One journey, a bunch of photographs: traces of the Sixties travelling to the present [PT.1]

In our very first post, we wrote that “the maritime youth travel experience has been captured and represented in photographs that those travelers took of themselves”, knowing already the difficulty of accessing this material. The pictures of a bygone time of maritime youth travel constitute for us a stunning treasure, but do the original holders feel the same? Have they kept such material and, if so, would they like to share it? It’s hard to guess whether they would view this as an intrusion of their privacy…

Dionysis Notarakis found himself a number photographs in a second hand book store in Athens, which have not only triggered some thoughts of ours on youth maritime travel, but have also given us a vivid sense of it. We are going to upload them all in two different posts during the summer. Today we are uploading the first four of them. Judging from the quality of the photographic paper and the clothes of the photographed youngsters, the pictures must have been taken most probably during the mid – late sixties. It should be either spring or autumn since the clothing is neither heavy nor light. In the first of them, the ferry boat is leaving the port. Was the departure a memorable moment?

01. Was the departure a memorable moment?

In the second of the photographs, a bunch of youngsters are lying idle on the wooden deck of a passenger ship. The girl hugs a boy while a second person is lying on her. Three more young women are part of the scenery. This photograph raises a number of questions: Did all these youngsters come from the same country? Did they know one another before travelling?

02. In the Sixties broadly understood the rules and regulations appeared to become looser.

Historian Axel Schildt has described the Sixties as the “golden era” of youth travel in West Germany, an era when the number of young West Germans of all genders engaging in travel skyrocketed. This was coupled with their advanced knowledge of foreign languages and their growing willingness to meet and mingle with other people.[1] Young men and women from Greece, especially university students, seem to have started travelling together from the early 1970s. In the Sixties broadly understood the rules and regulations appeared to become looser. The boy and the girl could be a couple as we could see in the third picture. It was the late 1960s and the young couples had already the right to express their feelings in public.

03. It was the late 1960s and the young couples had already the right to express their feelings in public.

One more sign of what we nowadays perceive as “looseness” can be seen in the fourth picture. Passengers are spotted on the open deck around what looks like being the navigation bridge of the vessel. During the last few years entering the navigation bridge is not permitted to unauthorized personnel. In this last picture, two young passengers are hanging from the ship-rails of the deck. It seems that their action is improper for three older passengers staring from the deck above.

04. Two young passengers are hanging from the ship-rails.

Since when placing yourself in certain ways on the public space became a statement? What do the youngsters want to say? Does their gender, social class, place of origin matter in how they behave and how? Why have these certain scenes from their journey been chosen to be pictured, taking into account that in similar photographs only what the photographer and the photographed construed as really precious moments were being captured? Hard to find a concrete answer as it is also hard to find out how those memories on black and white paper ended up in a basket of a second hand book store. However, the more difficult it is to reach a conclusion, the better it is to exchange ideas! Please share with us your thoughts, memories and any relevant material you would not like to keep private!

PS: Don’t miss our next post. Lighthouse: a spot to remember. Poses on the decks. Is the identity of the mysterious ferry going to be revealed?

[1] Axel Schildt, “Across the Border: West German Youth Travel to Western Europe”, in Schildt, Axel, Siegfried, Detlef, Between Marx and Coca-Cola. Youth Cultures in Changing European Societies, 1960-1980. New York, Oxford, 2006, p. 151.

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