It has become routine for me to select my holiday destination based on its opportunities for great landscape or street photography. If the location doesn’t yield possibilities for my photographic needs, it gets quickly moved down the shortlist. Santorini, 120 miles from the mainland of Greece, has always been near the top.
Formerly one large island until an enormous volcanic eruption, some 3,600 years ago, split the land mass in to six smaller islands. The views along the western coastline of Thera (the largest of the resulting islands) leave you in no doubt that this really is a just one large volcanic crater – or ‘caldera’ to get all geological.
Despite being comprised of volcanic rock and hardened lava, which subsequently restricts most forms of luscious green vegetation from growing, Santorini remains one of the most picturesque destinations a person can experience. The Mediterranean water, the cloudless blue sky, the pure white buildings with their blue domed roofs, plus one of the most striking sunsets to be seen anywhere on the planet, all combine to make this 35 square miles of land a treasure for any photographer, or holidaymaker for that matter.
I could have spent hours each day just walking through the narrow, cobbled side streets, where every turn presents itself with a myriad of photo ops and, more often than not, a view across the caldera which leaves you reaching for your camera (even if it’s the tenth time that day).
As a tourist, I can’t perceive a better place to dine. Every wine bar, restaurant and café is perched seemingly perilously over a 300m drop in to the sea. Time your reservation right and you’ll be sitting in total silence, regardless of your company, as you watch the warm glow of the Santorini sun drop gracefully behind the horizon.
However, don’t be misled in to thinking it’s all ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. In fact, the more I explored, the more I began to notice the more unsightly side of Santorini. The effects of Greece’s crippling financial status have made their presence felt even here, in the form of unfinished property developments and derelict commercial buildings. Graffiti was the one thing I never expected to see here, for example.
It is clear that the towns which feed the tourists are fed by the tourists, whereas the more peripheral areas of Thera appear to be falling further and further behind. The effect is so pronounced that I even considered scrapping my original plan of photographing and further glorifying the island’s beauty, in favour of documenting this lesser side of Santorini.
But that would be unfairly discrediting the islands and wouldn’t have given me the images I planned to come back with – you know, the holiday brochure images you frame and hang on the walls in your apartment. So, I just did what every holidaymaker does – I photographed the pretty stuff.
Author – Oliver Pohlmann