Books and Good Reading - Land of Crete, George Meis.
George Meis studied photography and cinema at the University of Paris. His book, called an 'Albumn' took him six years to produce. 1994 - 2000.  The reality is that Meis first saw Crete 25 years ago.  Inspired by his early knowledge of the works of Kanzatakis, kondylakis and xylouris, which he said had made him 'feel Cretan since childhood' he approached his subject, Crete, 'camera in hand - taking photogaphs wherever he went'. Land of Crete is subtitled 'Land of the First European Civilisation'.
Meis is a man of his word - a real man.  On achieving the publication of this hard won Albumn of incomparably magnificent photography, he sought two Cretans who had encouraged and inspired before the book was born - shepherd Manolis Nikoloudakis and photographer Yiorgos Anyfantakis and kept an original promise - to give each a copy of the Albumn they had supported before it was born.... A truly beautiful gift...

Title: Land of Crete. Author: George Meis.
Publisher: Meis Studio.  ISBN 960-86736-0-7
Published 2000.  Price: Around 75 Euros. 
Source. Bookshops.


You may well get a feeling of deja-vu when you turn the pages of George Meis’s fabulous photographic record of Crete.  This is because many of his pictures of the island are already famous, reproduced in postcard or poster format, and sent worldwide.

Meis produced his book to fulfil promises made more than 25 years ago to a Sfakiot shepherd called Manolis Nikoloudakis, and the well-known photographer from Kastelli Kissamos, Yiorgis Anyfantakis.  Both men encouraged the young George Meis when he was drifting through Crete in his youth, after his photography studies at the University of Paris.  Some of Meis’s black and white photographs taken at that time are included in the book – atmospheric shots of elderly villagers about their daily tasks, baking bread, tending animals or gossiping on the village bench.

After a whistle-stop written tour through Cretan mythology and the Minoan Civilisation, Meis plunges us into the wonderful colours and textures of his more modern work.  Many of the photographs are in fold-out form, presented in angles as wide as 360 degrees, offering us truly panoramic views from many different points.  The colours are glorious, the shots superb, the locations varied and interesting – ranging from a detail of a stone step or a blazing geranium in a pot, through to a huge vista of the Lefka Ori covered in snow.

Meis freely confesses, however, that he has tinkered with some of his photographs to remove the more modern and less photogenic things he did not want in his pictures.  But surely when you entitle your book ‘Land of Crete’, these less picturesque aspects are relevant, perhaps as a contrast to the beauty and majesty of the subject?  Otherwise you are left with a magnificent, but slightly sanitised, view of reality – rather like using ‘fuzzy focus’ on photographs of an aging film star.

Apart from that one rather carping comment, Meis’s book is a hugely enjoyable feast for the eyes, and I can thoroughly recommend it to any Cretophile.

Ann Lisney.