Always optimistic and straight to the point, Calliope Karvounis —also known simply as Calliope— is a true woman of action who faces life’s difficulties with a smile and without losing her faith in the future. A photographer of international renown, she left her home country at the age of 16 and spent many years in London and Milan before settling in New York, where she established herself as a fashion photographer collaborating with major Condé Nast titles. In 2004, she published her first book about Greece, for which she invited notable local personalities to be photographed in traditional Greek costumes borrowed from the comprehensive folk-art archive of the Lyceum Club of Greek Women. “We traveled all across Greece to photograph this book,” she explains, “from Zagorohoria to Athens and Hydra to Mykonos. I wanted to capture Greekness, the beauty and identity of the land and its people.” In 2009, Calliope decides to move back to Greece, and before long she starts working on a second book, Children of the Light, which was published by Skira in 2014.
I remember spending my entire summer as a young woman on Mykonos, walking around barefoot and carefree. I’ve photographed many times on Mykonos, both for my books and for fashion magazines. It’s as if I’m looking for excuses to keep going back.
As I speak with Calliope, I realise she must be deeply in love with her homeland. “Greece is like paradise —I love Greece and, most importantly, I care about Greece. So I’m doing what I can, through my work and my reputation, to show the importance of my country to people abroad. I suppose it has to do with spending so many years away from home.” Although for Calliope every part of Greece is worth exploring, Mykonos has a special place in her heart, because it is an integral part of her youth, as she confesses. Although now it’s much more lively and busy during the summer as it used to be, Mykonos is a place where Calliope often returns to visit friends, many of whom have holiday houses there. Last summer she took her two young children to the island for the first time: it would seem that a younger generation of Greeks is learning to love their homeland all over again.
Chloe Kritharas Devienne