The Camera Museum – Takis Aivalis was inaugurated in March 2013. It is the dream of a lifetime and the culmination of efforts by Takis and Anastasia Aivalis. It is the world’s largest private collection of cameras.
This is the personal collection of photographic cameras of Mr. Panagiotis Aivalis. Panagiotis Aivalis started collecting in the middle of the 1940s, when his father brought him a small Kodak 1A pocket camera of 1923 from America as a gift. At first he regarded it a toy-since it had no film but later on it turned out to be his lifetime interest, his “obsession” as he said.
In 1952, being in America, he bought his second camera a Billy Clark of the Agfa industry and from then on his photography career begins and his personal collection grows.
In 1967 he returns to Greece with more than 300 cameras, including 6 air cameras. These cameras come mainly from America, where in the 1960s they were called “black garbage”, were not regarded as collectibles and sold in extremely low prices in antique shops and bazaars in New York. He would buy them in all states and hence he would repair them by himself when damaged. Later on, Panagiotis broadened his purchases from other parts of the world, such as Holland, France, Kanada, Italy making his own personal collection and enriching it with anything relevant to photography. All cameras are second-handed having their own certificate. Only few of them are brand new.
His collection is mainly based on the evolution of the 20th century cameras, addressing mainly the amateur user. One of the oldest cameras is a Kodak N2 Plico of 1885 whereas a great variety of cameras, typical examples of their date, brand name and type follows. Among the brand names, we can see Kodak, Agfa, Ansco, Argus, Coronet, Zeiss Ikon, Bilora, Dacora, Ferrania, Minolta, Ilford, Yashica, Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Mamiya, Polaroid, Zenit, Gomz, Practica, Fed, Lomo together with air cameras. All of them are big and heavy pieces that were used in the past by the American army to make maps or to photograph whole areas. The collection includes wooden cameras, lenses, negatives, gun cameras of military aircrafts, components and bibliography concerning photography.
In general the collection consists of the following camera categories:
Panagiotis Aivalis was born in Mystras on March 10, 1934 and after finishing High School in Sparta, he left as an American citizen for the U.S.A., where he continued studying in Binghampton University’s Harpur College in New York.
He served the U.S. Army and was seconded to a guided missile unit of the 7th Army in Germany (Nike Ajax). In Germany he was occupied with photography more seriously, since he was the Army’s photographer. After being dismissed from the Army, he studied and graduated from the New York Institute of Photography, specialising in advertising, touristic, commercial and fashion photography. After his graduation, he worked as a teacher in the Institute for three whole years.
In 1967 he returns back to Greece and works for a year in the advertising company “Greka” owned by Mr. Ar. Skylitsis. Afterwards, he founds his own studio and becomes the exclusive photographer of the biannual fashion magazine “Modehellas” for fifteen years as well as for the biannual magazine “The shoe and leather goods export magazine”. He was one of the founding members of EFEDIF (Association of photographers for applied and creative photography) and member of the Kodak museum in New York. He worked with the National Bank, the Ionian Bank and the Laiki Bank taking pictures for their cultural editions. Moreover, he worked for the Greek Tourism Organization, many industries and with Phillip Morris, being the exclusive photographer for the Marlboro cigarettes advertised in the Arab Countries and in Africa.
In 1985 he worked as a director in the photography department of the company “Grammi S.A.”, which published the magazines “ENA, MIA, TV-3, DYO, TETARTO” and the newspapers “24 Hours” and “Kathimerini”. After two years, he worked exclusively with the publishing company Tegopoulos- Maniateas and took photographs for the “New World Atlas”, volume No 12 Greece- Cyprus, for the three- volume encyclopaedia “Greek Geography Encyclopaedia” (Athens Academy Award 1999) as well as for the Greek encyclopaedia “DOMI” taking pictures of all the Greek subjects that were included. His last work was his exclusive photographs for the 52 volumes of the encyclopaedia “DOMI”, under the title “Greece”, which was sold as a special offer by the newspaper “TO VIMA”. During his long and notable career he participated in individual, team and international collections, where he earned various prizes.
In spring 1999 the representative of the Guinness Awards in Greece, having seen an older magazine publication honouring him, he invited him to claim a participation in the book.
In 2001 he earns a Guinness Award for the biggest, private collection of cameras worldwide, consisting of 1.000 cameras.
In 2006 he writes and publishes his first photographic- historic leukoma “Mystras: a journey in time”, with the assistance of the “Athens News Agency”, receiving a very good response from the public.