The Hellenic Star in 1955. (Photo by Robert McCabe)
NEW YORK – Renowned photographer and philhellene Robert McCabe shared photos with The National Herald from a unique trip he took in 1955 aboard one of the Liberty Ships, a class of cargo ship built in the United States during World War II under the Emergency Shipbuilding Program.
McCabe told TNH: “These photos were taken when I was signed on as a crew member in 1955 on a 26-day trip from Brooklyn to Piraeus on the [Liberty Ship] Hellenic Star.”
“There was a limit on the number of passengers a freighter could have without having a doctor on board,” McCabe continued. “So I was signed on as a crew member. The captain allowed me to take the helm at one point but my performance was not up to standard. I didn’t realize the time it took for the vessel to turn so I would overshoot the course.”
“So I was assigned then to chip rust off the superstructure of the ship,” McCabe said. “I got quite good at it over the course of three weeks.”
“Among the passengers on that trip were [Greek politician and economist] Virginia Tsouderou Gontikas and her children,” he noted.
More than 2,400 Liberty Ships survived the war with 835 going to the U.S. cargo fleet, and 526 purchased by Greek entrepreneurs, including shipping magnates Stavros Niarchos and Aristotle Onassis who started their fleets by buying Liberty Ships. It should be noted that of the four surviving Liberty Ships, the SS Arthur M. Huddell was transferred to Greece in 2008, renamed Hellas Liberty, and restored for use as a maritime museum in Piraeus harbor.
Robert McCabe was born in Chicago in 1934 and grew up in Rye, NY. His father worked for a picture newspaper in New York City, and because of his father’s gift of a Kodak Baby Brownie in 1939, McCabe started taking photographs when he was five. After Robert became a newspaper photographer, his interest shifted from hard news stories to people and landscapes, and the rest was history.
His first photographs of Europe were the result of a trip in 1954 to France, Italy, and Greece. He returned to Greece in 1955 and 1957 and photographed the Cyclades for National Geographic. His iconic images of Greece have drawn much attraction and have become a rare glimpse of Greece in a lost era.
He has published several photo books on subjects including Greece, France, Italy, China, Antarctica, New York City and Havana. McCabe has exhibited his work in Greece, the United States, London, Paris, and Brussels.
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