ATHENS – “I came to Greece for vacation in the summer of 1954 and in reality I never left,” internationally renowned photographer Robert McCabe told The National Herald on the occasion of the publication of his new book, “Mycenae 1954 – To Katamersimero” – High Noon. Published by Ekdoseis Pataki, the book was produced in collaboration with Athena Kakouri, who wrote the Greek text, and Lisa Wace French who contributed commentary and photo captions.
McCabe’s lens, with its power to depict the life of the Greek countryside and everyday life of the inhabitants of Greece with great sensitivity, “accompanies” the devoted archaeologists and people whose efforts during the excavation of ancient Mycenae resurrected some of the names in Greek history.
The series of photos are witness to 140 years of archeology initiated by Heinrich Schliemann in the late 19th century, and which lifted the saga of the House of Atreus from the oblivion of the millennia and the darkness of the grave. The photos are accompanied by the wonderful text of Kakouri, who was the wife of Professor Spyros Iakovidis, one of the main “players” in this drama.
The year 1954 was both the heart and a turning point of the story of the quest that rescued Mycenaean history from the mythological haze of 3000 years. The archaeologists were not the only resurrection men and women. Kakouri also describes the amazing work of people like Michael Ventris which led to the decipherment of Linear B, the script of the Greek-speaking Mycenaeans.
The photographs, sensitive and often poetic, depict the archaeological site and the surrounding area as it was in 1954 and 1955, before tourism changed the idyllic and dramatic land forever.
There are 110 black and white photographs with comments by West, the daughter of archaeologists Alan and Helen West.
McCabe has been photographing Greece and its residents over the past 60 years. His sensitivity and unrivaled technique has made his books best sellers and classics.
He has published 10 books of photographs, most of which depict Greece, but he has also published books about Antarctica, Cuba, and China. The Ramble in Central Park, Abbeville Press, 2011, is about Manhattan’s hidden forest.
McCabe told TNH “I have adopted Greece as my second homeland. I come often and we live in Plaka part of the year. It’s harder now to find the beauty of Greece. So many beautiful places have changed dramatically due to tourism, and the tourist infrastructure is not always beautiful,” he said.
In his photographs Diaspora Greeks will encounter moments from village life in the early 1950s, and the text reveals how the excavations enabled “prehistory” to enter history.
“It’s a journey back to Greece’s roots, to its history and culture,” he said.
Kakouri writes of the summer of 1954: “It was high noon when two Americans in their twenties, the brothers McCabe, approached Mycenae. It took them four hours to come from Athens in their rented Volkswagen.
The odometer read hundred and fifty miles, and the [poor] road was narrow, but the brothers were not surprised by the poverty of the country. They had been wandering about in Greece for a month, and one of them, Bob, an amateur photographer, had captured dozens of landscapes and the faces of life…
That afternoon the brothers, after parking the car, entered the walled archaeological site. They walked uphill and passed through Lions’ Gate of the deserted citadel. From on high they gazed upon the broad horizons and were transfixed…” and transformed.
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