Tag Archives | photography workshops

Kalo mina!

It’s November 1st and here on Paros the weather is decidedly cold and chilly this morning.  The winter is beginning to set in.  99% of the tourists have left and the few that remain wander around the empty streets, looking in the windows of closed shops, shuttered tavernas…the island has been returned to those who live here.  Thank the gods!

Here are the bullet points…

— I am going to Naxos this weekend for a mountain bike race, my third on that island.  27km around a mountain and through the town of Sangri, high above the port.  The weather predictions are good–high pressure, 14-18C, sunny, breezy.  Perfect for biking.  We have had some rain which will keep the dust down and reduce the amount of loose, gravely ruts.  I’ll go and have fun.

— I am grateful and happy to have joined up with the Photography Club of Paros.  They are a good bunch of photography-loving folks with excellent eyes who love to take pictures.  I will begin a long-term darkroom project with them tonight.  For most of them, it will be a first in this digital-automatic age.  Each week, a member gets a 35mm camera (Pentax K1000/f.2 50mm lens) and roll of 35mm film (Ilford Pan 400) and shoots the roll.  Then we (me and the group member) go into the darkroom, develop the film, print, etc…all in a week.  So far there are about 10 people signed up, but that number, I predict, will jump to 20 quickly.  The project will go until the end of April and then they will look at the assembled portfolio and hang a small show.  For more reasons than I can count, this is a superb thing/event/group/happening with which to be involved.

— My own work is moving along.  The year-long Canon G-11 project is ticking away.  I am ready to print a new portfolio of abstract pieces.  I have to re-shoot or otherwise re-evaluate a b/w still life idea.  I am unhappy with several of the pieces due to their DoF, i.e. focus.

— My gym membership is paying off.  I have been going 2-4 times a week for either Hip/Abs classes or just to burn off calories on the treadmill.  After only a few weeks I can once again fit into my 34″ green Levis.  I will go this morning and push some more limits.  That, plus the biking, is keeping me fit and sane.

— The world?  Well…we all read the news and while it isn’t all bad, it isn’t great.  Leaks in the dam…death and disease, as Polly Jo would have said.

My life is Greece is expanding and growing every day.  I am eternally thankful to the wise woman who advised me over 5 years ago that if were to stay here on Paros, I would need to build a life around me.  And so I have.  Biking and exercise, photography and fellowship, the arts and humanities, connections in the community.  Thank you Liz!




Teaching and craft…

There is less than a week until our student exhibit at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts here on Paros.   It has been a busy three months for most.  Like all previous sessions there is always one or two students who fall away.  This spring has been no different.  One student left and returned home a few weeks ago.  Another has stayed here but has followed a different path from those found on our artistic maps.  So be it.  There is nothing I can do about either case.  I will say, in my own defense, that I was there for both of them in a professional capacity when they needed me and,  in the beginning, helped to guide them through some of our philosophies.  Their individual decisions to take different routes has no bearing on the Center, the teachers or my own labors.

This spring I was given the honor of filling in as Silver Darkroom instructor.  This is not a post I assume to be permanent.  All teachers learn that their own skills, craft and knowledge increase when they pass on what they know to others.  This has been my experience as well.  I have learned more about the art and craft of photography in three months than I thought possible.  It was knowledge that I had already accrued so to give it away freely only strengthened my own foundations.   It was not  review or regurgitation.  I found myself solving problems and asking questions of myself from a new point of view.  One important lesson is to be able to say “I don’t know.  Let’s find the answer together.”  What freedom to not suppose, to not be a fake!

There is an ethos to teaching.  It is not enough to greet the student, spend a few hours or days, and then set them free.  That would be tantamount to showing them a map and telling them to drive to California from New York without first discussing the possible roads west.  As the more experienced traveler it is important to guide these eager minds along the way.  Yes, let them take a wrong turn, experience a sudden detour or two and even run out of fuel, but do not abandon them in the badlands of inexperience.  Let them know that you are there, waiting up ahead at the next marker or traveling alongside.  I have practiced this and it has paid off.  I have gained a level of patience and understanding by remaining available.  I have set up appointments and answered their questions to the best of my abilities, abilities which have grown over the course of three months.  To some this may seem a sacrifice of my own personal time, my own independence.  It is quite the opposite.   I have never felt so free, so happy and, at times, so completely baffled.  At that point I turn to someone more knowledgable than myself.  Such is the nature of education, or it should be.

There is a quote from George Bernhard Shaw: “Those who can, do…those who can’t, teach.”  I must admit that I have found this to be very untrue and can only believe that GBS had his head (beard and all) deeply imbedded in his anus when he thought it up.  The quote should be “Those who can, teach.”    Learning is a cycle:  Practice>Teach>Learn>Practice>Teach>Learn>Practice>Teach>Learn…

Ralph Waldo Emerson had a better idea:

“Be an opener of doors for such as come after thee.”



Guidance, delineation and communication…

It began with lamp posts in 2005.  There was a quayside in Ermioni, a boat on dry dock and an ornate iron lamp post looking out over the still water at sunset.  Then there were more lamp posts in Bosnia, arcing around the gentle curve of a mountain road, leading to where…?

Now there are stone walls climbing and moving across the landscape of the Kyklades.  They have been accompanied by electrical poles, maybe telephone lines, I am not sure…

I have been photographing them for the past few years, mixed in with all the rest.  Driving back from an area here on Paros the other day I was struck by how these all are indications of the hand of man in an otherwise wild landscape.  I have a choice.  I can bemoan the state of affairs regarding these structures or embrace them as something more, strong vertical and horizontal lines, shadows of human needs.  I have thought of lamp posts as bringers of light in the darkness, guidance along dim roads.  The stone walls define our boundaries, of both self and property, for they are often too insignificant to keep any creature at bay.  The poles signify communication over distances.  Guidance, delineation and communication.  I would post some examples, but I feel that everyone has an idea of what I am speaking of without the illustrations.

It is raining here.  Last night the deluge dropped a hail of roaring ice in Paroikia.  It woke me at 4AM.  It also deposited all the red, sandy dust that has been blowing from the south, out of the deserts of North Africa.  This is the scirocco.  The air was clear this morning and as I drove south to visit some friends for coffee I marveled at the archipelago surrounding me: Sifnos, Serifos, Sikonos, Ios, Kimolos, Syros, Tinos, Andiparos…rugged walls ran through green hills, telephone lines stretched thinly into the blue distance and, even though the sun was bright, my heart was gladdened to see the occasional unlit streetlight along my path.  If I came this way on a dark and stormy night I would not become lost in the tempest.



Building the foundation…

We all begin somewhere.  If one wishes to build fine furniture, knowledge of the tools, types of wood, adhesives, joinery, stains and finishes must be mastered first.  This begins with an apprenticeship, since the novice knows nothing except the novel desire to see a project through.  ‘The right tool for the right job’ is not an idle cliché.   This applies to the studio arts as well.  When I began my painting classes last spring I knew little of this craft and had very limited skills.  All I knew was what I would like to portray, not how to accomplish it.  I had to ask for help.  I asked my teachers, since that is what they were for.  I asked fellow students who were more able than myself, for that is part of their role as well.  The great leap is that I took their advice and my work improved.  I also do this with my photography.  I ask for help and take the advice.  There are many ways to do this.  I go to the Kodak webpage for help with start times and other technical details, for example.  I ask those who have come before “How did you do this…?”

And so my foundation is built of sturdy stuff–strong mortar, supportive materials, able to carry the larger structure that becomes the rooms, halls and stairways of this artistic domicile.  There is more to the photography than that, however.  My skills and craft are broadened by reading Homer, or T.S. Eliot.  I get ideas from looking at the sculpture of Canova and Bernini and the paintings from a diverse world of museums and galleries.  I soak in the experience of waiting at the bus station in Ravenna in the rain.  By writing about these things I synthesize what I know into something else, perhaps not new to the untrained eye, but certainly original, if only in small ways.

The foundation–my foundation–is greater than the sum of its parts, yet contains all that I have seen and heard.  I become my work and in doing so my work defines part of my being, part of my ‘self’ and grants a sense of community.  More about this later…




Florence, Pisa and lunch…

The fall session of the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts is going swimmingly.  The students are a lively and engaged group of 26, myself included.  So far we have made a couple of day trips to Florence and our adopted hometown of Pistoia and have just returned from a long day in Pisa.  In the past week have seen some of the most influential art and architecture in the past 2000 years and all of our minds are full of inspired ideas to take back to Paros in a few weeks.  For those of us who have already experienced the work environment of Greece, we are champing at the bit to get to work and let loose some of this pent-up energy.  The downside is that we still have almost three weeks left here in Italy. The upside is, of course, that we still have almost three weeks left here Italy.  In a couple of days we head to Venice for a two-night excursion and then back again.  Following that we still have trips to Siena, Florence and Rome.  Interspersed are days spent at the Villa Rospigliosi in classes (drawing, watercolor painting, vocal training, writing, and photography discussions), one-on-one conversations with mentors and, of course, the deep fellowship that comes with an enriching experience such as this.  What I am saying is that for all that we have seen and experienced, there is still a great deal ahead.

The food here at the Villa is very good, filling and the kind of food that brings us all joy and comfort when our tired bones rest for dinner after trekking about all day long.  It is not haute cuisine but rather the kind of food one’s grandmother (not mine, by the way…she could barely boil water) might prepare.  The other night some students and I were discussing “Italian food” and I noted that here we are in Italy, eating dinner.  Therefore we were having ‘Italian food”.  As someone who has been in the food business in a professional capacity and still retains most of what he learned, I have to admit that even back then, 12 years ago or so, I had become disenchanted by all the ‘specialness’ and ‘preciousness’ of the so-called cuisines that  popped up every time a new celebrity chef graced the television or newspapers.  What I most desired was simple food, food that I have already written about here and food that exists in the sense memories of many people I know.  We remember a warm house on a cold day, the aroma of fresh cookies wafting over us as we shake the snow from our boots; the primal experience of grilling over an open fire as the sun sets on a summer’s day; the joy of family and friends as we all gather for a holiday feast.  Regardless of season, these memories flood my thinking, driving away the cold efficiency of Nouvelle-this or Pan-American-that…Where was I?

Ah, yes…food. Florence, Pisa and lunch.

Yesterday I found a lovely little spot off the tourist track, yet in the middle of Florence.  Tired with the usual panini routine, I emptied my mind and wandered about.  I turned a couple of corners and happened upon ‘Pizzacheria Antonio Porrati’, in the Piazza Pier di Maggiore.  The area was tiny, with three tables inside, a glass case with myriad foods prepared that day, dried pasta on the shelves and a large cabinet of wine. The fellow behind the counter greeted me with a joyful ‘buongiorno!’  Out of the many choices I ordered some roast chicken and  fresh green beans chock full of garlic and olive oil.  Dee-lish!  I ate my lunch, chatted with the owners and then went to join the rest of the school for our tour of the Uffizi Museum.  Once again, home-cooking has struck again, with its simple, nourishing and friendly tastes.  Today was a similar experience.  Pisa began with a tour of the large Pisan Romanesque church, its famously skewed campanile, and the ornate baptistry, followed by a break.  Lunchtime beckoned and once again I wandered back streets, away from the madding crowd.  What initially drew me to ‘Trattoria della Faggiola’ was the sign tacked to the door that read ‘NO PIZZA’.  What a relief!  The menu included carpaccio di salmone so I sat in the nearly empty place and enjoyed a plate of thinly sliced raw salmon on a bed of baby arrugala and a mixed green salad.  The simplest food filled the most demanding hunger.   A few minutes later I was touring the Camposanto, a structure in a state of almost constant restoration since the bombing of Pisa in the 1940s by the Allies.  There has been a great deal of progress on the enormous frescoes even since last year and they look lovely.  Thank you Deane Keller

Today we have classes here at the villa.  Lunch will be salads and leftovers from dinner last night.  Simple, nourishing food for hungry, working students and their teachers.  And tomorrow?  On to Venezia!  Andiamo!



Some more thoughts from Robert Henri…

Before I start quoting Robert Henri I must say that it feels good to be back in the Hudson Valley.  This time I am just visiting, and that is an interesting feeling in itself.  I do not feel the need to become too involved in the daily goings-on of my mother’s house other than to fill out some paperwork should it need doing and eat the food that’s put in front of me–no hard task that!  Her health is solid and typical for a woman her age with the physical issues she has developed.  Nothing dramatic, just a steady plateau of daily living for an octogenarian.  There are naps, movies to watch, the New York Times, phone calls from friends and family and more naps.

I have been reconnecting with my friends here as well and have found the same old crowd more or less exactly the way I left them, which I am relieved about.  In a world that is constantly changing, sometimes too fast for anyone’s good, it is a pleasant and healthy surprise to find that one has anchors of friendship and support in the old haunts as well as the new.

Right now there is a group of turkeys crossing the lawn, bobbing through the hollow on their way to the pond for a morning drink.  I saw some deer last night, some possums too.  The hydrangeas are blooming in enormous white balls of tiny flowers; the air is damp and the weatherman predicts hazy, hot and humid today.  I meet with the editorial board (of which I am one) of PAGE magazine today for the final layout session before we go to press.  This has been a 2-year labor of love, a long time coming and, frankly, I think we are all ready to put it to bed.  With that, Robert Henri has something to say on the matter of work…

“All outward success, when it has value, is but the inevitable result of inward living, full play and enjoyment of one’s faculties.”

“Don’t belong to one school [i.e., of thought, ed.]. Don’t tie up to any technique.”

“It is necessary to work very continuously and valiantly, and never apologetically.  In fact, to be ever on the job so that we may find ourselves there, brush in hand, when the great moment does arrive.”

“Events and upheavals, which seem more profound than they really are, are happening on the surface.”

“On the surface there is the battle of institutions, the illustration of events, the strife between peoples.  On the surface there is propaganda and there is the effort to force opinions.  The deeper current carries no propaganda.  The shock of the surface upheaval does not deflect it from its course.”

“On the surface, disaster is battled with disaster. Things change. But all improvement is due to what of fundamental law rises to the suface, through the search made by this of the undercurrent.”

“There are painters who paint pictures with spiritual titles but whose motives are purely materialistic.”

“The great masters in all the arts have been whole men, not half men.  They have had marvelous fullness in all human directions, have been intensely humane in themselves and in their interests. And if they seem to select, it is because they have so much to select from.”

“A public which likes to hear something worthwhile when you talk would like to understand something worthwhile when it sees pictures.”

“The true character of the student is one of great mental and spiritual activity.  He arrives at conclusions and he searches to express his findings. He goes to the market place, to the exhibition place, wherever he can reach the people, to lay before them his new angle on life.  He creates a disturbance, wins attention from those who have in them his kind of blood–the student blood. These are stirred into activity. Camps are established. Discussion runs high. There is life in the air. The non-student element says it is heresy.  let us have ‘peace!’  Put the disturber in jail.   In this we have two ideas of life, motion and non-motion.  If the art students who enter the schools today believe in the greatness of their profession, if they believe in self-development and courage of vision and expression, and conduct their study accordingly, they will not find the audience wanting when they go to the market place with expressions of their ideas.    They will find a crowd there ready to tear them to pieces; to praise them and ridicule them.”

More to come…





Some Robert Henri-isms…

Here are some quotes from Robert Henri, from his book ‘The Art Spirit’.  It has given me great joy and pleasure in the past 24 hours.  His words, I feel,  are meditations…

“An art student should read, or talk a great deal with those who have read.  His conversations with his intimate fellows should be more about his life and less of paint.”

“He should be careful of the influence of those with whom he consorts, and he runs a great risk in becoming a member of a large society, for large bodies tend toward the leveling of individuality to a common consent, the forming of adherence to a creed.”

“An artist who does not use his imagination is a mechanic.”

“All things change according to the state we are in.  Nothing is fixed.”

“There is nothing in all the world more beautiful or significant of the laws of the universe than the nude human body. In fact it is not only among the artists but among all people that a greater appreciation and respect for the human body should develop. When we respect the nude we will no longer have any shame about it.”

“The art student of these days is a pioneer. He lives in a decidedly colorless, materialistic age…Sometimes in the past we shot ahead, in certain ways, ahead of where we are now…We have yet as a body to come up to the art of living.”

“If a man has the soul of an artist he needs mastery of all the means of expression so that he may command them, for with his soul in activity he has much to say.”

“It is a splendid thing to live in the environment of great students. To have them about you in person if you can. If not in person, in their works. To live with them. Great students agree and disagree. They stir the waters.”

“If you want to know how to do a thing you must first have a complete desire to do that thing. Then go to kindred spirits–others who have wanted to do that thing–and study their ways and means, learn from their successes and failures and add your quota. Thus you may acquire from the experience of the race. And with this technical knowledge you may go forward, expressing through the play of forms the music that is in you and which is very personal to you.”

“Why do we love the sea? It is because it has some potent power to make us think things we like to think.”



Paros news, part II, and travel ahead…

Once again I find myself at Mikro Cafe updating this electronic epistle, free to whomever wishes to read it and in doing so, please respond.  I arrived after my 12 day island-hop with fifteen rolls of exposed 120 film and I have developed it all.  This is important because it means that I may not have to bring my heavy medium format camera to Italy in the fall, which also means no tripod, no film, etc…What a literal load off my shoulders!  I can concentrate on digital color and get to know my new Leica M8 during the Italian session.  There was an issue in the darkroom, however, dealing with the near-tropical conditions. In short the water coming out of the tap was 24-25C  and I need the chemistry to be 20C.  The ambient room temperature was also 24-25C which meant that all the metal canisters and film reels were all 24-25C.  The upshot is that even if I drop the chemistry temp to 20C the second I put the soup in the can, the temp will rise 2 degrees at least, thus dropping the developing time.  This was my solution:

I made the initial film rinse at 16C, thus dropping the can/reel/ temp to 20C.  Then I can add the 20C soup and it will at least be stable for a couple of minutes before the ambient room temperature raises the can of soup a degree or so.  Now, since I have been under developing my PlusX by N-2 anyway in this darkroom I have to adjust the time again, this time for ambient temperature.  For this round of work I dropped the time to N-5 and the effects are very nice indeed: good separation in the shadows, nice highlights that are not overexposed and a balanced contrast.  Considering that many of the images were made in the height of the Greek sun (10:00-15:00, or 5800K) I am very pleased with the results.

Paros is much the same.  The Watercolor Workshop and the Digital Photography Bootcamp finished and hung a small exhibition last Friday which was lovely.  I was impressed by the photographers and enchanted by the watercolorists.  Some of the photographers had never worked in this kind of digital dynamic before and their work was terrific: all illustrated an excellent use of negative space, lovely light/shadow, texture and elegant composition in the work.  The watercolors were ethereal and splashed with colors, bright and soft.  There were some students who had never worked in this medium as well but that wasn’t apparent.  This is a testament to both their innate skill and that of their instructor.  There are more tourists on the island, but it is not crammed with people.  I am sure this is making some business owners nervous about their futures, but the summer hasn’t really arrived and the July and August crowds will write the book on this piece of marble in the blue sea.

I leave Paros for the USA in about a week.  I would like to think I will have a relaxing time back in New York but my time will be short and I have much to do, many people to see and commitments to keep.  I will be off-island and out of the EU for a month and then return at the very beginning of August.  As the plan goes I have about three weeks here and then I am off to visit a friend in England for a couple of days and then head to Italy, Ravenna and finally Pistoia and the Villa Rospigliosi where I meet up with the rest of the school for the Italian Session.  I have a lot of work to do for the fall.  My portrait project must continue and I need to push that a bit if I am to stay on schedule for the beginning of printing in October.  I am thankful for all the work I have done so far and I am a little ahead of schedule in the darkroom, but I must not rest on my laurels.  My role as student/intern is unwritten but the future looks bright, at least from this vantage point.



Sifnos, hiking and going home…

I left Serifos almost three days ago.  It was sunny and warm and the northern wind was Force 7.  The ferry arrived shortly after 12:00 to take me to Sifnos and off I went, rolling a bit in the sea, but enjoying being back on the road, so to speak.  How do I describe Sifnos?  If Serifos is the rugged, rough and rocky island then Sifnos is its more quiet, calm and well-preserved cousin.  It is not as if either are not developed, but Sifnos has been developed in a more thoughtful way while Serifos will always bear the scars of 19th and 20th century industrial manhandling. In short, Sifnos is lovely.  The towns are small, the island running roughly north-south and the ambient charm all Greek, all Cyclades, all the time.  Sifnos is the ‘Island of Potters’ and the number of ceramic workshops dotted across the landscape speak to that, but this was not always the case.  At one time Sifnos was an island of gold and other metals which made it very wealthy.  Each year the inhabitants gave a golden egg to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.  The end came around 500BC when, as legend has it, the Sifnains gave a gilt egg instead of a solid one and so brought on the wrath of the god who flooded the mines thus ending their prosperity.  Just a warning from history about taking shortcuts!  In any case, the island was eventually part of the Duchy of Naxos, then suffered under the Turks and then finally liberated in 1830 along with the rest of Greece.  The history is more complex than what I have just written and you can read a bit more here.

My stay so far has been relaxed yet very active.  I have been taking pictures and have only a single roll of Plus-X 120 to shoot.  If I don’t manage it I won’t kick myself because I know I will be back here soon but I would like to finish up the pack.  The quality of the walls here on the island is magnificent and I have been documenting them extensively.  Like most of the islands there are stone walls everywhere but the level of preservation here is well above the others.  I imagine this has more to do with the importance of agriculture when compared to other islands.  More agriculture means infrastructural relevance which translates to a pragmatic upkeep of existing bulwarks and boundaries.  There are olive groves covering open areas and along myriad terrace farms while fields of barley grow wherever flat ground can be tilled.  One striking short journey is from the port of Kamares to the primary town of Apolonia.  Through the long winding uphill valley the olive groves line the road, hugging the steep hillsides, their silvery green-grey leaves standing out in stark contrast to the dried golden hue of the surrounding flora.  The Port of Kamares is small. I like port towns and it is quiet when one compares it to Adamas or Paroikia. There is something about being so close to the hub of travel that excites me.  Once again I am reminded of the millennia preceding me and the countless footsteps that have traveled the path I now tread.  Not much has changed, I think.   Not really.

I have been staying at Simeon’s Rooms and Apartments. It is clean, neat, the terrace of my double room looks out over the bay and I have a lovely view of the sunset.  The owner and his family have been very helpful during my stay and I highly recommend the place.  They also seem to run a small taverna about 100 meters from the dock where I have been happily eating for the past two nights.  I tend to stay away from overly-complex new-wave Greek cuisine in favor of local home cooking and I have found it here.  The kolokithokeftedes I had two nights ago were fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside.  They were a perfect match to the garlicky tzatziki. I could spend a week here and really explore the restaurants but in the end I am a creature of habit and when I find a place I like, I stick with it.  I’ll be there again tonight, this time for imam baldi, salad and something else to be decided upon later.

Sifnos is also noted for its hiking.  There are many well-marked trails running throughout the island and all of them well maintained.  I have been on two jaunts so far, the same one really, but tough enough to make the second time as challenging as the first especially in hot weather.  My choice has had more to do with the high northern wind and my search for a quiet beach away from whatever crowds are here.  I chose the path that runs on the southern tip of the island from the small seaside village of Vathi to Fykiada Bay.  The hike to the bay was mostly downhill and I covered the 3km in about 25 minutes.  The return trip took 40 minutes.  I brought 1.5L of water, some fruit, sunblock and other beach necessities.  The fine, sandy beach is nestled in a quiet cove and I saw no other humans the entire time, including during the hike.  The only other souls were a few goats running around the scrubby, rocky hillsides and the beach.  There is an abandoned farm behind the beach and an olive grove stretches another half kilometer to the NE.  I loved walking through the grove, feeling very much like I had discovered this place for the first time.  In the middle sat the old farmhouse, crumbling stone barns and other outbuildings.  I wandered around the place for a while today, snapping pictures.

This is my last evening of my island hopping adventure.  I have been away from Paros for less than a fortnight  yet it feels like a month since I have sat at Mikro Cafe for coffee or watched the sunset from the terrace of Pebbles.  My friends at the Aegean Center have been busy with their watercolor workshop and their digital photography boot camp.  I have been working as well, but at a different pace.  Tomorrow afternoon I board the Aqua Jewel for the three hour voyage to Paroikia, a place I hope is becoming my home.  I have loved my break and there have been moments when I have lost track of time.  This has been a cure for my restless mind.  I have met some very interesting people and I hope to see them again in the future but as I write this my thinking is already beginning to shift. After over a week of being off-island I need to clean my apartment and air it out;  I need to finalize some details with my mentors regarding the fall; preparations need to be made for my trip back to the USA in two weeks;  I have to develop 15 rolls of Plus-X…the list could go on, but you get the drift.  Reality seeps back in to the fantasy of life on the road and reminds me where I need to be standing.  I can have my head in the clouds all I want but my feet need to be firmly attached to the earth in order to properly fix my position with the wandering stars.




Serifos, first impressions…

After the busy-ness of Milos, I boarded my beloved Aqua Jewel and headed north to Serifos for another 3-4 day stay on that little island.  I had been told by one Greek person that Serifos “was spoiled”.  I am not sure what she meant but I have found the exact opposite to be true.  This is a charming place; rugged, undeveloped in the ways of other islands and, in the words of another friend, like Greece was many years ago.  Yes, there are tourists, but not so many.  There are boats in the harbor, but again, not so many.  It is, in some ways, similar to a little backwater town that is somewhere off the tourist maps.  I mean this in a good way.  The locals are very hospitable, the food is tasty and the beaches are lovely.  I spent the early morning and mid-afternoon on a quiet beach called Vagia (vay-ya)on the island’s southern side.  There was no one there the entire time. This may to do with the month since June is not the high season for them, but in reality I needed my little Suzuki Vitara to get down to the sand.  Also, there is no public transport so you must drive there.  It is too far to walk and the heat even at 10:00hrs grows oven-like.  In any case, I swam and basked in the sun for a while, then did some crunches, my bicycle pumps and some stretches before having another swim, drying off in the sun and heading back off to take some pictures.

One of my favorite subjects is old equipment left over from the influx of humans and their work.  Like Milos, Serifos was heavily mined, but only since 1885.  The mines closed in 1963 and what is left is fascinating.  Ore carts, tracks, trucks, buildings, machinery of all sorts lay scattered around parts of the island, primarily in Mega Livadi and Koutalos.  I am enthralled by this milieu as it always reminds me of the poem ‘Ozymandias’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley.  These wrecks of industry lying powerless among the thorns, rocks and heat are a reminder of the futility of mankind’s hollow greed and hubris.  Someday when the human species has disappeared from the face of the Earth, the Earth will swallow the remains, turning them back into the minerals and metals from which they came.  We all return to the Earth, it seems, even our tools.  This may sound bleak but I find great comfort in knowing that the Earth is a more powerful force than we are.  It keeps me right-sized.  As a photographer I find endless textures and shades of color in these objects and they contain a beauty all their own.  I had to do some hiking to get the images I wanted but these places are not roped off and are safe to approach as long as one uses common sense and simple caution.

My hotel is situated on the peralia, the strip of road the runs along the half-moon of the natural harbor.  The Hotel Maistrali is a clean, neat place and the owner Bobbi is a charming host.  We have already had conversations concerning politics, mining, and Serifian history. He has looked at the map with me and told me of the high and low points to see and avoid.  Not much to avoid, but still…I found his place via another travel website which is also a wealth of Greek information.  I am here for another two full days and am looking forward to more photography, more beach time and general sightseeing.  Tonight I will have dinner in the chora, the older town up on the hillside overlooking the harbor.