Archive | spring in the Aegean

Spring in the Aegean…2015

It has been the wettest and coolest spring that many can remember.  Since March there have been more clouds than sun, more rain than not.  Yes, this may seem acceptable to friends in more northern climes, but around here it makes people nervous.  Paros is, for the most part, an arid climate and our primary agricultural gifts (olives, grapes, figs, tomatoes, etc…) demand that the soil be dry and the water stop falling  from April to October.  I am hoping that by the middle of the month the rains will cease.

I have been printing a lot and I have 30 pieces so far for my exhibit next fall.  Another 20 and I can begin editing, then selenium toning, then off to the framers they go.  I will most likely use a local company here in Paroikia, but I must demand a better frame quality.  The most recent batch were inexpensive, lightweight and thinly lacquered stock and some people have brought this to my attention.  I will be a little more struct with this next exhibit.  What have I been printing?  Old stuff, new stuff, 35mm, medium format.  A little bit of everything.

I am going to invest in some archival storage for my collection of portraits that are still in their frames, in a box, in my bedroom, in my flat.  I should get them out of this situation and into something more manageable.  Plus, it will free a cubic meter of living space.

I have been biking a lot lately, which I need to do.  I have been working on my hills, getting advice, pumping the pedals.  There is an 18km mountain bike race in a couple of weeks that winds its way from Marpissa, through Piso Livadi, along Molos, through the valley to Glyfada and back to Marpissa.  I rode it yesterday with some very fit pro-am folks and we rode it in 1:16.  This included taking two wrong turns and not really going too fast.  I hope to ride it in an hour.  It is a solid goal.  Other than that, I have been out on the road bike and digging that, getting ready for the Circle of Paros road race on June 6th.

Orthodox Easter is next Sunday.  I will view the proceedings at Panagia Ekatontapiliani for Friday and Saturday nights, then at midnight on Saturday will break the fast with some friends at a local taverna!  Paidakia, kokoretsi, patates, salates…Yum!  Then the next day there will be a big feast at a friends home with whole lamb on the spit, chicken, sausages, pork chops…Yum again…

Two days later I hope to be swimming in the very chilly Aegean for my first swim of the season.  I feel a need to be anointed in wine dark sea

–JDCM

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Ascetics, not aesthetics…

“Ascetic” is a Greek word that means “training” or “exercise.”  I have discovered that “work” is all the same.  Whether artist, athlete or bricklayer makes no difference.  I exercise with my mind and body and hone my nature.  I haven’t tried bricklaying.

I practice in the darkroom and out in the world with my camera.  When I do this, my ability and skill increases.  Bicycling is no different.  I put on my kit and ride, either my mountain or road bike.  The more I practice, the better I get.  If I have questions then I find the answers.  In both cases there are people I consult.  Some of these questions seem simple, maybe banal.  To me, however, they are stepping stones to ability and skill.  I search for the beginner’s mind in myself…it’s all about the hills.

I rode the 3rd Annual Paros Mountain Bike Race in Kostas a couple of Sundays ago.  The weather was perfect.  There were 57 riders, almost all of whom were younger and in better shape than I.  Still, after having riden the course 4 times in the previous 2 weeks, I beat my own best time by a solid 5 minutes.  That is all that matters.

I took out the road bike last week and went around the island (64 km), a ride I have taken many times.  I rode it in 2:50:16, which is far too slow for my tastes.  I need more speed, and that is a fact.  The hills are killing my time, and Paros is full of them.  Sometimes I slow down to as little as 9 kph.  My average speed on the whole route was a mere 21 kph.  I would like to up my average to 24 kph. This means training and hills, hills, hills.   More practice, more work, more bricklaying.

There is a song I have been hearing at one of the cafés where I hang out.  It is a lovely, modern Greek love song.  It also helps me to learn some more Greek.  It is here…

Have a listen.

JDCM

 

 

 

 

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The end of February…

I am happy that February is almost done.  It is the shortest month and here on Paros it has been very cold, but also quite beautiful with lots of rain, green fields promising spring.  March harkens, change is just around the corner.

I guess this is a bullet-point post…

–I turned 50 a couple of weeks ago.  Some friends took me out to dinner at one of our favorite tavernas and I was truly touched by their generosity and warmth.  Thank you, thank you…50 years on the planet, half a century. Hmmm…there were moments that I didn’t think I was going to make it, probably a couple where I tried not to.  Dark times, indeed, and a lifetime ago.  Rearview mirror stuff.

–I have been printing a lot in the darkroom.  Nothing really specific, just printing, going through negatives from 2006, ’07, etc…current work too…35mm, 120…lots of stuff.  It is for an exhibit I would like to have next fall.  Some wise friends reminded me to not be too concerned with content because it was art schools that put forth the idea that a solo exhibit must have a theme.  There will always be a common thread running through the show.  At the very least, it is all my work.  I can’t help it if people get confused.  I’m not.

— I have been getting ready for a mountain bike race this weekend in the hill-town of Kostos and have already biked the route a few times.  I am eagerly looking forward to it–13 km of ups and downs, rocky, gravely, sandy farm roads, washed out and rutted. There are some short stretches of paved stuff, but thankfully not so much.  I have biked it already three times and my best time so far is 53 minutes, and that is after a 9 km uphill ride to get there.  I hope to catch a ride with some friends, so I’ll be fresh.  The weather this week is rainy off and on.  I am hoping for light winds and sun on the day.  It’s going to be a fun and muddy ride.

–That’s it, really.  Not much else to report.

–JDCM

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Home again, home again…

I am back on Paros, grateful for the short time away, grateful to be home.  I am dropping off my laptop at a Mac repair shop in Naoussa in about an hour, so I’ll update now and be off-line for a few days while they fix my RAM/overheating issues.  Get some other stuff done… Here are some thoughts gleaned from the notebook I kept while away from my keyboard.

–On Iraklia, be sure to eat at ‘Pefkos’. A nice, small family-run taverna.  I had excellent goat there and fried zucchini.  Ate there twice.

–On the day I left Iraklia, I wrote “Fisherman repair nets.  There is music on the radio. My donkey and I wait for the boat to Naxos.”

–A kamaki is a traditional three-pronged spear used to hunt fish.  It is also the term used for the people (kamakia) who wait for you to disembark from a boat.  They try to lure you in to stay at their hotel, studio or apartment.  I wrote “The life of a kamaki is no life at all.”

–A poem…Sikinos slips by/stone dragon in/a shining sea./From the stern/I gaze up/its scaly flank/searching for Episkopi/the worn dome/the Apollonian columns.

–“I’ve seen Sikinos burning, from miles away, on another island, years ago.  From Andiparos the blaze measured 5 mm between my fingertips.  A year later I searched the rocky terraces and found no sign of the inferno.  Perhaps it was dragon spit.”

–I was able to finish ‘Ulysses’ while on holiday.  “As the Aqua Jewel slid into the harbor of Sifnos, Molly Bloom exclaimed “…yes I said yesI will yes.”

–A Gypsy woman wearing an electric blue t-shirt.  Written in large, bold black letters is “variegated moss green.”

–“The lights of Paros shine faintly off the starboard bow.  I can see Paros from where I am.”

–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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April upon us…

–I have heard from folks in the US that their weather has finally turned spring-like and the snows have ended.  It has been a difficult season for them and they need to put away their shovels and plows.

Slow Art Day is  coming up.  I will be gathering with some friends at a local museum here on Paros and participate.  I was reminded this morning that the average museum visitor spends between 5 and 30 seconds looking at a piece of art and that time is usually when they read the tag on the wall.  During this day we will look at 5 pieces, for 15 minutes each.  Then we will reconvene and discuss what we saw, how we felt, etc…I am looking forward to it.  Too many cultural institutions treat their space like a shopping mall.  MoMA in New York is one of them.  I think I have blogged about this already.

–When I first visited Paros in 2006 as a tourist, I came specifically to see their museum.  It has one of the finest collections of Greek art in Europe.  It only cost me 2 Euros to get in.  It still costs 2 Euros.  I was here for two days and visited twice.

–I continue my own printing in the darkroom.  I am doing well.  Although I may have made some strict goals at the outset, I have relaxed those boundaries.  I seem to be falling within them anyway.  Tomorrow I hope to expose some 4x5s.

–I competed in my second Parian sports event the other day.  It was the Paros Diathalon, held out at Molos Beach and the village of Marmara.  It consisted of a 7km run and then a 12km mountain bike.  My teammate Margaret ran and then I biked.  I had a great time and, once again, felt at home within that diverse community.  I will post some images on my Flickr site.  I am waiting to hear from people who have pictures of me.  Our total time was 63min, 55sec.  I think we placed 5th or 6th in the ‘Teams’ category.

–In a couple of weeks I have a break from work.  I might stick around, I might take off.  I might do both.  Load up the panniers and go…

–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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49 years…

–Today is my birthday.  I have been on the planet, breathing the air, since February 17, 1965.  I am an Aquarian, and in the the Year of the Wood Snake to boot.  It’s a heavy combination, if you follow these things.  Those of you who know me well enough will see that the associated characteristics fit me to a “T.”

–My future family were traveling in Europe when I was born.  They settled in Dublin, Ireland for a year waiting for me to arrive.  When I was old enough to travel they hit the road again and stayed in Italy for a couple of months before heading back to America.  My sisters were 10 and 8.  Somewhere there are home movies my father made showing us all at the time.

–I have had my share of successes and failures.  Some of them have been of my own doing and some have been granted or inflicted upon me.  Such is life.  No one is immune to that dynamic.  I suppose it is how we roll with the punches, how we dust ourselves off, that matters.

–Yesterday I surprised myself.  After a tough 2-hour, somewhat technical, mountain bike ride, I bumped into a small phalanx of other riders on my way back home.  One invited me along for a leisurely ride into the hills.  I went.  I usually would not do this,  i.e., join in so quickly.  It was fun.  I met some people I hadn’t met before, had a couple small chats.  Nothing too committed, nothing too serious.  Then I came home.  

–I also had a superb and very difficult ride three days ago.  I rode from Paroikia to Lefkes (45 min.) and then from Lefkes to the radio aerials that sit atop the highest peak (1.25 hrs).  From there I rode down the south-western slope, along an extremely rocky track, that eventually turned into a decent farm road.  All unpaved, of course.  The route eventually led me to Kakapetra, an area just south of Paroikia and a stones throw from a friend’s house (45 min.)  I stopped by for coffee and a chat.  The image below is from that jaunt.  You can see the aerials far away in the distance.

–I have reapplied for my American passport via the mail and the embassy in Athens; I have washed a load of laundry;  I have shopped for cat food.  Tonight, I get to eat dinner with a good friend at one of my favorite restaurants on the planet.   I begin my 50th year as a photographer and an amateur mountain biker.  Looking back, when I turned 30 I was a chef de cuisine (10 years)  and a guitar player (15 years).  Like the snake, I shed my skin.

Biking from the aerials on Paros.

Biking from the aerials on Paros.

 

 

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