Constantine Manos at Columbia Museum of Art

As part of our two-week Photo Camp experience, I took Griffin over to the Columbia Museum of Art today to see Constantine Manos’s A Greek Portfolio series of images, taken between 1961 and 1964. Manos maintains that the experience of traveling through remote villages in Greece taught him the importance of filoxenia, or kindness to strangers, in Greek culture.

Manos was a very young man when he completed his Greek travels, and I was impressed by the sophistication of his compositions, even if many of them seem to stem strictly from his skill for tapping into the rhythms of Greek life at precisely the right moment. Of the images on display in Columbia, none demonstrated this point so ably as this one, “Shepherd, Sfakia, Crete,” along with Manos’s description of how the image found him:

“One day I was walking toward the sea on the southern coast of Crete. Beyond the distant cliffs lies Africa, two hundred miles away. Here Greece ends. It was a warm overcast day as I picked my way over the rocky outcroppings of the barren landscape. The silence of the place was touched only by the distant tinkling of bells.

“As I walked, raising my head occasionally to the sea, I began to discern an unusual black shape in the distance. Soon it became apparent that this immobile object was a man sitting on a rock. He was resting his head in one hand, his eyes covered. His other hand grasped a shepherd’s staff, its crook resting under his arm.

“As I came closer, I slowed my pace and moved more gently over the rocks. I felt that I was invading a vast serene privacy, which would be shattered by my presence. I held my breath as I moved closer for fear of startling the man. I expected him to look up at any moment; then I stopped, only a few feet from the bent figure. I slowly raised my camera, focused, composed, and pressed the button. He slowly raised his head, looked at me calmly, and said good morning.”

Manos’s images are on display through January 11 and are available in book form from Amazon.

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~ by ericplaag on August 1, 2008.

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