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  • Από τη Γενεύη, στον Άγιο ΣύλλαΑπό τη Γενεύη, στον Άγιο Σύλλα© Charles Weber
  • The venetian walls of HeraklionThe venetian walls of Heraklion© Charles Weber

Charles Weber and the "charming chaos" of Heraklion

Charles Weber is Swiss but lives in Crete for the past 10 years more or less. His photographic lens captures the most secluded corners of Heraklion, the lonely figures of the sun umbrellas at night, the simple village people and whatever else inspires him on this island. His exhibition ‘The Greek Series’ will be hosted in Benaki Museum (Athens) until mid-March and our desire is to see it soon here, on the island of inspiration! 


How long have you been shooting the “charming chaos” of Heraklion?

Mostly during summer 2001 for the streets and 2002 for the Walls. 

Most of your pictures are shot across the streets of the Old City of Heraklion (or at least what remains of it). Which is your favorite neighborhood / spot in the city?

All the pictures of the series “Streets and Walls” are located inside the walls (intra muros) of Heraklion. Behind the main streets, I was surprised to discover small and silent neighborhoods, for example : around the Armenian church, around Aghia Triada... and more.

So what’s the “charm” of this chaotic city in your opinion and where is it hidden? 

The charm of Heraklion is hidden, you have to walk and to take time, to go out of the main streets and suddenly everything becomes silent and you discover a village inside the city, with small gardens and lemon trees.

Your other project, similar to that of Heraklion, is in the streets of Istanbul. Do you think that the two cities (Heraklion, Istanbul) have something in common? 

I wanted to repeat my experience of Heraklion in Constantinople but it doesn’t work. Istanbul has no secret places anymore. Big monuments full of light and touristic renovations and markets, all the rest are mostly banal streets of rental buildings of 4-5 floors. Some old streets around Kumkapi or Balat but no real surprise. The oriental charm of Istanbul has gone. In contrast to Heraklion the Walls of Istanbul have still some mystery. Some parts are renovated but most of them are still impressive and romantic ruins. 

How do you choose the themes of your projects? And how did the umbrellas at the cretan beaches trigger your inspiration?

I wanted to fight my hate for umbrellas. Each time I came to a beach and I saw umbrellas, I was angry. I thought they were destroying  the landscape. Walking at night on the beach  I discovered that they were like figures and I decided to make a series of umbrellas portraits and to use torch light and flash as make up.

Have you ever thought of making “cretan portraits” just like the “Istanbul portraits”?

People of my series “Men and Machines” are mostly Cretan from villages around Heraklion. Like in Istanbul I used a 19th century camera with 4x5 sheet films to realize these portraits.   

You are Swiss, you’ve studied in Geneva and collaborated with the “Gamma” agency in Paris. But now you live in Agios Syllas. How long have you been living there and why did you make this choice?

With my wife Kira, we are living here permanently for around 10 years now but we came first time in this village in 1976. 

How is your life here? What are you grateful for and what would you change if you could?

The perfect place to work in peace, far from the crowd. We appreciate the open sky, the mountains, the see around, the warm contact with the people and the proximity of the town of Heraklion. We only regret to be far from our son who lives in Geneva. 

Where is your favorite place on the island, a place which gives you energy or inspiration? 

The monastery of Vossako,  Loutro,  Aghio farango and our home in Aghios Sillas.

Do you already have an idea for your next project?

I will go on working on my Lightscapes series every full moon and then we will see, maybe a series about the Strouboula mountain.

As an artist, what kind of cultural event would you like to see in Crete? 

More good exhibitions, some art galleries and a big festival of world music.

Your “Greek series” exhibition was recently hosted in Benaki Museum in Athens. Do you plan to make an exhibition of your “Heraklion” or generally “Cretan” photos here as well? 

Sure, it would be a pleasure for me to present my work in Heraklion but no project or proposition for the moment.


* You can find out more about Charles Weber and his work here.