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September 02, 2006

Canéa - Βήματα στο Χώρο και το Χρόνο

Caneaatkam At KAM last month there was an exhibition of photographs entitled - "Εκθεση Ιστορικής Φωτογραφίας - Canéa - Βήματα στο Χώρο και το Χρόνο". It consisted of many pictures of Chania dating from 1890 to 1930, and was a fascinating glimpse into the history of our new home.

Sadly, though, although some of the captions were also in English, the supporting material that accompanies the exhibition only seemed available in Greek, so I wasn't able to be that enlightened about some of the things I was looking at.

Some of the views depicted were instantly recognisable. One photograph taken from the top of Firkas Fortress, which now houses the Maritime Museum, was almost identical to a photograph I had taken myself only a few weeks back.

On the other hand, there were some sights captured that you just do not see today in modern Chania - for example 'A Muslim cafeteria'. As I've mentioned on 'A lemon tree of our own' before, all the Turkish Muslims on the island were expelled in 1923 as part of a population swap with Orthodox Christians from Turkey as party of the Treaty of Lausanne.

Nea Chora features in another photograph that raises a smile - I recognise the coastline, but where there is now a bustling suburb of Hania, hotels and row upon row of tavernas, back in the early 1900s there was just a couple of boats and some rolling hills.

There is something really special about photographs from this era. You know that photography was an expensive art at the time, and so many of the photographs have been carefully staged. For example the exhibition features a football team, all carefully posed with well waxed twirly moustaches, and a scene from the stage held in a careful tableaux. One picture of a girl's school, through a combination of poor original focus and bleaching of the print during development, looks for all the world like row upon row of grinning skulls in pretty bonnets.

Minaretstump The thing that most interested me though were the changes illustrated in the Kioutsouk Hasan Mosque which dominates the harbour. Sometime in the first decade of the 1900s it loses the minaret. I presume it was demolished as it was such a prominent reminder of the island's bitter occupation by the Ottoman Turks. It appears then that the area to the south of the building had a new western style pointed roof put on it. However within a couple of years an entire chunk of the south of the mosque is demolished along with the new tiled roof. Looking at it today you can clearly see that the brickwork on the south elevation of the building is of a different style and quality to the other sides.

Sadly, photographs of the exhibition itself were forbidden - so not only can I not share it with you properly, but ironically of course, in one hundred years time, nobody will get a glimpse into how the modern city of Canéa used to display their historical photographic archives.

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We saw this too and loved the photos - shame there was no catalogue (and no photography). I suspect that the originals might have yielded better images still with the right photoshopper at the helm. Beautiful stuff nonetheless.

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