Photographer Stratos Kalafatis Returns to the Aegean

New exhibition at Villa Kapantzi, in Thessaloniki, shows times changing in the grand Aegean.

“Everything has changed. I’ve changed, first of all. The first time I made this journey I was just under 40 years old. Now I’m just over 50. But mostly it is the Aegean that’s changed. It’s quieter,” Stratos Kalafatis says, commenting on the differences between his first photographic expedition around the Greek archipelago and his latest, the results of which are currently on display at the National Bank of Greece Cultural Foundation (MIET) branch in Thessaloniki.

It was June 2006 when the acclaimed photographer was commissioned by Venice Architecture Biennale curators Katerina Kotzia, Ilias Konstantopoulos, Lois Papadopoulos and Korina Filoxenidou to photograph the archipelago’s ferryboats in port and at sea.

“I set off on my ‘Archipelagos’ journey from my hometown one afternoon in early summer. Kavala, the Aegean’s northernmost port, was the perfect starting point, but more than that it is the town where I grew up and learned about the sea,” says Kalafatis. “The ferryboat was familiar to me from my younger travels; a bas relief comprising layers of salt and thick oil paint. We sailed away from the shore. Black smoke blanketed the horizon until it was lost in the night. I stayed on the deck, observing the lines it cut in the water, how the sea was whipped up by the engines and the fading lights in the distance, trying to restore my memory. We reached Limnos. The red lights on the pier and the ramp as it rumbled down were the first photographs of the ‘Archipelagos’ project. I took many more on that 20-day mini-odyssey.”

The collection that emerged from that expedition was shown for the first time in September 2006 at the Greek Pavilion in Venice’s Giardini. A new publication of the ensuing album compelled Kalafatis to go back and photograph the Aegean again last February.

“It was like a loose end. I had to do it,” he says. “I got on a boat at Piraeus and the first stop was Astypalaia. The island was celebrating a big saint’s day in the middle of winter. Even though these new images show the grandeur of the sea, there is also something dark about them. They are of a new journey that is the same yet so completely different. A burnt dinghy and a lone flag are the last gestures of a major news story that will also be lost with the passage of time,” adds the photographer, referring to the image of a scorched refugee boat.

The MIET show comprises 55 photographs, half of which are new. It is also the first time that the “Archipelagos” project is being presented in its entirety.

This article was first published on


“Archipelagos” runs through January 29 at Villa Kapantzi (108 Vassilissis Olgas).

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