April upon us…

by John on April 7, 2014

–I have heard from folks in the US that their weather has finally turned spring-like and the snows have ended.  It has been a difficult season for them and they need to put away their shovels and plows.

Slow Art Day is  coming up.  I will be gathering with some friends at a local museum here on Paros and participate.  I was reminded this morning that the average museum visitor spends between 5 and 30 seconds looking at a piece of art and that time is usually when they read the tag on the wall.  During this day we will look at 5 pieces, for 15 minutes each.  Then we will reconvene and discuss what we saw, how we felt, etc…I am looking forward to it.  Too many cultural institutions treat their space like a shopping mall.  MoMA in New York is one of them.  I think I have blogged about this already.

–When I first visited Paros in 2006 as a tourist, I came specifically to see their museum.  It has one of the finest collections of Greek art in Europe.  It only cost me 2 Euros to get in.  It still costs 2 Euros.  I was here for two days and visited twice.

–I continue my own printing in the darkroom.  I am doing well.  Although I may have made some strict goals at the outset, I have relaxed those boundaries.  I seem to be falling within them anyway.  Tomorrow I hope to expose some 4x5s.

–I competed in my second Parian sports event the other day.  It was the Paros Diathalon, held out at Molos Beach and the village of Marmara.  It consisted of a 7km run and then a 12km mountain bike.  My teammate Margaret ran and then I biked.  I had a great time and, once again, felt at home within that diverse community.  I will post some images on my Flickr site.  I am waiting to hear from people who have pictures of me.  Our total time was 63min, 55sec.  I think we placed 5th or 6th in the ‘Teams’ category.

–In a couple of weeks I have a break from work.  I might stick around, I might take off.  I might do both.  Load up the panniers and go…

–JDCM

 

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Mid-March, Paros, 2014…

by John on March 16, 2014

–Yesterday was the Ides of March.  I made it through unscathed. Et tu…?

–The day before, march 14th, was my mother’s 90th birthday.  She made it as well.  90 years…

–What has she been witness to since 1924! Well, almost everything worth talking about.  Plus, she has raised three children and set them on their respective paths.  One is a professor at a large University.  Another is an artist living on a small island.  The third is…well, that’s me.  Funny.  It feels like we three have all found our own islands we call home. Her love has been unconditional and generous.  She may, at times, worry about our sanities, but she has always been there, no strings attached.  She has never asked for proof of good will.   If I have had any regrets or guilt, they have been my own and are non-transferable.  Kind of like airplane tickets.

–Today I went to a mountain bike race in the hill town of Kostas.  I could have raced it myself, but opted out so I could photograph instead.  I brought my big Canon 5D MKII, my 35mm Voigtlander and my Wista 4×5.  I packed up 16 pieces of Kodak TPX 320 and had some old-time fun with large-format sports photography.  I am eager to see how they come out.  While I waited along the dirt road for the pack to appear, I was suddenly struck by the knowledge that this is how it was always done, for almost a century.  Photographers standing on the side of the road with their tripods and 8x10s/4x5s/etc…waiting for the runner/horse/bicycle/car/locomotive to come barreling down the track and trying to catch the moment.  It’s not easy.  I was thankful for my knowledge of depth-of-field so all I had to do was whip the film packs in-and-out of the back of the camera.  I was loading, exposing, sliding the cover back on, unloading, and tossing the exposed film pack on the grassy ground.  15 exposures later (one dud) I was done.  I finished up a roll of EFKE 100 35mm in the Voigtlander, made a few digital snaps of the closing events, and called it a day.

–I have been lining up some new subjects for continued portraiture.  I figure that if I can practice diligence, I will have a large enough portfolio to begin printing next autumn.  I continue to pray to the gods of photography for deliverance of  a 4×5 enlarger.

–Spring seems to have arrived.  The light has been superb.  What else is there to say?

-JDCM

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Photography and other works…

by John on February 25, 2014

–I haven’t spoken much about my photography lately, not since my Paros Portrait exhibition in August 2013.  Although I have shot and developed plenty of film, I haven’t been printing.   This has changed in the past couple of weeks.

–I am continuing my 4×5 portrait work and will do so at least for another year.  This as a larger arc beneath which I conceive and work on several other projects.

– I am thinking of a 35mm collection of textural pieces.  By “textural” I mean close up images of worn wood, rusted and tarnished metals, peeling paint.   These images tell of time and of the elements.  My eye falls into the deepest crack in the wood, the darkest keyhole, into the tiniest shadow beneath a curling leaf of old paint.  I want to go there. I want to set up shop.  This new portfolio will be small, only 12 pieces. I will begin during the first week of March and finish on the last week of May.  That is 12 weeks, or close enough.

–The soft focus work of Julia Margaret Cameron has also inspired me, especially after seeing a small exhibit last December in America.  I will work on something along those lines.  Still lives and medium format feels like the right way to go.  I will need to go shopping for the right kinds of vases and props.  This will give me a chance to pick up some new crockery for my own kitchen as well–plates and bowls and such.

–More biking, of course.  The weather just cries “get outside…move your muscles…”  The other day I rode to Marathi, then headed north overland, then northeast, bushwhacking until I was able to make it to a small farm road that led me to a large monastery just outside of Paroikia.  From there I headed back north, across the road.  Somewhere in there I punctured my rear tire, so I stopped and changed the tube.  Then I headed back home.  Clear paths?  Hmmm…That’s subjective.  Click the thumbnails to enlarge…

–JDCM

If there is a path there, I worked for it.  Unrideable, of course.  I pushed the bike.

If there is a path there, I worked for it. Unrideable, of course. I pushed the bike.

10 minutes of quick repairs and I was back on the road.

10 minutes of quick repairs and I was back on the road.

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49 years…

by John on February 17, 2014

–Today is my birthday.  I have been on the planet, breathing the air, since February 17, 1965.  I am an Aquarian, and in the the Year of the Wood Snake to boot.  It’s a heavy combination, if you follow these things.  Those of you who know me well enough will see that the associated characteristics fit me to a “T.”

–My future family were traveling in Europe when I was born.  They settled in Dublin, Ireland for a year waiting for me to arrive.  When I was old enough to travel they hit the road again and stayed in Italy for a couple of months before heading back to America.  My sisters were 10 and 8.  Somewhere there are home movies my father made showing us all at the time.

–I have had my share of successes and failures.  Some of them have been of my own doing and some have been granted or inflicted upon me.  Such is life.  No one is immune to that dynamic.  I suppose it is how we roll with the punches, how we dust ourselves off, that matters.

–Yesterday I surprised myself.  After a tough 2-hour, somewhat technical, mountain bike ride, I bumped into a small phalanx of other riders on my way back home.  One invited me along for a leisurely ride into the hills.  I went.  I usually would not do this,  i.e., join in so quickly.  It was fun.  I met some people I hadn’t met before, had a couple small chats.  Nothing too committed, nothing too serious.  Then I came home.  

–I also had a superb and very difficult ride three days ago.  I rode from Paroikia to Lefkes (45 min.) and then from Lefkes to the radio aerials that sit atop the highest peak (1.25 hrs).  From there I rode down the south-western slope, along an extremely rocky track, that eventually turned into a decent farm road.  All unpaved, of course.  The route eventually led me to Kakapetra, an area just south of Paroikia and a stones throw from a friend’s house (45 min.)  I stopped by for coffee and a chat.  The image below is from that jaunt.  You can see the aerials far away in the distance.

–I have reapplied for my American passport via the mail and the embassy in Athens; I have washed a load of laundry;  I have shopped for cat food.  Tonight, I get to eat dinner with a good friend at one of my favorite restaurants on the planet.   I begin my 50th year as a photographer and an amateur mountain biker.  Looking back, when I turned 30 I was a chef de cuisine (10 years)  and a guitar player (15 years).  Like the snake, I shed my skin.

Biking from the aerials on Paros.

Biking from the aerials on Paros.

 

 

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Looking for spring…

by John on February 5, 2014

–It is February, the Longest Month and Winter seems to want to hold a bit longer here on Paros.  Her hand clutches with grey fingers, wrinkled and damp, thin from the cold.

–Meanwhile, Persephone is in a downstairs apothiki, packing her bags and checking her visa in anticipation of her departure from Hades.  She will arrive soon, skipping through the green fields, wild blossoms in her dark hair, her backpack resting by the side of the road.

–I popped a spoke on my bike the other day up in the hills.  Check my Flickr site to see where I was…

–It is not wise to ride with a single spoke missing.  It puts uneven strain on the others, then they pop and then your wheel “tacos” mid-spin.  That is a good image, and one I do not wish to experience.  So I am having it re-spoked at the local bike shop.  I am getting rid of the stock spokes that are currently on the wheel  and adding stainless steel units.  The old ones were pretty rusty.  I am also having stainless control cables installed and new chain.  This should get me ready for spring.

I feel like boycotting everything having to do with Russia.  Just my political 2 cents.   

JDCM

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Back on Paros…

by John on January 27, 2014

–It is quiet here.  The rain falls through the night and the clouds cover the sky during the day.  There are moments of sunshine–brilliant, silver and brief.   I hope to get out and shoot some film in a couple of days when the clouds roll away.

–I have been out biking, for which I am grateful.  The sense of freedom on a mountain bike that one does not have in either a car or walking.  Fast, but not too fast, panniers full of cameras.

–The people, food and music of Greece keep me here.  The light is nice too.

–I will be going through my files and uploading all my past “header images” from this blog to my Flickr site.  It might be interesting to see how they all look together.

–I have decided that I would like to be known as someone who worked hard rather than someone with any great talent.   Dedication and hard work has always brought me farther than subjective opinion.  I can measure the first.  The second is fickle and none of my business.

–In February I begin a new 7-year cycle of life.   I can already feel the shift.  It feels tectonic.

JDCM

 

 

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Dream people…

by John on January 21, 2014

I dreamed that I was at my mother’s house and discovered something wondrous, something I could never have imagined.

There were other people living on the property other than us.

The first group lived in the wetlands at the bottom of the hill.  They lived in homes made of sticks and mud.  These homes were not some kind of story-book hut, all warm and cozy.  They were wet, cold and the wind ripped through them at night.  They looked like beaver dams.  But the people were happy.  There were about 7 or 9 of them–an older woman, maybe the grandmother, some middle-aged men and women and some children, as old as 12 and as young as 5 or 6.  This was the family group.  To look at they were dirty but I realized that this was actually their skin pigment, like camouflage.  Their clothes were the color of dark wet mud, their hair full of rotting leaves and twigs.  To them it was perfectly normal and I was the outsider, too clean and worried about getting my socks wet as I stumbled through the muck.  How I discovered they were there, I do not remember.

Then there were the people that lived in the densest part of the forest along the ridge above my mother’s house.  They lived there like foxes, or rabbits, in homes made of sticks, leaves and packed down earth.  Dens.  Once again, nothing cozy about these places.  But the people were happy.  They had the same kind of skin pigmentation coloring   as the others.  Their clothes were the color of reddish damp earth and rotting leaves, their hair full of pine needles and bark.  This group was about the same size and make-up as the other group in the wetlands.  They were a little more outgoing, however, and as I now know, they were the ones with whom I made first contact.   It had been a cold, winter night. The wind was blowing and the temperature was subzero.  I happened to be looking out a window, out into the field behind the house and I saw 5 or 6 people trudging through the dark.  I followed them.  They saw me.  No one ran.  They told me to go.  I said I would but if there was anything they needed that they should only ask.   Through the Earth People I met the Water People.  My relationship with both has been one of respect and distance.

There was also a single person–the grandfather of the Earth People group.  He lived in a large pool , half submerged, next to my mother’s barn.  He had a small platform which held his campfire above the water and the chair he sat in was just high enough to keep his upper torso dry.  Over the fire he brewed coffee and fried bacon.  He was the shyest of them all.  The Two Peoples cared for him and kept him safe.  He was a therianthrope, a Shapeshifter.  When he shifted they confined him to a type of barracks surrounded by electrified concertina wire.  When he was in human form he sat quietly in his chair, in the pool, tending to his small fire.

I know enough of dream analysis to recognize that all of these people, these groups, are elements of myself.  I am the Water People. I am the Earth People. I am the Shapeshifter.

JDCM

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Pinch me…

by John on January 17, 2014

–They say our reality is Krishna’s dream while he sleeps on a lotus flower.

–It seems like a dream.  I woke up a few minutes ago, startled and disorientated.  Jet lag.  I am in Athens.  I walked out onto the small balcony of my hotel room overlooking the street.  It is quiet at 04:00.  The city sleeps, breathing slowly.  Two days ago I was in America, visiting family and friends.  I am in a different world.

–In America I ate hot dogs, apple pie, toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, beef jerky.  There have been excellent sit-down meals too.  Very American food.  I have been able to stave off the calories at the gym.

–There was lots of snow there, and rain, and frigid cold.  It was lovely. There was an abundance of water.  On the little island I call home water can be scarce.  We use less.  Long showers are a luxury.  I luxuriated.

–On the Massachusetts Turnpike I drove through the kind of rain, wind and fog that made it seem as if I was driving underwater, surrounded by a screaming mass of tractor trailers and SUVs all moving at 80 mph.  I had little choice but to keep up.  Every light on my little car was switched on so people would see me.

–Photography during the winter allows for simplicity.  Sticks, snow, shadow, light.

–So I am back in Greece.  Last night I ate yigandes, patzaria, and briam for dinner.  Greek food.

–I am back in Greece.  I have a few days here in Athens then I hop the ferry back to Paros.  What is waiting for me there?

–I was thinking of taking pictures of metro stations.  I need a new header image before I post this entry.  I’ll use one of those.

–Life is like a dream.  Row, row, row your boat…

JDCM

 

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Dreams and thoughts from the Old Year…

by John on January 1, 2014

The New Year is here and I have some thoughts about life and some dreams I have had.

–I dreamed the other night that my heart chakra was clutched in an enormous, dark fist.  The fist was my own.  It has been a necessary part of my life, protecting my heart from being damaged.  This reminds me of a country-western song about a personal ad…”one heart, slightly cracked and only comes in blue.”

–I dreamed the other night that I was a member of an historical re-enactment troupe and we were acting out events of the Holocaust. The project required months of rehearsals and location scouting.   I played the part of a Jewish man, escaping down a rushing river to safety.  As I drifted past towns and hamlets in the chilly water, scenes of terror and brutality lined the shore.   I was swept along with the current.   I washed up on a rocky shore.  I staggered into the foyer of a large hotel in the south of France and was re-united with my fellows.   I wept.  We embraced.  There is more to it than that.  It is hard to put into words.  You had to be there.  It was actually quite uplifting.

–I dreamed the other night that instead of eating the gavros fried by the fisherman on the beach in the noonday sun, a taxi driver and I sought out the best gavros in town, cooked by someone’s grandmother. We ate them in the cool shade of a small taverna.

–May 2014 bring us all the dreams we wish and revelations that fill our hearts.

My Flickr site is here   Feel free to peruse.  I will try to add images as I feel the need to do so.

JDCM

 

 

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Happy Christmas!

by John on December 24, 2013

Snowy morning sunrise, December 19, 2013

Snowy morning, December 19, 2013, 16*F.  Leica M8

 

 

…and a few days later.  Very weird.

…and a few days later, December 22. 68*F.  Very weird.  Leica M8

 

 

 

 

Christmas is here and all through the house it is very quiet.  The cat plays with her tail, my mother sits in the living room reading the New York Times.  Tonight is Christmas Eve and we are having a Mexican dinner–pork quesadillas, guacamole, salad and a candied pumpkin dessert.  The tree is up, decorated and there are presents beneath its bangled branches.

The best gifts this year have not been material.  They have been the deep changes I have felt within myself and how I perceive the world.  This, in turn, gives me the opportunity to respond in new ways.  I am not always familiar with these aspects, nor am I always comfortable, but they are for the best and I feel have improved as a human as a result.  Here are some off the top of my head…

– My role as a teacher is not to reward or punish via the archaic system of “grades” so common today.  I am there to guide, lift up and hopefully inspire.

– My own work is a testament to long labor, arduous and fulfilling.  I am grateful to have been able to have an exhibition of my photography this year.  I am also grateful to have been allowed to exhibit it in a place I love–Paros and The Aegean Center for the Fine Arts.

– My future is unknown and uncertain. The best I can do is show up and be part of life’s rich pageant.

–  That’s OK most of the time.

Merry Christmas and have a lovely New Year!

JDCM

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