Heartwarming vision of Greece

The notion of warm Greek hospitality may no longer be as strong an aspect of life but there was a time when philoxenia – which actually goes back to antiquity – was not a nostalgic reminiscence or a gradually waning tradition but an actuality, a practice that people thought of as an integral part of their lives. Greek hospitality is one of the first things that struck American photographer Robert A. McCabe when he first visited Greece in 1954. Together with other aspects of the country, it enchanted him to such a degree that he kept returning to Greece each year, at one point marrying a Greek-born woman and making Athens his second home. «Greece: The Age of Innocence,» the title of an exhibition of the photographs that McCabe took in the first 11 years of his travels through Greece (1954-1965), capture the warm community ties, the welcoming people of rural Greece – mostly life on the Greek islands – and the local architecture still unspoiled by the tourist industry that so fascinated the American photographer. The exhibition, which was initially organized by and held at the National Bank Cultural Foundation in Thessaloniki, is now on display at the foundation’s branch in Patras. Many of the photos were also shown at Princeton University’s Firestone Library. When still a student at Princeton, where he took up English literature, later writing a dissertation on Lord Byron and Greece, McCabe and his brother boarded a ship destined for Le Havre. The idea was to visit France, Italy, Greece and Egypt. They ended up extending their trip and spending the entire summer in Greece. In the 1950s, Greece was a poor country recovering from the disasters of World War II. But McCabe’s pictures show no suffering, only human dignity, warmth and genuine values. In many ways it is an idealized view of Greece, a vision that grows out of a positive outlook on life and places human relationships and a dignified behavior above everything else. This is what makes McCabe’s pictures not just a documentation of a now-extinct Greece but a wise and soothing reminder of life’s brighter side. «Greece: The Age of Innocence» is also available in an album published by Patakis. An ardent traveler, McCabe is currently working on a photo album of his work from his trip to the Antarctic. He also plans to publish a book of his photos from Havana. The exhibition in Patras opens October 12 and runs through November 30. Info: 2610.637.034 or 2610.623.240.