Archive | autumn

Pisa…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

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Departures and arrivals…

The crowds have thinned out on Paros.   The roads have become less treacherous and the island is, once again, for those of us who live here.  There is a collective sigh of relief.  I have been biking well, using my new Boardman road bike and loving it.  In a recent post I stated that I wanted to ride at least 125km per week.  I have done that in three days.  I will have to up the ante.  Maybe 200km?  Easy-peasey.  My mountain biking has been vigorous and rugged.  As it should be.

I continue to build a solid portfolio of 35mm portrait pieces for my exhibit scheduled in the fall of 2015.  I think I also have enough ‘cafe-Cafe‘ images for the small show I hope to hang in November.  Now all I have to do is print, matte and frame 12 images. This will begin in October, when I return…

I am leaving for Italy tomorrow.  It will be a short trip, only a couple of weeks, and I will hook up with friends and colleagues for some art, art history and good eats.  I am all but packed with only my shaving kit to stuff in my rucksack.  My camera bag is ready, awaiting my laptop and assorted odds and ends.  I am only bringing two cameras: my trusty, well-used Canon G11 point-and-shoot and the small Pentax 35mm I bought from a friend last July when I was back in America.  I will bring the 50mm and 135mm lenses.  I have been having fun with this little machine and so it feels good to continue the joy.

Cavafy’s poetry continues to inspire and fill me with emotion…

Return

Return often and take hold of me,
cherished sensation, return and take hold of me–
when the body’s memory awakens.
and past desire again runs through the blood;
when the lips and skin remember,
and the hands feel as though they touch again.
 
Return often and take hold of me at night,
when the lips and skin remember.
 

–JDCM

 

 

 

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Cavafy on the beach…

–A friend recently presented me with a small collection of C. P. Cavafy’s poetry.  I am familiar with his work, but not so much with those collected in this small, beautiful anthology.

–Today we lay on the beach on Andiparos.  Waves lapped at the rocks; birds sang in the dry, hot September air; we swam, ate lunch.  We read Cavafy to each other.  I was particularly moved by his poem ‘Ithaca’, written in 1911.   It is of leaving and arriving, the maturation of the soul and that this is all we may wish for as our journeys continue.

–We all come to places, places we have read about in books, or perhaps overheard–they are awed, exotic hushed whipsers.  We all leave these places, hopefully taking with us what we have been given, what we can carry, gifts from Phoenecians…

                      Ithaca

As you set out bound for Ithaca
hope that the journey is a long one,
full of adventures, full of learning.
Of the Laestrygonians and Cyclopes,
of wrathful Poseidon have no fear,
you’ll never meet suchlike on your journey,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if noble
sentiment grips your body and spirit.
You’ll never encounter raging Poseidon,
Laestrygonians and Cyclopes,
unless you bear them in your soul,
unless your soul sets them before you.
 
Hope that the journey is a long one.
That the summer morns be many
when with what delight, what joy
you enter harbours hitherto unseen;
that you stop at Phoenecian markets,
and acquire fine merchandise,
nacre and coral, amber and ebony,
and all kinds of heady perfumes,
as many heady perfumes as you can;
that you visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from the erudite.
 
Always keep Ithaca in mind.
To arrive there is your destination.
But in no way rush the voyage.
Better for it to last many years;
and for you to berth on the isle an old man,
rich with all you gained on the journey,
without expecting Ithaca to give you riches.
 
Ithaca gave you the wonderful voyage.
Without her you would not have set out on your way.
Yet she has nothing more to give you.
 
And though you may find her wanting, Ithaca has not
                                                                            deceived you.
Wise as you’ve become, with so much experience,
already you’ll have understood what these Ithacas mean.
 
C.P. Cavafy, 1911
 

I will continue reading Cavafy.  I fall into his words, as one falls into a conversation.

–JDCM

 
 
 
 

 

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In the shift…

–The August crowds have departed and it is almost September.  The summer is slipping away (has slipped away), a tide across the sand.  The light has shifted.  It is no longer the July glare.  Delicate clouds mute the summer fierceness.  Autumn approaches.  Today it is windy and cooler.  A meltemi eases fevered brows.  A scirocco will present itself midweek.  The breeze will drop to almost nothing.

–All the forecasts point to the possibility of a light shower this week.  Whether this will happen on Paros or another nearby island is never certain.  I shall just have to wait and see.

–The mountain bike race on Andiparos has been cancelled.  The next event I can participate in is the race on Naxos, at the end of October.  That’s OK, although I was looking forward to Andiparos.

–In a couple of weeks I head off to Italy to visit with friends, eat some steak Florentine, and allow the Renaissance to inspire my eye.

–My portrait work continues.  I would like to shoot and develop a couple of rolls of 35mm before I head to Italia.

–I continue my biking.  I need to pump up the kilometers a bit.  Now that it is cooler and there are fewer cars, this is easier.  I pay the final installment on my road bike tomorrow. Then I can begin that dynamic routine.  200 km a week total with both bikes.  That is all I ask…

–JDCM

 

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Mid-December update…

Phrenology at the Street Market

Phrenology at the Street Market.  Leica M8, Voigtlander 28mm; f/5.6; 1/125; ISO 320

-I haven’t posted in a while.  I have been busy with the ending of the 2013 Autumn Session at the Aegean Center.  I have been very pleased with this session.  My steep learning curve as an instructor has taught me a few things and I have been able to avoid some of the pitfalls common to any novitiate.  My overall opinion of teaching is that the small rewards outweigh the tragic gaffes and stumbles.  I keep searching for the Golden Key which unlocks the door.  It has been a humbling three months.

-I am currently in Athens, making my way back to the USA for the Christmas and New Year holiday.  I will visit with family, close and dear friends, and enjoy driving my car.

-It will be frigid in the little town where I grew up.  This will make exercise difficult and lazing about watching movies easy.  For the month that I am there I will probably join a gym and try to burn off the calories as I gain them.  I have no desire to return to Paros 6 kilos heavier than when I left.  One of the many benefits to living on Paros is the ability to get out and about without donning the kind of winter gear I will wear in New York.  There is also no snow on Paros, or none to worry about anyway.  This allows me to ride my bike.  It’s all about layers.

-I was sitting in a café yesterday with some Athenian friends and I was astounded at the general din of this large, ancient and sprawling city.  After the quiet of Paros, the noise is deafening.  It troubled my sleep last night.  I tossed and turned.

-I still adhere to the belief that I am not an “artist”, per se, or at least would rather not be known as one.  Call me a “skilled technician” or “an able-bodied craftsman” or “a journeyman photographer”.  The world has become a market for the “artist”, a place to sell goods, like a street vendor selling fruit, or perhaps something darker.  In order for “the artist” to really be a mainstream success, he or she must conform to the trends and fads that guide the fickle opinions of gallerists and marketeers.  For me, this is a trap.  If I am creating to please the public, then I am on an ego-trip.  It urges me to be the center of attention, in the limelight.  I am not comfortable with center stage.  Once in a while these lines intersect.  The rest of the time I have to be patient with hard work, working long nights and being a wallflower.

JDCM

 

 

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Session end approaches, etc…

I have a lot on my mind these days and it feels difficult to try to sort it all out.  Thoughts meander…

My most recent post was in the form of notes.  I think I will keep it that way for today as well.

–The session here at the Aegean Center is almost finished.  This week is the final full week of work.  It is also American Thanksgiving and Chanukkah.  Lots to do (food, work, art) and I imagine emotions are running high for those younger students who have never been away from home on these holidays.  We will have a big pot-luck feast on Friday evening, since Thursday is a work day.  We supply the side dishes.  JP supplies the turkeys and gravy.  I am making roasted butternut squash.

–The students who are working in the darkroom are making some interesting work.

–I have been able to noodle about with my own work, but nothing really substantial.  I have tried some portrait work with minor success.  Siga-siga.  If one were to ask how I think I am doing these days, the answer would have to be divided into three parts: personal, artistic and academic.  Personally I am doing alright.  I am building solid social bridges to people in the community who have little to do with the school or the arts.  I am biking a lot and feeling good about that that.  Artistically I am, as I said, noodling around.  I am letting the students have the lion’s share of the darkroom time.  The third aspect is etsy-ketsy.  I do what I can.

–Am I an artist-in-residence or faculty?  I have no idea anymore.  I have worked to define these boundaries within the small community in which I labor.  I can only guess that I receive unknown support and back-up from those I respect.

–I am opening a Flickr site and will post photos there, images that never made it here and other things.  Mostly travel stuff.  I’ll add a tab to the website next time I post.  Until then I have added an autumnal image: olive oil fresh from the press.  Yes, it really is that green.

Happy Thanksgiving!

–JDCM

Fresh olive oil from the olive press at Kamari.

Fresh olive oil from the olive press at Kamari.

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Notes from the mainland…

October 30, 2013

–The weather is still hot during the day but the mornings are cool so I wear a sweatshirt when I leave the hotel.  By 10:00 I am in my t-shirt.  I have driven through hundreds of orange groves in two days.

–The ruins in Ancient Corinth are vast and the typical jumble.  The Temple of the Corinthian Apollo is Doric.  Lots of Roman stone.  St. Paul was here.

–Akro Korinthos, 3 km up the mountain from the site, is massive.  I have walked the walls.  Easily as large as the outer walls of Dubrovnik…5km if I remember correctly.  Walls built on walls…Mycenean, Byzantine, Ottoman and Venetian.  Everyone knew a good site for a fort when they conquered it.  Impregnable and all but hewn from the living stone.  Few people there today.  Some workman digging a new drainage ditch.  They are stone-faced when I say “kali mera.”

–I have seen more Golden Dawn graffiti here than anywhere in Greece.  Lots of spray-painted Greek meanders…this is a ubiquitous symbol.  It is on my bathmat in the hotel where I sleep.  It’s on tourist swag.  Now it means something else, something terrible.  They have taken a design everyone knows as good and twisted it with their broken thinking.

–Nafplio is not Paros.  The mainland is not the Kyklades.  There is a roughness here, less open than the Greece I know.  Fewer smiles.  Gruff.

–Epidaurus tomorrow and Schliemann’s second site at Tyrins.  My last full day here and I want to make the most of my little car.  I might brave the winding mountain road to Ermioni for lunch after visiting the theater.

October 31, 2013

–Epidaurus, Tyrins…quiet but there are still buses and tourists.  Mostly older groups and I seem to be shadowing a school group of American kids. They were at my hotel too.  Quiet as mice.  A nice thing to experience.  Corinth yesterday and the theater today.  Also the Nafplio museum…

–The winding road to Epidaurus and grove after grove of olives and oranges.

Epidaurus: ancient script.  Leica M8, f/2.8, 1/2000, ISO 320

Epidaurus: ancient script. Leica M8, Voigtlander 28mm, f/2.8, 1/2000, ISO 320

–A group of Russians at the theater…testing the acoustics with pebbles.  Wonderful.  Tyrins on the way back to Nafplio. Not much to see but an observation:  the technique used to build the large Mycenean walls is the same as the wall building I have seen all over the Kyklades.  No walls here, nothing crisscrossing the landscape. The Mycenean civilization was large.

–Blue domes are now terra-cotta tiles.  I had forgotten that about the Peloponnese.

–When I was a boy, about 5 or 6, my grandmother gave me gifts from her time in Greece: a small model of a Greek house with a windmill, a komboloi, an Evzone figurine.  She planted this seed.  She was here.

–I am still enjoying my short DoF exercises.  The stones, greenery and blue skies are perfect for this.   Shooting at f/1.8 to f/4 only…

JDCM

A column section from Epidaurus.  Leica M8, Voigtlander 35mm Nokton, f/2.0 at 1/4000, ISO 360

A column section from Epidaurus. Leica M8, Voigtlander 35mm Nokton, f/2.0 at 1/4000, ISO 360

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Nafplio, Ohi Day and some more…

Temple of the Argive Hera, overlooking the Argolis Valley

Temple of the Argive Hera, overlooking the Argolis Valley

It is the autumn mid-term break and I am off-island.  I am feeling a bit of culture shock.  There are so many people here on the mainland.  So many cars…

I arrived here on Sunday, the day before ‘Ohi Day’.  It was also the weekend of Agios Dimitrios, a saint of some popularity here in Greece. Everyone with a connection to the saint for their name day celebrates.  It was a long weekend.   Weekenders from Athens and Corinth mobbed the narrow streets.  I had left the quiet calm of Paros and landed here.  I felt like hiding.  My meal that night was good: Gigantes, fried zucchini, lamb chops and the waiter tried to stiff me 10 Euros until I confronted him.  He was so very apologetic.  Kleftis!

Ohi Day was a grand affair and just before the big parade, I decided to not stick around.  I took a long walk around the massif on which the Palamidi Fortress sits and then on my way back climbed the 900+ stairs to the top of this Venetian citadel.  The view was lovely, but the tourists were there too.  There was an American school group, and I observed how they behaved in a foreign country.  Like bumpkins, I tell you, bumpkins.  The Aegean Center students would never act as they did.  I left the castle and went back to the town, searched out a car rental agency and rented a car for the next day (today).  I ate a wonderful meal at a small taverna off the main drag and had some of the best skordalia (garlic paste) I have ever had.  Superb gavros, too.  No billing issues last night.  I might go back there tonight.

Today I drove my little silver Hyundai north to the Mycenean ruins at Mykine.   This is the spot where Heinrich Schliemann found all of the gold and proclaimed (incorrectly), “I have seen the face of Agamemnon!”  Still, an impressive site and worth the trip.  When I left I headed to Nemea and marveled at the ruins of the Temple of the Nemean Zeus.  This was one of the centers for the Panhellenic games beginning in the 5th century BCE.  Superb.

The clock was edging into the mid afternoon and I decided to call it quits for the day.  I headed back to Nafplio.  15 minutes later found me at the ruins of the Temple of Argive Hera, an enormous jumble of stone and column sections of what must have been an imposing structure overlooking the wide valley.  Like Mykine, the sea was visible and I imagined in its heyday it gleamed atop the hill from which I viewed the olive groves and vineyards stretching out before me.

I arrived back in Nafplio, parked my car and took a well-deserved siesta in my hotel room.  Tomorrow is another big day.  I will head a bit farther north and see the imposing Akro Korinthos fortress and Ancient Corinth.  Thursday I return to Epidaurus after over 7 years.

The town has quieted somewhat, but the cafes still hum.  I am still in Greece, but away from the island, Paroikia and the Aegean Center. This is good.  I need time to let go, reflect and otherwise contemplate my place in the Universe and what that means.  These imposing structures, their tons of crumbled stone and absent civilizations are a humble reminder of my abilities.

RIP Lou.  Your dark candle burned so brightly.

 

The Temple of Nemean Zeus, Nemea, Argolis, Greece

The Temple of Nemean Zeus, Nemea, Argolis, Greece

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Mid-October update…

This is a short missive from my table here at Port Cafe, overlooking the Bay of Paroikia.  To mis-quote George III, not much going on here…except art, art work and art students working!  It is always pleasant to feel the hum of busy schedules being negotiated, smell the aroma of oil paints, inks and darkroom chemistry and encounter Aegean Center students writing at cafe tables, wandering about with cameras and expressing their enthusiasm for just being here on Paros.  One student exclaimed last night in the darkroom, “I love this process!”   I can dig it.

There were times in the past when I would hear the ferries come to dock and realize that I could be on one of those boats,  running from the changes that were necessary for my own growth.  Two nights ago I sat on a friend and colleague’s roof terrace eating dinner.  Four blocks away, the evening boat to Athens was putting in.  I heard the massive chains that hold the ramp unwind, the garbled announcement for disembarkation echoing across the platia and through the narrow winding streets.  There was a slight tremor to the ground as the massive diesel engines skewed the craft laterally in the harbor, righting itself against the concrete pier.  It was a musical, nautical poem of industrial tones.  My heart was struck by just how much I love living on Paros.  I am at a hub, the islands in the sea like stars circling the Parian Galactic Center.  I am here, now.  With all that passes for current events in the news-of-the-world, I am pleased to report that calm activity is the name of the game here.  The thrill is palpable.

Some of us went olive raking the other day.  It was more a cultural experience than work, since the owner of the olive trees had paid workers laboring along side of the students and teachers.  Due to my healing hand, I was not able to rake, but I did take some nice images of olives on the branch.  I relished a shallow depth-of-field.  I went as close as my lens would allow.  With a Canon 50mm L-Series f/1.2, that is damn close.

-JDCM

 

olive-tree-2

Olives...

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The weather turns towards autumn…

I woke up this morning to blustery, grey clouds and very cool temperatures.  Last night, before laying my head on my pillow, I switched on my electric mattress pad for the first time since March.  Yesterday’s Aegean Center for the Fine Arts Friday hike was sunny, brisk and invigorating, yet not the stuff of late spring or summer.  Cries of “Wow!” and “This is amazing!”  punctuated our oregano, sage and thyme-scented walk above the hill town of Lefkes.  The air was so clear that looking north, I counted the houses on Syros and the already narrow channel between Paros and Naxos seemed a mere stone’s throw.  In New England or northern Europe the leaves are currently a brilliance of fiery tones.  It is autumn in the Kyklades so we inhaled the blue skies, dark evergreens, golden underbrush and brilliant light spilling around us.

Tomorrow I compete with a team in the Paros Autumn Triathlon.  I will be bicycling 15km while my two teammates will be swimming and running, respectively.  It is not a competition so much as a community event.  The only race will be against myself.  I am looking forward to this event and am very excited.  It is important for me to realize that here on Paros I am more than just a man with a camera, or an ex-pat American in Greece.  I am more than a summation of my parts, and that whole grows exponentially if I allow myself to be drawn to the larger, communal rings that ripple through my parochial nucleus.  There was a time when I craved a closed system for necessary self-preservation. This attitude is self-defeating and limiting.  I have been increasing my orbit over the past couple of years and this event will signal a shift in my personal trajectory.  Excited, nervous and looking forward to it.

Lefkes, Paros, October 4, 2013.  Leica M8, Voigtlander 28mm, 1/125, f22, ISO 320

Lefkes, Paros, October 4, 2013. Leica M8, Voigtlander 28mm, 1/125, f22, ISO 320

 

 

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