Archive | Greece

Counting down and mailing out…

I depart for Europe in about 40 days.  By 1 March I will be back on Paros and in my apartment.  I am looking forward to the next phase of my life, but I am nervous.  Perhaps this will never go away.  I have faith that if I show up, do the work I am assigned and participate in the human experience around me I will do well, and probably better than that.  I am just nervous because for the first time in 10 years I am branching away from my biological family again and taking on the mantle of an adult, a garment I do not always wear well or properly.

I have heard that due to the economic crisis and possible political instability (from a US standpoint of course ) there may be a drop in enrollment this spring.  This is believable in this day and age and perhaps this is one curse of the electronic info-era we currently live in.  There has always been and always will be economic woes and political upheavals.  The media has blown so much of this out of proportion that it feeds the fears of those who stay glued to their TV sets and believe everything they see and hear from that medium.  As a student of history I am thrilled to be living through and in this period of time.  Once again we are perched on the brink of change,  imminent growth and cultural wisdom, but only if we take a helpful and positive track.  Hiding in the shadows helps no one.  As a species we are slowly overcoming many of the angers and fears that have directed our thinking for millennia.  The currents flowing down the river of change are paced by the fierce creatures that run along its muddy banks.  They wave crude spears and dark banners, shout slogans designed to divide and alienate and try in vain to alter the water’s course. But water always seeks its own level and these creatures have historically been left behind, rendered hoarse and obsolete by time.   All of this is out of my hands.  I am grateful for that.

I have mailed 5 boxes to Greece so far.  1 today and 4 last week.  The first 4 have arrived and are being inspected by customs.  If I have to pay fees for these I will, but I hope not.  They are not consumer goods, but rather goods I have purchased for my own use at the Aegean Center.  Most of it is used gear anyway.  The rest are books–a small library consisting of some collections: Hemingway, Chekhov, Callahan, Kertesz, Frank, Ashbury, Oliver…the list goes on.  To be honest I chose the best of my personal library and then weeded that out some more. Ex Libris Paros…

I have my painting supplies and will be carrying them in my checked baggage during the flight. There are  no caustic materials and I am already in love with many of the names on the list…Permanent Alizarin Crimson, French Ultramarine, Payne’s Grey.  Soon I will be an undeniable beginner again, a place I enjoy of only for its foolish zest and unknown questions.  I will be asking for a lot of help in the next few months.




I have slept for a few hours and am now awake again.  I am sleepless and need to examine my thoughts on virtual paper…

I have been preparing for my return to Paros for two weeks.  This time it will be for an extended stay, not the three-months-on-three-months off that I have been experiencing for the past two years.  To that end I have been divesting myself of my unneeded possessions, mostly books and musical equipment.  I have given them away, with no misgivings. I have kept one guitar, a Fender Telecaster I bought in 1986.  It is a candy-apple red 1962 re-issue and holds too much sentimental value to discard.  The books are a mix of volumes never read, read too often and those whose message I have outgrown.  Clothing has been gathered and that, too, will be given away.  The monumental task of collating and burning the  set of my 1200 CD collection has been accomplished and my laptop is now full of the best I have collected since the late 1980s, when CDs were first released.  It is also a mix: classical, jazz, old rock, new rock…the list seems endless but of course is not.  These will go to the local library in Hillsdale.  I have packaged up four large boxes of goods to send  ahead and will mail them tomorrow.  One more box remains because I still have some darkroom work to take care of.  This box will contain last minute odds and ends, some clothes, a few books and some more darkroom gear that I still need to process film.  I cannot send any liquids, however, which means that my developers stay here in the US.  I can purchase replacements in Athens.  I have decided to take one extra checked bag with me this time instead of my usual  backpack/camera bag combo.  This will allow a few more items than I have usually taken with me.

It really feels like I am leaving, which I am, but this has been coming for a long time.  I moved back to the Hudson Valley in 2004 for personal and family reasons and in many ways my job here is done.  It is time to go.  What I need to do for my family I can accomplish easily via email and telephone and I proved that last year when I adjusted insurance payments over the phone from the island after being alerted of a payment glitch via my Gee mail account.  The modern world has its benefits but I am looking forward to the upcoming year, a year of photography, writing and painting.  Will I begin and finish my book?  Only Kronos knows and that giant sleeps too deeply to wake for the answer.  The future, like always, is unknown, but this time it really feels as if I am departing for the next phase of my life.  I have been a professional chef and an unknown rock musician, a composer of hook-laden pop tunes.  These paths led to a certain point where I then abandoned them like a sailor diving into the ocean lest he go down with the ship.  The lifeboat that found me has proved to be more than a rescue craft.  Its design for living has been impressed upon me and I have followed it, despite my fears.  These have turned out to be echoing voices from my distant past.  Unfortunately I have listened to these voices too much, but to quote a line from an old Chinese morality tale, “How do I know?”  Indeed, how do I not know that it was necessary for me to begin this new life now, on the eve of my 47th birthday, after enduring all that I have in the past?  This is how it is, I think.  There is always the illusionary choice of a straight line, filled with drudgery and boredom.  I was on that track.  As one of my sisters commented, living is not a straight line.  There is no simple way to get from A to B.  Perhaps there is no ‘A’ or ‘B’ at all.  The life ahead is not a known set of coordinates on a chart.  Each of us has his or her own map to design.  Only hindsight shows us where we have come from and the seemingly strange coincidences that have made up our non-linear path.




We hung the student show today at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts, here on Paros.  It is a very pretty show with a wide assortment of photography, painting, printmaking and drawing.  The vocal ensemble had their first concert last night in Naoussa and will have two more this weekend.  Overall I have a had an excellent time here this arm and am looking forward to being back here in about three months.  My photography has improved and I have also gained a little more patience with the younger students.  While I am no smarter than they are, I have experienced more of the world so I am perhaps a little wiser. Perhaps.

In the past few days I have thought a lot about what I will be doing next year while I am here.  Yes, my own photography certainly, but also the work with the director and painting in the spring.  On top of that I feel that it is time to begin work on my own book, probably in the format pioneered by Wright Morris and Andre Kertesz, the photo-text.  In this format the images on the page do not have to directly correspond to the text but by the end of the reading they have made sense as an accompaniment to the reading.  I have many other ideas but I will not share them lest I talk myself dry of the concept.

I have begun packing my stuff and will begin putting it in storage tomorrow.  I have to conduct the inventory of the darkroom supplies and print some last few pieces.  After that I head to Athens on Monday and back to New York Thursday.   Christmas, New Years, my birthday and then back here.  Time flies indeed.



Watching the sea from a quiet place…

I am sitting here on Paros, in a small cafe called ‘Pebbles’.  The sun is out and sky is full of big, puffy white clouds.  It is chilly and windy so the large picture windows frame the blue Aegean, the scattering of small islands and the tip of the peninsula across the bay.  Near the tip, where the rocks meet the sea is a small church.  The blue dome is darker than the pale blue sky above it.  It is the Church of Agios Fokas whose name day is September 22.  I am not sure what he is the saint of, or why he was martyred, if at all, or what miracle he performed.

I have only a small amount of work to finish in the darkroom.  Two more re-prints tonight and then I can begin the selenium process. After that I can matte the 13 pieces that will go into the flip file at the student show on December 9th and choose the one piece to hang.  I am pleased with the results and believe they show great skill, craft and an elevation of the commonplace to a higher status.

My digital work seems to be at a standstill with six finished pieces of the twelve I wish to complete.  Truthfully I am waiting to hear what the Director’s decision will be on nude figure studies among the students.  I still feel as if I have been discriminated against either due to my age, gender or sexual orientation (which is indeterminate-love is love and should follow no gender.)  To be honest, I have no desire to photograph anyone nude anymore and my current work does not contain any examples of this milieu.  A few days ago another student shot a nude figure study with a female student and for all I know this has been sanctioned by the head office.  I applaud his work for I feel that this an art school and this kind of work should exist and continue to be a part of the process.  It is not a cloistered convent or monastery.  I feel sad about the turn of events for I feel that my future here on Paros hinges on the decision to come.  If the answer is that some can and some cannot, then I will not return in the spring and, indeed, may even leave before the student show in less than two weeks.  I am willing to admit that in the past I have made horrible and devastating moral and ethical choices.  I am also ready to stand up for the fact that in the past 10 years I have not made these kinds of choices due to radical changes in my life and lifestyle. Instead I have tried to stand firmly on a rock of honesty, willing to admit when I have been wrong and trying my best to not condemn others for their own human failings.  All of this takes a great deal of work.

So this quiet cafe overlooking the ever-changing sea is good for me today.  Keith Jarrett is on the stereo and his meditative piano blends well with the sound of the wind outside, the wash of waves on the rocks and the gradual sinking of the sun to the western horizon.  I have turned over my problems to those who can help me the most and hope that the worst is merely a figment of my imagination and that this has been just a misunderstanding.



An American Thanksgiving in Greece…the session draws to a close…

Tomorrow is the American Thanksgiving, but here on Paros at the Aegean Center we celebrate the Feast of Thanks on Friday evening, not Thursday.  This is mostly so we do not interrupt the class schedule at a point in the term when everyone is either scrambling to wrap things up or just feeling the crunch.  I have conducted an inventory of my darkroom work and I only need to reprint two pieces and then I can begin the selenium toning process, then I matte them.  My digital work is half-way done.  So I am in good shape.  I cannot speak for any of the others.

I have found an apartment, or rather one was found for me, and I am looking forward to the move in late February.  It is actually the former apartment of an Aegean Center faculty member and in spring of 2010 I visited it and loved it immediately.  It is on the second floor with two small balconies.  There is a large living room, a separate bedroom, a small but full kitchen and a bathroom.  Good windows, lots of light and the price is right.  It is also adjacent to the school, so I will be within shouting distance of whatever work I will be doing.

In regards to that, I will be taking the painting course this spring as a student plus working one-on-one with the maestro in the digital lab.  This means that I have to bow out of the darkroom as a formal student, but I am pretty sure I will be doing some work in there as well.  I know nothing of painting, or how to do it, which is hat they like here.  Jane and Jun would rather work with a blank canvas than try to re-teach someone.

John says the turkeys are in the brine.  I have to make a shopping list of goods to buy for glazed carrots as well as a normal style stuffing.  This means onions, celery, sage and veggie broth.  I also need to buy bread, cube it up and let it dry.  Perhaps I’ll toast it in the oven to facilitate that drying process, or else it might just mold.

I am so thankful for this life that I cannot figure out where to start.  This morning I was up early and out working with the 4×5.  The light was soft and lovely and there is no wind today.  This will change, I know, and that’s alright, but for now I am feeling pretty good about what is happening.   There is a sadness in the air, though.  In two weeks the student show opens and then we all go our separate ways.  Most of us will never see each other again and although it is a small planet and connections can be strong at the beginning, the ties will thin and eventually fade out.  I have experienced this firsthand in my life.  Yes, you may say, there are social networking sites and the internet, but truth be told there is nothing really very strong about them.  They cannot hold a candle to a strong network built on real communication and true friendship.  Clicking a series of buttons does not make you my friend.  Commitment, contact and honesty does, however.  There is at least one student here who I will miss terribly but she has made a commitment to her family and I respect that.  I have to believe that the time she has spent here has altered her life for the better, and forever.




Much needed rain and fall in the Aegean…

It is raining outside and has been since yesterday.  We do need the rain here on Paros.  The island had become so dry in the past few weeks.  The wind from the north has been blowing at Force 7,8 and 9 on the Beaufort scale but today it has seemed to have quieted somewhat.  This will end tonight, but the winds will continue to whip the water back into the sky for the next few days even though the sun will be out.  Autumn in the Aegean is very different than in the Northeastern area of the US.  The fall colors fade from the burned gold and silver of summer into a rich caramel amber and finally as the rains come in, more green, crocuses and smaller blooms accompanying the cooler air.  In the local gardens there is spinach, broccoli and cauliflower.  This morning I received a treat of fresh oranges, right off the trees.  Anyone who says there are no seasons here in the Kyklades have obviously never stayed here for long.

We have 26 days until the student show and 31 until I arrive back in New York.  My two portfolios are filling up as I slowly create more prints in the darkroom and digital lab.  If one were to look at them right now they would seem to lack cohesiveness, but really this is an academic regiment and not relevant to the Aegean Center, its philosophy or even my own thinking.  Relevance and structure are all around me and integral in my thinking.  At the very least the fact that I am making these pieces is a glue that holds them together.  That the silver pieces are all, with few exceptions, all of Italy in September and the digital are all 4×5 scans of Paros are also two values that assign a consistency to these two projects.

Upstairs students are drawing in the figure study class.  Still others are meeting with Liz Carson in the darkroom (I just came from there myself) and planning the week’s work.  John Pack is readying himself for another day of digital printing and wrangling the kinds of wild horses that only the director of a small arts center on an island in Greece can possibly ride.  Thanksgiving is just around the corner and we will celebrate here on Paros in grand style.  I am supplying the glazed carrots.



4×5 work, landscape portraiture, good weather and bad…

Much has happened since my last post.  The figure study project I had been working on came to naught, both by my hand and outside forces.  Thankfully I have the knowledge that I cancelled the shoots due to artistic apathy and ennui before there were complaints from some parents about “possible improprieties” in the studio.  Although the models are all over 18 and therefore legally able to make up their own minds (and vote and die for their country) whether to pose nude or semi-nude  and that there has never been any complaints or actual difficulties is apparently besides the point.  I was told that I should stop the project. Like I said I am happy that I decided to end it before I heard that news.  What’s over and one with is just that.  I must admit however that these revelations left me feeling as if my integrity and honor as a man and a photographer had been questioned when really it is a matter of politics for the Center and the director.  Once again art and politics clash and the outcome is predictable.

My new work is exclusively 4×5 film, scanning them in the digital lab and then working on them in RAW, PhotoShop and finally printing them on one of the big Epsons.  The large format camera is a steep learning curve itself.  So far I am achieving some lovely results.  The portfolio will be a series of’ “Paros Portraits-People, Places and Things.”  I am taking my time with this, although the actual time is limited.  12 pieces need to be finished by December 7th.  The same holds true for my darkroom work–12 pieces of MF based on the Italian session and these also have to be matted–all by   December 7th.  The student show is the 9th and I leave Paros on the 12th to return to the USA on the 15th.

The weather has been up and down.  Cool at night, dry and sunny during the day with a north wind that whips all the warmth from the stones.  We are expecting tough weather this weekend with rain, Force 9 winds and temperatures in the low 40s F.

There are other things to blog about but as of now they are vague.  When I can speak of them with surety, I will.  Right now, mums the word!



Promotional work, silver darkroom, boat strikes…and more…

I suppose the first thing to report would be the horrendous economic situation here in Greece.  This is not really news, since the trouble is worldwide and everyone has been watching this little country sink lower and lower into disaster.  On the island, however, the situation takes on a different flavor.  Much of the protesting in Greece against the austerity measures has been in the transport industries.  Trucks, taxis, buses, train and boats all strike periodically.  Recently the dock workers and shipping crews have gone on strike, halting almost all boat travel through the Aegean Sea.  This cripples a seafaring nation like Greece with its outlying island and archipelagoes.  Paros is affected, obviously.  The current boat strike began last Monday and was supposed to be lifted today, just shy of a week.  Yesterday we received news that the strike had been extended to Wednesday, possibly Thursday. This is bad tidings for a small island dependent on the outside mainland for goods and service.  We are lucky to have local farmers selling vegetables and grocery stores that still have some goods, but meat markets are running out of product and I am concerned that petrol stations will run short in the next couple of days, especially if people make a run for fuel.  As my father told me, I am at the crux of history, so I shall keep my eyes open, my mouth shut and watch the intersections.

The promotional work I am photographing for a friend is moving along.  She only needs three or four pieces for her website, but that still means the same amount of work for me.  It is excellent experience and although I do not do this type of work often, I can see how my own aesthetic plays a large part in how I view the event.  I suppose everyone brings their own vision to this kind of work.  The results will reveal how I view this kind of labor.  So far, so good, actually.  Perhaps she’ll let me use one of these for the blog as an example.

The darkroom moves along and I hope to expose a roll of MF this afternoon and develop it as well.  I am scheduled to be working in there tonight but I have forgotten when I signed up.  I think 22:00hrs.  I have to print at least one piece from the Villa, maybe two if I am lucky, so I can show them to Liz and see how she wishes me to proceed.

I have picked an odd time to move to Greece.  I haven’t looked at any apartments yet, but that will be this week.  I have two, maybe three to check out.  One is a very humble flat in the middle of Paroikia and the other is a bit more lavish old house, I think, not quite on the outskirts of town. I don’t know the prices for either.

More to come…