. The outcome shows that archaeological sites are not just created overnight but are the result of years of discovery, restoration and preservation. They are not just for now, but hopefully for the future. The ancient past deserves nothing less.

About the author
Gavin McGuire is a New Zealand archaeologist and award winning photographer with the Belgian School at Athens, Université catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve, excavating at Sissi, Crete. He lives in Vrachasi, Crete, with his wife, the artist, Rosemarie McGuire. He is involved in a long-term photographic study of the site, as well as a photographic project to record images of Byzantine history and local traditions of Crete. His work reflects the influences of photographers such as: Fox Talbot, Roger Frith, Flinders Petrie, John Beasly Greene, Roger Fenton, Gertrude Bell, Alison Frantz, Eugene Atget, Henri Cartier Bresson, Ansel Adams and especially Harry Burton. Gavin McGuire is a member of the Royal Photographic Society. (www.pastvirtuality.com)

Read Gavin’s article on the Archaeopress Blog, reflecting on his time spent excavating at Sissi, Crete.



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