Tag Archives | artistic eye

In the shadow of Vesuvius…

I have just returned from Naples.  I was surprised by many things.  The first was that it is a filthy, rundown, graffiti-stained city unlike any other that I have seen.  True.  In many ways it is a real dump.  Garbage everywhere…rotting, pollution blackened buildings in need of repair and restoration…Spray-painted graffiti on practically every surface you can imagine, including churches.  UNESCO should step in and put a few 100 million Euros into the place.  Or maybe the Camorra could use some of their influence to do something to improve the city at the heart of their criminal organization…Hmmm…

On the other hand, the place is chock-full of photo-ops.  It is an old, old city, dating back to the 2nd millennium B.C.E.  It has withstood the Greeks, Romans, the Bourbons, Napoleon and two world wars.  The most recent left the city all but razed.  Naples was the centerpiece of some of Mussolini’s greatest urban works, his arrogant attempt at a re-invention of the “empire.”  No wonder it looks broken.  It is.  The people, on the other hand seem to be taking it all in stride, as if to say, “we were here first and we will be here when you’re gone…”

Then there is Vesuvius.  Living in the shadow of a constant and active threat does something to a person, let alone a culture.  The volcano is everywhere, looming over Naples, a momento mori :  eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we could all be covered in volcanic ash (Pompeii) or liquified rock (Herculaneum).  I think the Neapolitans are a race all to themselves.  They have an element of piracy about them, an independence romanticized in the buccaneer, the privateer, the mercenary freebooter.  They are a swarthy bunch.

The museums were stunning.  Roman frescoes, mosaics…Caravaggio, Bruegel, et al…Pompeii was amazing.  The food was really superb.  The weather in late January is changeably mediterranean.   There was sun, clouds, rain, wind…Pretty much what one would expect from one of the oldest and busiest seaports in the world.  I will post some images on my Flickr page tomorrow so you can see some stuff that I saw.

Now I am back on Paros and the scirocco will be blowing most of the week.  Warm air out of the Libyan desert, full of yellow dust, microscopic sand in the air like jaundiced fog.  A sandstorm.  I feel terribly out of shape and need to get back on the bike for some serious work.  I have some printing I must address in the darkroom and the digital lab, both neglected commitments that I must fulfill.  In a few weeks, the gods-be-willing, I will have surpassed the half-century mark.  Busy month.

Detail of a Roman fresco.  Note the chiaroscuro...

Detail of a Roman fresco. Note the chiaroscuro..

 

a wood panel detail by Polidoro da Caravaggio

a wood panel detail by Polidoro da Caravaggio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

–JDCM

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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!”

Unknown

–JDCM

 

 

 

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Christmas/New Year post…2014

-I am back in the USA for the holidays.  If there is anything I have learned this year it is that the varieties of human experience can be summed in a single word: absurd.  Tragic, comic…whatever.  It is all variations of absurd arrogance and tomfoolery.  Disagree if you want, I won’t stop you.  I am no different.

-The ‘Cafe/Kafe’ images are on display in a new gallery on my Sidelit website.  You can access them through the blog or simply click here.  These are scans of the actual b/w photographs, not scans of the negatives.

-I took the train to NYC a few days ago and visited the Metropolitan Museum for the day with a friend.  We looked at a marvelous Cubist exhibit, a private collection of Braque, Picasso, Gris and Leger.  Superb!  Then we gazed in wonder at the Stanford Album, a collection of 18″x 22″ photographs from the 19th century photographer Carlton Watkins, the first to document Yosemite National Park.  Truly amazing!  Then we wandered among the 29 portraits of Madame Hortense Cezanne , painted by her husband over the course of many years.  Lovely!  We could not resist the small but dramatic El Greco exhibit.  Astounding!  With time to spare before our respective trains we ventured into the American Impressionist wing, visiting Sargent’s ‘Madame X’ and looking at Winslow Homer’s wild seascapes.  She returned to New Haven and I headed back north.  A perfect day at the museum.

-I have been going to the health club and walking/jogging my 8 miles on the treadmill with regularity.  I love the knowledge that I can get my heart rate up to 170 bpm and keep it there for 45 minutes without losing my breath.  I will be ready to get back on my bike when I return to Paros in less than two weeks.  I miss it already.  I have some Greek language homework to finish and a couple of emails in Greek that I have promised my teacher.  First things first.

-I have been shooting some Fomapan 400 with my Leica M2 so I will have some non-Greek views to look at when I return and develop the film.  I have to print more portraits before I get too busy in March.  If I cannot complete the printing on my own then I will have to send the negatives to Athens and pay for the work.  This is not an ideal situation, but if I have to do it, then I will.

-Christmas is in a few days and the New Year follows.  Much has occurred in this past year and I am happy I have no regrets.  2015 is already shaping up to be busy.

Winchell-Mtn.-fog

 

 

-JDCM

 

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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-show-1

cafe-show-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cafe-show-2

–JDCM

 

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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.

 

–JDCM

 

 

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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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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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Impressions of Amsterdam…

Amsterdam is not really part of Holland.  It is an autonomous state within the Netherlands.  They would prefer it if you did not call them “Dutch.”

The weather during my stay has been unusually cool and wet, very much like November weather on Paros.  I am grateful I brought my fleece and warmer, wet-weather clothes.  I have needed them.

People in Amsterdam are so fluent in English as to make native English speakers seem lacking.   I have even heard the locals speaking English to each other.  Odd.  At other times I have heard a very Anglicized Dutch.  An Amsterdammer told me they love to hear visiting Belgians speak Flemish since it is closer to their mother tongue.

The food here is good, if on the heavy side.  In addition to the traditional Amsterdammer restaurants there are numerous Indonesian and Surinamese places, a tasty side-effect of brutal colonization and the Dutch East India Trading Company.  For some reason there are also large numbers of Argentinian/Uruguayan steak houses.  These seem to cater more to tourists.  Another interesting restaurant is all-you-can-eat sushi.  The locals love these spots.  I ate at one twice.  Inexpensive and high quality.

The Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum (modern art) are all superb.  I bought my tickets in advance and avoided the long waits on line.  I also visited the Rembrandt House and the Dutch Resistance Museum.  Both were excellent and worth a viewing, especially the latter.   Ultra-right wing political parties are on the rise in Holland and in Europe as a whole.  We must all take a stand against fascism and all that it means.  If not me, then who?  If not now, when?

I do not think that those who drafted the laws regarding the decriminalization of “soft drugs” in Holland expected the odor of pot smoke to fill the streets and cafes full of college students getting wasted.  There are national movements trying to limit the usage to residents, but in Amsterdam that vote was thrown out.  Too much tourist money.  Still, it is illegal to grow it, illegal to transport it, illegal to sell over 5 grams per day to one person and illegal to buy it in bulk.  Therefore the “legal” cafes are still reliant on the black market for their stash.  So what is legal about it?  I recoiled as if from a hot stove.

As I write this I am out of town visiting friends in the small rural village of Elspeet.  Really lovely.  Quiet, green and flat as a panenkoek.

–JDCM

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Paros, Athens, Amsterdam…

I have been back in Greece since…August 1st? July 31st?…It feels blurry…I remember a 27 hour travel day: cars, planes, boats…my body temperature shocked from a cool New York July 70F to a sweltering Athens August 38C…dehydrated, jet-lagged, sleep-deprived.   I experienced daily periods of vertigo and lightheadedness for almost a full week.  Water, sports drinks, sleep and more water…7 days later I was 100% and feeling fine.  A friend believes I may have picked up a mild virus during a leg.  Perhaps.  At least it wasn’t my suspected Google-diagnosed brain tumor or West Nile Virus.

Paros has been jammed with tourists, as it always is this time of year.  Too much, really, for me to handle.  I found the best thing to do is bike early in the morning, go swimming, have coffee, check email and make sure it is all done by ten in the morning, then hide in my apartment until a reasonable hour, like 19:00 hours…we dine late, 22:00 or even later…

I left Paros last night (this morning?) at 01:30 on the Blue Star Naxos.  The large ferry was mobbed with Athenians returning home after the religious holiday (The Ascension of the Virgin Mary) and we docked just a couple of hours ago.  While on the dock, weaving through the crowds, I heard an American voice say, “How can this be so stressful?  I thought Greece was laid back…”  Ah, yes, the great illusion…

I was tired so I took a cab to the Attalos Hotel, my oasis.  While my room is not ready yet, I am out of the chaos and look forward to snoozing most of the day away on cool sheets.

I am en route to Amsterdam, NL for the week.  My little scheme is to visit some top-notch museums (Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh, Rembrandt House, Modern Art), eat some Indonesian food and visit some good friends outside of the city during the weekend.  Pretty simple.  Then back to Greece and Paros for the very end of August and most of September…

–JDCM

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