New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
Photos: Dimitrios Panagos
When Nikos Mourkogiannis visited Arcadia ten years ago to see his friend’s house in the tiny Arcadian village of Αγιο Ανδρεα, he didn’t predict that he would experience “love at first sight”, a coup de foudre, on seeing Arcadia; that Arcadia would not only enchant him, but “captivate him forever”.
Thanks to the Consulate General of Greece and the support of the Pan Arcadian Federation and the Geros tou Morea and Eparhia Kynourias chapters, “Arkadia, The Untold Tale”, an exhibit of twenty-seven of Mourkogiannis’ photographs, is on view at the Consulate General of Greece through April 8.
The exhibit was also shown at the Embassy of Greece in Washington, DC, where it received accolades, through September-October, 2015, and is also planned for Rome, Tripoli, and Leonidion. Proud Arcadians and their descendants here, who have felt the spirit of Arcadia since their beginnings, embraced this tribute to their place of origin.
Mourkogiannis dedicated the exhibit to his grandfather, Nikolaos Mourkogiannis, “a brave and humble man from Mani” (the southmost point of the Peloponnesos).
His vacations with his family when he was growing up were always to the islands, Mourkogiannis told the GN; he had never been to Arcadia, but he had always been infatuated and fascinated by the name.
It was fortunate to be at the opening of the show on the evening of March 17th, as Mourkogiannis’ fascination with Arcadia energized many of the viewers, who followed him on an impromptu tour of the show asking detailed questions about the photographs–whose subjects that range from domestic interiors and exteriors of classic village homes, mansions, individuals, animals and a headshot of an old store mannequin–and listening to his inspirations and impressions.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios was present, and praised the photographs, saying that they moved him, as did Ambassador Iliopoulos, Consul General of Greece (who has an ancestor from Arcadia).
Past president of the Geros tou Morea, Demetris Filios, introduced Mourkogiannis. The current president, Christos Vournas, presented Ambassador Iliopoulos with a plaque whose inscription acknowledged his outstanding service “beyond the call of duty to the Greek American Community of New York” and wish Ambassador Iliopoulos and his wife, Anthoussa Diakopoulou-Iliopoulou every success in their new posting. “We will miss you,” said Vournas, as did the Eastern District governor of the Pan Arcadian Federation, Nikolas Kontoleon.
“My wife and I fell in love with New York and the community and we did our best to serve it,” said Ambassador Iliopoulos, expressing the same sentiment. Iliopooulos reiterated that his aim had been to expand the function of the Consulate to include cultural events, which indeed they did, with Anthoussa having organized several previous exhibitions there.
He tried to keep his photographs simple to mirror the simplicity of Arcadia itself, said Mourkogiannis, “Arcadians haven’t spoiled their surroundings, as is the tendency in modern society, which surprises me. There is a certain magnificence in nature that modern man can not perceive–or appreciate.” Except for the villagers, some of whom he observed, look out at the sea as if “they might be seeing or listening to something that strangers cannot.” And this is nothing new; Arcadia, it seems, has always been viewed as unspoiled; an Eden-like image that was a significant subject in the arts of the European Renaissance.
For the Athens-born Mourkogiannis, a graduate in Visual Communication from the European Institute of Design, a freelance creative advertiser for some of the most famous brands in Italy who has also collaborated with various commercial directors on the making of videos and short movies, the medium is the message. Understanding, that each individual ascribes his own meaning to visual images, as Mourkogiannis points out, one view can be that Mourkogiannis’ passion for photography and his technical expertise will lead him to convey the primordial and contemporary moods of Arcadia more deeply.
We look forward to the possibility of a video or short movie about Arcadia by Mourkogiannis.