A love letter to Kasos
Letters from Kasos is the latest book by Robert A. McCabe, the celebrated photographer of Greece, who was made an honorary citizen in February 2020 in recognition of his contributions to chronicling Greek cultural history through over sixty years of photography. In August 1965, a young American photographer visits Kasos to take a series of photographs to frame the text of a book on the island’s history. These photographs, which were found, in a drawer in 2013, are the backbone of this book, accompanied by texts from two exceptional people from Kasos, Nikos Mastropavlos and Marilen Frangouli Kedros.
Revealing the hardscrabble, yet often romantic, life of a bygone era, McCabe captures the layered beauty of an island that has been through Venetian, Ottoman and Italian rule. Why or how he chose Kasos, an inconspicuous island that most visitors overlook in favour of bustling Crete or Karpathos, remains a mystery. For veteran journalist Nikos Mastropavlos who grew up in Kasos, “In the depths of her soul, the cosmopolitan, as well as low key, Kasos is still an exotic place, a paradise of living insularity, where morals are revived from the years of innocence, as she still insists on travelling against the tourist current. Before the redemption of the visitor’s interest in its distant world, there is the genuine interest of the people of Kasos for the foreigner, who defied the many sufferings of the long journey to land in the new port of Bouka. They care about the stranger’s opinion of them and will make room for them at their parties, in order to reveal the true depths of their soul. Because, even though Kasos had followed the paths of globalization before Globalization, it keeps its special culture intact, its festivals, parties, music, dances, songs, gastronomy, in a natural background and, for the most part, undisturbed.”
Another islander, Marilene Frangouli Kedros, who co-authored the book, had her doubts about the veracity of McCabe’s claims. Born in Belgium to parents from Kasos, where she works on building restorations, she confesses, “The first time Robert said he first visited Kasos in the 1960s, I thought he was wrong. Nobody went to Kasos then unless they had something to do with the island. Robert’s photographs depict Kasos as it is today, rough and faithful to itself, meteoric as if in time. You walk on the island, and you still see the exact same images, over and over again. To the untrained eye, Kasos may seem simplistic and unpretentious, but it is much more sophisticated than one can imagine. It has its own underlying music, land, sea, crafts, food, hospitality and a traditional culture invisible to the casual visitor. The social and historical fabric of the island is still intact.”
In the depths of her soul, the cosmopolitan, as well as low key, Kasos is still an exotic place, a paradise of living insularity, where morals are revived from the years of innocence, as she still insists on travelling against the tourist current.
Robert A. McCabe took his first photographs in 1939, at the age of five. During a trip to Europe in 1954, he took the first of his many emblematic photographs of Greece. A visit to Kasos in 1965 was the reason for the large number of photographs you will find in this book. He has published more than 16 albums and has exhibited his work in many places in Greece, London, Paris, Brussels and in many places in the USA. His books deal with topics and locations in Greece, France, Italy, New York, Havana, China and Antarctica. Letters from Kasos, published by Patakis, is available
at all bookstores. For those in Athens, a reading from the book will take place on June 8 at the GennadiusLibrary at Souidias 61, Kolonaki at 7.30pm