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Exhibitions / Robert A. McCabe

Santorini and the Aegean : Images of an Enchanted Land (1954-1965)
An Exhibition by Robert A. McCabe. The exhibition was held at the Petros M. Nomikos Conference Center in 2006 from 6th July - 25th August

From the Author Robert A. McCabe :

"IT WAS JULY, 1954. My brother and I had been in Athens just a few days on our first visit to Greece when we boarded a ship in Piraeus, bound for Santorini. After the long voyage that was typical of that era, our ship finally entered the caldera. Immediately we noticed that the villages along the edges of the caldera were ablaze with flashes of brilliant light. The townspeople were greeting the ship with reflections of the sun in small mirrors. I wondered whether this was normal for arriving steamers. It was not. This was a special welcome for one of our fellow passengers, Markos Nomikos, who was representative of Cyclades in the Greek Parliament, and the father of our host, Petros.

When we got up to Fira - mule or foot were the only alternatives then - we realized that we were the only visitors on the island, and that there were only two passenger vehicles in working order, a jeep and a bus. Fortunately we had access to the jeep and thus were able to see much of the island. We visited Ancient There, on the winding road that had recently been built to accommodate the visit of Konrad Adenauer, whose grandfather excavated the site.

On another day, oblivious to the treasure beneath us, we walked over to the site of Acrotiri to go for a swim. We visited Oia, Kamari, Perissa, the monastery of Profitis Ilias, Emborio, Imerovigli, Firostephani and the volcano. The dramatic beauty of the island and its extraordinary geologic history had come as a complete surprise. But very quickly the island became a favorite and special place for us.

I returned to Santorini the following summer. It was still largely undisturbed by tourism, although the Atlantis Hotel was under construction. Then in 1956, the devastating earthquake struck destroying 85% of the structures on the island.

I returned next in 1961, once more with my brother, our family doctor and some friends from France. Signs of the destruction were everywhere, yet the hospitality and the generosity of the people was unforgettable. There were still few tourists, but the discovery of the extraordinary character and qualities of the island was beginning. For those of us who had the privilege to visit in that era, the changes are sometimes difficult to accept. The old ways of living and working have all but disappeared. Yet still, each time we make landfall, we are overcome with awe at this unique place and its unique people".

July 2006

ROBERT McCABE was born in Chicago in 1934. Two years later, his family moved east to the New York City area where his father got a job with a picture newspaper based in New York City. He first visited Greece in the summer of 1954, after his sophomore year at Princeton, where he majored in English and wrote his thesis on Byron and Greece. Many of these photographs were first exhibited at the Firestone Library in Princeton. Mr. McCabe and his wife, who was born in Athens, now live in New York and Athens.


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