A Postcard From Kasos, 1965: New Photography Book from Robert McCabe

6 months ago 110

Famed photographer Robert McCabe's new book, to be issued in March, will feature a collection of photos taken on the island more than half a century ago.


“Every word I say, I count with the compass. To make sure my words are correct, as if I were singing in Kasos.”

In 1958, the ship “Dodecanese” sank near Symi, taking with it 28 souls. The curious thing is that it was not the first time that ship had sunk. Anchored in Piraeus during WWII, it had gone down during the bombing of the port. However, it was raised, repaired and entered passenger service after the war to call at the more remote islands; this was at a time when the country, in its efforts to recover from wartime hardships, was even willing to patch ships up. It was on this same rust bucket in 1954 that the young American student Robert McCabe made a stormy Rhodes-to-Crete voyage, with passengers begging the captain to return, certain that they were in grave danger.

"In Bouka, or its complementary dock, the Symiakos Gialos, every embarkation (and disembarkation) from the ship was a dramatic occasion." - From "A Postcard From Kasos, 1965"

© Robert McCabe, Idolo Lab

"In Bouka, or its complementary dock, the Symiakos Gialos, every embarkation (and disembarkation) from the ship was a dramatic occasion." - From "A Postcard From Kasos, 1965"

© Robert McCabe, Idolo Lab

That trip was the first time he saw Kasos. He took a photo of the port, but only one, from the rolling deck. Perhaps it was his youth that made him so reckless in the face of the storm. Perhaps it was because it was his first summer in Greece, and he was falling in love with the country and wanted to immortalize as many islands and parts of the hinterland that had remained completely untouched by progress and tourism as he could.

In the morning, the small port begins to come to life.

© Robert McCabe, Idolo Lab

In the morning, the small port begins to come to life.

© Robert McCabe, Idolo Lab

"Livanio’s Yiorgo is leading the sousta dance at the great courtyard of Pera Panaghia. This most expressive of Kasiote dances is not simply a manifestation of joy, levity, boldness, and grace, but a staple of social interaction." - From "A Postcard From Kasos, 1965"

© Robert McCabe, Idolo Lab

"Livanio’s Yiorgo is leading the sousta dance at the great courtyard of Pera Panaghia. This most expressive of Kasiote dances is not simply a manifestation of joy, levity, boldness, and grace, but a staple of social interaction." - From "A Postcard From Kasos, 1965"

© Robert McCabe, Idolo Lab

In 1965, eleven years later – and while he was preparing to wed his Greek fiancée Dina Filippaiou – he finally set foot on Kasos, to take pictures that would illustrate a book by Elias Kouloukoundis, a writer from the island, entitled “Feast of Memory.” McCabe stayed for a week and attended the festival on the 15th of August, where all the island residents, its expatriates, its sailors and its ship captains come together. (Although largely in disrepair at the time, the island’s port remained one of the most famous seaports in Greece, home to many ship owners.) The locals welcomed McCabe with the vaunted Greek hospitality that has not changed since the days of Homer.

Skins of goats are hung out to dry in the sun in Fry. In the background, Vagelia and Stefanis play next to a cow lying in the street.

© Robert McCabe, Idolo Lab

Skins of goats are hung out to dry in the sun in Fry. In the background, Vagelia and Stefanis play next to a cow lying in the street.

© Robert McCabe, Idolo Lab

Annio and Virginia are amused.

© Robert McCabe, Idolo Lab

Annio and Virginia are amused.

© Robert McCabe, Idolo Lab

For decades, the majority of the photos he took on Kasos that summer remained in his archive, with only a few appearing in his publications. Today, McCabe feels it’s his duty to bring them out of oblivion; it’s a debt to the island’s inhabitants, and a debt to his beloved Dina, who passed away just over a year ago. At the beginning of March, Patakis Publishers will bring out his latest photography book, “A Postcard from Kasos, 1965.”

The lyre player Savvas Perselis, who sang mantinades, or improvised rhyming couplets, as he played. The lyre player Savvas Perselis, who sang mantinades, or improvised rhyming couplets, as he played.
"The head of the dance calls upon every woman present, in a hierarchical order, to get up and hold onto the handkerchief. Every time a new woman gets up, the last one in the line sits back down." - From "A Postcard From Kasos, 1965"

© Robert McCabe, Idolo Lab

"The head of the dance calls upon every woman present, in a hierarchical order, to get up and hold onto the handkerchief. Every time a new woman gets up, the last one in the line sits back down." - From "A Postcard From Kasos, 1965"

© Robert McCabe, Idolo Lab

The photographs in the book aren’t just of aesthetic value; they’re a tribute to an island that hasn’t changed much, in contrast to Mykonos and Santorini, now unrecognizable.

However, before going to print, there was a problem that needed to be solved. How could the faces that feature in the photos be identified, almost sixty years later? The journalist Nikos Mastropavlos, a colleague of McCabe’s who was born and raised on the island, undertook the task. One by one, he identified his compatriots, even remembering their nicknames, and wrote a moving text about his childhood on the island and his seafaring father. Marilen Frangoulis Kedros, who was born in Belgium of parents from Kasos and who is currently a resident of London, has also contributed a text, writing about her ancestral island from another point of view.

"(Friends) have come down to the Bouka early in the morning and are drinking their coffee around a table at Klarakis’ kafeneio (coffee shop)." - From "A Postcard From Kasos, 1965"

© Robert McCabe, Idolo Lab

"(Friends) have come down to the Bouka early in the morning and are drinking their coffee around a table at Klarakis’ kafeneio (coffee shop)." - From "A Postcard From Kasos, 1965"

© Robert McCabe, Idolo Lab

Unlike other Aegean islands, Mastropavlos explains in his contribution, Kasos still retains its innocence, perhaps because it was hard to reach for so long. Even today, when the island has its own airport, the feeling of difficult access remains, he says, and inhabitants remain hospitable to visitors, knowing that, in choosing this place, they willfully embarked on an adventure to get here. “That saves us,” he concludes.

This article was previously published in Greek at kathimerini.gr. All photos by Robert McCabe. Scans by Idolo Lab.

The prolific American photographer, Robert McCabe, who was given honorary Greek citizenship in early 2020, first came to the shores of Greece as a young visitor in 1954. In the ensuing years, McCabe captured the changing world of the Greek islands and other parts of the country with a keen and kind eye, presenting his work in a number of stirringly beautiful photography books. Topics that these volumes have addressed range from ancient archaeological sites to the history of wooden sailing ships in the Aegean, and from the waning of a remote island monastery to commonalities between the nations and peoples of China and Greece. Over the past two decades, McCabe has exhibited his work at a dozen solo shows in Greece, France, Belgium, and the US.

mccabephotos.com


Δείτε όλο το άρθρο