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Home…and back to work…

Roma boy from an encampment in Belgrade, Serbia 2009

Roma boy from an encampment in Belgrade, Serbia 2009

I have been home for over a week.  My trip back to the Balkans seemed quick.  I was there for a month-and-a-half but it felt like two weeks.  I was able to improve some great friendships and build some new ones, especially in Austria, where I connected with some musicians and graphic artists.

I used up 14 rolls of b/w film and am now in the developing process in a darkroom across the river.  I am there this morning and most of the day.  We shall see.  I have been slowly looking through the digital stuff.  Although I have combed through the Roma images, I still have the Breast Cancer shoot to address as well as my “tourist” images, mostly train stations, bus stations and transport of different varieties.

I am also writing my thesis on possible unification in the Balkan Peninsula.  Laugh if you will, but I think there could be a solution.  I also hope to be able to do a shoot next week with a professional model for some figure studies before I head to Woodstock for the weekend workshop on the same subject.  I have the images in my head that I want, I just need to make them happen.  I think I am using a male model, so I am going for a sense of heroism, almost like propaganda images from the Cold War, but I will also look for the vulnerability of the human spirit as well.

Here ‘s a small b/w image of a Roma boy from Belgrade.

John D.C. Masters

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The Song of Sarajevo

After winding my way on the bus from the dry rocks of Herzegovina through the lush, rugged mountains of interior Bosnia-Herzegovina, I was let out at the Sarajevo Autobusni Stanica. I took a cab to my pension, the Pansion Cobanije, a quiet and family-run place off of the Old City. I dined that night with my delightful traveling companion, Femke, a graduate student from Holland–all legs and blue eyes with the brains to match…After walking her back to her hostel (she flew back to Holland this morning), I continued on and was stopped in my tracks by the
sound of raucous singing…

They were all pretty drunk, and invited me to join them..Orange juice for me, thanks. In this town of Muslim practices drinking juice is not seen as an oddity.  There were 8 or 9 of them, all about 50-60 years old.  One had an old guitar and he was playing furiously while they all sang gypsy songs as if their lives depended on it.  I was able to get some images and they were open with conversation.  They all spoke good English.  One explained that they had all been friends since childhood and that they all came from different backgrounds. ‘In the past,’ he said, ‘to ask someone what they were was considered rude.’  ‘Like where I live’, I said.   This meant that I was in an enclave of peace where Muslim, Catholic, Christian and Atheist alike all came together to pray to the God of Song – perhaps the only God they needed. Myths have been shattered.  These were Yugoslavians.

I have been sparing with my cameras.  The GIII Q17 rangefinder is fun and small, and I am anticipating the black and white prints more so than the immediacy of the digital.  I am shooting mostly 200 speed due to the bright glare of the Balkan sun, but I have been lucky so far with the times I been using 400…mostly cloudy. There have been some good moments in markets and on the street, I think, in both formats.  In Belgrade next week I will be focusing more on the Invisible People–those living on the street, Roma encampments, etc…

It feels good to unwind my eye from the American landscape.

John Masters

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Interview, Part 3

A Face in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina June 2008

A Face in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina June 2008

“In 1998 I read “Balkan Ghosts” by Robert Kaplan and it turned a switch on inside of me.  It suddenly seemed as if I was always going to places everyone else had gone, so I chose a less traveled path. After reading that book, I went to Bulgaria for a month. I have not returned to Bulgaria since, but I hope to this spring.  I have, however, been a frequent traveler to the Former Yugoslavia, i.e Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Serbia.   I have included Greece in my Balkan excursions.  I see this area as the historical and emotional crossroads of the world, full of hope, promise, pain, and blood.  I have fallen in love with the Balkans.  There is no other place like it.”

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Interview, Part 2

Railway station platform, Florence, Italy 1993

Railway station platform, Florence, Italy 1993

I can remember being astounded by the Cartier-Bresson’s  “Michel Gabriel, Rue Mouffetard” — the photograph of the young boy carrying the two bottles of wine.  I realized then that there was more to just snapping away at whatever you wanted.  That’s when I began to see a new world through the viewfinder.  My father’s good friend and mentor, Wright Morris, was another influence.   He was a writer and photographer who photographed the Midwest and America at roughly the same period as Walker Evans.   Many times over the years Morris’ calm eye has resurfaced in my mind, guiding me.

I like this view because it lies in between arrivals and departures, which are always exciting points when I travel.  The station is all but empty.  It was during this 1993 trip to Europe that I began to search for my voice.  Unfortunately most of the images from that journey are lost.  I only have a handful of negatives left.

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Interview, Part 1

kodak1I had the good fortune to grow up in a very artistic family, surrounded by art and literature.   Painters and photographers and artistic people were fixtures at my parent’s cocktail parties. I was one of those young kids you see running around art openings in New York, Provincetown and Wellfleet while their parents schmooze.  And, of course, they made sure that I learned how to look at a piece and talk about it intelligently. It was not enough to say I liked or disliked it but to explain why.

There were always cameras in the house.  I think my first was one of those Kodak Instamatic things with the cartridges.  In the beginning, I wasn’t concerned with ‘taking pictures’ – it was more about liking the feel of the camera in my hand. As a little boy, I enjoyed the winding up and ‘click’ of the shutter, plus the little flashcube that you stuck on top. When I began to shoot, I suppose it allowed me to step back and think about the world as a ‘subject’ of sorts.  So I took pictures of friends, summer camp … whatever I came across.

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Upcoming show in Troy, New York

I recently submitted 20 images for a juried show at the Digital Artist’s Space in Troy, New York.   The jury chose 7.    I am very happy,  for this small collection of documentary portraits highlights a dedicated group here in Ancramdale called  ‘Ancramdale Neighbors Helping Neighbors.’  They collect food and clothing for the needy and engage in other worthwhile area causes.   My inspiration was a quote by President Obama.   He said,

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Think globally…Act locally.

JDCM

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Moving along…

I’ll be adding links and posts as the days turn to weeks, etc…This will also be a conduit to my photography site, travels through the Balkan Peninsula, the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere.  Photography, travel, and images from outside the bubble, as Harry Shearer would say.  Nothing too personal here, just business.

Ta for now,

JDCM

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