Lassithi plateau, situated at 840m ASL on the island of Crete, is a natural fortress with a particularly fertile land, surrounded by mountains. History runs deep here. First inhabited during the Neolithic age, it became amajor cult place of the Minoan civilization and the ancient Greeks. There, in the Dikteon cave, it was believed that Zeus was born, hidden in safety from his devouring father Cronus. According to the myth, the goat Amalthea nourished baby Zeus. Cornucopia (horn of plenty), the symbol of abundance, which is commonly depicted in western art, has one of its origins in this legend. Similarly, this rich land has nourished the inhabitants of Crete for centuries.
The scenery is formed by both nature and men. Nowadays, the remains of windpumps are scattered over the valley, reflecting just a glimpse of its old glory when 13,000 of these white-sailed pumps dominated the view. The plateau has its own time pace, and the 21st century can be noticed only through fragmented pieces. Typical of the Greek rural areas, it has been under economic stress, long before the generalized debt crisis. Therefore, by exploring the plateau, we inevitably probe into the life of the Greek agricultural areas. Young people are fleeting away, and the population is shrinking. As a result, most people have become resilient to the everdiminishing life prospects and live in their own self-sustained environments.
Being born and raised in cities we tried to perceive our relation with this agrarian world through our memories, or the absence of them. We photograph in order to understand, hopping in this process to complete a puzzle. We gradually realized that basic concepts in our life like food, safety and time were more quantified than qualified. We believe that our questioning, while personal, has wider implications that challenge the urbanized life.
“Cornucopia” is an on-going artistic research attempting to form a contemporary photographic trace of the plateau’s elusive identity. As we persistently confront our experiences and knowledge of this place, we slowly shape an unintended path that is open to interpretation.
Panos Charalampidis and Mary Chairetaki are a Greek photographic duo. They met in 2008, due to their mutual interest in photography. They investigate the world together, sharing thoughts and skills, while creating a common photographic vision.
Their recent artistic work combines a strong personal perspective with that of a documentary. They like to be committed to long-term projects, immersing into the world of their subjects and closely connecting to them. They are interested in exploring the social, religious and cultural identity of provincial communities or special and small environments. They practice photography in order to capture, interpret and convey the world of their subjects, while contemplating on their similarities and differences from the photographers themselves. This procedure simultaneously serves -in parallel- their artistic expression.
all images and text © Panos Charalampidis and Mary Chairetaki