New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
To say that Magical Greece, a new album of photographs by Andreas Smaragdis, is a travel guide would be inaccurate and immensely shortsighted. However, for sophisticated first-time and seasoned travelers to Greece, Smaragdisʼs collection of unexpected views of landscape and people, in addition to being a lifetime collectible that will provide hours of contemplation of the beauty of Greece small country, could, indeed, through its unique aesthetic, stimulate inspired travel planning.
Mr. Smaragdis, in his overwhelming passion for Greece, has made it his lifeʼs work to seek out and capture enchanted places, places that define what he calls “the Greece of my heart”.
Magical Greece, published by Kerkyra Publishers, is divided into five groups titled In the Water, On the Land, Beneath the Sky, Towards Divinity, and With the People. The photographs are accompanied by descriptive text written by Eleni Gage.
“Beneath the Sky” is a section of astonishing beauty; in one picture a village on Santorini appears to be floating in mist, in another it is a vast construct of whitewashed cubist buildings perched on top of the caldera, grounded by a blanket of wildflowers in the foreground. In another photograph, curious sheep standing on a terraced plateau gaze at the camera from afar, separated from the viewer by an olive tree, which growing in the direction in which it has been blown for years, has taken on the look of a purposeful individual.
In the section “In the Water”, images of lakes and the sea range from eerie, threatening, serene, and joyous. A mystical waterfall in a glade in Olympia looks like it could be the home of Nereids writes Ms. Gage. Another waterfall, in Kythera, named “Fonissa” (Murderess) has a dark, spirit-like quality that seems to confirm the two legends surrounding, both recalling sudden death.
The Honorable Mrs. Agi Balta, Consul General of Greece to New York, Alexandra Bobolini-Laskaridi of Kerkyra Publishers, and Eleni Gage, a trio that Ms. Gage humorously described as “a feminist representation of Greece”, presented the book at the Greek Press and Communication Office on the evening of November 11.
In her presentation Mrs. Balta spoke of the photographer as “well-known among his peers and photography aficionados for encapsulating time, emotion, and landscape by offering the pure and thoughtful depiction of Greece. “Magical Greece transports you to Greece on the wings of thoughts”, said Mrs. Balta.
“There is some real magic behind the charisma of these pictures. For those of you fortunate enough to have visited Greece, it will remind you of the beauty that you left behind and is still there waiting to be rediscovered. For the rest of you, I hope that this book will give you a yearning to visit Greece and experience for yourself the many wonders of a country with a very rich past, a glorious present, and a bright future.”
Mr. Smaragdis, who was not present, addressed the audience in a three-minute video shot ten days ago from the site, on Mount Psiloritis of a two-week festival at which Kerkyra Publishing presents its books. “Iʼm sorry I canʼt be with you tonight,” said Smaragdis, “I know that I would be among friends tonight, but two outstanding people who have helped enormously with this project — Eleni Gage, and who wrote the excellent text for the book, and Mrs. Bobolini-Laskaridi, who had the idea of publishing these photographs — are there with you. I am on Psiloritis photographing for other such efforts. I hope that an opportunity will be given us to see them together in the future. Seferis says, “Wherever I go Greece wounds me.” There are other special places, where there are people with great ʽkalosiniʼ and much love; Iʼm sure many of you are there tonight. I hope that you, too, will take joy in Magical Greece.”
Born in the small village of Gonies Maleviziou, Crete, at the root of mount Psiloritis. Mr. Smaragdis, who is professor of photography at AKTO, one of the most prestigious photography schools in Athens, has had three one-man exhibitions and has participated in eight group exhibitions (the last, Mount Athos-Aegean Sea, took place in Cuba) and has published twelve albums of photographs of Greece, the Balkans, and the Middle East.
Mrs. Bobolini-Laskaridi called Magical Greece her “favorite book”. When she saw the photographs she decided to accompany them with short text, which like the photographs, would capture the essence of the geography, the tradition, the time, and the light of Greece, and found “the perfect writer in Eleni”.
Ms. Gage began her talk by humorously remarking that the eveningʼs trio of presenters, Mrs. Balta, Mrs. Bobolini-Laskaridi, and she, provided “a feminist representation of Greece.” Lawrence Durrell, “tried to give voice to the spirit of place that he found there”, she said, “He often attempted to describe the bruising love he felt for the Greek landscape whose wild beauty he calls ʽboth frightening as well as inspiring.
But even if Durell could not fully understand his deep adoration of the place he could not escape it, and he worked to infect others with his passion, she said. “He wrote to a friend whom he had urged to visit the country, ʽI knew Greece would thrill you,ʼ ʽItʼs a climate that strips the bark, however old you feel, and pushes out great shoots. I feel ten years off me every time I touch down in Athens,ʼ she read, noting that throughout her career she also has tried to understand and explain her love of Greece. “Smaragdis really captures Greece. Theyʼre not just pretty pictures; they show whatʼs going on under the surface.”
Ms. Gage has written travel articles about Greece for several years, one piece being for the New York Sun, a five-part series of cultural commentary on the 2004 Olympics. Her first book, a memoir titled North of Ithaka in English and To Spiti Mou Stin Epiro in Greek, describes the year she spent living in the mountainous village of Lia, where her father was born. She is a New-York based freelance journalist and instructor of writing composition at Columbia University.