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Cycladic Diaries of a Photographer: It all Began with Ios

Philhellene photographer Mark Wilman, creator of a successful six-year project and book ‘Discovering The Beauty of the Cyclades’ describes his first trip on Ios.

Mark’s project has been presented by the British Embassy in Greece, the Greek Embassies in Rome and Tel Aviv and the Aquarium of Milan. His evocative photography and writing transport you to the heart of the Cycladic culture, landscapes and colours. And if you want to experience it for yourself, he is available to offer photographic tours. As a child, the Londoner with Caribbean blood went to Ios on his first Cycladic island experience, described here. This personal story about Ios kicks off a narrative series created by him especially for IN+SIGHTS GREECE and will run over the next few weeks.

Discovering the Beauty of Ios

The journey from Piraeus was thirteen hours on the Elli, arriving at Ios in the middle of the night. It was July 1974, warm and windy. There was light from only a single lamppost but the small hotel was easy to see behind the quay. The owner’s daughter was there. Tanned with short blonde hair, about thirty, and athletic, she didn’t look European and spoke no English, but she could see we were dying of thirst and within minutes had brought up chilled water in unusually shaped jugs, like glass footballs with necks extra long.

Insights Greece - Cycladic Diaries of a Photographer: It all Began with Ios
Ios Port Bay

Next morning early, I left my mother and three younger sisters sleeping to explore the beach near the port. Within a few days, I’d deeply cut the exterior of my right knee on a broken bottle pointing upwards under the sand playing goalkeeper and had to be stitched up in the village hospital, though not by the island doctor who was in Naxos delivering his child. There was no anesthetic so my focus on the ceiling 5 metres above was rather intense, a grip between my teeth. Forty years later, waiting to speak to the mayor about my photography at his office on the rear side of the building, I looked upwards whilst sitting in the reception and gasped, finally.

Insights Greece - Cycladic Diaries of a Photographer: It all Began with Ios
Tris Klisies Bay

The taste of wild oregano on a pizza from a small place in a semi-dark alleyway behindthe port one evening is still memorable today, as it will be everyday. It was explosive and made me feel alive, very aware of my surroundings from that moment on. The stitches came out, Dad arrived and freediving began.

My father was a serious scuba diver involved in managing the British Sub Aqua Club in London. He liked to encourage me to keep going deeper, in my nice orange fins.We’d walk over rugged hillsides unavoidably scratching legs on sharp thorns for much of the way to get to rocky bays on the exposed western side with new Greek friends, one of Insights Greece - Cycladic Diaries of a Photographer: It all Began with Ioswhom was the doctor on holiday who’d kindly closed the wound, another was an able spear-fisherman.

My sisters and I learned to say: “Ena, thio, tria … ena, thio, tria …” as far as a hundred, over and over, especially on our trips up the steep ancient path to the Ios Club for sunsets with Haendel, Beethoven and Mozart, and back. The boat trips to Manganari were always memorable, so beautiful was this bay with its five beaches.

This is the origin of my experiences in the Cyclades. We were there the next year doing it again, and again two years later, and then lots of other times, though just me by then, mostly.


Mark Wilman


The Athens Guide

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