The Centenarians of Ikaria

pictures by Andrea Frazzetta

Finally! (Issue I/2020)

  • Filio Tsamoudaki lives on the Greek island of Ikaria, whose inhabitants are getting older than the European average. Nowhere in the EU is the proportion of people over 90 years of age higher than there. The picture shows Tsamoudaki at the age of 95

    Filio Tsamoudaki lives on the Greek island of Ikaria, whose inhabitants are getting older than the European average. Nowhere in the EU is the proportion of people over 90 years of age higher than there. The picture shows Tsamoudaki at the age of 95

  • 102-year-old Stamatis Moraitis looks after his olive trees on Ikaria

    102-year-old Stamatis Moraitis looks after his olive trees on Ikaria

  • Efthimios Plystakas, 95 years old

    Efthimios Plystakas, 95 years old

  • Eleni Lakiou, 100 years old

    Eleni Lakiou, 100 years old

  • Evangelos Fradelos, 96 years old

    Evangelos Fradelos, 96 years old

  • Eftiheia Plakas, 96 years old

    Eftiheia Plakas, 96 years old

  • Ioanna Proiou, 105 years old

    Ioanna Proiou, 105 years old

  • Giannis Manolis, 87 years old

    Giannis Manolis, 87 years old

  • Grigoris Tsahas, 99 years old

    Grigoris Tsahas, 99 years old

  • 85-year-old Katina Parikos takes care of her garden in the village Karies on the island of Ikaria

    85-year-old Katina Parikos takes care of her garden in the village Karies on the island of Ikaria


Mr Frazzetta, your series of portraits depicts Centenarians on the Greek island of Ikaria. Why did you choose that place?

I was on the island for the first time in 2012 for the NEW YORK TIMES. I was asked to illustrate a story by the author Dan Buettner, who was focusing on the places in the world people grow particularly old. He calls these places "blue zones" and Ikaria is one of them. For me it was very special to get to know the people there. I was really impressed by the centenarians.

What fascinated you most?

I had imagined the oldest people lying on the beach and having a good time. It's not like that at all. Ikaria is a beautiful island, but very rough, with high mountains. The life of the people is hard. Even the centenarians have to walk up and down the mountains every day and toil in the garden. They never laze around.

So being active keeps you young?

Sure it does. Nutrition also plays a role, with lots of vegetables and olive oil. But I think the community is the most important thing. No one is alone. Everyone is playing cards, drinking wine, laughing together.

The image we see second in the picture gallery on top of this screen means a lot to you. Why?

That is Stamatis Moraiti. My meeting with him has left a lasting impression on me. He lived in the US for a long time before he was diagnosed with 60 lung cancers. The doctors gave him nine months to live. So he returned to his home island to say goodbye. But he didn't die. When I met him, he was already 102 and was very funny. I wanted to see him again for a close-up, but it didn't work out.

Why not?

We had an appointment the day I left but I couldn’t find him at the time we had arranged. His neighbour finally told me that a friend, another hundred-years-old man, picked him up on his motorcycle and whisked him off to the seaside! Now I don't have a portrait, but at least I have a good story: Two hundred-year-olds on a motorbike on their way to the beach.

Is it more difficult to photograph old people than young ones?

On the contrary. Young people think about what they look like all the time. The centenarians weren't vain at all. They said: I'm old, this is my face, these are my wrinkles. We had a lot of fun together.

Interview by Gundula Haage



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