Photo by Ana Martinez
"And she gave birth to a splendid brood: Hestia and Demeter and gold-sandalled Hera, [s]trong, pitiless Hades, the underworld lord, [t]he booming Earth-shaker, Poseidon, and finally Zeus, a wise god, our Father in heaven [u]nder whose thunder the wide world trembles."
Hesiod, Works & Days Theogony
This may or may not be something that you have seen, but I love this photo series "20 Gods and Goddesses for 2020" by Ana Martinez. A few of the photos from the series are shown below and can be viewed in its entirety here.
Why do I like this photo series so much? Well, aside from the photos being captivating, I went to school for classics and a big part of that is Greek mythology- my favorite topic! I can easily be drawn to anything on this. Overall, I love the aesthetic look and portrayal of the gods. While representing them in a new light, a balance of ancient and modern remains. The drapery and shades of ivory prevalent in ancient Greek art. The regal touches of gold. The adornment of sneakers and mules. The merging of classical and contemporary elements is done in a way where one does not overpower the other. As photographs are also about capturing their subject, I can't stop here.
While most of the feedback for Martinez's photo series is positive, there was criticism for the atypical representation of the Greek Gods. It is interesting to note the reasoning why for this particular series since other creatives (writers, producers, and artists) reimagine the greek gods all time. When the recreation challenges someones Considering this, in the course of study, it is hard to ignore the white-washing of history, leading many to forget that black people can be found all over the world. They are not reserved to one place; hence the variety of cultures, tones, and ethnicities. This is why I find the reimagining or re-representation of these ancient gods fascinating.
Am I saying that the Greek gods were black? No, not entirely. They are mythical beings that can be imagined in any form. Still, their descriptions can be found in Homeric poems and Hesiod's Works & Days Theogony, none of which specifically mention race or skin but focus more so on attributes and character. Since the statues representing the gods have now lost their paint, there is also no telling how the Greeks portrayed these gods. Although, we can believe them to be painted quite colorful and ornately. As they are myths, it's not necessarily as important as the modern understanding, sentiment, and connection across cultural and acknowledgment that in ancient times, cultures did interact with each other.
In pop culture, most supernatural and mythical-based movies, shows, and books (the popular ones) are primarily characters that don't look like me. An interesting conforming and denial of a larger and real global civilization. So I appreciate this different representation of the gods and how we're seeing this cultural representation take on a lot of things. Classics blogger Anna Judson offers a beautiful commentary or thought-analysis on this photo series with additional resources.
Martinez's photo series does not break the canon for Greek mythology. I would encourage anyone, to take a deep dive into classical history. When you do, you'll discover that it was not quite as isolated as one might think. Every ancient civilization has made unique contributions to the history that is of humans and, in the modern era, our individual takes, reimagining, and challenging of ideas encourages new revelations, understanding, and conversations that continue to push us through time.