On our recent trip to Athens I set myself several photographic challenges. One of them was to take pictures that didn’t look as though they were taken in 2015, but could have been taken centuries or millennia ago, when philosophers and heroes roamed the land. I was inspired in part by Hiroshi Sugimoto’s timeless photographs of the sea, but I wanted to take his philosophy further and apply it to the temples, columns and landscape of Greece, as well as the sea.
This is the temple of Hephaestus in Athens, in the agora below the Acropolis. It’s the best-preserved surviving Greek temple, which means it’s the closest you can get to seeing an ancient Greek temple as the Greeks would have seen it.
This is the Parthenon, which is much more famous but much less well preserved. I love the geometry of its columns, which taper slightly towards the top, to make them seem even taller than they really are.
This was our first glimpse of the temple of Poseidon at Sounion, on the southern-most point of the Attica peninsula, a short drive south of Athens. It would have looked the same to approaching travellers centuries ago.
This image of the sea, taken from the temple, links the present and the past in another way. King Aegeus waited on these cliffs for his son Theseus to return from Crete, where he had gone to fight the Minotaur. Theseus promised that if he succeeded in killing the monster, he would hoist a white sail on his return journey; but if he was killed in the attempt, his men would hoist a black sail. Theseus succeeded, but he forgot about his promise and hoisted a black sail. Aegeus, assuming his son was dead, leapt to his death from the cliffs, which is why the sea is known as the Aegean sea.
Connections between ancient and modern are everywhere in Greece, and I wanted to capture an aspect of that on film. What challenges do you set yourself when photographing new situations or environments? What’s your version of my Greek philosophy?