BOSTON, MA – On May 18, Robert McCabe’s photographs of Greece were inaugurated into the Consulate General of Greece in Boston’s permanent exhibition. Remarks from the ceremony follow from Consul General to Greece in Boston Stratos Efthymiou, Amb. Nicholas Burns, McCabe, and his wife, Jackie, who read the remarks of John Camp, Director of the Agora Excavations of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.
SE: Welcome to the house of Greece!In his famous poem Ithaca, Greek poet from Alexandria Constantine Cavafy writes: “As you set out for Ithaca hope the voyage is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery.”
It was a personal privilege and honor to sail with Robert and his lovely family, Dina, George and Jackie, on a six-month journey that led us to today’s exhibition. A journey that brought Robert’s photographs to our Boston Consulate, their own Ithaca.
This Consulate building was designed and built by architect Haven Wheelwright in 1910 to be the home of the Sears family. In 1993 Consul General Kogevinas bought this building on behalf of the Greek government.
Robert McCabe’s photos have now transformed forever the premises, but also the environment of the Consulate General of Greece in Boston in a way we seldom see in our civil service. The exhibition consists of 29 prints – all of them printed in Greece by George and Sophie Marinos at Idolo Labs and by Adreas Sokulski of Striligas Printing lab. 28 Black and white photographs, 1 in color, which was captured in 2016. 10 large unframed photographs, 7 in the reception, 3 in 2 of our offices. 19 photographs, framed in Athens by Kostas Karasavidis. Robert McCabe’s photographs are now a permanent feature of this consulate, and an enduring bridge between Boston – the Athens of America – and Greece.
Our catalogue was designed by graphic designer Lydia Ioannidou, who is here, and whom I want to thank for her enthusiasm. Within a two-day deadline she did a fabulous job.
Tonight’s exhibition would not have been possible without the efforts of my team here at the Consulate. I would like to thank each one of them.
To Robert and Dina, and to Jackie and George McCabe, who reside in the House of an earlier great Bostonian Philhellene – Samuel Gridley Howe, the Lafayette of the Greek Revolution:I would like to express my deep gratitude for their vision and generosity.
Amb. Nicholas Burns, it is our honor for you to be here with us tonight.
I think Amb. Burns needs no introduction to the Greek-American community. Before returning to his Boston home to become Professor of Diplomacy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Amb. Burns served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador to NATO, spokesperson of the State Department. To us he is best known from his service as U.S. Ambassador to Greece, from 1997to 2001, navigating with confidence through the waters of the U.S.-Greek relations. For students of Internationals Relations, like me at that time, he was a source of inspiration.
Ambassador, thank you for honoring us, and especially for honoring Robert with your presence here.
NB: Thank you very much. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It is my honor to be with you tonight, and sorry for my broken Greek. First, to thank Stratos Efthymiou who has been a great Consul General of Greece, here in the Athens of America. I wanted to be here tonight to pay tribute to a truly great Philhellene – Bob McCabe. We have had a lot of great Philhellenes who have supported Greece. Stratos mentioned Samuel Gridley Howe. With Edward Everett – they supported Greece, in Greece’s liberation from the Ottoman Empire in the 1820s. Harry Truman and George Marshall, with the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine to protect Greek democracy, supported Greece at a very dark hour after the occupation of Greece by the Nazis.
And, when I became ambassador, my takeaway from three and a half years was that the governments are important. But the individuals and the relationships, the Greek-American community, the business community, and individuals like Bob and Dina McCabe – they play a more important role.
Let me tell you about this gentleman. He is a true Philhellene. I think Bob is the most dedicated, most committed, most ardent, most loyal Philhellene in the United States of America… Today.
There was another Philhellene. 80 years ago. The great British writer Lawrence Durrell who wrote Bitter Lemons about his time in Cyprus. He wrote the Alexandria Quartet and he was trying to entice another great American artist, Henry Miller, to come to Greece, and he wrote him a letter and said: “You should see the landscape of Greece, it will break your heart.” I have never forgotten those words.
And tonight we are honoring another Philhellene who has paid tribute to the landscape of Greece. Look at these beautiful black and white photographs that Stratos has put in the Consulate forever. These are Bob’s photographs. And he has been a Philhellene who has really, I think, understood the Greek soul and the Greek spirit and the Greek people and the Greek landscape from 1954, I am sorry to date you, until 2018. And these photographs they really, I think, they speak of someone who has a sensitive nature. Who can see the really important things in these gorgeous black and white pictures.
And Bob has done this; he has captured Greece of the 50s and 60s for us decades later. What a great gift to all of us who love Greece! 50 years on the American School of Classical Studies board, on the Gennadius Library board, he has been a champion of Greek archaeology in addition to photography. He has been a champion of trying to remember the history. When we built a history project, permanent exhibition in the American Embassy in Vasilissis Sofias street, Bob was our greatest source of ideas and support for that exhibit.
And in the most important way he has built the best bridge between Greece and the United States. His family; his beautiful wife, Dina, who is here today, his son, George, his daughter-in-law, Jackie. Their daughter, Ann, who I think is not here tonight but is a true Philhellene. And the new generation, if you have seen this really precautious redhead who is six years old now running around – that is Charlie, and he is the new generation of Philhellenes.
I admire Bob more than anybody. He has contributed so much, and Bobby, I honor you tonight and thank you for your services to the Greek-American relationship over many and many years, in the past and to come. Congratulations!
SE: I asked John Camp, Director of the Agora Excavations of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens – the living legend of archaeology – to send us a message on the occasion of this inauguration. A message that you will all find in the catalogue that you will get. I will ask Jackie McCabe to come and read excerpts from his message.
And thank you for your help Jackie, without you and George this exhibition would have never taken place.
JM: This is from John Camp:It is an honor and a distinct pleasure to address such an audience at the inauguration of this display of photographs of Greece by Robert McCabe, a dear and valued friend. Photography has been his lifelong vocation, the fruits of which we can enjoy today.
Throughout the years, Philhellenism has been a deep well, and has found expression in a broad variety of ways: military, cultural, political, and educational. Robert McCabe’s photographs, with their accurate portrayal of so many aspects of Greek life, are the contribution of a true Philhellene.
These images are a powerful testimony that our unease, that something has changed dramatically, is in fact the case.
How appropriate that a group of these works will remain on display here in the city of Boston – only a few steps from the house of Samuel Gridley Howe, the early Philhellene.
RM: I am going to say something very tasteless for some of you:Mike Keeley is a very old friend, brother of the ambassador who was my professor of English at Princeton, and once we were trying to figure out whether there was any cure for Philhellenism.
And we came up with only one possibility, and that was to own real estate in Greece. And it has not worked for me, notwithstanding real estate.
I want to thank the consul general. I think the dream of every photographer is to have a permanent exhibition. It very rarely happens, so it is unique.
I want to thank Nick for his kind words, Jackie, and John Camp, and I want to again reiterate what Lydia did starting on Wednesday. It is like producing something better than a newspaper with two days’ work, I mean, it is like a miracle. And Lydia, thank you so much for doing that.
When my second book was being printed, we put tremendous pressure on the publisher in Athens before the Olympic Games, and at one point she got irritated and she said, “Robert you don’t understand. The people who come to the Olympics don’t buy books, number one, and number two; your pictures get more and more interesting as time goes by.” And I think that that reiterates what John Camp wrote, and the full text is in the booklet that you have.
When I first used to travel in the islands with my brother in 1954 and ‘55, we would consider an island spoiled if there was one other tourist there. With no tourists, that may sound far-fetched, but, when I went to Santorini first in 1954, there were no other tourists on the island, and I had an opportunity to take a lot of photographs there before the earthquake, and my publisher in Greece is doing a book of them next year.
But, when I thought I would spend my life doing this, working in New York for a few months and then going back to Greece, enjoying the islands, visiting these unspoiled islands, and photographing them over a period of many years, I never dreamed what was going to happen.The change came about so quickly, with jet planes, airports, new port facilities, longer runways in the islands, and new airports in the islands, very, very dramatic change, and it came totally unexpectedly.
Although we recognized the beauty of these places, we never dreamed how the world would change so quickly. So, I feel, like I said, very, very privileged to have been able to record these.
I, as I said before, I wish I had brought more film with me but, I am really thrilled that we have an exhibition here that will stay up, and will give people an opportunity to see another side of Greece.
So thank you very, very much for coming and I am very grateful to you. AndIhopeyouallenjoyit.
SE: I would like to thank Robert McCabe one more time forthe poetry and aesthetic perfection his work reflects.
Robert McCabe’s photographs are not only a visual poetry of aesthetic perfection but an ark, a vessel, a treasure of Greek cultural heritage.
Robert’s photographs have immortalized in a unique way our marble classical monuments, and have forever captured the spirit, the geometry, the light, the identity of a Greece that is receding into history.
For more than 60 years, Robert McCabe has been using his lens to preserve the Hellenic Cultural heritage and to promote classical studies.
As a token of the appreciation and gratitude of the Hellenic Republic, I would like to offer to Robert McCabe a marble vessel, carved by Petros Marmarinos, a sculptor from the Aegean island of Tinos.
This vessel will be a symbol of the treasure of Greek cultural heritage that Robert’s photographs represent for us…
RM: Charlie and I are going to share this…
But thank you very much, that is a wonderful surprise. Tinos is a very special island. I first visited Tinos in 1954 and had an opportunity to walk around some of the paths, the beautiful stone paths. I hope they are still there.
I forgot to say one thing before, and that is that Stratos, besides sponsoring this exhibition, also was the curator. And I hope when we post, if we have not already, a little plaque giving credits for the catalogue and for the printing that we will put Stratos as the curator. He went through hundreds of photographs and personally picked the ones that you see here.Thank you.