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

 

{ 1 comment }

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

 

 

 

{ 1 comment }

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

 

{ 1 comment }

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

 

{ 1 comment }

cafe/kafe, romanticism and keeping it light…

by John on November 15, 2014

–I was eating my corn flakes and goat’s milk one morning and it occurred to me that I am an incurable romantic.

–I returned from Paris two weeks ago and I am back on Paros, about 2300 km and one vowel distant.  My time in France was lovely.  My heart was filled with warmth even though the weather had chilled by the time I departed.

–I was able to shoot 4 rolls of Rollei Retro 400s while in Paris.  I also gave myself a Christmas present.  I found a very affordable Leica M2 at the local Leica store.   The deal was good and I was there.  I had to get it.  According to the serial number it was manufactured in 1966.  I find it extremely cool that I bought a an old Leica in Paris.  It just feels right. Very romantic.

–While in Athens on Friday, I ran a couple rolls AGFA APX 400 through it.  That made 6 rolls.  When I returned to Paros and checked my ‘to do’ box in the darkroom I found two more rolls of film (Rollei Retro 100) that needed developing.  I spent Sunday afternoon developing of film.  8 rolls from three different places from three different cameras…Here’s the breakdown:

–4 rolls Rollei Retro 400s, Voigtlander r4M w/ Voigtlander 35mm lens, Paris; 2 rolls of AGFA APX 400, Leica M2 w/ the same Voigtländer 35mm lens, Athens; 2 rolls Rollei Retro 100, Balda ‘Super Baldina’ (c. 1956), fixed 40mm lens, Paros.

–While working I listened to The Clash’s ‘London Calling.’  It was released in the UK in 1979.  35 years later it still sounds fresh, complex and vibrant.

–Romanticism…OK.  I don’t wish for days gone by.  Whatever they say, life was not simpler, or easier.  Thomas Hobbes referred to life as ‘…nasty, brutish and short.”   He was right.  I like living on a remote island.  Romantic again.

–The ‘cafe/kafe‘ photographs are matted, framed and behind glass.  I will hang this small exhibit this Friday at Mikro Kafe here in Paroikia.  It is not a grand exhibition, just something light and easy, something small to keep my hand in while I continue the prep for the second, far more involved ‘Portraits‘ exhibit next autumn.  There.  I said it.  Autumn 2015.

 

–JDCM

 

 

{ 0 comments }

Paris…

by John on November 4, 2014

It’s all bullet points this week…

–I arrived here last Friday evening, in time for a nice dinner with my friend and her mother.  Saturday was sunny and hot, so we strolled around town for a bit.  Checked into the Jardin du Luxembourg (along with almost everyone else in Paris) and saw a lovely impressionist exhibit in the Musée.  Superbe!

–Wifi access in Paris is terrible.  The Greeks are years ahead of the French in this respect.  As a result, I am posting this from the safe, American confines of the Hyatt Regency in the lobby lounge.  I feel like I am in a de facto embassy.  The signal is crisp and brisk, the coffee fine.  In the background a pianist is noodling “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  Not my favorite noodle.  Now that tune from “Cats.’  Is that a Lloyd-Webber construct?  May his fingers wither…

–Sunday was cloudy and cool and the Jardin de Bagatelle was all but empty.  Lovely, really lovely.  Shot a roll of film along it’s green anhttp://johndcmasters.com/wp-admin/admin.php?page=thesis-optionsd quiet paths.  Dinner at home that night.

–Monday was the Louvre.  Big place.  Lots of art.  Mobs of people.  Tough to navigate, but we managed to see all the important stuff…almost–skipped the Middle Ages.  Everyone was gathered around the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo…No one upstairs in the 16th-18th century Flanders/Belgium exhibit.  We had the place all but to ourselves.  That precious Vermeer seamstress…Always nice to know there are better works in the museum than La Gioconda and the Venus.  Really, there are.  Many more.  Dinner that night at Le Dôme.  Table side service and bouillabaisse.  Superb!  It was a rainy night in Paris and we had fish soup.  Nothing better.

–Today was Musée d’Orsay and, I must admit, I enjoyed it more than the Louvre.  Smaller, but loads to see.  Dinner tonight was at Bistrot du Parc, down the street from my friend’s house in Neuilly-sur-Seine.

–To be honest, I am saturated right now with art, so tomorrow we will have a day outside.   It is supposed to be sunny…the Eiffel Tower, Place de la Concorde, Arc de Triomphe, walking the Champs Elysées…shopping for charcuterie and cheese to “bring back” to Greece.  Mussels, salad and tarte “Grand-mêre” on the menu at home for tomorrow evening.

 

Mona-Lisa

 

–Thursday night I head back to Greece and work–my own as well as the labors of others.

–JDCM

 

 

 

 

 

 

{ 0 comments }

This week the sun comes and goes. The clouds are low, the skies smell like rain.  It rained last night, the sun is shining, the mornings are cool.  It is all but November and we set our clocks back last week.  I have had some good bike rides.  It is nice weather for riding.

As some of you may know I have suffered from Meniere’s Syndrome for the past 3 years.  I have been diagnosed by several doctors, one of them a specialist.  None of them offered me any real plan for easing my discomfort or alleviating the symptoms of this maddening condition.  I can trace it back to April 2011, when I went swimming in the cool water of Paros.  I think that the combination of a low-grade virus and the cold water in my right ear not draining properly exacerbated an already existing tinnitus due to an exposure to loud volume over many years.  This led to Meniere’s…But really, who knows?  Not the experts…So for years I have experienced hearing loss in my right ear and the occasional vertigo which has negatively effected my quality of life.

Two weeks ago I began experiencing moments of extreme vertigo lasting 15 to 20 seconds.  I became alarmed and scheduled a CT scan to rule out the worst case scenarios.  My local doctor here told me to cancel the appointment and instead has put me on two meds.  The first is an anti-vertigo capsule and the second is betahistine.  Both are working well.  He said that if the meds don’t work after a month or so, then we’ll do an MRI.  As of today the symptoms are all but gone.  No vertigo, very faint tinnitus.  Relief.

I have finished printing the “cafe-Kafe” series.  I have delivered the 12 pieces to the matting/framers here in Paroikia yesterday and they will have them finished by November 12th.  They will also make a poster for me.  I’ll stick to A4.  I don’t need anything larger.  At the beginning the images were merely cups of coffee.  They have evolved into coffee and people.  Such is cafe society.

Tonight I take the night boat to Athens, then tomorrow afternoon I fly to Paris.  I will be there for about a week, staying with a friend.  I am looking forward to this little trip for many reasons.  I am bringing the right clothes.  It was 12C in Paris yesterday.  It is supposed to be grey and cloudy all week.  Much to see and do…

–JDCM

 

{ 1 comment }

Parian autumn…

by John on October 19, 2014

–It is mid-October and we have been blessed with lovely weather here on the island.  As I type this post at Port Cafe, the wind outside is slightly crisp, coming from the north, gusting at just under 47 km/h.  The skies are clear, the bay quiet…Paroikia too.  There are few tourists here now which gives the place a charm and solitude I crave after the long, hot, crowded summer.  Cafes and tavernas are closing earlier in the evening, sometimes not opening until the weekend.  I love it.

–I have begun printing the small images for my “cafe-CAFE” show to be held late in November.  I have printed four images so far, on Ilford Warmtone paper using the two-developer process I have come to rely upon.  The pieces are all from 35mm negatives and are all from the same cafe I frequent.  The show will be mounted there too.  I’ll send an E-nouncement to all…

–I have purchased a new set of panniers for my mountain bike (mine are red), the old pair literally coming apart at the seams.  They served me well for a year.  What do you expect for 27 Euros?  The new pair were significantly more expensive but they are of a much higher quality.  One friend joked that I will probably get a new bike before I replace them.  Not that I need a new bike, mind you…I’ll post a picture or two via Flickr in the next few days.

–A good friend and colleague is having a wonderful exhibit this weekend here on Paros.  Jun-Pierre Shiozawa is a painter who has been working on a series of portraits for the past year.  He will hang 29 pieces for the opening this Saturday evening at 20:00 hrs.  I will attend gratefully and gladly and then I must board the late night ferry to the island of Naxos.  The next day is the Naxos mountain bike race, in which I will ride.  I am fortunate to be able to do both.

So it is a week of art, photography and bike riding…Superb!

–JDCM

{ 0 comments }

“…the streets of Rome…”

by John on October 1, 2014

“Well the streets of Rome
are filled with rubble;
ancient footprints are everywhere.
You almost feel like you’re seeing double
on a cold, dark night on the Spanish Stairs.
Gotta hurry on back to my hotel room
where I got me a date with Botticelli’s niece.
She promised that she’d be right there with me
when I paint my masterpiece.”
 

That song kept running through my head last weekend.  It began Sunday morning as I left Pistoia and here, in Athens on a warm Wednesday afternoon,  it still echoes…

Thank you Mr. Zimmerman, for the ear-worm

In any case, I left Pistoia with a scratchy throat and by that night I was slightly feverish, congested, et al…I am dubbing this ailment the Tuscan Plague since it attacked all my friends as well.  Each seems to have had some variation on the virus, all miserable.  I killed mine with plenty of bed-rest, warmth and the miracle of modern pharma.  Arriving in Athens this morning I am much improved.  I am also relieved to be back in Greece.  I need the local soul food.

Rome was lovely despite my ague.  I was able to visit the Museo Massimo and gaze upon the precious and lovely Roman frescos; I wandered through the Galleria Borghese and marveled at the Bernini sculptures, frozen motion and pliant, soft marble.  How did he do that?  Truly a high point in sculpture–a divine concoction of craft, skill, artistry, aesthetics, hard work and obsessive compulsive desire for perfection.  Some would say “madness”…”insanity.”

I ate some glorious grub as well.  Roman stuff…fried artichokes, sweetbreads, lemon pasta…Very fancy by Greek standards.  Foreign food.  Western.  Give meat on a stick, tomatoes and capers slathered in olive oil and a plate of fried sardines.

Good to be back in the East.

–JDCM

 
 
 
 

{ 1 comment }

Pisa…2014

by John on September 23, 2014

–It has been two years since I have visited Italy.  What I have seen still inspires.

–This year I traveled to Pisa with some friends.  The sun was warm, the clouds white, puffy and benevolent.  The breeze was cool enough to be pleasant and carried a slight tang of the nearby sea.  I have always been impressed with Pisa.  I find the town charming and the buildings along the Arno fill me with a kind of peace as they gracefully follow the curve of the river.  I imagine the Romans in their boats, big and small, navigating…

–The Camposanto is the emotional high point for me.  The frescoes are  amazing for many reasons, perhaps because they are even there.  Anyone who visits is made aware of the damage caused by Allied bombing during the Second World War and the subsequent attempts to repair and restore their delicate structures.

–Of all the great dignitaries, princes, princesses, lords and ladies entombed in the Campo, one resident stands out: Deane Keller.  Keller was an American, a member of the MFAA Group that, during WW II, scoured a desolated Europe to save the great artistic treasures either looted by the NAZIs or damaged by the ravages of war.  He is responsible for the saving of what we now see in Florence and Pisa, especially the frescoes of Pisa.  Much was lost.  Much has disappeared.  While standing next to Keller’s tomb, I was talking to a friend about this.  I began to cry.  I was reminded that what we draw, paint, sculpt or photograph is of the finest delicacy and so easily destroyed.  Keller tried to fix what he could and his work continues to this day.

–JDCM

 

Frescoe restoration at the Campo Santo, Pisa, Italy 2014

Fresco restoration at the Camposanto, Pisa, Italy 2014

{ 0 comments }