Tag Archives | beginnings

Welcoming 2021…

 “There is an insubstantial quality to life these days that is difficult to quantify.”–JDCM 2020

A friend wished me a happy rest-of-my-weekend the other day and qualified it by remarking “…as if there’s a difference in these amorphous and indeterminate days and weeks of the covid epoch.”  This sums up much of my emotional state since this ‘epoch’ began last February: one same day after the next with the same news feed, everyone seemingly watching the world turn while quarantined inside our homes.  This isn’t completely true but it feels that way.

Last February I was wrapping up a winter-long darkroom silver-gelatin printing project.  It was for a solo show in July. At the same time I was mapping out a 2-3 week bicycle ride through northern and western Greece that would have taken place in May.  Needless to say, neither of these events came to pass.  The show was cancelled and the ride was put off until the autumn (when it did not happen again).  By the end of October I was left with a porfolio that meant little to me and a lot of maps going nowhere.  But that is looking at these past months the wrong way.  So much may not have happened yet so much actually did occur.

On the advice of a friend (to whom I am eternally grateful!) last March or April, I bought a little house.  The papers were finalized in August and a full renovation began, finishing in the first week of November.  The place really needed to be gutted.  Ancient electrical, plumbing, crumbling walls, etc…I documented it online.  I have now rented it to someone who needed a home.  Then I got the wild idea that maybe I should stop paying rent and buy and renovate my own space!  So I did.  In a few weeks (crossed fingers) I will finalize that deal and begin renovations.  I hope by the end of November 2021 I will have moved into my new home.  So to my friend MM who started this process…many thanks and eternal gratitude for shifting my thinking.

                              Prickly Pear #1

Photography…writing…I have come to the conclusion that, for me, social media, as a whole, is a stifling and shallow platform for art or communication of any true depth.  These applications have actually hampered my creative process.  I have produced less photography and written fewer blog entries since I started being more on my phone with a popular social media app.  I let it suck the creative juices from my mind and soul.  So…I would like to make more real photographs in 2021, write more, produce more real work.  The new house will have space for a darkroom and a small digital area–room for a printer, perhaps a computer with a larger monitor than my laptop.  A place to work.  A home studio.

I have rested on what laurels I may have gathered long enough.  I will make a new commitment to my art, to my life.  Wheels are in motion.  Let them stay moving, well-greased and clean running.



A painterly photographic ancestry…

Before digital, before silver (what we know as ‘silver gelatin’) there were ‘alternative processes.’  I find this amusing, since at the time (1840s to the mid-187os) there were no other alternatives. It is only in the digital age that we can approach photography this way.  There were several different types of processes.  You can look them up yourself.  I have chosen gum bichromate printing as my first step into this rich and varied past.

Gum bichromate printing entails mixing a potassium dichromate solution with gum arabic and watercolour pigment.  I have chosen black.   Potassium Dichromate is one of the more dangerous chemicals on the planet.  Needless to say I wear nitrile gloves, a Level 2 filter mask and safety glasses when I handle it.  I am using 4×5 negatives and I hope soon to be printing some larger digital negatives so I can make larger prints.

I made the first test strip a week or so ago.  The result is on the left.  Intervals are 15″, 30″, 45″ and 1 minute exposures under full daylight.

The problem was not the emulsion, or the paper, but me.  I wasn’t patient.  I had not allowed the paper to dry fully between each preparation stage (sizing, gesso, emulsion).  This resulted in flaking emulsion.  A common error and easily rectified.

Three days ago I began the process again.  Using 300 gsm Canson water-colour paper, I sized (soaked) this in 60C water for 30 minutes and left it to hang for 24 hours.  The next step was to make sure my gesso mix was as thin as milk, which is much thinner than one thinks.  The gesso needs to be thin so it can soak into the paper, not create a layer on top, as per a painter’s canvas.  I applied the gesso in the late afternoon and left it to dry under an exhaust fan for several hours.  Two nights ago, around 22:00hrs following the weekly Photo Club meeting, I went back into the darkroom and applied the emulsion coat after the gesso had completely dried.  I used 5ml of potassium dichromate solution to 8ml of gum arabic.  For colour I added about .5 gram of black water-colour paint (Van Gogh).  I mixed this well using a natural bristle brush and painted it onto the paper using a foam paintbrush.

Yesterday morning, after letting the emulsion-coated paper dry overnight under the exhaust fan, with a dehumidifier running and a small heater maintaining 20-21C, my paper was dry to the touch.

I used the same VW Bug 4×5 negative.  The first test strip was better.  Once again, 15″ intervals up to 1’15” under full sun at 10:00.  The result was a huge improvement in detail and resolution, although clearly not enough time.  I was on the right track.

Test strip at 15″ intervals up to 1’15”

I decided to increase the exposure time for the first proof to 1’45”.  After developing the print in three consecutive trays of 20C water for 20 minutes, this is what emerged.

1’45”, full sunlight 10:20, March 8, 2018, Paros.

Much improved!  The next time I print (tomorrow), I will expose the whole piece for the 1’45”, then burn in the top 30% for an additional 30″-45″ so the top of the hillside and the sky behind the car achieve some tone.


Thoughts meander…

The sun rose golden peaches as I departed the Port of Pireaus 3/4 of the way through September.  I have been back in Greece and on Paros since the middle of August.  Through a window of the Blue Star Delos and across the gulf the mountains surround Attica.  How I love this place.  Ancient rocks cradle my heart and timeless seas ferry me home…

I haven’t blogged in a long time and I apologize.  Sometimes I have had too much on my mind and to sort out any coherent thoughts and to put them down seems daunting.  What I need is time to let the events of the past year-and-half filter out into something resembling…something, something solid.

I return to the island after a long weekend wth friends on another island, another archipelago.  This marks the last of my long-term commitments for 2016 and I finally feel like I can relax.  The deeply emotional yet business-like events of laying my mother to rest and selling the family home are behind me.  My inherited furnitures, works of art, books and homewares are tucked away in storage units.  I packed my bags with those things that I could smuggle and left America.  Oddly enough, I feel no sadness in leaving the house I called home for so long.  With my mother’s absence, the place felt empty and hollow.  She had been its heart and soul and without her it was just a shell.

I have finally found an ear doctor who has offered anything like a solution to my labyrinthitis/Meuniere’s/tinnitus…Dr. Peraki’s prescription has improved my hearing almost 10% over the past month so I have been told to keep at the regimen and we shall see what is what in about 2 months, just before Christmas.

Speaking of that…one novel feeling…I am not thinking about plane tickets back to America.  This time, during the past several years, I would begin looking at dates, routes, etc…not today, thank the gods.  I am looking forward to being here through all of December and January, February, without the interruption of having to leave.

And so on I ramble…


New spaces…

After waiting over 6 months and living surrounded by boxes of books, photo stuff, odds and ends, and clothes I have finally moved to my new flat.  What relief!  I had lived (gratefully, mind you) in the previous apartment for so long and grown so accustomed to being crammed into an old building in need of serious repair that this new space really twists my head around.  My light fixtures do not need re-wiring, the plumbing doesn’t smell of bacterial rot and shutters are not decaying and falling off of their hinges.  These were everyday living conditions before last week.  I also have almost twice the amount of room as well as an apothiki (‘warehouse’), so that much of what I had lived with before can now be tucked away–boxes of negatives, portfolios, seasonal clothes, extra stuff…all of this is now out of sight and out of my living area.  And I feel no need to fill up the new and open spaces with stuff.  I am enjoying the freedom of movement.  I have an IKEA order coming, but it is not so much and only replaces some of what my current landlord has supplied.  I want to put my own touch on things so I have purchased a new dining room table, some rugs, an easy chair and footstool, some lamps, a clock.  I also bought some traditional taverna chairs down the street and stained them a yellow tone.  As they dried I realized they turned a bright yellow ochre.  It made me think that maybe I should have used the tetrachromy for my design.  Just an idea.  Next time maybe.

The move has also affected my dreams.  Maybe it is because my bed now faces due north (it faced south for almost 3 years), but my dreams all week have been vivid, complex and memorable.  Sometimes even a bit disturbing.  I am not complaining, just keeping notes.

I think my overwhelming feelings are ‘Finally!’ and also ‘What now?’  This applies to my physical as well as emotional states.  So many endings, so many beginnings, so many new spaces and ideas.  There is plenty of room for all of this thinking and action.  I’ll post some photos once the IKEA goods have arrived and are assembled.  My current landlord walked into the flat the other day and exclaimed “So much light!”  I’ll try to keep it that way.


4 new chairs

4 new chairs


Cavafy on the beach…

–A friend recently presented me with a small collection of C. P. Cavafy’s poetry.  I am familiar with his work, but not so much with those collected in this small, beautiful anthology.

–Today we lay on the beach on Andiparos.  Waves lapped at the rocks; birds sang in the dry, hot September air; we swam, ate lunch.  We read Cavafy to each other.  I was particularly moved by his poem ‘Ithaca’, written in 1911.   It is of leaving and arriving, the maturation of the soul and that this is all we may wish for as our journeys continue.

–We all come to places, places we have read about in books, or perhaps overheard–they are awed, exotic hushed whipsers.  We all leave these places, hopefully taking with us what we have been given, what we can carry, gifts from Phoenecians…


As you set out bound for Ithaca
hope that the journey is a long one,
full of adventures, full of learning.
Of the Laestrygonians and Cyclopes,
of wrathful Poseidon have no fear,
you’ll never meet suchlike on your journey,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if noble
sentiment grips your body and spirit.
You’ll never encounter raging Poseidon,
Laestrygonians and Cyclopes,
unless you bear them in your soul,
unless your soul sets them before you.
Hope that the journey is a long one.
That the summer morns be many
when with what delight, what joy
you enter harbours hitherto unseen;
that you stop at Phoenecian markets,
and acquire fine merchandise,
nacre and coral, amber and ebony,
and all kinds of heady perfumes,
as many heady perfumes as you can;
that you visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from the erudite.
Always keep Ithaca in mind.
To arrive there is your destination.
But in no way rush the voyage.
Better for it to last many years;
and for you to berth on the isle an old man,
rich with all you gained on the journey,
without expecting Ithaca to give you riches.
Ithaca gave you the wonderful voyage.
Without her you would not have set out on your way.
Yet she has nothing more to give you.
And though you may find her wanting, Ithaca has not
                                                                            deceived you.
Wise as you’ve become, with so much experience,
already you’ll have understood what these Ithacas mean.
C.P. Cavafy, 1911

I will continue reading Cavafy.  I fall into his words, as one falls into a conversation.





–I leave Paros tomorrow for Athens.  From Athens I fly to the USA via Vienna.  This is my usual route.  If all goes well I will be at my mother’s house in upstate New York in time for dinner Sunday night.  I will stay three weeks, then return to Greece, and Paros, on August 1st, just in time for a friend’s watercolor exhibit.

–I have much on my mind.  Distance will allow me some perspective.

— When I return to Paros I have my work cut out for me:  I need to start house-hunting in earnest.  I have been told that August is the time to do this.  I will also take possession of my road bike, a different animal from the mountain bike.  So I will have two bikes.  It is similar to having pets. I need a new space.  Ideally I am looking for something with a small terrace where I can store the bikes and an extra, small room where I can keep my photography gear.  Currently these fill my living room.

–While I am out of town a close friend is housesitting for me.  She leaves on July 21st so at least my flat will be occupied and used for the next couple of weeks.  It will be good to keep it aired out.  She’s a peach!  Thanks JR!

–Before I know it September will be here.  I will finally (!) begin Greek language lessons.  I have been here too long to know so little.  I am embarrassed.  There is a 25km mountain bike race on nearby Andiparos in which I would like to compete.  I also have my own photography to work on.  I am working towards a small solo show in November.

–Lots of thinking, lots of action.  At night the wheels spin in my head, clanking about like rusty, broken gears.  Sleep can be difficult.



49 years…

–Today is my birthday.  I have been on the planet, breathing the air, since February 17, 1965.  I am an Aquarian, and in the the Year of the Wood Snake to boot.  It’s a heavy combination, if you follow these things.  Those of you who know me well enough will see that the associated characteristics fit me to a “T.”

–My future family were traveling in Europe when I was born.  They settled in Dublin, Ireland for a year waiting for me to arrive.  When I was old enough to travel they hit the road again and stayed in Italy for a couple of months before heading back to America.  My sisters were 10 and 8.  Somewhere there are home movies my father made showing us all at the time.

–I have had my share of successes and failures.  Some of them have been of my own doing and some have been granted or inflicted upon me.  Such is life.  No one is immune to that dynamic.  I suppose it is how we roll with the punches, how we dust ourselves off, that matters.

–Yesterday I surprised myself.  After a tough 2-hour, somewhat technical, mountain bike ride, I bumped into a small phalanx of other riders on my way back home.  One invited me along for a leisurely ride into the hills.  I went.  I usually would not do this,  i.e., join in so quickly.  It was fun.  I met some people I hadn’t met before, had a couple small chats.  Nothing too committed, nothing too serious.  Then I came home.  

–I also had a superb and very difficult ride three days ago.  I rode from Paroikia to Lefkes (45 min.) and then from Lefkes to the radio aerials that sit atop the highest peak (1.25 hrs).  From there I rode down the south-western slope, along an extremely rocky track, that eventually turned into a decent farm road.  All unpaved, of course.  The route eventually led me to Kakapetra, an area just south of Paroikia and a stones throw from a friend’s house (45 min.)  I stopped by for coffee and a chat.  The image below is from that jaunt.  You can see the aerials far away in the distance.

–I have reapplied for my American passport via the mail and the embassy in Athens; I have washed a load of laundry;  I have shopped for cat food.  Tonight, I get to eat dinner with a good friend at one of my favorite restaurants on the planet.   I begin my 50th year as a photographer and an amateur mountain biker.  Looking back, when I turned 30 I was a chef de cuisine (10 years)  and a guitar player (15 years).  Like the snake, I shed my skin.

Biking from the aerials on Paros.

Biking from the aerials on Paros.



Back on Paros…

–It is quiet here.  The rain falls through the night and the clouds cover the sky during the day.  There are moments of sunshine–brilliant, silver and brief.   I hope to get out and shoot some film in a couple of days when the clouds roll away.

–I have been out biking, for which I am grateful.  The sense of freedom on a mountain bike that one does not have in either a car or walking.  Fast, but not too fast, panniers full of cameras.

–The people, food and music of Greece keep me here.  The light is nice too.

–I will be going through my files and uploading all my past “header images” from this blog to my Flickr site.  It might be interesting to see how they all look together.

–I have decided that I would like to be known as someone who worked hard rather than someone with any great talent.   Dedication and hard work has always brought me farther than subjective opinion.  I can measure the first.  The second is fickle and none of my business.

–In February I begin a new 7-year cycle of life.   I can already feel the shift.  It feels tectonic.




Dream people…

I dreamed that I was at my mother’s house and discovered something wondrous, something I could never have imagined.

There were other people living on the property other than us.

The first group lived in the wetlands at the bottom of the hill.  They lived in homes made of sticks and mud.  These homes were not some kind of story-book hut, all warm and cozy.  They were wet, cold and the wind ripped through them at night.  They looked like beaver dams.  But the people were happy.  There were about 7 or 9 of them–an older woman, maybe the grandmother, some middle-aged men and women and some children, as old as 12 and as young as 5 or 6.  This was the family group.  To look at they were dirty but I realized that this was actually their skin pigment, like camouflage.  Their clothes were the color of dark wet mud, their hair full of rotting leaves and twigs.  To them it was perfectly normal and I was the outsider, too clean and worried about getting my socks wet as I stumbled through the muck.  How I discovered they were there, I do not remember.

Then there were the people that lived in the densest part of the forest along the ridge above my mother’s house.  They lived there like foxes, or rabbits, in homes made of sticks, leaves and packed down earth.  Dens.  Once again, nothing cozy about these places.  But the people were happy.  They had the same kind of skin pigmentation coloring   as the others.  Their clothes were the color of reddish damp earth and rotting leaves, their hair full of pine needles and bark.  This group was about the same size and make-up as the other group in the wetlands.  They were a little more outgoing, however, and as I now know, they were the ones with whom I made first contact.   It had been a cold, winter night. The wind was blowing and the temperature was subzero.  I happened to be looking out a window, out into the field behind the house and I saw 5 or 6 people trudging through the dark.  I followed them.  They saw me.  No one ran.  They told me to go.  I said I would but if there was anything they needed that they should only ask.   Through the Earth People I met the Water People.  My relationship with both has been one of respect and distance.

There was also a single person–the grandfather of the Earth People group.  He lived in a large pool , half submerged, next to my mother’s barn.  He had a small platform which held his campfire above the water and the chair he sat in was just high enough to keep his upper torso dry.  Over the fire he brewed coffee and fried bacon.  He was the shyest of them all.  The Two Peoples cared for him and kept him safe.  He was a therianthrope, a Shapeshifter.  When he shifted they confined him to a type of barracks surrounded by electrified concertina wire.  When he was in human form he sat quietly in his chair, in the pool, tending to his small fire.

I know enough of dream analysis to recognize that all of these people, these groups, are elements of myself.  I am the Water People. I am the Earth People. I am the Shapeshifter.


Notes from the mainland…

October 30, 2013

–The weather is still hot during the day but the mornings are cool so I wear a sweatshirt when I leave the hotel.  By 10:00 I am in my t-shirt.  I have driven through hundreds of orange groves in two days.

–The ruins in Ancient Corinth are vast and the typical jumble.  The Temple of the Corinthian Apollo is Doric.  Lots of Roman stone.  St. Paul was here.

–Akro Korinthos, 3 km up the mountain from the site, is massive.  I have walked the walls.  Easily as large as the outer walls of Dubrovnik…5km if I remember correctly.  Walls built on walls…Mycenean, Byzantine, Ottoman and Venetian.  Everyone knew a good site for a fort when they conquered it.  Impregnable and all but hewn from the living stone.  Few people there today.  Some workman digging a new drainage ditch.  They are stone-faced when I say “kali mera.”

–I have seen more Golden Dawn graffiti here than anywhere in Greece.  Lots of spray-painted Greek meanders…this is a ubiquitous symbol.  It is on my bathmat in the hotel where I sleep.  It’s on tourist swag.  Now it means something else, something terrible.  They have taken a design everyone knows as good and twisted it with their broken thinking.

–Nafplio is not Paros.  The mainland is not the Kyklades.  There is a roughness here, less open than the Greece I know.  Fewer smiles.  Gruff.

–Epidaurus tomorrow and Schliemann’s second site at Tyrins.  My last full day here and I want to make the most of my little car.  I might brave the winding mountain road to Ermioni for lunch after visiting the theater.

October 31, 2013

–Epidaurus, Tyrins…quiet but there are still buses and tourists.  Mostly older groups and I seem to be shadowing a school group of American kids. They were at my hotel too.  Quiet as mice.  A nice thing to experience.  Corinth yesterday and the theater today.  Also the Nafplio museum…

–The winding road to Epidaurus and grove after grove of olives and oranges.

Epidaurus: ancient script.  Leica M8, f/2.8, 1/2000, ISO 320

Epidaurus: ancient script. Leica M8, Voigtlander 28mm, f/2.8, 1/2000, ISO 320

–A group of Russians at the theater…testing the acoustics with pebbles.  Wonderful.  Tyrins on the way back to Nafplio. Not much to see but an observation:  the technique used to build the large Mycenean walls is the same as the wall building I have seen all over the Kyklades.  No walls here, nothing crisscrossing the landscape. The Mycenean civilization was large.

–Blue domes are now terra-cotta tiles.  I had forgotten that about the Peloponnese.

–When I was a boy, about 5 or 6, my grandmother gave me gifts from her time in Greece: a small model of a Greek house with a windmill, a komboloi, an Evzone figurine.  She planted this seed.  She was here.

–I am still enjoying my short DoF exercises.  The stones, greenery and blue skies are perfect for this.   Shooting at f/1.8 to f/4 only…


A column section from Epidaurus.  Leica M8, Voigtlander 35mm Nokton, f/2.0 at 1/4000, ISO 360

A column section from Epidaurus. Leica M8, Voigtlander 35mm Nokton, f/2.0 at 1/4000, ISO 360