Tag Archives | famous photographers

Temperate climate change…

There are only a few days left until the Autumnal Equinox and it feels like it here on Paros.  The crushing summer heat has fled, and in its wake the days have become clear and sunny, with cooler breezes.  The tourist crowds have thinned considerably and our island is slowly being returned to us.  There is nothing quite so lovely as the change of seasons.

So much has happened in the past 4 months.  After my father died things changed.  A re-assessment of my life, goals, raison d’etre…Once again I am looking into what makes me ‘happy’.  Life, for me at least, is no longer about hitting myself with a hammer while thinking that the next blow wouldn’t hurt.  Time to stop doing what I do not like, when at all possible.

I am also moving house.  I have everything boxed up and ready to go save for my clothes, some small amount of kitchen stuff and what art is hanging on my walls.  I move at the end of October and assume all of my own bills and rent.   That will be a relief and a freedom I have missed.

boxed up and ready to go...

boxed up and almost ready to go…

Here are some still lives from a friend’s back terrace…

Blue Vase, 2015

Blue Vase, 2015

Ladder and Anchor, 2015

Ladder and Anchor, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My header image is from a short bike trip I took to Antiparos recently.  It is a reminder of two of the things I love to do and have been neglecting the past few months.  It is also a reminder that William Henry Jackson may have had his mules but I have my mountain bike.

Yashica and Bike, Andiparos, September 2015

Yashica and Bike, Andiparos, September 2015

That’s it.

–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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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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Just a bleak update…

Hudson Station, 2013I haven’t updated in a while.  My apologies.  Not much happening here in New York to report, really.  Not much I am too enthusiastic about here in the US, actually.  I visited New York City twice and although my motives were sound I was very disappointed by what has happened to humanity.  There are far too many people there and no one seems to be happy.  They are always on their mobile phones or some other application, as if these things will make them happy or even connect them to other human beings in some meaningful way.  They haven’t understood that by using the internet to connect with others they are merely closing themselves off to the realities of actual one-to-one contact.  This is the great myth of the electronic information age.   Online reality is fiction.  Also, the more I have been talking to other teachers and mentors about the kids of today the more we all agree:  few of them actually want to work towards a goal that requires effort or any real thinking.  They want the end result right now.  They want their hand-held devices to do the thinking for them.  The turn their cameras on ‘auto’ and let the machine create, not their minds.   They demand good grades just for showing up.

This was evident at the Museum of Modern Art yesterday.  I rode the train into the city to see a wonderful show by the photographer Walker Evans.  It is the 75th Anniversary of his exhibit of American Photographs.  First off….MoMA is a terrible museum.  It didn’t feel like a museum.  It felt more like a large shopping mall.  It was crowded and noisy.  People were stuck to their handheld devices as they wandered lost an unseeing through the many chilly rooms.  They impolitely took pictures of the work, not really looking or learning, but rather documenting in a poor fashion.  They talked loudly into their mobiles.  Children screeched, ran around.  I was appalled.  90% of the people there were only present so they could check MoMA off their NYC list.

The Walker Evans show was in a small room on the 4th Floor, not in the photography section.  It was shoehorned between the crass, colorful and superficial 1960s pop-art section and the large abstract works of Arshile Gorky.  These photographs are small, none larger than 8×10, and perfect.  Precious.  Lovely.  Evocative.  “American” in the best sense of the word.  Yet people were wandering in and out, disinterested and not comprehending the importance of these images, especially when compared to the emptiness of Warhol, Stella and Lichtenstein.   I left the museum after 45 minutes, disgusted.  Humanity is doomed.  We have already forgotten our history.  But MoMA has succeeded.  It is a perfect modern art museum.  It represents all that sucks about modern art and modern culture.  It is about fashion, fads and the next shocking big pile of expensive, market driven shit.  It is superficial and dead, cold and, in the end, not worth the real estate it sits on.  It is about the $25 adult ticket fare and the gift shop.  It is about money.  If you worship money, please go.  If you, like me, have grown so disillusioned by the cesspool that the US in many ways has become, then skip it.   It is a train wreck of culture.  Nothing to see here.  Move along folks.

JDCM

wire and wood

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Greek Easter, Paros, 2013…

There was a time before my time, before the time of my sisters, my parents, my friends…

For some reason this phrase popped in to my head today.  For the past few days I have been helping a friend and mentor and her husband move house.  It has been an emotional and difficult time for them and I have been honored and humbled to help sort through decades of their life here on Paros, and earlier.  We have been separating the wheat from the chaff–a difficult process.

Much of what they wished to save has been in the form of photographs, or more precisely, photographic archives.  That is the only way to think of it.  Negatives of all sizes, black and white, color, contact sheets, prints.  Their time here has been documented and preserved in hard-copy.  There was little  digital imagery.  As I worked I felt something meaningful, truly palpable, while holding a negative up to the light, perusing a contact sheet or carrying an artist’s portfolio bursting with prints.  Compared to the lightweight, back-lit digital medium that takes up little space and weighs all but nothing, these items, this archive, made sense to me.  Maybe those of us in the digital age have become so accustomed to the ease with which we view, and then delete, images, or page through them via myriad viewing software programs that we are beginning to forget the importance of this process.

My point is that memory, that elusive, ever-changing spirit we carry in our soul, is something that should have weight.  It should take up space in our homes.  We should, every once in a while, take a photo album or box of negatives off the shelf, dust them off and hold them up to the light of day.  As we gaze, we smile.  We remember friends long gone or vistas experienced in a way that we cannot when looking at an LED screen or something of that nature.  We smile, or we cry.  We tell a friend, “Look…here…this is when we…” and then hand them the fragile transparency or piece of paper.  We pass on wheatthat experience.

We are all repositories of the past.  This brings me back to the idea that there was once a time before my time, before the time of those who came before me.  I have books as proof, books I can hold.  I have folders full of negatives, unprinted.  I am accumulating weight in the form of artists portfolios stuffed with prints.   I have held them up to the light of day.  I say, “Look…here…This is when I…

Happy Easter!

JDCM

 

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News from the sick bay…

The rains have come in to stay, or so it seems.  It is winter in the Aegean and it is damp and cold, the kind of damp that seeps into one’s bones and begs for all to just stay in bed.  There have been a couple of days of sunshine, but other than that it has rained, drizzled, poured down and showered.

Last Sunday evening I was sitting in my apartment reading when suddenly it felt as if all the energy had drained from my body and mind.  I was ill, I knew it.  I managed to stay awake for another hour or so but then I was in bed and out like a light.  The next morning I woke up as sick as one could be. My lungs were full of crud, as were my sinuses, swollen glands, etc…I took the advice of friends and went to the doctor who gave me a prescription for antibiotics, expectorant, throat gargle and high strength ibuprofen.  As the days have progressed I have improved but I feel I am not out of the woods yet.  Three more days of pills and I should be, well…right as rain.  Over the days friends have brought me food.  Chicken soup from one, a fish stew from another.  Today I was given some onions and carrots so I could make lentil soup.  These are some of the finest people I have ever known.

On another note, my quarantine has given me the chance to photograph my immediate surroundings from the viewpoint of the small balconies on either side of my flat and out my kitchen window.  They have an abstract quality that perhaps I would like to paint also; geometric shapes of varying hues of tan to white, blue expanses broken my myriad antennae.  I’ll post some images next week.

So it is movies, books, soups, plenty of fluids and lots of bed rest for me.  I have been reading Joseph Campbell and Edward Weston; James Bond and Harry Potter–comfort foods for the mind, body and soul.  The weather is supposed to improve by Monday and then John and I can get back to work building benches and so forth.

JDCM

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Parian viewpoint…

I returned to Greece last Friday and after a long and uneventful journey I found myself at the “Eleftherios Venizelos” airport, the gateway to Greece.  It was quiet at 16:40 hours on a Saturday.  Aside from my Aegean Air flight, there was only one other craft that seemed to be in use, a KLM A320 parked at the terminal.  This speaks to both the slower winter season and the decision for other airline companies to curtail their schedules into this country, a nation hit hard by both the global economic crisis and a media-fed-fear of governmental instability.  While the economics are true, the other claim holds no water.  This is a land of change and transition and so many people are preferring to sit on the sidelines and watch the drama unfold.

It was raining and the skies were lead-grey.  I hailed a taxi and as we headed towards the city I was struck by how green everything had become since my departure in December.  The traditional music coming out of the small radio  made my heart melt and run like the rain.  As we sped along the motorway, the driver handed me an orange.  “From my garden–this morning”, he said.

Change is a difficult stage of life for any organism, whether it is a country or an individual.  The best course of action is to change the dynamic.  When an old path isn’t working, one does not stay on the same road and travel with more verve.  One takes a turn at the next crossing, thus expanding the journey.  If one has a philosophy that is dear, it is important to keep this philosophy as a compass and at the same time open up prospects for new and exciting ways to implement the fundamentals.  12 years ago I grew weary of the career in which I had been laboring.  Instead of finding a new niche within that  limited community I shifted gears and turned off the main road and connected with a new highway.  Now I am in Greece, practicing my skills and craft in photography.  The remnants of the old ways are gone, leaving only memories and an ability to create this marvelous dish.   I can only offer advice based on my own experiences.  When something isn’t working, get out of the way and take a new road.  After all, change is the only true constant in the Universe.  Photography is the same.  There are so many variables within the craft, especially with the added tools of the digital medium.  It would be foolish and arrogant to discount them in an attempt to hold onto some mythological idea.

Speaking of that, I had a change of heart recently regarding the noted photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.  When he said, “In order to give meaning to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what he frames. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry”  I have to applaud.   I agree wholeheartedly but it was disappointing to watch the documentary, ‘The Impassioned Eye’ .  This film revealed that he cared little for, and avoided at all costs, the developing of his film and printing of his images, a part of the journey that I feel is so important to the photographic life.  I believe that he was little more than a guy with a camera in the right place at the right time.  A small bubble has burst, but a bubble nonetheless.  Now I am a little more free than I was.  Change is good and necessary.  Change is essential.

A view of Agios Phokas, Paros.

A view of Agios Phokas, Paros.

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Post time…Vienna…

I haven’t posted in quite a while.  I’ll give the short-story to catch up and then expound a bit…

The student exhibition for the Fall 2012 Aegean Center was lovely.  The students worked hard, expressed their individual talents and it showed.  That’s all I have to say really, except well done to all!  I am looking forward to the spring session and all that it may hold.  Challenges, rewards, hard work, hikes, frustrations and solutions.  It all makes up the rich pageant that is the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts.

I traveled to Athens and stayed there for two days.  While I was there I was able to see an exhibit from the photographer Helmut Newton.  I was surprised.  I have seen much of his work over the years, in books mostly, so to see full-sized prints was stunning.  There was also a movie, made by his wife of almost 50 years, June Newton.  It portrayed a man severely maligned by the press and the photo-world as being a pervert and a weirdo.  The truth was eye-opening.  He worked hard, used incredible skill with no trickery and produced some of the more iconic images in fashion I have ever seen.  His CV reads like a who’s-who of the fashion world: Vogue, Elle, Yves St. Laurent…the list goes on.  His commentary was clear and the filmed interactions with his models proved beyond a doubt the level of respect for their professionalism and grace.  At one point he said that his goal was to make a fashion shoot not look like a fashion shoot, but rather something from a movie.  He also talked about the gear he uses, i.e. not much: a Hasselblad 500 and a Polaroid for the light tests.  He switched to a basic canon EOS digital later on his career for the lighting tests.  Very few exterior lights and almost no studios that looked like studios.  His eye captured the realities behind the shoot as well as the focus.   I left the show feeling like it was a good two hours spent in the afternoon. The next day I flew to Vienna and was greeted by the lights of a city in Christmas season and the weather to match.  It’s cold here, folks.  Last night it went down to 18*F.  Today was cloudy and chilly and snow is predicted for tomorrow night.

I visited the Albertina Museum today to see the Albrecht Durer show.  It was a huge event focusing on his work during the reign of Emperor Maximilian I.  Many of the works mentioned in the Wiki article were on display for the first time in decades.   I have to leave descriptions of those for the next post since I will include many links.

Tonight I dine on tafelspitz and then walk down to the Burg Kino Theater and watch ‘The Third man’.

JDCM

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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.

JDCM

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Sleeplessness…

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.

JDCM

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