On Sunday, June 19, 2022, at 20.30 at Lazaros Koundouriotis Historical Mansion in Hydra, the opening of the exhibition Robert McCabe’s HYDRA 1950s-1960s will take place with speeches by Adonis Kyrou, publisher and writer, and Angelos Rentoulas, journalist at Kathimerini newspaper.
It has only been a few decades, not that long ago, since Hydra, along with the rest of Greece, could barely survive. Its magnificent mansions were gradually emptied since their maintenance became impossible. Neglect and poverty were evident. The town emitted a sense of lost glamour. The 1950s will change all that. Gradually, Hydra would attract artists, intellectuals and writers, who created a peculiar, charming little world. The island would become a tourist destination for people all over the world.
When Robert McCabe, an American student at the time, arrives in Hydra for the first time in 1954, the changes in the island's society are just beginning to appear. McCabe's photographs of Hydra present the island in a moment suspended in time, between two distinct phases, the traditional, austere island society and its subsequent transformation into a developed cosmopolitan centre and tourist destination.
In his photographs, the characteristic beauties of Hydra are immediately recognizable: The bell tower of the Monastery of Panagia, the bust of Admiral Pavlos Koundouriotis, the breakwater with the boats, the stone pens. The more one observes the photographs, the more one becomes aware of precious details, documents of another era: the abandoned old stone warehouses of the harbour and the aging imposing houses; the old building of the valuable Historical Archive of Hydra; the "Neraida", the ship-symbol of the era; the coffee houses at the waterfront, frequented by sailors and fishermen; the shops with the long striped awnings, which are spread out and folded like the sails of the ships; the daily activities of the tradesmen; the young children who roamed freely in the harbour; The colour film captures the tones, the sunlight as well as the shadows on the rocks, the houses, the boats, the sea, at all hours of the day.
Robert McCabe was born in Chicago in 1934. His interest in photography manifested itself very early, as his father was the editor of one of New York's first illustrated newspapers. At the age of 21, something happened that changed his life: a trip to Greece. In 1955 and 1957 he returned on a National Geographic expedition and photographed the Cyclades.
McCabe's photographs clearly show his genuine interest and longing for discovering a place that remains unspoiled and authentic, his admiration for the hardy and frugal inhabitants of a small country, and the appreciation and love for Greece of a man with a classical education and aesthetic. His photographs of the Aegean became unique documents of the islands at a time when the traditional way of life of their inhabitants had remained unchanged for centuries, while the seeds of their opening to the world and their transformation into places of recreation and relaxation, a pole of attraction for people from all over the world, had already been planted.
McCabe’s photographs have been exhibited in many solo exhibitions in Europe (London, Paris, Brussels), United States (New York, Boston etc) and in many places in Greece (Athens, Thessaloniki, Santorini, Patmos, Monodendri Ioannina, Corfu, Poros etc). Since 1979, over 15 albums and exhibition catalogues with photographs from Greece, France, Italy, USA, Havana, China and Antarctica have been published.
The exhibition is presented during the Miaoulia 2022 festivities in collaboration with the Municipality of Hydra.