CONSTANTINE MANOS [comments by Isidoros (posted on MGSA-L on 10/19/99)]

Happily, George, I shall add a few more words on the superb Greek-American artist-photographer Constantine Manos, from the few notes I have kept, and of whatever memory may carry over from my recent visits to the Benaki exhibit.

Constantine Manos is known to me, and to many, I hope, by now, friends of Greece, from a magnificent photographic album he produced in the early seventies called "A Greek Portfolio." Shot about a decade earlier during several years of visiting and touring the country, the "Greek Portfolio" "captures" a Greece of stark, Doric simplicity and power and grace, and a peoples' psyche that was kept authentically intact as if from the primordial ages. Done in black-and white, Manos' photographs have stilled in time for us all to peruse, to glance - and be-cry - over a Greece of severe austerity, on the one hand, and of unspoken esoteric, as well as exoteric, beauty and wealth, which has been fast adulterated, falsified and has faded. Most memorable are his pictures from Crete and, especially, those from Karpathos, he there been I think the first to "discover" the island and make it known, both, for its lyric and classical Greek beauty, and particularly for the beauty of its islanders, still clad then in traditional Hellenic costumes -- likely fair remnants of major Minoan settlements that had survived over many an odd times in this Aegean island's fair protective isolation.

Manos was born in (North or South, sorry) Carolina, where, I think, also studied. He worked in Boston, first, as official photographer of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and then in major magazines, such as Time and Life. I know that, besides the "Greek Portfolio", he has published several other books - one a kind of portrait of the Boston Symphony, I saw once in the States - but, I regret to say, I do not remember their names -- yet, since I may not revisit the Benaki and ask about for days, I might as well post this note, even if incomplete. I know, too, that he has been recipient of several major photographic awards, and that his photographs are in some of the US, and not only, major modern art collections and museums.

The "Greek Portfolio", published first, as I see from my copy, in 1972, is likely now a collector's item; but, I think there has been issued now a special Greek edition, for this exhibit -- I will find out tomorrow and shall post to the list for those who may possibly be interested. And, now, a personal note.

In coming to Athens--what must be five or six years ago, first--to discuss the mounting of this exhibit, Constantine Manos visited several institutions to examine their facilities, among which the Ionic Center, in Plaka, of which I am the Director. Mid-morning, of what I remember to had rather been a day of Spring, and most pleasantly surprised were I to recognize in the "Greek-American artist" ushered in my office, and who my secretary had been told a coule of days before by a secretary of the Ministry of Culture that would be visiting, the admired "Greek Portfolio" photographer. We spent a couple of, what were for me, wonderfully congenial hours, and I still remember the warmth of the face, the dark bright eyes and gentle countenance as we spoke of "that" Greece and of "those" Greeks. The '60's were only thirty years past, yet, in the intervened time, there seemed to both to had opened a gap of chaotic dofference. Before leaving, I think i were then also told that, his American immigrant parents were refugees from Mikra Asia, leaving for the States in the early '20's, I think from Constantinople. And he was, too, quite generous, leaving with me several handsome hand-printed copies of those photographs, which I treasure.

With good wishes to all,

Isidoros, Athens


Photograph ("Priest in the Vineyard") by Constantine Manos published in the National Herald issue of 10/16/99


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