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Epirus, Greece: A Journey Through Traditional Women's Dresses

Project 'Caryatis' goes to Epirus Greece

Epirus, Greece: A single tree. Traditional Women's Dresses. Photography by George Tatakis
The local women's costumes of Epirus, Greece
 

Acquire a museum-grade print from Epirus for your space. Help towards the realisation of George Tatakis' Ethnographic work.

Black and White fine-art museum-grade wall art photography for home decor - Collection: Epirus Greece
 

In the rugged landscapes of northwestern Greece's mainland, Epirus is a region steeped in history, where ancient traditions and breathtaking scenery converge. Recently, I had the privilege of journeying through Epirus, collaborating with the Lyceum Club of Greek Women in Ioannina for my photographic project Caryatis. Our mission? To explore and document the captivating world of traditional women's dresses across Epirus' diverse locales. Ioannina is the capital of the Epirus region in Greece and it is a vibrant, beautiful city featuring a serene lake. It is roughly a five-hour drive from Athens which passes through the Rion-Antirrion bridge. This historical region took its name from “Apiros Chora”, a Doric Greek phrase that means infinite, vast land. Among its famous tourist places, there are the traditional villages of Zagorochoria (or Zagoria), the Vikos gorge, the region's mountains and monasteries and more.

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Kerasovo: A village in Konitsa, also known as “Ayia Paraskevi”

Kerasovo, Konitsa, Epirus, Greece. The local women's dresses. Photography by George Tatakis
The local costumes of Kerasovo, Konitsa, Epirus

As soon as I arrived in Ioannina, I had already arranged for the first photography session. We would be travelling to Kerasovo, a village known as Ayia Paraskevi, which is near Konitsa. This was another two-hour drive to the north of Ioannina. I met the ladies at the Airport of Ioannina and started our trip to this region of Epirus. Machi would be my travel guide for today and for many other days to come, so she took the shotgun seat.

We drove to the village where the women adorned dresses that reflected the area's natural beauty and cultural heritage. This part of Greece is known for its rainy climate with this day being no exception. A slight drizzle accompanied our session and it kept raining. Only a few windows of time allowed us to capture the scenes outdoors.

We scouted the area and found a local house that kept its traditional colour where I made the first photographs. We later ventured into the mountain side of the region and found a place with a beautiful natural landscape. A touch of fog added to the beauty of the scenery.

Kerasovo, Konitsa, Epirus, Greece. The local women's dresses. Photography by George Tatakis
The dresses in Kerasovo, Konitsa, Epirus

Vovousa: Patterns on Black of Eastern Zagori

Vovousa, Eastern Zagori, Epirus, Greece. The local costumes overlooking the river. Photography by George Tatakis.
Local costumes of Vovousa, Epirus

On the next day, our adventure led us to a town in the Eastern Zagori, Vovousa. Vovousa is a beautiful place in the Zagorochoria region, famous for its carpenter heritage. Aoos River splits the village in two, with each part connected by a stone bridge in the centre. Vovousa is one of the entrances to the Valia Calda National Park. Inside this National Park, is the river “Aspropotamos - (White River)”, where locals would gather silver in the past.

Four women and a man wore the local traditional costumes and we strolled around the village to make some photographs. The rain was pouring and creating photographs outdoors became an adventure. Our first shooting took place inside a local traditional house. After that, we went outside and made some more images around the river and at the local sawmill.

Vovousa, Eastern Zagori, Epirus, Greece. The local costumes. Photography by George Tatakis.
The local costumes at the sawmill


Sarakatsani of Gyftokampos: Nomadic Heritage in Attire

Gyftokampos, Epirus, Greece. The costumes of the nomadic group of Sarakatsani. Photography by George Tatakis.
Costumes of Sarakatsani

A highlight of our journey was meeting the Sarakatsani, a nomadic group whose lifestyle revolves around herding. In Gyftokampos, seven people wore these costumes and we went on an adventure of photography around an old local settlement, featuring huts of the Sarakatsani of this area.

The rain was once again pouring and the ground was soaking wet. We had a coffee at the tavern in this place, waiting for the rain to stop to carry out the photography session. Unfortunately, the rain kept on going so we had a fun adventure to succeed. The assistants of the shooting took umbrellas and escorted the models to the appropriate location. The garments are fragile and old, so they must not be exposed to rain. As soon as I was ready to shoot, I shouted: “Off with the umbrellas!” Everyone who was holding one would move away to take the photograph. We ended up having dinner, wine and tsipouro at the local tavern.

Gyftokampos, Epirus, Greece. The costumes of the nomadic group of Sarakatsani. Photography by George Tatakis.
The costumes of Sarakatsani in Epirus


Pogoni: Impeccable Epirus Craftsmanship and Uniqueness

Paleopyrgos, Pogoni, Epirus, Greece. The local clothes. Photography by George Tatakis.
The local costumes of Pogoni, Epirus

Pogoni is an administrative region of Epirus in the Northwest, near the borders with Albania. In this part of Epirus, we find costumes very different from the rest of Greece. The dominant colour is white. The dress features a beautiful white silk headscarf, over four metres long. The scarf needs to be put on in a specific way so that its red tag lands on a specific place on the woman's forehead. Women used to tie that by themselves. This scarf is deeply connected to ancient Greece, because of its Doric style.

We used two different locations for our shooting. One was an old local house owned by the man in the photographs. This house is amongst the oldest in the village of Paleopyrgos, where the photo shoot took place. The second place was a local barn, where we took more photographs.

Paleopyrgos, Pogoni, Epirus, Greece. The local clothes. Photography by George Tatakis.
The costumes of Pogoni inside a local house

Filiates in Thesprotia: Historical Gravitas in Attire

Filiates, Thesprotia, Epirus, Greece. The local women's dresses. Photography by George Tatakis.
The dresses of Thesprotia in a house at Filiates

To the west of Epirus, we find the town of Igoumenitsa on the shores of the Ionian Sea. It is the port that connects Northern Greece with the island of Corfu and other Ionian islands, as well as Italy. Igoumenitsa is the capital of the region of Thesprotia. On this day we would photograph the local women's costumes of that region.

In Filiates, Thesprotia, we discovered dresses that exuded historical gravitas, with designs rooted in the region's rich past and enduring traditions. The attire of Filiates served as a visual testament to its people's cultural heritage and resilience. Filiates is in the North of Igoumenitsa, not too far away. We scouted for quite a long time, but we managed to find a beautiful old abandoned local house, where the shooting took place. Four women wore the costumes and we did beautiful images inside most of the house's rooms.

Filiates, Thesprotia, Epirus, Greece. The local women's dresses. Photography by George Tatakis.
Inside a local house of Filiates

Ioannina: Urban Dresses in the Capital of Epirus

Ioannina, Epirus, Greece. The local women's costumes. Photography by George Tatakis.
Inside a local mansion in the city of Ioannina, Epirus

No journey through Epirus is complete without visiting Ioannina, a city steeped in history and innovation. The beautiful lake of the city, the medieval castle and the vibrant life are a few of the city's attractions. The Lyceum Club of Greek Women owns authentic costumes. Amongst them is the “Pirpiri” of Ioannina. That is the vest that the woman holding the mirror is wearing. This is one of the reasons I used the mirror in my photographs so we could feature Pirpiri's intricate embroidery.

The main shooting took place inside a local traditional mansion that serves as a museum. We then moved to an old local house and made some more portraits. I have used my haze machine to create a beautiful atmosphere in the rooms.

Ioannina, Epirus, Greece. The local women's costumes. Photography by George Tatakis.
The costumes of Ioannina


Zagori: Reflection of Architectural Heritage

Zagori, Epirus, Greece. The local women's dresses. Photography by George Tatakis
At Agios Minas, overlooking the mountains in Zagori

The picturesque villages of Zagori are a feast for the eyes. This Greek mountainous region of Epirus is one of the unique attractions of Greece. Some of the sightseeings include the Vikos Gorge, the deepest gorge in the world, compared to its width. There is also the stone forest near Monodendri and the steep mountains, known as “Kolones (Columns)”.

Venturing into Zagori, we encountered dresses that mirrored the region's iconic stone-built architecture and lush landscapes. Each garment in Zagori reflected a relationship between cultural traditions and the natural environment, showcasing a unique fusion of aesthetics.

I have selected three different places to photograph the portraits of the four models. The first was Agios Minas. This is a village near Papigo, where you can see a beautiful view of the mountains of Zagori. We then drove to the stone forest near Monodendri which provides a unique landscape. Our final stop was by the Vikos Gorge, a 10-minute walk from the stone forest. Zagoria is one of the most beautiful regions of Epirus, and certainly an area of Greece not to be missed.

Zagori, Epirus, Greece. The local women's dresses. Photography by George Tatakis
At the stone forest, Zagori, Epirus

Metsovo: Influence of Mountain Landscapes on Attire

Metsovo, Epirus, Greece. Local costumes. Photography by George Tatakis.
Inside a house in Metsovo, Epirus

Our journey concluded in Metsovo, where dresses reflected pastoral aesthetics influenced by the nearby Pindus Mountains. The attire of Metsovo captured the essence of mountain life, celebrating the enduring connection between culture and landscape in this picturesque region of Epirus.

Metsovo, like other regions of Epirus, played a significant role in Greek history and today is full of tourists most of the time. We all met at a local house where a lady helped the women wear their headscarves. So many people gathered in the house and the feeling was that of a Greek celebration. We made beautiful portraits inside this house.

Since this was my last day in Epirus, most people I met came by to bid goodbye. As soon as I finished, I went to my car and took the way back home to Athens.



George Tatakis' Caryatis Project: Capturing the Essence of Epirus in Black and White

Throughout my journey, Caryatis project was a tribute to the women of Epirus and their dresses. My black-and-white photography immortalized moments, celebrating the resilience and beauty inherent in each garment. Caryatis isn't just a photographic project; it's a testament to the enduring spirit of Epirus' cultural heritage.

Caryatis is a study of traditional costumes throughout Greece. It is the recipient of twenty-two international awards and is being exhibited and published in prestigious institutions and media.

Epirus, Greece: A Journey Through Traditional Women's Dresses
The Vikos Gorge. The deepest in the world, compared to its width

Collaborating with the Lyceum Club of Greek Women Ioannina: Preserving Cultural Legacy

Our collaboration with the Lyceum Club of Greek Women in Ioannina was instrumental in contextualizing Epirus' traditional dresses within broader cultural narratives. Their dedication to preserving and promoting local traditions ensures that Epirus' rich heritage continues to inspire and educate future generations. Together, we celebrated the living legacy of Epirus' women and their remarkable attire.

Conclusion: A Tapestry of Tradition and Resilience

In conclusion, my journey through Epirus, Greece, was a profound exploration of tradition, resilience, and cultural identity. Each region we visited unveiled a chapter in Epirus' rich heritage, showcasing the enduring beauty and significance of traditional women's dresses. Through collaborative efforts and artistic endeavours, we celebrated the living heritage of Epirus, ensuring that its cultural legacy continues to inspire.

Love xx

FAQ

Does Epirus belong to Albania?

Epirus does not belong to Albania historically. Epirus is a region with deep roots in Greek history and culture, situated in southeastern Europe between Greece and Albania. The name "Epirus" originates from the Greek term "Apiros Chora," meaning "the land of flocks" or "the vast land". While parts of historical Epirus now lie within modern Albania, the region's ancient heritage and identity are inherently Greek, with significant historical connections to the ancient Greek kingdom of Epirus. The territorial claims over Epirus have been a matter of complex historical and geopolitical discussions, but its deep Greek roots and cultural identity are well-established.

How many Greeks live in Epirus?

Is Epirus an island?

Was Epirus Greek or Illyrian?


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