Archive | silver darkroom

The true gifts…

–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!”







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…”















cafe/kafe, romanticism and keeping it light…

–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.






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 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.






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?



Happy Christmas!

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!



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!


Fresh olive oil from the olive press at Kamari.

Fresh olive oil from the olive press at Kamari.


Windy Monday…

The sun was brilliant today and the Meltemi had a decidedly autumnal feel.  It has howled all day, and continues the howl through the tangle of electrical lines crisscrossing the small section of Paroikia I call home.  The cypress trees whip back and forth and Bougainvillea blossoms, free from their thorny moorings, sail their over-saturated colors into my small apartment.

It is Monday, September 9, 2013 and I have taken down my exhibit.  I have enjoyed the three-week long event.  I think of my images differently than when I hung them.  What was once ‘Giorgos and Giorgos‘ I refer to as ‘Don Quixote and Sancho Panza‘; ‘Erin‘ is now ‘The Vermeer Photograph’; ‘Angelika‘ I think of as ‘The Abstract Realist.’   Things change, the Earth tilts and wobbles, the days shorten, the air cools and we slide into bright autumn.  I can almost smell the rain, but I know that is just an illusion.

Now I am filled with melancholia, ennui, a sense of emptiness.  As I write this at Mikro Kafe I realize that in an hour there will be no need for me to open up the Aegean Center, turn on the lights and arrange the easeled sign outside on the marble steps.  All of that is past.  My portraits are safely in their crate, currently a large piece of furniture in my flat.  The sign, too, is there, tucked behind a bookcase.

I have little choice but to get back to work.  That is the best way to shake off these ghosts.



Amorgos, part 2…

It has been a wonderful day here on the rugged and wild island of Amorgos, on the southeastern edge of the Kyklades.   I picked up a book yesterday which detailed the history of the place and it filled in many gaps.  One interesting tidbit is that geologically Amorgos has more in common with the island of Samos than the other Kyklades.   It is as if it split from the Dodecanese millenia ago and drifted west.

I spent the day exploring the remote western end of the island and I was grateful I rented a car.  It seems that the Dimos (town council) has cancelled all bus services to that area due to lack of funding.  They have suspended service in the high season of July/August as well.  This was good for me, in a way, since there was no one around and I had the place all to myself.  I suppose it will be good for the car rental agencies too.  In any case, I was able to hike, find some nice little coves to swim in and photograph some more walls.  I  sat in the Kykladic structure of Markiani, photographed the mouldering stones outlining the ancient settlement and mused on the idea that people have lived here since the 3rd millenium B.C.  Even then it was good place to be.  Below me, after a near-vertical drop of 1700 meters, the sea crashed against the rugged cliffs, endlessly grinding stone into sand.

I have managed to shoot two full rolls of film since I have been here and I ran out this afternoon just after the above mentioned archeological site.  So that makes it three.  I will return tomorrow for more hiking, more photography and lunch at a nice little taverna recommended by a friend. I have added some photos.  One is a detail of a 4th century B.C. tower in the small town of Vroutsi: free admission, no tourists and no rope lines.  The young man at the gate even gave me a free booklet with information.  Perfect.


Classical era stone tower Near Vroutsi, Amorgos.

Detail of the 4th c. B.C. stone tower Near Vroutsi, Amorgos.

Stone walls, juniper and thyme.

Stone walls, juniper and thyme.



Teaching and craft…

There is less than a week until our student exhibit at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts here on Paros.   It has been a busy three months for most.  Like all previous sessions there is always one or two students who fall away.  This spring has been no different.  One student left and returned home a few weeks ago.  Another has stayed here but has followed a different path from those found on our artistic maps.  So be it.  There is nothing I can do about either case.  I will say, in my own defense, that I was there for both of them in a professional capacity when they needed me and,  in the beginning, helped to guide them through some of our philosophies.  Their individual decisions to take different routes has no bearing on the Center, the teachers or my own labors.

This spring I was given the honor of filling in as Silver Darkroom instructor.  This is not a post I assume to be permanent.  All teachers learn that their own skills, craft and knowledge increase when they pass on what they know to others.  This has been my experience as well.  I have learned more about the art and craft of photography in three months than I thought possible.  It was knowledge that I had already accrued so to give it away freely only strengthened my own foundations.   It was not  review or regurgitation.  I found myself solving problems and asking questions of myself from a new point of view.  One important lesson is to be able to say “I don’t know.  Let’s find the answer together.”  What freedom to not suppose, to not be a fake!

There is an ethos to teaching.  It is not enough to greet the student, spend a few hours or days, and then set them free.  That would be tantamount to showing them a map and telling them to drive to California from New York without first discussing the possible roads west.  As the more experienced traveler it is important to guide these eager minds along the way.  Yes, let them take a wrong turn, experience a sudden detour or two and even run out of fuel, but do not abandon them in the badlands of inexperience.  Let them know that you are there, waiting up ahead at the next marker or traveling alongside.  I have practiced this and it has paid off.  I have gained a level of patience and understanding by remaining available.  I have set up appointments and answered their questions to the best of my abilities, abilities which have grown over the course of three months.  To some this may seem a sacrifice of my own personal time, my own independence.  It is quite the opposite.   I have never felt so free, so happy and, at times, so completely baffled.  At that point I turn to someone more knowledgable than myself.  Such is the nature of education, or it should be.

There is a quote from George Bernhard Shaw: “Those who can, do…those who can’t, teach.”  I must admit that I have found this to be very untrue and can only believe that GBS had his head (beard and all) deeply imbedded in his anus when he thought it up.  The quote should be “Those who can, teach.”    Learning is a cycle:  Practice>Teach>Learn>Practice>Teach>Learn>Practice>Teach>Learn…

Ralph Waldo Emerson had a better idea:

“Be an opener of doors for such as come after thee.”