watching the red islands sink into their sleep, into our sleep...


” Bend if you can to the dark sea forgetting

the flute’s sound on naked feet

that trod your sleep in the other, the sunken life.

Write if you can on your last shell

the day the place the name

and fling it into the sea so that it sinks.

We found ourselves naked on the pumice stone

watching the rising islands

watching the red islands sink

into their sleep, into our sleep.

Here we found ourselves naked, holding

the scales that tipped toward injustice.”

George Seferis        Santorini cycladic blue domes

I made my first trip to Santorini in 1990. We spent nights  on the volcanic beach of Perissa, wide and extensive during those years. Cats roamed around us in the night, protecting us until the light of dawn and the soundless presence of the fishermen announced the new day arriving.

A lot of time has passed between that time, and the time of the images in this gallery. Santorini has been heavily invaded by tourism, and the indiscriminate construction of tourist residences has encroached on those wide beaches of my memories. In spite of all the rampant development, ancient Thira continues to shine; the splendor of its cliffs of brilliant pumice stone rushing down to the sea remains, its sunsets from anywhere on the island are still glorious, and the unique experience of being on a volcano in the middle of the sea still transports us to the surreal and dreamlike atmosphere described by Seferis in his poem.  Santorini cycladic blue domes

The sources of creative stimuli in Santorini are infinite. The special purity of the light, unlike anywhere else, imbues everything with a chromatic intensity bordering on the spiritual, and no doubt influences the artists who create here. The light of Santorini plays with the curves and the spaces of the architecture, creating varied, perfect geometric shapes and patterns. The color palette is bright white, turquoise blue, and red; our senses truly become ecstatic. One can lose oneself for hours photographing Pyrgos, Firá or Imerovigli. Santorini cycladic blue domes

The name Santorini, derived from “Saint Irene”, was given to the island during its period of Venetian rule. It is a volcanic island, originally circular, with an internal marine lagoon and a wide crater — the caldera — located right in the middle of the lagoon about 20 km southwest of the interior coast. The island was partially destroyed by an apocalyptic volcanic eruption around 1627 BC, and it was subsequently invaded by the sea as we know it today. That eruption was one of the largest and most catastrophic in recorded history, and it had devastating consequences for the MinUpdateoan people living in the Aegean Sea. Effusions of pumice and ash rained down from the sky and were dispersed over many kilometers, turning day into night, tinting sunrises and sunsets, and affecting weather conditions.

Firá is the picturesque capital of the island. Perched on the rim of the caldera, it and the villages  of Oia, Imerovígli and Firostefáni form what is called the “caldera’s eyebrow”. The land here forms a natural balcony from which one can see dazzling views of the volcano. The bright, immaculate whitewash of Firá’s houses and the dazzling blue of its rounded rooftops overlooking the deep blue sea make a beautiful and unforgettable tableau from which to contemplate the famous caldera. The architecture of the island that we find so charming and lovely today is the manifestation of a long struggle for survival over many generations. Out of necessity the people here adapted their construction to the  local environment and its limitations. We can see today how the organic lines of the buildings are the result of the residents’ seafaring culture and the limited island resources: ergonomic stairs similar to those of their ships, a spare, minimalist style, building materialsSantorini cycladic blue domes taken from the ground rather than imported from elsewhere.

The day ends in Oía, enjoying a glass of the local white wine, assyrtiko, with olives and kopanistí cheese. The camera, mounted on a tripod, captures the sun sinking into the sea, dyeing ocher the white houses and churches with their domes the color of the Aegean Sea. And at that moment we do not feel that the “red islands” of Seferis are sinking, or that the splendor of Greece and the Aegean are gone. On the contrary, we feel deep in our souls that these islands are emerging, to offer even more life and strength to our dreams.

Milan , August 2018 © Pablo Munini

Santorini cycladic blue domes

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