Introduction to 'Discovering the Beauty of the Cyclades'
by Mark Wilman

I love the freedom I find in nature's beauty. I've lived so many experiences climbing Aegean mountains and rugged hills, as well as diving into the depths on a single breath all for the joy of feeling one with nature's gifts. Over time, I found reason to express myself through images hoping others might enjoy them too and be encouraged to explore.

'Discovering the Beauty of the Cyclades' has taken over four years to reach this point in its presentation. Certainly there are discoveries still to be made, though with so much beauty in remote areas, any kind of research of the islands' terrains requires attentive planning and a high level of fitness.

Particularly enjoyable when exploring has been the constant reminder of ancient history through findings and markings together with dreamy views of distant islands and sea - sky horizons.

Those included in the project in geographical order going north are: Santorini (volcano), Ios, Sikinos, Folegandros, Poliegos, Kimolos, Milos and Serifos.

An exhibition of the work at the Aquarium of Milan will take place from 9th May to 2nd June 2019 officially approved by the Milan City Council.

The project has been proposed to UNESCO in an effort to encourage the Cyclades to become a cultural heritage of humanity so as to protect its natural beauty from the impact of intense tourism.

My first encounter with the Cyclades was in 1974 aged 10. Arriving from much fresher London, the inviting Mediterranean climate was decidedly alien to my English sense of weather. I remember looking up at the infinite blue sky in disbelief wondering when the clouds would arrive. The taste of a pizza in a small alleyway behind Ios port one night that first year is still memorable today, so powerful was the flavour of freshly picked, wild oregano.

The sounds, scents, colours and brightness, the waves at times made ferocious by the maddening force of Meltemi winds beyond belief in rage, like an ancient god inflicting revenge, and later, when the sinking sun has faded softly below the darkening horizon, Aegean night takes hold with its calming infinity of intriguing silver dot designs perched high above staring down. Sensations from encounters with nature's ways are a dominant part of my life on the islands.

The female kind. Many years after I began visiting the islands, she appeared. A psychologist who'd grown up behind the Iron Curtain. I found her fascinating. Other than her evident feminine ways and attitudes, she represented a geographical area I'd never had contact with and life experience I hadn't encountered.

The stories of her childhood were ones of a society heavily compromised, her buoyant approach to life because of this was an earned value. She was younger, very attractive to my eye and energetic, which caused an incredible energy to develop inside me.

Introducing the Cyclades to her came naturally. She adapted well to the physical demands of my explorative approach, learning to freedive, rock climb and trek long distances. The islands became an important reference for both and we began experimenting photographically with her acting as model inside the natural surroundings. The results were interesting and the concept was born:

'Discovering the Beauty of the Cyclades
Wild, Natural Beauty Blended with Beauty of the Female Kind'

The description: Wild, Mediterranean nature and its encounter with the female form creating a bond they naturally express: woman blending harmoniously with mother nature inside the untamed, scenic landscapes of spectacular Cycladic islands.

The female form inside the project:

I have insisted on following the theme '... Blended with Beauty of the Female Kind', believing it necessary to portray 'woman' as an integral part of nature, both fully deserving of equal respect. That I grew up with a mother from the Caribbean and three younger sisters has surely been influential in why I'm attracted to islands and why the female is a strong point of reference in my mind.

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

Galleries were created for the 'Visitor' section: 'Episkopi of Sikinos' and 'Circle of Stones' to name two. Most significantly, Lost Lady of Sikinos, Neiko was photographed at the remote Epsikopi church on the island's western side. Two years later, in July 2018, an archaeological discovery in the lower section of this highly significant historical building brought to light a tomb, 1,800 years old, of a woman of nobility and quite possibly the original reason for its building, therefore, not a mausoleum for a high ranking Roman official. Since our work here precedes this discovery, the gallery certainly has a particular meaning to us.

The opportunity to exhibit the work is surely exciting. A chance to help conserve the value of the archipelago's natural beauty for future generations is of upmost importance to me.