‘Tis a Jolly Grryo Christmas

‘Tis a Jolly Grryo Christmas

What does a Grryo Christmas look like? We asked each member of the Grryo Lead team to share their heartfelt experiences…

Romina’s story

For me, so much about the Christmas season is about the sacredness of time. As soon as December arrives, I am hit with an avalanche of farewell dinners, end-of-year concerts and school functions, all while manically trying to buy gifts for family and friends. Time speeds up, it would seem, and I often feel breathless from the sheer momentum of it all.

Time…

As I say goodbye to colleagues, watch my children graduate to a new school year and write cards to loved ones, I subconsciously whisper my thanks and farewell to the year that’s passed and to everything that has been.

And then, finally, time slows down again, as the rush draws to a close. I savour the gifts of cooking, chatting and laughing with family and friends before I turn my eyes to the time that lays ahead: a brand new beginning brimming with possibility.

Susanne’s story

I cherish all the light that Christmas brings to the darkest of the months.

When days are short and nights are long, we fill December with stars and candles. And then darkness no longer feels like an enemy.

Christmas means time spent with the family. We sleep longer, close our laptops and phones, bake gingerbread cookies, play board games and relish traditional Christmas food. My kids, especially the younger one, are looking forward to meeting Father Christmas again on the 24th, Christmas Eve. Father Christmas lives in Northern Finland, in Lapland, in a place called Korvatunturi (Ear Fell in English), where he has his secret toy and gift workshop.

Antonia’s story

In December my world is dark with city lights and rain. Christmas means too much office coffee and the sound of the city’s traffic on wet streets. It’s the time of the year when I am all caught up in my job while days are short and daylight is sparse. It produces a feeling of abstraction, like being a detached island in a sea of hectic gift buying, baking, cooking, traveling and doing all things Christmassy. I enjoy watching the circus and love to dip a toe in when I join the merry masses at Christmas markets and dinners with friends and colleagues.

city lights day light @tonivisual

When daylight is the city lights, and tires on wet concrete is the soundtrack. @tonivisual

Out there we fight the darkness with lights and sugar. The cities wear their Christmas markets like a scratchy, favorite winter garment. Renditions of jingle bells fill the air and the smell of Glühwein (hot spiced wine), anise, roasted almonds and melted chocolate lingers wherever you go.

Girls's night out on Christmas markets @tonivisual

Girls’s night out on Christmas markets @tonivisual

It even seeps down into the catacombs of the subway stations where commuters are joined by herds of shoppers and people dragging their live Christmas trees up the escalators.

On Christmas eve, I leave my island and join my family for cooking goose, the big Christmas tree with real wax candles and cozy nights with board games by the fire.

lone man in the subway station by @tonivisual

“lone man in the subway station” – the feeling when the season’s circus is all around but you’re not in it yet. @tonivisual

Tommy’s story

Every Christmas is different. Family changes. People grow older. Children grow up. A wedding takes place as two lives become one. A grandson will experience his first Christmas. My fourth Christmas with Grryo will be my last.

Every Christmas is the same. Family gathers. Friends share the joys of the past year while at the same time we always find something new to celebrate. We all experience some childlike wonder even though our hair starts to gray. And the richness of story, which is the core of Grryo’s purpose, stays with us always.

Merry Christmas!

George’s story

Around the Christmas table, I try to remember what have I lost and what have I gained during the past year. I tend to get extremely bored in family dinners and given the melancholy of the days I’m usually the one searching for excuses in order not to attend -the excuses always fail and I eventually attend the dinner. I avoid shooting photos with a camera or a smartphone and I only take instant photos with a Fuji Instax. The prints find their way straight into a box and I check them again after weeks or even months. There is a certain weight in religious celebrations that I am always unwilling to carry. The only fun thing is setting some goals for the coming year. There is usually an overload of goals and usually around February they vanish into thin air. I can’t give you any good advice regarding setting goals, but if I had to, I’d just say set a single goal for 2018 and try to achieve half of it; this seems already enough.

@exil_et_royaume

Berlin, 2017 @exil_et_royaume

Try to spend some quality time with your beloved ones. Even in the most boring dinners, there might be a sentence that will change you a bit. Use it as a chance to remember a day that for some reason everybody seems to appreciate. And remember your last year’s dinner and compare who was around and who might be absent. I am usually more happy about past year’s dinners than the coming ones. I remember the faces, the family table, the food. Last year it was the last Christmas dinner with the grandma; she won’t attend any of the future ones. Drink some wine, appreciate the presence of people and their presents too. And get slightly bored: this seems to me as the last shelter of creativity.

@exil_et_royaume

Berlin, 2017 @exil_et_royaume

Simran’s story

The word ‘Christmas’ fills our minds with snow, winter, Christmas decorations, joyful carols and various savored baked goodies. As it isn’t very Christmassy spirit on my side of the world, I choose to count my blessings as the festive season approaches and the year ends. Every year brings its challenges but we make the choice of whether we want to complain or appreciate our moments. Gratitude allows us to live in the present moment and continue to see the light by moving forward.

Borobudur Sunrise by @simranvues

Borobudur Sunrise @simranvues

It has been a good year for us at Grryo. We have started to grow slowly but surely with beautiful stories that keep us amazed at the huge talent that exists. As we share our Christmas stories at Grryo, where all of us live in various parts of the world, we celebrate it by making use of the digital world. It is remarkable what technology can do when used productively.

Colourful Christmas Decor by @simranvues

Colourful Christmas Decor @simranvues

The connections and relationships we have weaved together at Grryo, have made us feel like a family even if we have never met one another. I truly appreciate and value each one of them. It has been a great pleasure building friendships with all of them. Let us cheer for the jolly season and be hopeful for the blessings in the coming year ahead!

Sleek Architecture by @simranvues

Sleek Architecture @simranvues

The Grryo team would like to sincerely thank you for making 2017 a great year of stories shared! Whether you wrote stories or read them – or both! – a very big thank you for your continuous, amazing support. We wish you safe and happy holidays. Looking forward to more of your wonderful stories in 2018!

The Storytellers Vol. 16

The Storytellers Vol. 16

We feature a photo prompt each week in our Instagram account and ask our audience to share their stories to accompany the image.

 

We would love for you to join us and share what each photo says to you. In November we focused on wonderful photos by talented artists with stories that our followers contributed. So come and browse through this digest and let the stories move you to join us each week in December!

 

Photographer: aSa
Storyteller: @5luckydogsandabird

The staging area for the families was not supposed to look like the circus, or a street fair. But urgency won out over practicality as those still awaiting word of their loved ones fate needed a place away from the mayhem and the unceasing prying eyes of the press. Franklin Watson stood apart from the small groups made up of families talking in whispers to each other; quiet sobbing amongst the grandmothers. His grandchildren Evy and Martin had been in Sunday School.

Photographer: @samppa_kurjenpuu
Storyteller: Laura

They smiled, but to themselves only, because they knew one day they’d get their revenge, and revenge was sweet. But for now they parted ways as if strangers, no one the wiser to their scheme.

Photographer: Cedric
Storyteller: @dmreidmd

This is it!! I am never, ever, doing e-harmony again! She’s not coming, I know it. And all these other people know what’s up too. Jeez, how mortifying and how stupid! But she seemed real. We both liked bamboo, both of us lived with our relatives. She said she was ‘biggish’ which was no problem for me. There was some chemistry, I could feel it! Or not. She’s not showing, so maybe not. Oh well, I’m outta here. Probably dodged a bullet anyway. And next time, I’m not wearing this stupid backpack! Correction, there won’t be a next time!

Photographer: @drunadlerphotography
Text: @5luckydogsandbird

Seriously, Sheila, what’s with the side eye?

 

Pas de deux, part 2 by Christian Mondot

Pas de deux, part 2 by Christian Mondot

This is the second part of two articles re-assuming a relationship based on reciprocal admiration and a long conversation about the need for photography.

 

This story begins with two photographers: the first one, Christian, a Frenchman  living in Arcachon, a little town on the Ocean, 70 km away from Bordeaux. The second one, Valeria, an Italian living in Milan.

They have met by chance in the virtual land of an app called Instagram in 2013, and for the last four years they have been sharing their thoughts about photography through two other apps called Viber and Kik. They have never met in the real world until now, though they have been planning to do that sooner or later. As they share not only a love for photography but also the fact they don’t like talking about their personal work, they have decided to write about one another.

(Within dance the expression pas de deux refers to the number of dancers, men and/or women, performing together a sequence of a ballet or choreography.)

**********

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

My first time on Instagram was not that easy. Despite the kindness and the attention that every photographer seemed to pay to one another, the thought of facing the look of a huge community was embarrassing to me. So I quit. Then I came back and, as far as I can remember, Valeria Cammareri’s black and white work (@_soulkitchen_) was part of the work that just kind of helped me stay for good. Some weird, soft and hypnotizing charm coming out of the street moods and indoor shots attracted me.

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

And even today, though Valeria is too humble to agree with me, when I try to figure out how to define this peculiar charm, this silent evidence of talent, the only word coming to my mind is art. That is consequently why reading about Valeria’s work will probably lead you to find a new definition for the expression “writing a story” – or at least to reconsider it.

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

It’s not only because of her keen eye, which usually captures special moods and moments. It’s not only because she knows so much about people, their feelings, and could easily “write” about them with a camera. And it’s not only because this hypersensitive woman refuses to be considered an artist. It’s mainly because she will not accept or be easily satisfied with the other story she wants to tell you – the one that has been anonymously surrounding the shot. You have to follow Valeria’s invitation to the path.

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

This means you have to write your own story about it, about what you see and feel, and the way you see and feel it. And maybe the door will open at the end of the path. But there is more. Even when the first noticeable thing about her work is that quiet talent for composition that shows up in all of her shots, the evidence of a question appears and remains. Art is asking questions.

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Loneliness, people, fading or temporary situations, women, and urban life look like her daily companions on her inspiring journey. And I like to go along, knowing I will follow an invisible thread, surrounded by emotions and amazed by the composition, the shadows and the shapes.

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Should the answer lie somewhere between language and photography? Behind this hidden game with the viewer? Whatever. I’m not afraid to say I admire Valeria’s work. I do like the idea of feeling like I’m somehow part of the light, somehow part of the mood inside the shot. As if I could hear something coming out of it. Music, once more. Do not some silences sound like familiar music sometimes?

There is no search for perfection here. No taste for showing off any technical ability. No need for any reference to a big name in photography or quoting anyone to justify her work : Valeria knows exactly where she stands.

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

I have also been amazed by her use of color. There, again, don’t go looking for any imitation or sophistication – you would be disappointed. Once more photography is used as a means of translation for the chosen instant.  Another kind of language, somewhere beyond the sound of words. You are back on the path. Picture after picture, Valeria keeps you close to her, the invisible passenger, as life flows on. Somewhere beside reality.

 

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

This photograph (one my favorites, definitely) is a genuine example of Valeria’s ambiguous game between reality and life. The shape of a woman’s body shared with her own shadow. The closed door that both hides and reveals just a few touches of her shape. The balance of our mind. Where does real life stand? Here/There. A suggested beauty, an unwanted sensual pose within a so-close/so-far effect that strikes the eye.

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Looking at her pictures may also make you realize how much time or remembrance can both lose their significance. As if they did not have any influence upon your thoughts. You will let your mind enter the image, just the way she lets things pass her by, without again considering reality but letting it write its own parallel slow story.

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

So if time does not matter, duration, past or future, whether it is vintage colored or black and white, instants are quite valuable to her. Any instant has its own nature. It is just the eye that knows how to catch it that makes the difference, creating situations, inventing moods. Maybe that is the reason why every time I wander through her feed on Instagram, I am just expecting to find something new. And why I do find it every time.

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Her stunning game with light and space has always been something noticeable to me since I discovered her amazing work back in 2013. As in the picture above, driving us to some place beside the place with a man in a room, reflecting in a mirror and looking at a new place from what must be a window. Life is a frame.

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Part of her work features static situations. More exactly unknown people or friends but generally posing, either sitting or standing. I know she rather shoots isolated persons or will crop the image to focus on one person alone. But I also know how much she enjoys “stolen” moments, shooting as she walks along the city streets.

I love the way she shoots women, definitely. With this real sensation of being close to the situation, part of it, but without disturbing, tip-toeing. I have always been fascinated by the expression of the loneliness appearing through some of her pictures. Human condition and life, or beside life, again.

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Photo by Valeria Cammareri

Unobtrusive and quite invisible, Valeria catches situations in their very essence. Just as if they were the multiple and various parts of a unique secret. And suddenly our everyday life becomes a vehicle on which she is the passenger. Silently capturing the daily journey with her eye, simply showing what we did not notice but was there actually, just beside us.

Just sit away from any noisy mood, like you usually do to enjoy reading your favorite book, and let yourself slowly drift away. Soon you will be writing your own story from her images.

Christian’s work has been published in Shooter magazine, Art of Mob blog, and received honorable mention at the Mobile Photography Awards in 2013 and 2016. Christian says, “I’m not a photographer. I’m only an artist working with sounds, light and words. As a child, I started composing music, playing with a camera and writing. Some kind of compulsive practices, based on my relationship with the idea of time, remain and are related to my inner space, between light and shadow.”

You can find Christian’s work on Instagram and on his website.

For more of Valeria’s work, visit Instagram.

 

 

The Storytellers Vol. 15

The Storytellers Vol. 15

We feature a photo prompt each Monday and ask our audience to share their stories to accompany the image.
We would love for you to join us and share what each photo says to you. In September we focused on wonderful photos by talented artists with stories that our followers contributed. So come and browse through this digest and let the stories move you to join us each Monday in October!

 

This is what I said to him. I said, I am a widow. I have lived by myself for many years. I do not need your “special attention”. I have my friends who are enough to me. But, God forgive me, he was quite handsome and I agreed to a cappuccino. Now, what do you think I should do? He wants breakfast!

Photo by @shelserkin

His disappointment was palpable. She couldn’t begin to imagine all that he would be facing in this unforeseen journey she was about to be taking them on. But, she could sense that much. …And that he wasn’t disappointed in her…never, in her. And that was enough.
 @iheart_alfresco_photos

Photo by @le_cap

This was certainly not what he had imagined when coming to this town for the very first time… not at all. All the dreams within that small bag he brought were vanished. Now, standing alone, with wet feet and old clothes, he could only remember the old days when he was looking for something new to fill his soul. He sighs, realizing he already had it all and now he doesn’t even know if he has the strength he needs to start it all over again… to look at his wife’s eyes and tell her, “we’ll make it through this, Annie. I promised I would always take care of you, and I will”
Nagore @nhagore27
The Men in Black may already be on the scene, but they better think twice if they plan on leaving the Ladies in Red behind!
A Night with the Queens by Shamik Ganguly

A Night with the Queens by Shamik Ganguly

A look into the Latino LGBT nightlife of Queens, New York City

Queens is often called the “World’s Borough.” It truly is one of the most culturally diverse urban areas of the world, and Jackson Heights may very well be its heart.

Step off the Roosevelt Avenue subway stop and you will immediately be greeted by taco stalls, ethnic grocery stores, a smattering of Tibetan/Himalayan/Asian food joints, and a whole host of Latino eateries catering to a diverse mix of people from all across South America. This stretch of Roosevelt Avenue is also home to a thriving and vibrant Latino LGBT community.

The recent political climate in the U.S. and events like the one in Orlando have shoved some of the issues of the LGBT community into our national conversation. This is especially true for the transgender community – bathroom laws, acceptance in military, gender identity – you name it…every aspect of their identity has been politicized. A recent Huffington Post article highlights over 100 Anti LGBT bills pending at the state level.

Photo by Sandy Gennrich

Photo by Shamik Ganguly

All this media attention has also had some positive effect. More people are talking about LGBT issues today than perhaps ever before. Shows like Amazon’s excellent Transparent would have been unthinkable a few years ago. It has also made folks like me, who has had very little to no interaction with the transgender community, more curious about learning about their struggles. A recent, most excellent, heart-wrenching and powerful episode of HBO’s Vice “Trans Youth,” really opened my eyes to the issue of Transgender rights and their struggles. I strongly urge anyone interested to watch this episode where Vice correspondent Gianna Toboni provides an intimate look into their lives.

Photo by Shamik Ganguly

Colombian photographer Joana Toro has been documenting the vibrant Latino queer community in New York for years, and over time she has cultivated personal friendships with many of its members. So, when she offered to take a few of us to experience the nightlife, I jumped on it.

Being straight and having never been to a gay bar, let alone a gay nightclub, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Frankly, I was a little nervous about the whole thing. The evening started with three of us having a late but sumptuous dinner of steamed Momos and Thenthuk at a Tibetan restaurant before meeting up with Joana. After dinner, Sandy, Susan and I met up with Joana who took us on a mini walk of Roosevelt Avenue. It was getting close to midnight on a Sunday night and the vibe and energy on this stretch of Roosevelt Avenue was just starting to pick up. Music streamed out of the many bars and clubs that dot this diverse neighborhood. People lined up for late-night tacos. The occasional drunk stumbled by. The corner grocery store was still serving customers even though it was past midnight. We passed a pair of dressed-up Trans women ready to start the night’s festivities, while the girl on the corner was still working the streets.

Photo by Shamik Ganguly

To get into the spirit of the evening, we stopped at a bar for a drink and listened to a Colombian jazz band play some amazing music. We were told by Joana that we had a surprise coming. The club we were about to visit had a Miss Colombia Beauty Contest planned for the night and we were in for a treat. As we headed into the nightclub, I realized how underdressed I was – jeans, sneakers and a casual shirt with a big camera hanging around my neck.

Photo by Sandy Gennrich

Inside, it was a different world. The Latin dance music was blistering loud. Strobes flashed and the smoke machine created shadows that danced on their own. Bare chested bartenders served Corona Extra in buckets with their hair gelled to almost ‘Chihuly Glass’ perfection. Everyone had their sexy on. As the clock pushed closer to 1 am, the scene picked up with a few people taking to the dance floor, some couples more intimate than others. Some of the clientele gave us curious, amused looks. I realized all three of us were a minority here.

Photo by Sandy Gennrich

A little past one in the morning, I suddenly noticed heads turning towards the entrance of the club. The queens had started to make their way into the club. It was a sight like none I had experienced before. Surreal.

Photo by Sandy Gennrich

The parade of beauty contestants filed in and took their time with the finishing touches. Lipstick applied to the light of a mobile phone while others crowded (or hogged) the bathrooms. I never thought that the party would just be starting up if I showed up at 1 o’clock in the morning, on a Sunday night.

Photo by Sandy Gennrich

The contest kicked off with all the contestants coming forward, gleaming from head to toe in sparkling, skin-tight gowns, decked in stiletto heels, and with make-up and hair (or wigs) so remarkable for their perfection. Each contestant wore a sash with the name of a city in Colombia. This Miss Colombia Beauty Contest is like no other beauty contest in the world. The winner isn’t picked based on popular vote, or on some criteria of beauty. No, this contest’s winner is decided differently. The emcee for the night introduced the contest and started the elimination round quickly by drawing a ping pong ball out of a bag bearing the name of a city in Colombia that matched a name on a sash. The poor soul who’s city/sash was drawn came forward, the emcee said words about the contestant in Spanish and whipped the ping pong ball across the floor with a flourish. Contestant eliminated.

Photo by Sandy Gennrich

A few ping pong ball eliminations later, there was a break for a solo singing performance by a Diva. The lights went down and the spotlight honed in on her. She was pitch perfect, belting out what I can only assume were ballads of heartbreak in Spanish. The power of her performance and the raw emotion she wore on her face gave me goosebumps. She might as well be a Broadway star. The crowd was awestruck and started showering her with money. Soon, the floor was strewn with dollar bills all around. And all along her voice soared (don’t tell anyone that she was lip syncing).

Photo by Shamik Ganguly

At this moment, I realized how much members of this community support each other. And I realized that they have to. They don’t have a choice. Everyone rooted for every contestant. There was genuine love and support. I told one of the contestants that she looked beautiful. Her eyes lit up as she thanked me profusely and gave me a hug and posed for pictures. Looking at the faces of the contestants and the divas made me wonder, what kind of life are they hiding behind that perfect makeup? What kind of struggles do they go through every day?

Photo by Shamik Ganguly

Outside these walls, they may be a fringe minority – judged and misunderstood. A pawn in some politicians’ gender identity games. A subject of bathroom politics. But inside these walls, it is their Happy Place. Safe Place. They can be their own. Live their fantasies. Support each other. Love each other.

In here love trumps hate.

Photo by Shamik Ganguly

It was late – almost 3 am. Decision time was near. Stay for round two of the beauty contest, or head home for a few hours of sleep before the reality of showing up for work was near. The party supposedly goes on till 5-6 am, even on a Sunday night. Energized, excited and smiling we headed home, buzzing about this new world that Joana introduced to us. Hello hangover.

Story by Shamik Ganguly in collaboration with Sandy Gennrich.

A version on this post first appeared in The Light Diaries.