I used to work in the photographic studio of Mr. Panagiotis Monemvasitis at Githio, Laconia, when I was 9 years old. I remember that I liked the environment, especially photographic art, about which I often dreamed during those days.
I worked for 6 years until the outbreak of the Second World War. I abandoned my dreams of photography in order to complete my studies in secondary education and my military service. After finishing these important obligations, I returned to the photographic studio as a professional movie photographer. It was 1920. At that time I was called by the high school of Areopoli to photograph a patriotic theatrical performance which had been set
up by the students. I was pleased to accept, because I had recalled from memory certain pictures of the unusual physiognomy of Areopoli from a previous visit.
Having a camera at my disposal, therefore, and because I had to gain time, I set out on a bicycle, which was the only means of transportation available to our photographic studio. The distance between Githio and Areopoli was approximately thirty kilometers [about 22 miles], and could not be covered in less than four hours due to the bad condition of the road. After some misadventures, I arrived in Areopoli at about noon. I wandered in its many and exquisite cobbled streets admiring its towers, the tower-houses and their harmonious corner stones, the churches, the sun-lunges, and the arched yards, all made with great artistry of local stone. The Doric physiognomy of Areopoli, so enchanting, had carried me away. I had to make my lens talk. I had made my decision. I had sworn to myself. In 1958, therefore, I presented my first work on Mani through an exhibition at Githio.
Exactly at that time, I became professionally independent and my expeditions all over Mani were intensified for quite some years. I wanted to show this immaculate place to everyone through my lens, this place which had been the Ark of Greek Freedom. Twenty more exhibitions of mine on Mani followed in Greece and beyond.
Despite the fact that the attendance was good in all those exhibitions and my satisfaction was deep, I learned that no matter how many exhibitions I would be able to organize, they could not be enough to implement the target, the oath that I had given to myself, to the
land and to our titanic ancestors, to show and promote the wonderful monuments they left to us, monuments closely connected with their great sacrifice of giving their bodies so ungrudgingly in order that we now live free.
With these findings, as a pensioner I made the decision to recommend to the mayor, Mr. Alexandros Andreakos, the establishment of the Gallery of Githio and Greater Mani, if the municipality could find a proper hall. Indeed, Mr. Andreakos and the Town Council unanimously decided to supply an appropriate hall to this end. My contribution was the donation of 275 big frames with photographs and paintings.
The inauguration of the gallery took place on 27-10-2002 [October 27, 2002] and I thought, at last, that a ring of cultural inheritance was added to our region. Today, with the new Municipal Authority, the gallery is accessible to anyone, free of charge on the ground floor of the newly restored Town Hall, after arranging an appointment. Through all these, indeed considerable, exhibitions of mine, 27 photographic and painting exhibitions of this small, but so important country, a cry emits, an anguished calling of responsibility for
every Maniot, every Greek, and particularly for the state itself, to see, to notice, to come closer to this rock of unprecedented beauty with its unassuming grandeur and multitude
of artistic treasures.
Here I would like to bend on my knees deferentially to those titanic ancestors whose immobile but living works I found and dared to imprint on photographs.
It has now been some 52 years since I first struggled to transfer onto paper and canvas the immaculate land that brought us life, men and women of Mani of 1821, with all the works of art that you and other ancestors made with your hands. Not that I would simply like to treasure them as a token, or for professional, scientific or artistic purposes, but because they are for me--and I believe for every Greek--sacred symbols with which I dared compile a picture bible. This album we all must have in our Greek homes, in order to connect us, to keep the memory of our Land alive in us, and to nourish our Maniot conscience, which we must transmit to our children. Maybe they are more righteous and united than us and think with greater concern and more respect about the immense, deserted and wounded Mother of ours. These photos constitute the great history of our Mani and the uniqueness of these unsurpassed monuments which preserve your figure and your spirit, and constitute the new sacred relics of our race. It seems that the ignorance of modern Greeks about Mani is an unbelievable, but true reality. This is unfair and unacceptable. Concerning this we are all to blame, some more, some less. Regrettably the point was also not raised by the servants of Art, that Mani is not only a glorious history or a subject of human-geographical study, but also "an important issue"
of their love, of Greek and ecumenical value. Therefore a man should be allowed, the one who managed to spare so many years in solitude to study and convey through his lens a difficult national subject, to be frank in the expression of his ideas. With a deep sense of my responsibility, I make an appeal and ask that Mani be visited by every artist, sculptor, painter, architect, poet-musician, photographer and every person with a sense of good taste. Because if, as I believe, my notion is correct, after this capital section of art has been put down, analyzed and studied by all of us, then it is certain that justice will be
done to Mani as to her image and spirit.
Come, therefore, let us raise our eyes to the beautiful world of Mani and let us talk heart
to heart with her so that the impediments that separate us from light and duty fall.
In Mani today Mt. Taygetus separates the eastern district of Githio from the western section of Itilos and an area which has been ceded administratively to Messinia. For a journey through Mani, Githio is a starting point, her capital and entry portal. My photos
are arranged in a way to show, as far as this is possible, what one can see and visit in a logical sequence.
Only those who know Mani will understand that it is impossible for a book, no matter how thick it is, to include all the many thousands of her interesting subjects. However I believe that these 500 themes contained in the book will persuade the reader for the interest presented by this land.
*Edited by Mary Papoutsy, Publisher, for HCS website