Archive | 4×5 photography

Paving my own road…

–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…”

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–JDCM

 

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Happy May…and some thoughts on photography…

–May is here.  The sun is shining, the tourists are few.  The winds are from the south, north, east and west.  It is lovely here on Paros.

–My darkroom work is progressing nicely.  I have been printing my Weather/Texture 35mm images on a regular  basis and am finding great joy in the consistency of this portfolio.  I have also been keeping up with my 4×5 portrait work and  recently photographed a young artist who is visiting our fair isle.  I made 12 exposures, of varying depths-of-field.  I’ll develop them this weekend.  Paros Portraits, Part II moves at its own pace…

–Recently a close friend  gave me a lovely gift: Richard Avedon’s Woman in the Mirror .  The images reminded me to look a little deeper into this photographer’s life.  I have always been impressed by his work.  I admire those who labor at what they love and have paid their dues, either through hard work, hard times, or both.  Avedon was a skilled craftsman who supported himself and his family through commercial photography.  While I never met the man, I get the feeling that while he became famous in his own time, he maintained his humility.

Avedon said that “I never wanted to be called an artist.  I wanted to be called a photographer.”

…also “sometimes I think all my pictures are just pictures of me.”

He also believed that “a photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he is being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he’s wearing or how he looks.”

–Dig it.

–JDCM

 

 

 

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Mid-March, Paros, 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…

–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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Gallery sitting…

 

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It is quiet here on Paros.  The tourists are leaving in a steady flow.  French, English, Italian and Greek…For many of them next week is the beginning of the school year for their children.  Here at the Aegean Center, this is true as well.  The Autumn Term begins next week in Italy.  My show comes down in 11 days.  I am very pleased with the reception I have had.  I am still seeing about 25 people per night visiting the exhibition and have had many interesting conversations with tourists and locals alike.

The summer is winding down and I am about to experience my first September on Paros.  I have heard it is the best time of year, a reward for making it through the high season:  warm, sunny, quiet…

So I will ride my bike, swim in the sea, take care of some maintenance in the school darkroom, sweep the courtyard and water the plants.

Before I know it it will be September 25th and I will be in Athens, meeting up with the school and then returning here on the 28th.  To paraphrase Bukowski, time runs like wild horses over the hills…

JDCM

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The exhibition…

My solo exhibition opened Sunday evening.  It was a joyful relief to have it up an on its way.  I realized that I have been building this portrait project since October 2011 while also working on (and completing) several other portfolios in both photography and painting en route to this destination.  No small feat.  It feels as if this has been an overreaching arc representative of all my labors to date here on Paros.

I have had some interesting comments regarding the 22 photographs.  One on-line viewer remarked that I had created a community.  I can see that too: a small town.  I have a butcher, barber, teachers, students, potters, cafe owners, artists, farmers, families, etc…The portfolio could stand alone as a village almost anywhere.  A visitor to the exhibition last night said that I had captured the souls of these people.  I like to think I only borrowed them for a brief moment.

I was too busy to take any pictures of the opening, but I know others did.  When I have some of those, I’ll share them.

I think I will concentrate on portraiture for a while.  My other photography is good, solid work.  It is like doing push-ups or lifting weights–all preparation and training for the real event.   I will begin a second round of portraits in late September, once the light has shifted a bit and people’s schedules have settled down.

Thank you, once again, to all those who helped make this happen.  You know who you are.  Yes, I did the work, but without the support of the Aegean Center and the people of Paroikia this project would never have seen the gallery lights.

JDCM

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News from Paros…a journey of small bites…

Lupens blooming along the path to the monastery of Agios Kyriaki

Lupens blooming along the path to the monastery of Agios Kyriaki

The first week of the spring 2013 session at the Aegean Center has all but ended.  As I sit in Pebble’s Jazz Cafe, overlooking the bay of Paroikia, the sun begins a slow descent towards the faint outline of Sifnos to my west.  Since my return at the end of January the sunset has moved slowly north along the ridge of that island, the daylight has increased and the temperature has become warmer.  There have been welcome harbingers of a lovely spring: warm, breezy with high clouds and only sprinklings of rain, barely enough to dampen my laundry hung out to dry, birds singing in the bright morning…

My work for the next few months has been laid out for me, a buffet of grand proportions.  My own large-format portrait work, which I have written about before, takes priority if I wish to have the printing finished by the end of May and the work at the framers by June.  This is the beginning-of-the-end of a long-term project, the seeds of which I planted during  the winter of 2011/2012.  I have two or three more sittings to arrange and then I can begin crossing tasks off the list.

I am also teaching in the darkroom, guiding the bright and eager minds of our small cadre along the meditative paths of silver photography.  I have been impressed in this first week by their enthusiasm, previous experience and general attitude towards the idea of ‘slow photography’.  I can only hope that they, too, feel as if I am an able mentor for their journey.  There are two or three returning students working on the darkroom, which benefits everyone.

The third element is my return to oil painting.  I loved it the first time last spring and this time around seems no different.  Just today I was working on a piece and I was struck by how much I love oils: their malleability and fluidity, the ability to push them around on a properly prepared canvas…

The fourth menu item this session is a fascinating journey into the world of Johannes Vermeer, more precisely his use of the camera obscura in his work.  There are three of us working with Jane Pack and in the next few weeks we will construct a full-scale replica of the master painter’s  camera, discover how he applied it and use it ourselves to draw, and then paint, some still lives.

When I realized a few days ago the scope of the labors set before me, my heart and mind quaked.  I quickly spoke to an advisor which helped.  I know that I can accomplish all of these things, but like a plate of food at the above mentioned buffet, this kind of smorgasbord can seem impossible to consume.  Like any dinner, it starts with the first bite.   Before I know it will be the end of May and I will be ordering coffee and dessert.

JDCM

 

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Darkroom work and questions…

In the past few weeks I have begun printing some of the images I made last summer during my island hopping following the spring 2012 session here at the Aegean Center.  For the most part, they are photographs of the stone walls that criss-cross the Kyklades landscapes like so many topographical scratches: property lines, terrace farming, some ancient, some new.  The proofs are working out fine, but I have begun to grow uneasy.  I am still coming to terms with the idea of ‘art’ and my photography.  True, I can compose within the format, be it square or rectangular, but am I an artist or am I simply a skilled documentarian?  The same applies to the portrait pieces I am photographing with my 4×5 and then using the scanner to render them into a digital format.  This is not my discussion alone, but one that has been on the table since photography began.  Is a photograph art?

I was told tonight by someone at a cafe that if a photograph ‘moves him’, creates an emotional response, then it is art.  I’ll buy that.  So what kind of emotional response is my ‘wall photography’ generating?  Nostalgia, loneliness, sadness…The scenes are desolate, full of ruins and, in some cases, the detritus of man.  Overturned ore carts, rotting and rusting in the harsh Aegean climate; volcanic chunks of stone piled two meters high to create the snake-like patterns running over hills one sees from the aft deck of the Blue Star ferry as they sail from Pireaus south.  There are no people in these images.  There are only the bones of ghosts.

The portrait work, on the other hand, is completely different.  I am trying to capture the essence of the person, or people, in their own environment.  Some are in studios, others at home.   In each case I have been able to catch a glimpse of something that reaffirms the great possibility of life.  The terrace farms may collapse due to misuse over the centuries, but these people will live on through the images I am creating.  I am creating.  I can create.  Perhaps that is as close a definition for ‘art’ as I will ever get.  Art is creation, a recognition of beauty and grace despite the ravages of time.  I can be a creator of something.   I can document with a deft hand, be mindful of the alchemical processes and thus reveal something to the world that I find beautiful.   There is a lazy part of me that wants this feeling to go away.  The realist in me understands that questioning is essential.  Without doubt and self-examination, how can I possibly progress?

JDCM

Serifos, 2012

 

Andiparos, 2012

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Emerson on the beach…

I sat on the beach the other day and listened to the waves lapping against the sloping sand.  While the currents slowly rolled the soft-colored stones rounder, my mind drifted from the page I was reading to the motorboat out in the bay and then back to the page only to be distracted again by the clarity of the sky and shadowy islands lying not-so-distant from my colorful towel.  I wonder if Emerson ever thought that one of his essays would become the subject of this writer’s musing or his book find its way to this sandy place?   Probably.  I am sure that his young admirer Walt Whitman would have felt at home here too.  He’ll be next.  “Leaves of Grass” during a wet Aegean February might be a good read for me.  In any case, in his essay ‘Circles’ published in 1841, Ralph demonstrates prescience.  In the modern world the concept of circles and cycles is common.  Society knows the words ‘reincarnation’ and ‘oneness’ as well as other ’round’ concepts.  Buddhism is not the mysterious idea it was so many decades ago and the phrase “what comes around, goes around” has been in the modern lexicon since, I suppose, the early 1960s.  “Ye reap what ye sow” has been around longer and means much the same thing.  What Emerson speaks of, I feel, is something larger than that.  Ideas come and go and  those who live in the past naturally point in fear and condemnation towards any revolution of thought or action that may threaten their temporary power.  That’s a good word too—revolution.  It implies a turning.  Seasons turn, wheels turn and the wheel inside the wheel turns as an analogy of an invisible world we may only glimpse in dreams or moments of sublime inspiration, connections with something larger outside ourselves.   Then again, there I was sitting on a beach in an archipelago called the Cyclades, or “The Circle”.  Hmm…Here is an excerpt from Emerson’s essay titled “Circles”, published in 1841:

“There are no fixtures in nature. The universe is fluid and volatile. Permanence is but a word of degrees. Our globe seen by God is a transparent law, not a mass of facts. The law dissolves the fact and holds it fluid. Our culture is the predominance of an idea which draws after it all this train of cities and institutions. Let us rise into another idea; they will disappear. The Greek sculpture is all melted away, as if it had been statues of ice: here and there a solitary figure or fragment remaining, as we see flecks and scraps of snow left in cold dells and mountain clefts in June and July. For the genius that created it creates now somewhat else. The Greek letters last a little longer, but are already passing under the same sentence and tumbling into the inevitable pit which the creation of new thought opens for all that is old. The new continents are built out of the ruins of an old planet; the new races fed out of the decomposition of the foregoing. New arts destroy the old. See the investment of capital in aqueducts, made useless by hydraulics; fortifications, by gunpowder; roads and canals, by railways; sails, by steam; steam, by electricity.”

“There are no fixtures in nature…”  Indeed.  The waves roll and dissolve stones to sand, the wind shifts and islands disappear.  My eye wanders from the page to the sky and back again.  I blame the Meltemi for these ramblings.  The wind rushes, sometimes feeling as if it is blowing through my head.  In one ear and out the other.

JDCM

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Paros and Emerson…

My trip back to Greece was uneventful although the security in the large airport from which I departed the USA was tighter than usual.  As a wise man reminded me, “These are the signs of the times we live in.”  So true.  And yesterday we all said goodbye to another wise man, Gore Vidal–writer, critic and general thorn in the side of anyone he felt needed a sharp poke as a reminder of their mortality and insignificance.  I have a feeling that he and Marcus Aurelius would have been good friends, cynics both–grumblers concerning the state of the world–and brighter stars in what can often be a dull firmament.

It was a pleasure and a relief to arrive back in Greece even though I have had to leave dear friends and family behind.  Such is my current path.  PAGE Literary and Art Journal is going to print and the files have been sent to the printers.  The only remaining task is to choose the paper stock for the cover and interior pages.  This is a hands-on job so I will not be taking care of that responsibility.  It is a very pretty publication, with relevant articles, both new and republished, and interesting work from the artists in that microcosm of the Northeast.  With that behind me I have returned to Paros and I am happy to be back.  My visit to the USA was so short it feels surreal to walk down the narrow streets of this port town, now more crowded with tourists, feel the heat of the Greek sun and hear the ancient familiar music of the Greek language.  It is as if I had never left, yet I have the jetlag to prove it.  I have work to do here before I leave for Italy in a few weeks so I will be busy and I am looking forward to that.  For me idle hands are the devil’s playground.  In short, I need to have work to do and some structure to my life, a schedule of some kind.  People to see, places to go, things to do.  Then I can rest.

Today’s (2 August) reading from ‘ A Year with Emerson’  is appropriate since I am back here and in contact with my teachers, mentors and those who would guide me.  When he was thirty years old Ralph wrote a letter to his Aunt Mary and gave a description of his ideal teacher. He wrote, “God’s greatest gift is a teacher & when will he send me one, full of truth & boundless benevolence & heroic sentiments.  I can describe the man, & have done so already in prose and verse.  I know the idea well, but where is its real blood warm counterpart…I may as well set down what our stern experience replies with the tongue of all its days. Son of man, it saith, all giving & receiving is reciprocal; you entertain angels unawares, but they cannot impart more or higher things than you are in a state to receive.  But every step of your progress affects the intercourse you hold with all others; elevates its tone, deepens its meaning, sanctifies its spirit, and when time & suffering & selfdenial [sic] shall have transformed and glorified this spotted self, you shall find your fellows also transformed & their faces shall shine upon you with the light of wisdom & the beauty of holiness.”

“You entertain angels unawares…”  How lovely.  We are only ready to receive that which we are ready to understand.  In a way he is reminding me to remain open to the ideas around me, to not shut myself off from the “sunlight of the spirit” and to look keenly into the eyes of those who know.  I must admit that I cannot say much else after that.  That’s alright.   I think Emerson, Vidal and Old Aurelius would agree.  As a parting shot I would like to introduce a circular idea I have been mulling for the past few months: learn, practice, teach.

JDCM

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