The perfect summer Muse
How does a place become an icon? Lizy Manola, a Greek photographer who has spent endless summers on the island of the winds that is known as Mykonos, has put together a remarkable tale chronicling the culture and society that has defined the island over the past century. Luisa World talked to her about her book Mykonos Muse, full of beautiful imagery depicting all the different faces of this ancient place where titans and hippies, artists and party animals, gay and straight, all find their place, embraced by the open-minded locals and the most magnetic energy to be found anywhere in the world.
Lizy, when did you first pick up a camera and what was the first thing you shot?
I started shooting pictures when I was 15. My first camera was a Nikon F2. After many years, I lost interest in the dark room and started to use digital cameras. The first image I really remember was a picture of some fishermen untangling their nets on Hydra in 1977.
What was the one thing that attracted your eye once you first set foot in Mykonos?
I first arrived on the island by boat in 1978. Because the sea was stormy, it was impossible for the tenders to take us out to the pier. When finally I set foot on the harbour, I was ecstatic. This island was so different than any other island I had seen. Everywhere I turned, I saw a glittering beauty and smelled the whitewash emanating from the freshly painted alleys. Old fishermen sat outside coffee shops, painters, young boys dived from the jetty, donkeys paraded with baskets of flowers. Wherever I looked there was beauty.
As a photographer, looking at the island through the lens, do you see something that the naked eye cannot?
Every photographer sees things differently. Every picture is a story – it’s easy to take an image that reveals the beauty, but it’s harder to tell a story in a single picture.
Was your relationship with the island always a love affair or has it gone through stages?
I’ve been going to Mykonos every year for 40 years. Even though the island has obviously changed, life for the locals has changed, their houses and needs have changed, for me it is always the same. Stunning from one end to the other.
What is your favorite, tiny spot here?
I can’t get enough of the Mykonos sunsets. I love to swim at Fokos and Kapari beach, to stroll through the alleys gazing at the courtyards of the houses, drink iced coffee on the port and watch the locals start their day as they have always done. I buy tomatoes, courgettes and aubergines from the local farmers, and daydream listening to the music floating out of the open bars.
What is so special about Mykonos, that has made her into a muse?
The Mykonians have made the island a muse. They allow visitors to discover the island’s treasures, no matter where they are. Puritanism and tourism do no go together. There is nothing conventional about Mykonos.
For you, is the energy charged differently in Mykonos?
The landscape with its dazzling white beauty has its own magical dynamic. The energy of this place comes from the sacred island of antiquity, Delos, which is just across from Mykonos. A naked, barren island, its temples, theatre, and houses shining under the Apollonian light. This is where Mykonos gets its unique energy.
How has it helped you evolve?
I grew up on Mykonos, I came of age there. It is not only the island of my youth, I have spent every summer there all my life. Carefree summer holidays, where my children grew older every year. It’s the place that inspired me to become a photographer. It is the island of my heart.
*Lizy Manola is a Greek photographer. A freelancer, her focus is on documentary photography. For more than fifteen years, she has traveled and shot in distant places, where culture and everyday life preserve their natural authenticity. She has published two books with Assouline, Certain Realities and Ethiopian Highlands. Her work has featured in solo and group exhibitions in Greece and worldwide. She lives and works in Athens and New York. Thirty years ago, she bought a house on Mykonos; she has spent endless summers holidays on the island ever since.
Mykonos Muse, Published by Assouline, text by Lizy Manola with Rachel Howard and Michael Skafidas.
All images © Lizy Manola