Tag Archives | medium format

Autumn, elections, swimming, biking…even photography!

*It has taken me some time to get back on the horse.  I was out the other day with my Voigtlander, exposing some film…it felt good…gentle.  No urgency, no great time-line to follow.  So I took some pictures.  I have some ideas.

*I have been combing through my negative notebooks, trying to find images of my mother’s office.  I have found some.  I know there are others.  I would like to print some of these this winter.

*I need to type up my mother’s newspaper articles.  I keep on saying that to myself…siga-siga…it’ll happen.

*I developed the 4 rolls of Tri-X that I shot when I was back in America in July.  The camera I had on hand was a medium format Holga, so that’s what I used.  I guess that sums up a philosophy…The best camera I could use is the one I am using.  People talk a lot about camera X, or  lens Y.  They list the many attributes and the technical aspects…these things never made a photographer better, or even good.  That has to come from within.  Ansel Adams said something about that…good gear, bad photography…I can’t remember the exact quote.  Liz knows.

*It is autumn, and we have had some cooler weather, but not right now.  It is Little Summer and the scirocco blows a steady Force 5, gusting to 6.  The air is hazy and hot and feels like 26C.  I was out for a bit of mountain biking and then a swim in the sea.  People here say the water is cold, but they haven’t been in Cape Cod in August.

*The election for the next American President is today.  Polls have begun to open, voters are lining up to cast their ballots. There is so much at stake in this contest.  I am not sure anyone can really guess everything that hangs in the balance.  I mailed in my absentee ballot well over a month ago.  We shall see.  I am more concerned about the potential for aggression and actual violence at the polls.  America will be divided whatever the outcome.



Another year…

I am 51 and a day today.  This past year has been one that is still hitting me in waves, endless ripples from countless stones tossed in my emotional pool.  I contemplate making a phone call and suddenly realize there is will be no one on the other end of the line.  I imagine a voice and the softness of a cheek…and they are gone.  My mother will no longer look up from the New York Times Sunday crossword, over her glasses, and announce, “Well, that’s done!”  My father will no longer smack his lips after taking a sip of something tasty and raise his glass.  He was always one for toasts.  “Hear, hear,” she would chorus during better times.

Polly and Hilary in Provincetown, 1970. photo by Sara Ballard

Polly and Hilary in Provincetown, 1970.

I was thinking the other day that I have never been the “cool” guy.  Never hip, never dressed in the latest fashion…I was feeling down that day.  Then I realized I didn’t  care.  When I was younger, maybe, but then again I was envious of those around me who had better or more or newer or sexier (or so I believed)…not much weight there.  Pretty superficial stuff.  I hope they are happy in their respective lives.

So these days I do what I am wanting to do and this makes me happy.  I am not treading on the lives of others and I am moving forward and slightly uphill.  I am honouring my mother and my father in my life and activities.  I am finally getting around to reading a short biography of St. Augustine given to me by my sister a few years ago.  I am reading some Epicurus.  I am back to building fine scale WW 1 aircraft which give me great joy and satisfaction, not just in their execution but in the research involved.  I am in training for a very tough mountain bike race being held here March 6th.  I have a photo shoot coming up next week which I have been looking forward to for months.  It will be several hours of intense work, and then that stage will be done.  Then I develop the film.  Then I choose what to print, etc…intervals and stages, tension and release.  One day I am 50, and then the next day…

Biking here on Paros is a good metaphor for my life.  The stress of the uphill slogs are rewarded by not only the accomplishment but also the release of the inevitable downhill run, slaloming around rocks and through washed out sections of red dirt roads.  Then it is uphill again.

It all feels pretty cool to me.



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



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.



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…


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.


Spring unfolds at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts…

The spring session has begun here on Paros at the Aegean Center.  The students have mostly all arrived, riding in on the winds and waves.  It poured rain all day yesterday and the streets turned into small rivers.  By last night the clouds had rolled away and today is sunny and bright.  I have many thoughts running through my head, so many raindrops, really, and in many cases just as discarnate.  Add them up, however,  and they are a flood, a river of their own.  I found it comforting to stop thinking.  I loaded up some Plus-X, grabbed my tripod and headed down the now undimmed streets of Paroikia.  Action, not thinking, always improves my day.

I will be painting again this session.  I will also apply the finishing touches on a large format photography project that I began last year, a series of portraits of people I know here on Paros.  They are students, ex-pats, local Parians…My Greek barber, Nikos, for instance, as well as the English owner of a local cafe.  A motley crew to be sure.  I will finish the principle photography and printing in the next three months, bring all the final proofs to Athens and have them matted and framed.  I hope to accomplish this before the end of June when I head back to America for a month.  When I return in August I will hang the show and open the exhibit.  It will be the culmination of my work here at the Center, my Masters Thesis in Photography, if you will.  I have no idea where the show will be.  I’ll stick my neck out again.  So far that hasn’t been the most successful venture here on Paros.  I have lost my head more times than not (certainly gaining wisdom) but what choice do I have?  “Action and more action…”, as they say…What follows my exhibition is anyone’s guess.  I suddenly feel lost at sea with the prospect of September.

I will be assisting again in the darkroom with the students, as I did last fall, so my energies will be focused on their work more than my own.   Like the weather moving in circles, alternating rain, sun wind and calm, the Aegean Center is part of the cycle of  change.  I cannot do much except sit back and trust the process, let the story write itself and accept the results.  Once again, to assume anything would be foolish, self-serving and arrogant.  As of this morning I am excited to work with five or six (maybe seven) students, some who have never handled silver emulsion and some with more knowledge.  We shall see how the session evolves.  I remember having many preconceived notions of photography when I arrived here on Paros three years ago.  They were soon dashed in favor of a new and vibrant dynamic.  As a lotus blossom, spring unfolds…


A dilapidated hand cart on the Greek island of Milos. Mamiya c330, Kodak Plus-X, June 2012

A dilapidated hand cart on the Greek island of Milos. Mamiya c330, Kodak Plus-X, June 2012

This is a short post.  Some of you have noticed that I have updated my blog.  It is more spiffy, easier to change and I am liking the header photo idea.  I have been taking some pictures to use specifically for this image. It changes my eye, this is for sure.

I have also spent the last few hours updating my photography site right here .  There is  link on the right hand side of this page, but this makes it easier.  New to the gallery is a portfolio called ‘Kyklades Wall Project’ which is an idea I have bounced back-and-forth with Liz Carson for the past year.  It is a medium format study of the stone walls throughout the Kyklades.  I still have many islands to photograph, so this is just a beginning.  I am hoping to make the best of them into a book someday.  There is a reason for these photos, but that is my business.  If you search for ‘island hopping’ in my blog you will find more details on these images…

I also cleaned up the b/w image bank.  I have separated out the Greek from the American and the European from the Greek.  Nice and neat.  I have changed the slide show so that the photo captions can now be read and the user gets to move back and forth at will.  Overall, I think it represents a more current file of my work to date.  ‘Goodbye’ to the Bosnian color pieces and ‘farewell’ to the Roma of the Former Yugoslavia.  They were getting me down.

Christmas has passed and 2013 is just around the corner.  Then I have three more weeks before I head back to Greece, Paros, The Aegean Center for the Fine Arts, gavros, gigantes, horta and the next round of photographic adventures.



With a little help from my friends….

Ancramdale, New York  December 22, 2012 07:45hrs

Ancramdale, New York December 22, 2012 07:45hrs

I have found through trial (many trials) and error (many errors) that I can accomplish very little in life without the assistance of those around me.  Whether it is the gentle and loving care for my mother, my continuing work at the Aegean Center or any spiritual journey I may undertake, I cannot do it alone, nor do I really want to anymore.  Yes, there are times when we all need a little solitude for reflection and meditation, but overall I long to embrace the company of my fellows, whomever they may be.

I return to Greece in just over a month.  Christmas will come and go and the New Year will ring its bells and I will, I hope, have some work to show for the time I have spent here.  I am opening up my darkroom and am about shooting film (both 35mm and MF) as well as recording some digital images.  Besides my Leica M8 I have resuscitated my old Canon Digital Rebel, the first decent digital SLR I used.  It needed a new battery so I picked one up from Adorama.  I hope to use it as a point-and-shoot while I am here, reserving the Leica for more contemplative images.  The MF film work is up in the air.  Maybe I’ll work on some more short depth-of-field images and bring the negatives back to Paros.  The 35mm film is being used in a really old Canon AE-1 with a 50mm lens.  In both cases I am shooting Kodak Tri-X 400.  If I am industrious I hope to begin developing by the end of this week and printing by 2013.  2013!  Imagine that…A lot of water has flowed under the bridge, over the dam and out to sea since I started this blog.  It seems like a lifetime ago that I switched gears and turned onto this road, a journey that fills me with endless gratitude and wonder.

It snowed early this morning before I awoke.  The weather outside is grey and leaden, a wintry wind is reminding me that all things must pass and, as they do, new opportunities for knowledge and growth appear on the horizon.  In some cases it is better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all and I have to believe that there is something better for me down the road.  As a friend and I were remarking this morning…one door closes, another door opens.  Life is a series of hallways and corridors.  Take a risk and turn the knob.

 My never-ending thanks to Kit Latham for all of his wonderful support in the much needed update of this blog space.  You will notice that the old images of the Bosnian Roma are gone, replaced with more current and relevant images from my portfolios.  To have them off the site is a great relief to me.  They represent a time of my life that has passed.  I have also cleaned out much of my gallery site, letting go of a tired and used vision for something a little more current.  In a few days there will be an even larger shift.  Siga-siga, as we say on Paros.



Darkroom work and questions…

In the past few weeks I have begun printing some of the images I made last summer during my island hopping following the spring 2012 session here at the Aegean Center.  For the most part, they are photographs of the stone walls that criss-cross the Kyklades landscapes like so many topographical scratches: property lines, terrace farming, some ancient, some new.  The proofs are working out fine, but I have begun to grow uneasy.  I am still coming to terms with the idea of ‘art’ and my photography.  True, I can compose within the format, be it square or rectangular, but am I an artist or am I simply a skilled documentarian?  The same applies to the portrait pieces I am photographing with my 4×5 and then using the scanner to render them into a digital format.  This is not my discussion alone, but one that has been on the table since photography began.  Is a photograph art?

I was told tonight by someone at a cafe that if a photograph ‘moves him’, creates an emotional response, then it is art.  I’ll buy that.  So what kind of emotional response is my ‘wall photography’ generating?  Nostalgia, loneliness, sadness…The scenes are desolate, full of ruins and, in some cases, the detritus of man.  Overturned ore carts, rotting and rusting in the harsh Aegean climate; volcanic chunks of stone piled two meters high to create the snake-like patterns running over hills one sees from the aft deck of the Blue Star ferry as they sail from Pireaus south.  There are no people in these images.  There are only the bones of ghosts.

The portrait work, on the other hand, is completely different.  I am trying to capture the essence of the person, or people, in their own environment.  Some are in studios, others at home.   In each case I have been able to catch a glimpse of something that reaffirms the great possibility of life.  The terrace farms may collapse due to misuse over the centuries, but these people will live on through the images I am creating.  I am creating.  I can create.  Perhaps that is as close a definition for ‘art’ as I will ever get.  Art is creation, a recognition of beauty and grace despite the ravages of time.  I can be a creator of something.   I can document with a deft hand, be mindful of the alchemical processes and thus reveal something to the world that I find beautiful.   There is a lazy part of me that wants this feeling to go away.  The realist in me understands that questioning is essential.  Without doubt and self-examination, how can I possibly progress?


Serifos, 2012


Andiparos, 2012