Not much to report these days.  More of the same–photography, working in the darkroom, mountain biking, road biking…a life beyond my wildest dreams.

I entered and raced the Athlos Nikolaos Stellas Memorial Mountain Bike Race last Sunday.  I (phyllo 3, Mastero, John) came in 4th in my age group and event (35+, bike only) at 59:50.  For some reason I cannot add links today.  Go to https://twitter.com/poparou and click around…However, the scores listed have me coming in 6th in the 16-35 year old group.  I am flattered.  I haven’t been 35 in a long time.

JDCM in the yellow and black jersey...59:50, 4th place.

JDCM in the yellow and black jersey…59:50, 4th place.

I took the ferry to Naxos the other day for a day trip and rode over 90 kilometers on my mountain bike. It was stunning.  Spring in the Kyklades is not to be missed.

Agios Sozon Kalado, Naxos

Agios Sozon Kalado, Naxos

Along the track past Maxairota, Naxos

Along the track past Maxairota, Naxos

I will be replacing the front forks of my mountain bike this week as well as the rear derailleur.  This will be an expensive, but very necessary job.  After almost two years of strenuous biking (with a bike that was well-used when I bought it) the current forks are worn out and have lost their lubrication.  Unfortunately they are a sealed unit which means I cannot re-grease, etc…so out they go!  After this big job I will have replaced almost everything except the frame.  Necessary maintenance.

At the top...Agios Tryphonas, Naxos

At the top…Agios Tryphonas, Naxos, 578 m.

I have inventoried my works in progress for my new portfolio. I have a few more prints to make, however this will not stop me from beginning the selenium toning process.  I will be finished with this by the middle of May.  It is an interesting portfolio, very abstract, and I sure many people will not understand it, or perhaps not understand what I see.  So be it.  We all bring ourselves to these things.  It is not my job to guide people or tell them what they are viewing.

I will begin training in earnest for the 2015 Circle of Paros road race on June 6th this week.   I have ridden the route many times since last summer.  The rumor is that this year we ride the opposite direction.  Clockwise…

–JDCM

 

 

 

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Easter, biking, work…

by John on April 17, 2015

Many years ago, when I was writing and playing my own music, I conceived a piece entitled “God; Family; Work.” The premise was that all of us (i.e. human beings) were influenced by these three aspects of modern life.  It was to be a rock ‘n’ roll symphony in five movements.  I never finished it.

I have been googling the term ‘artist’ and have come up with nothing relevant beyond a definition that everyone has heard before.  The jist is that someone has achieved this status after years of labor perfecting their skills and craft.  I know some artists here on Paros, people of curiosity and brightness.  I have been working with some other young photographers as of late, perfecting our technical skills.  If someone wants to call what we are doing ‘art’ then that is their business.  I would rather call it ‘work’.  I get up in the morning, go to work, have some leisure time away from work, etc…

Of course, there are some who hear the term ‘work’ and run for the hills.  I, on the other hand, find great satisfaction “in a job well done.”  I share this joy with family and friends.

Greek Easter was splendid and filled with the aroma of roasting lamb.  We paid homage to the spirit of the lamb and honored its sacrifice.  Our food had a face.  We connected the source with our bellies.

Here is an interesting link regarding Francis Bacon

Slow Art Day at the Paros Archeological Museum was wonderful.  About 12 people showed up and we viewed three different works each for ten minutes a piece.  The kouros below is a small statue that I enjoyed a great deal.

This weekend I will jump back into the darkroom and, I hope, print at least 6 new pieces.  I also have 4-6 rolls of film to develop.  Next week I am off to the nearby island of Naxos for a couple of days.  There is a 75km mountain bike ride I wish to take.

roasting lamb, Easter 2015

roasting lamb, Easter 2015

5th cent. BCE kouros

5th cent. BCE kouros

-JDCM

 

 

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Spring in the Aegean…2015

by John on April 5, 2015

It has been the wettest and coolest spring that many can remember.  Since March there have been more clouds than sun, more rain than not.  Yes, this may seem acceptable to friends in more northern climes, but around here it makes people nervous.  Paros is, for the most part, an arid climate and our primary agricultural gifts (olives, grapes, figs, tomatoes, etc…) demand that the soil be dry and the water stop falling  from April to October.  I am hoping that by the middle of the month the rains will cease.

I have been printing a lot and I have 30 pieces so far for my exhibit next fall.  Another 20 and I can begin editing, then selenium toning, then off to the framers they go.  I will most likely use a local company here in Paroikia, but I must demand a better frame quality.  The most recent batch were inexpensive, lightweight and thinly lacquered stock and some people have brought this to my attention.  I will be a little more struct with this next exhibit.  What have I been printing?  Old stuff, new stuff, 35mm, medium format.  A little bit of everything.

I am going to invest in some archival storage for my collection of portraits that are still in their frames, in a box, in my bedroom, in my flat.  I should get them out of this situation and into something more manageable.  Plus, it will free a cubic meter of living space.

I have been biking a lot lately, which I need to do.  I have been working on my hills, getting advice, pumping the pedals.  There is an 18km mountain bike race in a couple of weeks that winds its way from Marpissa, through Piso Livadi, along Molos, through the valley to Glyfada and back to Marpissa.  I rode it yesterday with some very fit pro-am folks and we rode it in 1:16.  This included taking two wrong turns and not really going too fast.  I hope to ride it in an hour.  It is a solid goal.  Other than that, I have been out on the road bike and digging that, getting ready for the Circle of Paros road race on June 6th.

Orthodox Easter is next Sunday.  I will view the proceedings at Panagia Ekatontapiliani for Friday and Saturday nights, then at midnight on Saturday will break the fast with some friends at a local taverna!  Paidakia, kokoretsi, patates, salates…Yum!  Then the next day there will be a big feast at a friends home with whole lamb on the spit, chicken, sausages, pork chops…Yum again…

Two days later I hope to be swimming in the very chilly Aegean for my first swim of the season.  I feel a need to be anointed in wine dark sea

–JDCM

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Ascetics, not aesthetics…

by John on March 13, 2015

“Ascetic” is a Greek word that means “training” or “exercise.”  I have discovered that “work” is all the same.  Whether artist, athlete or bricklayer makes no difference.  I exercise with my mind and body and hone my nature.  I haven’t tried bricklaying.

I practice in the darkroom and out in the world with my camera.  When I do this, my ability and skill increases.  Bicycling is no different.  I put on my kit and ride, either my mountain or road bike.  The more I practice, the better I get.  If I have questions then I find the answers.  In both cases there are people I consult.  Some of these questions seem simple, maybe banal.  To me, however, they are stepping stones to ability and skill.  I search for the beginner’s mind in myself…it’s all about the hills.

I rode the 3rd Annual Paros Mountain Bike Race in Kostas a couple of Sundays ago.  The weather was perfect.  There were 57 riders, almost all of whom were younger and in better shape than I.  Still, after having riden the course 4 times in the previous 2 weeks, I beat my own best time by a solid 5 minutes.  That is all that matters.

I took out the road bike last week and went around the island (64 km), a ride I have taken many times.  I rode it in 2:50:16, which is far too slow for my tastes.  I need more speed, and that is a fact.  The hills are killing my time, and Paros is full of them.  Sometimes I slow down to as little as 9 kph.  My average speed on the whole route was a mere 21 kph.  I would like to up my average to 24 kph. This means training and hills, hills, hills.   More practice, more work, more bricklaying.

There is a song I have been hearing at one of the cafés where I hang out.  It is a lovely, modern Greek love song.  It also helps me to learn some more Greek.  It is here…

Have a listen.

JDCM

 

 

 

 

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The end of February…

by John on February 24, 2015

I am happy that February is almost done.  It is the shortest month and here on Paros it has been very cold, but also quite beautiful with lots of rain, green fields promising spring.  March harkens, change is just around the corner.

I guess this is a bullet-point post…

–I turned 50 a couple of weeks ago.  Some friends took me out to dinner at one of our favorite tavernas and I was truly touched by their generosity and warmth.  Thank you, thank you…50 years on the planet, half a century. Hmmm…there were moments that I didn’t think I was going to make it, probably a couple where I tried not to.  Dark times, indeed, and a lifetime ago.  Rearview mirror stuff.

–I have been printing a lot in the darkroom.  Nothing really specific, just printing, going through negatives from 2006, ’07, etc…current work too…35mm, 120…lots of stuff.  It is for an exhibit I would like to have next fall.  Some wise friends reminded me to not be too concerned with content because it was art schools that put forth the idea that a solo exhibit must have a theme.  There will always be a common thread running through the show.  At the very least, it is all my work.  I can’t help it if people get confused.  I’m not.

— I have been getting ready for a mountain bike race this weekend in the hill-town of Kostos and have already biked the route a few times.  I am eagerly looking forward to it–13 km of ups and downs, rocky, gravely, sandy farm roads, washed out and rutted. There are some short stretches of paved stuff, but thankfully not so much.  I have biked it already three times and my best time so far is 53 minutes, and that is after a 9 km uphill ride to get there.  I hope to catch a ride with some friends, so I’ll be fresh.  The weather this week is rainy off and on.  I am hoping for light winds and sun on the day.  It’s going to be a fun and muddy ride.

–That’s it, really.  Not much else to report.

–JDCM

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In the shadow of Vesuvius…

by John on February 2, 2015

I have just returned from Naples.  I was surprised by many things.  The first was that it is a filthy, rundown, graffiti-stained city unlike any other that I have seen.  True.  In many ways it is a real dump.  Garbage everywhere…rotting, pollution blackened buildings in need of repair and restoration…Spray-painted graffiti on practically every surface you can imagine, including churches.  UNESCO should step in and put a few 100 million Euros into the place.  Or maybe the Camorra could use some of their influence to do something to improve the city at the heart of their criminal organization…Hmmm…

On the other hand, the place is chock-full of photo-ops.  It is an old, old city, dating back to the 2nd millennium B.C.E.  It has withstood the Greeks, Romans, the Bourbons, Napoleon and two world wars.  The most recent left the city all but razed.  Naples was the centerpiece of some of Mussolini’s greatest urban works, his arrogant attempt at a re-invention of the “empire.”  No wonder it looks broken.  It is.  The people, on the other hand seem to be taking it all in stride, as if to say, “we were here first and we will be here when you’re gone…”

Then there is Vesuvius.  Living in the shadow of a constant and active threat does something to a person, let alone a culture.  The volcano is everywhere, looming over Naples, a momento mori :  eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we could all be covered in volcanic ash (Pompeii) or liquified rock (Herculaneum).  I think the Neapolitans are a race all to themselves.  They have an element of piracy about them, an independence romanticized in the buccaneer, the privateer, the mercenary freebooter.  They are a swarthy bunch.

The museums were stunning.  Roman frescoes, mosaics…Caravaggio, Bruegel, et al…Pompeii was amazing.  The food was really superb.  The weather in late January is changeably mediterranean.   There was sun, clouds, rain, wind…Pretty much what one would expect from one of the oldest and busiest seaports in the world.  I will post some images on my Flickr page tomorrow so you can see some stuff that I saw.

Now I am back on Paros and the scirocco will be blowing most of the week.  Warm air out of the Libyan desert, full of yellow dust, microscopic sand in the air like jaundiced fog.  A sandstorm.  I feel terribly out of shape and need to get back on the bike for some serious work.  I have some printing I must address in the darkroom and the digital lab, both neglected commitments that I must fulfill.  In a few weeks, the gods-be-willing, I will have surpassed the half-century mark.  Busy month.

Detail of a Roman fresco.  Note the chiaroscuro...

Detail of a Roman fresco. Note the chiaroscuro..

 

a wood panel detail by Polidoro da Caravaggio

a wood panel detail by Polidoro da Caravaggio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

–JDCM

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Paros Winter…

by John on January 11, 2015

I looked out my window and witnessed the dawn illuminating the rocks, the sea, the white and tan buildings of the little seaside town I call home.  I live in a world of light, and always have.  The light pours into my eyes, through my camera lens, bounces off the walls in my small flat.

I was raised in a home of education and knowledge.  I read, explored and created from an early age.  In some ways I have been ‘home-schooled’ in the art of learning.  I know how to satisfy my curiosity.  Learning was the cure-all for most blues, for it was there that I was able to rise out of whatever poverty (social, physical, etc…) I felt was governing my life.  There were times in my life when all I had were my books, some paper and a pen.  I did better than just survive.  Even at my worst, I saw much of the world for what it could be–a world of light and possibilities.

This is not the truth for many, I know.  I am not naive to the facts of real poverty and starvation.  It is all around me.  It is here, in this town.  It is real.  So how does this change?  Through education, perhaps…but what kind?

As I write this, the starving and lost listen to the rhetoric of hate and violence, nodding their heads as their yearning minds absorb bitter venom.  We know where this leads.  The history books and daily newspapers are full of it.  The real tragedy is that those wielding the knives and guns are not the real demons.  They have been lied to, deceived, conned.  They are pawns, broken wind-up toys set in motion by others, those higher up the food chain who have been educated, have money, and cultural influence. The tin souls of the desperate are twisted and we all suffer.

Is there a way to cure this without leaving our own darkness?  As a frightened animal, my first internal reaction is just that–a reaction.  It is as violent and angry as the news I read every morning.  The initial solution is terrible.  I realize that this is the reaction the toy-winders want.  Next comes something more rational, but that holds a cold, black and silver aura, historically vile…

The truth is that I have no idea what to do.  I have no quick fix, no philosophy with which to stop the clicking mechanisms.  I cannot un-wind the broken toys.  I am afraid that no one can.

I will not end on this bleak note.  I began with the light, and so I will seek the light again.  I look out the window of the small cafe where I type and I see the cyan sky, green hills surrounding the quiet bay, a wine-dark sea.  I have the whole day ahead of me and will use it to create, engage peacefully and show gratitude for these gifts.  Maybe that is the way to stop the toy-winders.

Clear-minded-clear thinking-clear speaking-smiling face.  Keep it light.

A storm moves across Sifnos

A storm moves across Sifnos

–JDCM

 

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The true gifts…

by John on January 1, 2015

–It is New Year’s Day, 2015.  Happy New Year!  May this next year bring us all the best that life has to offer.  I am sure there will be uncertainties, enough for all: jobs, businesses, pursuits of all colors.  The best thing I have found is to be active and know when to let go of something that simply will not budge.  It is better to walk away from the brick wall than to keep banging your head against it.

–Sometimes the best gifts can be those that have been worked on and  constructed by the giver.  I gave some of my family photographs this year.  This past autumn I was lucky enough to be in Paris for a week and photographed the Parc de Bagatelle with my Voigtlander r4M using Rollei 400s film.  The negatives were lovely and I chose three specific images for presents.  I worked carefully on the pieces, choosing specific papers for the right feel, adjusting the developing chemistry to activate the proper tonal scale and contrast.  They are lovely.  I was happy passing them on to good homes where they would be appreciated.

–I return to Greece this week.  If all goes well I will be back on Paros by Tuesday lunchtime.  My name day is January 7th, which is also the birthday of a close friend, mentor and colleague.  I hope to cook her and her husband dinner that night.  Probably pork chops.

–The real gifts are non-material.  I no longer live in an imagined world of fear, where people are out to get me, shaft me, or otherwise take advantage of what I like to think of as my good nature.  I no longer play the victim card.  I no longer need to open up my Bag from the Past to show people what-tough-time-I-have-had-and-if-you-had-my-life-you-would-be-like-this-too!  I am so happy I found a way up and out, have been able to let go of so many bad ideas and open my heart, embracing change as a positive force.   Yes, I have days that are not perfect, but that is OK.  That is the gift of being right-sized: I am a person among people, a worker among workers.  I am emotionally secure among grown-up people.

–I heard a good quote the other day…

“You know what the big problem is in telling fantasy and reality apart? They are both ridiculous!”

Unknown

–JDCM

 

 

 

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Christmas/New Year post…2014

by John on December 22, 2014

-I am back in the USA for the holidays.  If there is anything I have learned this year it is that the varieties of human experience can be summed in a single word: absurd.  Tragic, comic…whatever.  It is all variations of absurd arrogance and tomfoolery.  Disagree if you want, I won’t stop you.  I am no different.

-The ‘Cafe/Kafe’ images are on display in a new gallery on my Sidelit website.  You can access them through the blog or simply click here.  These are scans of the actual b/w photographs, not scans of the negatives.

-I took the train to NYC a few days ago and visited the Metropolitan Museum for the day with a friend.  We looked at a marvelous Cubist exhibit, a private collection of Braque, Picasso, Gris and Leger.  Superb!  Then we gazed in wonder at the Stanford Album, a collection of 18″x 22″ photographs from the 19th century photographer Carlton Watkins, the first to document Yosemite National Park.  Truly amazing!  Then we wandered among the 29 portraits of Madame Hortense Cezanne , painted by her husband over the course of many years.  Lovely!  We could not resist the small but dramatic El Greco exhibit.  Astounding!  With time to spare before our respective trains we ventured into the American Impressionist wing, visiting Sargent’s ‘Madame X’ and looking at Winslow Homer’s wild seascapes.  She returned to New Haven and I headed back north.  A perfect day at the museum.

-I have been going to the health club and walking/jogging my 8 miles on the treadmill with regularity.  I love the knowledge that I can get my heart rate up to 170 bpm and keep it there for 45 minutes without losing my breath.  I will be ready to get back on my bike when I return to Paros in less than two weeks.  I miss it already.  I have some Greek language homework to finish and a couple of emails in Greek that I have promised my teacher.  First things first.

-I have been shooting some Fomapan 400 with my Leica M2 so I will have some non-Greek views to look at when I return and develop the film.  I have to print more portraits before I get too busy in March.  If I cannot complete the printing on my own then I will have to send the negatives to Athens and pay for the work.  This is not an ideal situation, but if I have to do it, then I will.

-Christmas is in a few days and the New Year follows.  Much has occurred in this past year and I am happy I have no regrets.  2015 is already shaping up to be busy.

Winchell-Mtn.-fog

 

 

-JDCM

 

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Paving my own road…

by John on November 30, 2014

–My ‘Cafe/Kafe’ show went very well.  It is such a quiet time here on the island that an event like this was a wonderful way to have a get-together.  It was a community event in a small community.  A good chin-wag with friends on a windy autumnal eve.  Mikro Cafe was packed and the opening lasted for about 3 hours.  I feel it was a great success for us all.  I took down the pictures a few days ago.  On to the the next one.

I have begun printing my second portrait show, which I have slated for October 2015, here on Paros.  I have ideas about the venue, which I will evolve.  The show itself will be a continuation of the first  ‘Paros Portraits’ exhibit, but this time I have relaxed my eye.  The first show was strictly large format 4×5 and printed digitally.  As lovely as the 4×5 is, the process began to feel formal, something I wish to avoid in this next installment.  There are a few 4×5 images in the new portfolio, which I will contact print, but the remainder are 35mm.  I am hoping for about 35 to 40 pieces and they will only be printed in the darkroom.  I want this next show to be more loose, more casual, with an element (just a smidgeon) of the ‘street.’  The prints will also be smaller with most of them falling into the 8×10 category, or thereabouts.  If I can print them all by the end of April then I can shuffle them off to the framer and pick them up at the end of the summer.

The weather here turned distinctly autumnal last week.  It was about 14C before Thursday and the drizzly, dark streets were perfumed with the aroma of burning olive wood.  It was damp, but then the wind is shifted from the south.   For the past two days we have seen sun, balmy breezes and well over 20C.  Lovely.

I must stay busy with my own work, even if it a small casual show like ‘Cafe/Kafe’.  As a friend reminded me tonight at dinner, “you have to pave your own road ahead of you…”

cafe-show-1

cafe-show-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cafe-show-2

–JDCM

 

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