American philhellene and veteran photographer Robert McCabe was recently granted honorary Greek citizenship at a ceremony held at the Greek Consulate in Boston.
His lifetime work, reflected in numerous exhibitions and books, made him an unofficial ambassador for Greece and his ties to the country were further strengthened when he married his Greek wife, Dina.
“It is a tremendous honor to be a citizen of Greece. I can’t think of anything else that could give me more pleasure,” McCabe said, adding “Now the language of Ulysses is my language. And the beautiful Aegean Sea, with its magnificent islands and its unique history, is now my sea.”
The oath ceremony was performed by the Consul General of Greece in Boston, Stratos Efthymiou, who had originally filed the petition for honorary citizenship. During the emotional and joyful occasion of his swearing in, McCabe was accompanied by his family including his Greek spouse, Constantina (Dina).
This honor constitutes an act of recognition by the Greek State toward a great philhellene whose work serves as a cultural record for Greece. Through his photographs he has brilliantly captured the unique people, landscapes and landmarks of a recent past that has vanished irretrievably.
McCabe first visited Greece in the 1950s as a student at Princeton University. He soon began taking photographs which documented life in Greece, from archaeological sites and landscapes to everyday events and people, at a time when the country was still largely untouched by tourism.
McCabe has also supported many Greek-American institutions over the years, including Athens College, the Gennadius Library and the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.
Generous benefactors of Greece, the McCabe family also contributed to the transformation of the Consulate General of Greece in Boston by donating 35 rare photographs of landscapes and archaeological sites. These pictures make up what is now a permanent exhibition of his work at the Consulate General. An extraordinary print of the Acropolis in color stands out among the black-and-white shots. It was taken in Athens in December of 2016, with the warm last rays of a winter sun illuminating the monuments against a storm darkened sky.
The famed photographer also bought and restored the Boston home of Samuel Gridley Howe, who fought on the Greek side in 1824 during the Greek War of Independence.
The greatest gift the American photographer has given Greece, however, is sharing his point of view of the country, the way he captured with such respect and admiration ancient sites like Epidaurus and the Acropolis before their restoration.
Just as importantly, McCabe also took more humble photographs portraying everyday life in Greece, including wooden fishing boats, barbershops, and tavernas, presenting scenes of a country that is almost lost today.
McCabe’s most recent projects include a wonderful coffee-table book on the Strofades Monastery, which was seriously damaged in an earthquake in 2018. The remote monastery is located on an islet off the coast of the Ionian island of Zakynthos.