Introduction to 'Discovering the Beauty of Ios and Sikinos'
by Mark Wilman

My photographic work 'Discovering the Beauty of Ios and Sikinos' has taken three years to reach this point in its presentation. Almost complete, I believe there are still discoveries to be made on Sikinos, many actually. Everything is so remote on this island with only two roads that any kind of research of its terrains is a major event requiring careful packaging of equipment, extra food and water resources plus the usual high level of fitness.

I first stepped onto both islands in 1974 at the age of 10, with Ios as base. Arriving from much fresher London, the beautiful Mediterranean climate was quite unbelievable to my English sense of weather. I remember looking at the infinite blue sky in disbelief wondering when the clouds would arrive.

I've been unable to do without this beauty ever since and can't even count the number of visits, particularly to Ios, unless a good amount of thought is given.

What I've found particularly enjoyable is the opportunity to explore the environments both on land and in the water. The constant reminder of ancient history through findings and markings has always fascinated me together with views of distant islands and blue horizons where sky and sea meet.

Preparing for summer in the Cyclades became a fitness necessity which started on day one after returning each September. The fitter I got, the more I discovered the summer after. An inflatable boat became a friend and exploration went even further with a wetsuit, mask, snorkel and fins.

A Greek website started an annual competition for best photo taken in the islands. Naturally, I became a member and began to try capturing what I was feeling more than what I was seeing.

This is decidedly far from what it took for me to want to create an actual project. For that to happen, I needed something more to say. That something arrived in the form of a woman.

One day she appeared in my life. A psychologist who had grown up under communism in eastern Europe. I found her fascinating. Other than her decidedly feminine ways, she represented a geographical area I'd never had contact with and life experience I'd never encountered.

The stories of her childhood were captivating, her buoyant approach to life, as a consequence, an earned value. She was younger than me, decidedly attractive and energetic, which caused an incredible energy to develop inside me. I met her for the first time on Ios island.

Introducing Ios to her was lots of fun. She adapted well to the physical demands, also learning to freedive. The island became an important reference for both. We began experimenting photographically with her as model inside the island's natural surroundings. The results were interesting.

The concept was born:

Discovering the Beauty of Ios
Wild, Natural Beauty Blended with Beauty of the Female Kind

The description: Mediterranean nature and its encounter with humanity in the female form create a bond they naturally express: woman blending harmoniously with mother nature inside the untamed, scenic landscapes of this spectacular Cycladic island.

The significance of the female form inside the project:

The choice of including the female form inside the work seems to make it quite difficult when attempting to have it accepted inside a real-life social context, i.e. where societies really are, not just on an electric screen. Women, it seems, provoke an unsafe level of desire in men, so better to avoid the subject altogether.

I have insisted on following the theme '... Blended with Beauty of the Female Kind', however, believing it's both possible and necessary to portray 'woman' as an integral part of nature and essential to humanity most particularly because of her femininity.

I believe the images of the female form engaging often with the islands' natural surroundings can draw admiration from viewers and appreciation of the gracefulness she innately expresses.

Having three younger sisters taught me enough about the female world not to dispute its value.

Could my work somehow influence society for the better?

I would like to think it could by encouraging people to experience a more active and exploratory outdoor lifestyle, especially together with others who are close and important in their lives ... and, of course, the significance of woman's place inside nature, from where she originates along with man, deserving of full respect for her position inside society and all she accomplishes, including and especially her role as life giver.

2016 saw us visit Sikinos in search of something we couldn't quite express. Ios' closest neighbour, we discovered, has a complex physical character with a history of wine production dating back over 2,500 years, noticeable over much of the hilly and mountainous landscapes.

A couple of galleries were created for the 'Visitor' section: 'Episkopi of Sikinos' and 'Circle of Stones', which we enjoyed making, but our time on the island was limited.

This year saw a return with more time available and specific ideas of what we were looking for. I pushed the fitness training theme over the months prior to arrival in order to cope with the complex landscapes. Though not yet complete in its presentation, the photography is good, we believe. Editing will continue over the next weeks as we've decided to add Sikinos to the project now due for a public exhibition.

The exisiting version is divided into 8 groups each containing galleries with their own introduction:

  1. Beauty of the Female Kind ( 11 + Intro)
  2. Buildings (5 + Intro)
  3. Freedivers (4 + Intro)
  4. Land, Sea & Sky (16 + Intro)
  5. Monochromes (2 + Intro)
  6. Panoramic Views (3 + Intro)
  7. Portraits (1 + Intro)
  8. Visitor (37 + Intro)

The soon-to-be Sikinos galleries will increase these numbers.

Discovering the Beauty of Ios and Sikinos
Wild, Natural Beauty Blended with Beauty of the Female Kind

will have its first public exhibition in Milan in the coming months, with dates soon to be confirmed. We hope it will be successful and to have the chance to exhibit in other important cities and nations around the world.