[ilds] Durrell "tried to give voice to the spirit of place"

Charles Sligh Charles-Sligh at utc.edu
Mon Nov 24 05:06:26 PST 2008

Greek News
Andreas Smaragdis' Joins Forces with Eleni Gage for ''Magical Greece'' Album
Posted on Monday, November 24 @ 00:41:30 EST

*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, Smaragdis's 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 
life's 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. 
"I'm sorry I can't 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 'kalosini' and much love; I'm 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 evening's 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 'both 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, 'I knew Greece would thrill you,' 'It's 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,' she read, noting that 
throughout her career she also has tried to understand and explain her 
love of Greece. *"Smaragdis really captures Greece. They're not just 
pretty pictures; they show what's 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.

Charles L. Sligh
Assistant Professor
Department of English
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
charles-sligh at utc.edu

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