THE STRANGEST OF PHOTOGRAPHS

The next post will be on or before Sunday September 3rd

THE STRANGEST OF PHOTOGRAPHS

Photographs can be remarkable for numerous reasons, but when they seem highly improbable or downright incredible representations of reality, it is usually because they are hoax pictures, made all the easier these days of course by sophisticated digital editing techniques, now standard items on every smartphone. Apropos which as unwitting jester and inevitable Tech Buffoon, I promise you that a year ago I didn’t even know what that word ‘selfie’ meant, and those preposterous telly antenna things I once observed amongst numerous Japanese tourists on the road to the Parthenon, I thought might be something to do with their roaming wifi capacity. Clued up folks like yourselves will however be aware that with a selfie pic you can swiftly iron out the deplorable wrinkles and frown lines of middle or old age by deftly fiddling around with a button or two. But now turn sharply if reluctantly from 2017 and behold one of the most original and striking photos you will ever see. Note that it was taken in antediluvian pre-digital 1953 in Loutra, the northern coastal resort on Kythnos, and it hangs up in the Paradisos café in the port here. It is one of a series of commercially produced prints available from the gift shops in the Hora, copies of vintage black and white photos of the island, in a standard landscape format, but maddeningly this particular one can rarely if ever be found among the dozens available, whilst all the other much less original copies are there a-plenty.

THE PHOTO

Seated in the primitive 1950s kafeneion at 2 tables are 6 handsome islandmen all in their mid-forties, every one of them with a collarless striped shirt similar to those referred to as the grandad shirts of the early 20th century, and which were the favourite choice of those aged around 20 in 1970, viz of a lackadaisical student radical such as myself born 1950. Strangest of all is the way 4 of the 6 men seem to creepily duplicate each other as either identical or damn near identical twins. One set of ‘twins’ has short groomed black hair and neatly shaped moustaches, the one smack in the centre of the group and the other ranged far right. Twin 1 is staring inquisitively, even challengingly, at an acute angle and upwards as if looking shrewdly at the camera man, while his ‘double’ Twin 1A is looking slightly down his nose into deep if dour reflection. However, they are definitely not the same person, even though they look as if they might be, because not only do they sport different sandals, one of them has a shirt with tight lateral stripes and the other with a notably more open pattern. All 6 gents have tidy long shorts just covering the kneecap which lends them a rather decorous Edwardian sportsman aura. As for the rest, aside from different coloured shirts, 2nd from left Twin 2 and 2nd from right Twin 2A differ principally in that the first has downcombed and parted hair, while his doppelganger has it upsloping with even a little tuft sprouting perkily from the crown of his head. Note that both sets of twins could well be cousins or at least part of the same clan or sub clan, and it is worth emphasising that all four of them look deadly earnest, even slightly stunned by the august photographic occasion, or possibly just by the shock of finding themselves inescapably situated in isolated and poverty stricken mid-century Kythnos.

Between Twin 1 and hypothetical cousin Twin 2, sits a conspicuous loner as he is twin to no one, and possibly in line with that, immediately strikes one as having a mean and aggressive side to him. His lips are downturned ever so slightly and his eyes seem narrowed and ever so faintly suspicious. He looks the image (if not the identical twin) of Gianmaria Volonte (1933-1994) when he played (adopting the odd pseudonym Johnny Wels) the Mexican baddie in the spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars (1964). His hair is shorter than all the rest, always a worrying sign if like me you are an unreformed ultra-left hippy from 1970, and he also looks as if he is brooding about an act of past or future vengeance. He sits at an oblique angle to the last man in the group, conspicuous as he holds a walking stick, and is also the only one wearing a hat, and a handsome and sizeable panama at that. This hat and stick man is on the far left and facing right, and would appear to be the only one actually looking at another member of the group, viz the one ranged far left who is Twin1 A, the one looking down his puzzled nose into dour abstraction.

Thus it is that you have 6 strikingly handsome Greek men, all born around 1907-1910, four of them who might or might not be twins, and possible cousins, 5 of them staring at bizarrely staggered and oblique angles, and thus, deliberately or not, avoiding each other’s gazes. Nor for that matter is it even certain that the man with the hat and the stick is looking at Twin 1A, he could in fact be looking slightly to his side. The simplest way of describing the wholly weird frozen tableau effect of this very strange 50s cameo, photographed on an obscure and forgotten Greek island, is that all the men look to be turned to stone pace the famous wholesale Narnian petrifaction in CS Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (1950).

But why I ask myself, and those of you not living here on Kythnos might also ask the same, why on earth would that be?

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