Skyros Carnival

A VoxLox Book, 2010


Skyros Carnival features sixty color and black and white photographs by Dick Blau, an ethnographic essay by Agapi Amanatidis and Panayotis Panopoulos, and a CD and DVD by Steven Feld.



I grew up in a theater  (my father a director, my mother an actress) and that is what  has most deeply informed my practice of photography. In the course of  ethnographic  studies in music and dance –- a film about gospel music in an African-American church, a book about the  Polish-American polka scene,  and  recently  an account of Romani life in Greek Macedonia — I have  looked at demotic performance,  trying to find my way closer to the origins of theatrical expression in ritual and play. Over the same 35 years that I have been making pictures in other cultures, I have also been exploring my own domestic scene. Here, I have  looked at the dramas, both large and small, of daily life in the family, where each member  is an actor in a sort of chamber play that we write as we live, where  real feelings are performed in real time for one another and for the camera.

This picture comes from a current project. The Goat Dance of Skyros is said to be the most authentic and the funkiest Dionysian carnival still practiced in Greece. It is, the islanders say, based on an event  some 4000 years ago when there was a snowstorm  on Skyros and the goats all died. After the storm, a goatherd took the bells off his flock, flayed the corpses, draped himself in the skins, and then walked back to town with his wife. When they got there, the goatherd was so horrific and riveting a sight, both man and yet also beast, that the townspeople have celebrated  his arrival ever since. Thus, in the three days and nights before each Greek Lent, the Goat Dancers appear,  attended not only by their wives  but also by creatures like this Frango, who accompanies the fierce clanking of their bells by playing an eerie, silent tune upon his fiddle.