Tag Archives | photography workshops

Photography and Easter in the Eastern Orthodox Church…

I have been logging many hours in the darkroom and digital labs.  What I am learning in the DigiLab has made me aware of the serious shortcomings inherent in the US university system, one of which is laziness and the other is a jealous regard that some teachers have towards their students.  It is true.  There are many teachers who will not teach their students all they know, but rather keep information to themselves lest their students rise above.  I mean, I had never heard of ICC profiles before I came here, and that, as well as other tools, is essential for properly printing photography in the digital format.  Without these tools the computer and printer will never agree on the colors and tones appropriate for each brand and style of paper.  I know, for example, that Bard College never used this system until a student fro The Aegean Center went back there and told them they were doing it wrong.  So next time you go to a “professional printer” and give them some business, ask them what their paper stock is and whether they have an updated profile for that product.  If they give you a result on paper that doesn’t look right, watch out when they blame your camera…Ask to see the ICC profile.

This weekend is Easter and in the Eastern Orthodox Church it is the single largest holiday celebrated, without question.  The island is packed with people coming home for the event and ending their Lenten Fasts.  The primary church here on the island is called Panagia Ekatontapyliani or “Church of Our Lady of 100 Gates (or Doors) and no ordinary structure either.  It was built by the Emperor Constantine’s mother (St. Helen) and pre-dates any other Christian church in the world. Construction began in the 6th Century.  The story goes that St. Helen, the young Emperor’s mama, put in at Paros during a storm.  As is the custom in Greece, she vowed to build a church on the spot where her life was saved.  She died before that could happen, but she was able to inspire others to make it happen.  Pretty cool.  I’ll be there tonight and tomorrow for the festivities, along with about 300 other people.  I’ll try to get some good night shots, in RAW of course…

Tomorrow night at midnight, Lent ends and the whole town will descend on the restaurants and tavernas for the traditional meal of ‘Gut Soup’, which is a soup made from lamb tripe and vegetables–dee-lish.  A whole bunch of us will go out and experience this event as well.  Sunday is not a public day, but rather reserved for family.  We are having a lamb roast, with the whole lamb on a spit over a charcoal grill, turned by hand for several hours.  On Monday the bus and boat schedules change, heralding the real spring season with schedule and fare changes.

More to come…



Jazz, cook-outs and leaky tanks…

My schedule is settling down and I have a very busy load. The two primary courses are the Digital Printing and the Silver Darkroom classes. These both meet, officially, twice a week, but as a student I have keys to all the labs, so I can go in there any time of the day or night and work. This is very nice. In the digital realm we are working with RAW, but in such a way I have never encountered. The secret is to over-expose the image in RAW to capture as much information as possible, then process on one of the Macs. First rate gear here…none of that buggy PC junk. The b/w darkroom is a real test of my abilities and patience. I am fine tuning so many variables it is hard to list, but ultimately it comes down to being precise with temperatures, times, and note-taking. We are using all Ilford chemistry, film and paper, which keeps developing as close to consistent as possible. The four lovely enlargers are all imprecise in their own way, so consistency is a must. As one fellow student reminded me, “We are doing fine art photography here…” So right, so true. Am I up for that task or am I the equivalent to a shoe-maker in the kitchen?

The rest of the course load is a series of hour-long lectures that run throughout the week. These are, in order, Creative Writing Workshop (twice a week), The History of Photography, The Camera (a tech course), Art History, Classical Greek Literature, and Documentary Photography. As a school, we all go on a hike on Fridays. This is the Socratic method at work, with time to not practice out crafts, but to have time for the self as well while we absorb the knowledge that is heaped upon us all week. There are other courses such as painting, figure studies, vocal ensemble and basic drawing, but that will have to wait until next time. At this point I want there to be a next time.

I was in the darkroom the other day I developed a roll of film and the metal tank leaked, not light, but developer. So this teaches me to check my gear before I work. Last night we all got together and had an amazing bar-b-que/cook-out/grill. A real potluck for 20 and it was a blast. I made grilled Dorado marinated in garlic, rosemary and olive oil. Others brought salads, kebabs, sausages, peppers stuffed with feta and oregano…Super! After that a few of us went out to see a jazz duo (piano and baritone sax) from Athens. What a great time we had. I was able to close my eyes and let the music just flow through my head, savoring every note and movement. As I listened I wrote the second half of a short story I am writing, but in my head. When I returned to my studio apartment I put most of it on paper and revised this morning. I’m doing pretty well.

The director of the Center, John Pack, had a meeting with us all the other day and he reminded us that for whatever reason, we all ended up here. I was directed here by a friend, and so many others are here due to some other twist of fate or fortune. We are all woven together like a creative fabric.



Here on Paros…

I have been trying to log on my blog for almost 45 minutes.   For some reason I have to actually go to the blog first and then log on through the meta…Whatever.

Paros is amazing.  I am very lucky to be here and have this experience.  I thank my friend Jeanne for introducing me to the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts.  So far the student body is pretty amazing–all talented and many much younger than I, but still we are all in the same boat.  It is an unconventional type of place with a  dynamic teaching philosophy.  I am not going to try to describe it, but suffice to say that it would be grand if the whole of academia taught this way and not only this very special school.

I am taking 4 classes–The darkroom class, the digital class and probably the “camera class” as well as classical Greek Literature.  People tell me that this is manageable.

Jet lag was pretty bad this time and I am still not over it completely.  Maybe it is the weather.  The Sirocco has been blowing in from northern Libya and the warm Saharan air is full of smaller-than-talcum powder dust particles like a red fog.  It is supposed to end soon, but until then there is a strange surreal quality to the surroundings and people’s attitudes.

More to be revealed…



One week and I’m off…

I am beginning to feel the tug and draw of the traveling jones.  I fly from JFK next Tuesday, non-stop to Athens and my next great adventure.  I have been reading a lot of photographic philosophy on the Webb’s photo blog and this is all good food for thought.  Things I need to remember–the sudden flow of geometry, the instance of emotional capture in the viewfinder and a need for patience.  I need to wait and see what happens.  I need to relax.  I am pretty hyper.  There has been a lot on my mind lately that does not feel so good, mostly to do with family and their emotions.  Nothing I can do about that except step back and let things happen.

I would like to have at least three new prints to add to the portfolio I am bringing with me.  I have been taking pictures of the interior of my home–bureaus, mantles, doors, windows, clocks…all very intimate and full of humanity.  If I can glean something from them, I will be happy.  Then I can finish packing on Monday night and go to sleep knowing that all is taken care of and well in hand during my absence.

I purchased another digital camera.  I decided to bring my 50D with me so I needed a smaller digital point-and-shoot for street work.  I chose the Canon G11.  It’s a great compliment to the Voigtlander, I feel.  I like that I can shoot in full manual and adjust my shutter and aperture like the Rebel.  I can also adjust the film speed from 80 to 3200ISO.  It fits in the palm of my hand.  Lovely, and not too dear.

More to come…canon_g11_front1JDCM


15 days to go…and packing…

I’ll be back in Greece in just over two weeks, providing the river don’t rise and the airports don’t close.  I have begun to pack, if only to feel my way for this trip, which has some additions to my backpack.  I have some bulky stuff I am bringing, mostly art supplies.  I have not traveled as much in colder weather, even though the high temperature in Athens is currently 65*F.  I am bringing a couple of fleeces and some long-sleeved shirts, which all add to the bulk.  I also have a box of 8.5×11 Hahnemuhle printer paper that is in there, as well as my portfolio.  I have packed my small camera bag, stuffed with vine charcoal, pencils, and so forth for the drawing class.  It’s easier to get that stuff here than in Athens apparently. I will buy film there…Ilford is pretty easy to find.  My camera bag is all set as well.  It has all the electronic stuff I’ll bring and I will be carrying that on the plane.  My only regret is that the bag looks too new…maybe I can wash it so it fades some…that would be good.



Some news on the front…

…and a photograph or two.

I have been accepted to the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts for the spring 2010 semester.  This is quite an honor and it will be an exhilarating and difficult three months, effectively finishing my BA in style.  To celebrate this occasion, I have purchased a new film rangefinder, a Voigtlander R4M with a 35mm lens.  This is a significant upgrade from the little Canon QL17 I have been using for a while.  I leave for Greece at the beginning of March and will return at the beginning of June.

I have also set up a full darkroom in the house.  I have a large extra room with an adjoining bathroom that I have blacked out with curtains–very dark indeed.  I have great new, used Metro-shelf worktables.  My good friend Bruce has sold me his Beseler 23C Series II enlarger with two lenses (50mm and 80mm) plus some other gear for about $100.  A real deal, IMHO.  I have been developing some film, but this weekend I will have all the supplies and stuff I need to start working with paper again.  Now I do not have to drive to use the darkroom, nor sit in a cold barn, or have my good friend Carol pay for heat when she doesn’t need to.  It’s a good thing all around.

Last week there was truck fire in the nearby town of Millerton, NY.  Serendipity was on my side and I was able to capture some dramatic shots.  Here is one them.  I will post another tomorrow.  I offered them to the local papers but they declined, using there own images instead.  Oh well.  Their loss.  The editor asked for me to stay in touch with anything I might have.  Right.  Not a chance.  This is not the first time they have given me the Bum’s Rush.

I went to Alex and Rebecca Norris Webb’s opening in NYC last week.  It was a lovely show and left me wanting more.  The Ricco Maresca Gallery highlighted their new, collaborative, book (a first for them) on Cuba called “Violet Isle.”  I was able to spend the day walking the streets of Manhattan, visiting museums, and practicing the craft.  A wonderful day.


PS…Yes, I saw the Frank  and  Meyerowitz shows…Boffo!

Truck fire, Millerton, NY.  November 2009

Truck fire, Millerton, NY. November 2009


The last photography workshop…

I returned from Woodstock last night with a head full of new ideas and a renewed sense of direction.  It will take me a week to process what I have learned this weekend, but that’s alright.  The photographers who ran the workshop were Alex and Rebecca Norris Webb.  I was very impressed–by both their work and their attitudes.  There was none of the “famous photographer” feeling about them and I understood immediately that they work very hard at their craft and love it.  It reminded me of the Lao-Tse quote about finding a job you love and never having to work a day in your life.  I felt it through these two.  Their work speaks for itself.

Through these workshops I am letting go of much I have done in the past few years.  The images of the Roma that I have been carting about for a year-and-a-half are being shelved indefinitely.  My work with them as “documentary” pieces is finished.  What a relief.  I have to find a new space in which to see the world, and by that I mean finding a new perspective.  Alex’s eye has inspired me to see with a more searching heart and Rebecca’s from a fresher sense of the poetic nature that all visual circumstances embody.  They really opened themselves up an revealed themselves as human beings in search of an explanation, a charecteristic of artists in every genre.

So I have learned to see the human body as a portrait through Tanya Marcuse; to use the photographic image as a “literary” thread from Mary Ellen Mark; and the build on this “literary” photographic story-telling by challenging my eye to see from a more immediate, layered and emotional point-of-view.  That last one is from the Webbs, who, I feel, come to their art through compassion and a need for comprehension of their own place within the experience.

It’s all about people and intimacy for me.  The document is two-dimensional, although necessary for my own exercise.  Now I will search for something about the interior, without which the external image is merely a shell.


Ambitious darkroom work…

Tomorrow I head back to Catskill and into the darkroom once again.  There is a feeling there of a lack of time, all that matters is the slowly spinning hand of the exposure clock as the image transfers through the lens, across the negative and onto the paper.  I am still using RC stock, but my real paper has finally arrived and, to my surprise, some of it is from Croatia.  I have both Grade 2 and 3.  I also have a pack of Grade 2 Ilford to compare.

I wish to make at least 4 exposures tomorrow (or five) so I can include them in the portfolio I am presenting to the Webbs this weekend in Woodstock.  These will be part of the “Wright Morris” project, a series of b/w and color pieces that have been inspired by Morris’ work during his travels through America.  They areBlue Wall an expression of sadness and light, whimsy and decay…In some cases the crumbling towers of old feed silos echo the mountain fortresses I have seen in my European travels, like ancient Byzantine strongholds plundered by warring tribes.  In others, like the image above, it is a memory of a previous rural life fast disappearing in the small New York county I live in.  In both cases the past is a reminder of the lack of permanence.  Time stands still for no one, even in the sensory deprivation tank of a darkroom.


Finding another voice and darkroom work…

I have taken two workshops this summer so far.  The first, with Tanya Marcuse was great.  It was about working with the human body, as in nude studies and served me well.  I have not worked with formal models much and the experience taught me a great deal about the interaction of photographer and subject. There were four models each day, both men and women, of different ages.  Illuminating.  I have. posted a couple of images on my photo site, in the “humans” portfolio.

The second was a workshop with the photographer Mary Ellen Mark.  She is a legend in the community and her work speaks for itself.  The only drawback was that although she is a professional with years of experience, she is not the best teacher.  She treated everyone fairly, but I found that she fawned on one workshop attendee more than others.  Granted, this person’s work was lovely and moving. They both had a great deal in common and perhaps that was another reason, but I found the undue attention to be distracting.  Also unfortunately, due to a personal situation at home, I was not able to attend the shoot the next day at the Ulster County Fair.  Mary Ellen was gracious enough to let me still contribute four contact sheets for a post-class critique.  Those I have mailed off.  They are a continuance of work I have begun as homage to Wright Morris.  My photography instructor has told me she wants me to put together a book of images and writings on the subject, much like Morris did, by the way.  I think I will.  It may take some time, but good things always do.  I am eager to hear Mary Ellen’s thoughts.

I have officially become an addict of the developing process and the darkroom.  I am spending more time over in Catskill at the darkroom and more time in my kitchen developing film.  It is a real high to produce the result from start to finish.