On this, the first day of spring, I pay homage to the Wonder of Winter.
At this point in the tropical year here in Canada, while I long for spring’s promise of hope eternal, my heart’s desire can be just as faithful to the frigid fallow and the embrace of winter’s rest and renewal.
Whether urban or rural, chaotic or orderly in nature, as spring beckons I take this moment to reflect back on the moments of pure clear light and misty murkiness that presented to me during the winter of my discontent.
It’s easy to run out into the swelter of summer and focus my lens on the colour and bounty of Mother Nature with nothing more than t-shirt and shorts adorning my body.
It’s quite another thing to don a parka, heavy boots, a hat and thick gloves and try to focus that same lens on the permeating permafrost.
So I dig deep, unafraid of the cold unknown, allowing the full extent of expression to come forth.
Cold. Sharp. Buried.
Winter offers my creative eye the unusual pairing of cold hands and warm promises.
I can choose to hibernate, hiding my thoughts and burying emotions, or I can embrace the harsh reality of winter’s dormancy and explore the “frozen” side of my art.
And when I do, bravery is rewarded.
There is nothing more satisfying to me than to capture the harsh, silent mystery of winter.
I cherish the times when I can escape the dull dampness of this season in the city with its grey, barren streets and brown snowless lawns, and head to the country where a mantle of white blankets the land in undisturbed splendor.
I feel a deep connection to nature in those rural moments.
O, the wonder of winter.
Listen. Can you hear it? It’s the sound of soft snowflakes falling through the branches to the forest floor.
It’s the sound of silence.
O, the wonder of winter.
Even the mundane can be beautiful if I take the time to see it while rushing from the car into the house.
My life is reflected in the tracks I leave behind in the snow (or the mud, pine needles and concrete I walk upon).
O, the wonder of winter.
There are, however, those moments in my winter of discontent when the city calls to me saying, “Come, David. Come capture the folly of fog as it settles across the valley in December.”
Bare trees. Black towers. Bleak expanse.
But how sublime is the subtlety of the pink sky born from the setting sun.
O, the wonder of winter.
And then the moment that makes it all worthwhile.
While I stand on an overpass freezing my butt off, having just taken that previous photo of the skyline, I spot something in the darkness below me.
The sun is at the perfect angle to reflect off the train tracks that run through the valley. Amidst the mist in the mystical forest emerge two filaments of light.
O, the wonder of winter.
Winter is poetry.
Ice is art.
Cold and darkness reveal light and playfulness.
Mother Nature provides sensual scenes for those willing to witness.
Sometimes it’s in your own backyard.
Sometimes it’s just down the road.
But always, the magic is there for you to capture in all its magnificence.
O, the wonder of winter.
David’s photographs and words can be found on his website, or visit him on Instagram and Facebook.
The Grryo community believes that every picture has a story, and that we are all storytellers by nature. Each week, on Wednesdays, we challenge our Instagram community with a story prompt and ask our followers to stop by and leave a line or two of fiction to accompany the featured photograph.
At the end of the month, our four favorite stories are published, along with the photos, on our website.
We would love for you to join us and share what each photo says to you. So come and browse through this digest and join us next month!
Photo by @hojjathamidi
I know, I voted for him. You did too. He was “better than the alternative”. He was going to get our jobs back. So we were wrong, he’s a liar and a schmuck.
Photo by @yiorgoskouts
I hadn’t seen him in a while. Thinking about it, it had been so long that I imagined he had silently passed away. Scrutinizing my own thoughts, I realized that it was more wishful thinking than actual belief. Seeing him now sent the familiar shiver and touch of frost through me, paired with a sudden shame of my own lack of human compassion. However, this man had caused so much suffering and grief to so many, my own family included, and never had he seemed to reflect for one second on that fact himself. When he passed by that old crack in the wall, it suddenly looked like a lightning above him. Now that would be appropriate, I thought, if you would be remembered as the one who was struck by concrete lightning, as a rare form of rightful justice in this insane world.
Photo by @mityai
He’d asked, hoping with all his heart, she’d say yes. She said no.
Photo by @copenhagenstreet
Open up, Lars, you slimy bastard! I want my money, so come on out! Or would you rather I smash this pretty window and drag you out right back through it?
Thank you to all the photographers and writers who participated in creating these stories. We hope you enjoyed them.
For three years now, I have been interviewing people, taking pictures and writing down some of my thoughts and experiences about Tottenham, the place I grew up in. To state that Tottenham is undergoing major changes would be an understatement. Last year I was writing about why campaigners are trying to halt proposed plans to demolish and rebuild large parts of the borough. The project is referred to as the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) – a 50/50 partnership between the Council and a private developer. But this is not another story about my perceptions of developments in the northeast London area. This is about my project, marigoldroadblog.
Ward’s Corner is home to London’s oldest Latin American community market.
Holcombe Road Market, Dec 2014
Initially I think I was motivated to practice different mediums for storytelling, and I liked blogging. It was a way to document my emotions, small joys, discoveries and, at times, disappointments. In the process of writing about random projects in Tottenham, trying to be funny (and failing), and working with different groups, I created a journal of sorts in the form of interviews, recordings, blog posts and images. Before I knew it, I had plenty of content and I had no idea what to do with it all. It was presented as a long list, in chronological order, on a WordPress site. It was no design marvel. Yet I cared about the change that had taken place in the area in a very short time – and a change had also taken place in me.
Bruce Grove, November 2016
Inside the Latin American Market
The speed of developments in the last three years triggered something that I found hard to articulate. There were, on the one hand, what I call the visible ‘signs’ of change in the form of new openings plus funding for some community groups. But on the other hand, there were still many, if not the majority, who could not afford to be part of the visible changes and whose homes were now under threat. It was difficult not to question some of the plans when I realised that, in reality, many of the new schemes were not for existing residents. Many of the proposals were not addressing the needs of the locals who needed it most.
Tottenham High Road
Tottenham and Edmonton Dispensary, December 2014
The plans to regenerate Tottenham felt like a drive not to enhance the lives of existing locals but rather to push them out, and I took it personally because, despite the good and the bad, Tottenham will always be home. Three years ago, I was enthusiastically interviewing start-ups and creative managers. My project captures that, along with the shift in my morale. I saw this shift in a local mother, who went from her community work to resident meetings, to running a weekly cook-up for local people. She’s now part of a community resistance group campaigning for homes in the area. But it was after I photographed a borough-wide demonstration against the proposed HDV to ‘regenerate’ that I found a place to stop, and it was then that I started to see a story emerge on my blog.
H Glickman, December 2014
River Lea Boats, Tottenham Marshes, April 2017
Some of the buildings I took pictures of have already disappeared, some of the shops have closed down and some of the buildings and spaces are in council plans to be redeveloped. I realised then that marigoldroadblog was a snapshot of this moment and an account of my journey. This project brought me to a place of clarity: I believe that if regeneration doesn’t reach, affect and stimulate existing residents, if it doesn’t provide more for working-class groups who already live in the area, then it’s wrong. Developers should be made to prove how they can achieve that before any plans are approved.
Camouflage at Downhills Park, November 2016
Turquoise at Yarmouth Crescent, January 2015
In 2016, I embarked on a postgraduate degree that focused on contemporary culture. It was in the process of a focused time researching that I discovered a way to explore many difficult questions surrounding social issues, my identity and class. Photography as a medium to document social change has been a valuable tool for me, although I still have a lot to learn. It has led me to sensitively consider and re-evaluate redevelopment plans in the area I grew up in.
To read more about Adjoa’s personal project on Tottenham, please visit marigoldroadblog.com and theearththedirt.com
Places in Tottenham
A selection of images from this project is on show at Bruce Castle Museum until the end of March 2018. Following the run, the images will be included in the permanent archive collection.
Other venues to see the exhibition:
Coombes Croft Library, Tottenham (site-specific images)
Loven Presents, Restaurant/Art Space N15 & N17
Based on the idea that “every picture tells a story,” we here at Grryo feature a photo of particular interest each week on our Instagram account. Chosen from thousands of submissions tagged to our page each month, the four most interesting are chosen for the unspoken story they tell. All viewers are invited to stop by and leave a few lines (or many) to tell the story as they see it through their eyes. We call this collaborative feature between photographer and writer, “Storytellers.”
At the end of the month, our intrepid Moderators select their four favorite stories to be published along with the photos right here on our website.
Now, without further ado, Grryo is proud to present our January 2018 Storyteller collaborations.
1. “Hey Lady” … Tell us what you think this woman may be thinking.
Photo by: @raveninrye
Story by: @5luckydogsandbird
Posted: January 3, 2018
“OMG! Is that the first man bun he’s holding up there?”
2. “Life On the Other Side of the Window” … Tell us what this photo’s story is telling you.
Photo by: @coblephotography
Story by: @sunny.owen.photography
Posted: January 10, 2018
“The young apprentice has searched years for the old wise woman so she can study the ancient arts. Spying her in a tea shop, she wonders how best to approach.”
3.“On the Subway” … This photo has a story to tell. What is it?
Photo by: @grace.brignole
Story by: @dmreidmd
Posted: January 17, 2018
“We were two girls in love and we didn’t mind if the whole damn world knew it. Simple as that. Well, maybe not that simple. But I knew I loved her and she said she loved me, and one day, soon maybe, we would talk to our parents. Until then we would ride this train til it stopped.”
4. “Nostalgia” … Tell us the story behind this story.
Photo by: @titika.ink
Story by: @arianatrinneer
Posted on: January 24, 2018
“In the silence of the early morning she had called out to him … sent her ache through silver threads of energy into the lightening sky … Haunt me, she prayed. Haunt me. Today, at the edge of the sea she could feel his eyes pressing upon her. It was all she could do to not turn around and break the spell.”
Well, that’s all for this month. We hope you enjoyed our Followers’ interpretations of these wonderful photos. Join us in February for our next edition of Storytellers. A big thank you to all our photographers and writers who participated.
I woke up in a dimly lit room.
I was amazed
to be alive!
M was there. He touched my face and kissed me. “She’s awake,” a nurse said, and added, “she’s too cold.” Another nurse placed a pre-heated blanket on my stomach under the quilt. A little later the first nurse took my temperature again. “She is still too cold.” The second nurse replaced the first pre-heated blanket with another. I felt uplifted, blessed and surprised.
I was standing in front of the large mirror in my bedroom in Copenhagen. It was winter outside, and freezing. I made an effort to let what had happened to me during the past three weeks sink in: I was with M in the UK where he worked. It had been this lovely long summer, with mesmerizing light every day. I was occupied with plans and pictures and poems, so entirely happy and inspired. I felt healthy and fit. Maybe a bit tired now and then…but who cares? I had been diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety, and struggled with the condition for the last eight years. That spring this frozen darkness which had taken over my whole existence was melting away. Since I was a child I have suffered from anxiety and depression, but never as massive as in those eight years. In September 2016, I had been well for six months. Then I began to feel sick in a more physical way. It was diffuse, but always in combination with fatigue and stomach pain. I went to the doctors.
Everything happened fast: tests, scans, examinations. For two and a half weeks the diagnosis was uncertain and I was hoping that it might “just” be precursors to cancer, because the doctors couldn’t see any tumor on the scans. But late one afternoon a surgeon called with the final results: “You’ve got cancer, and a rather large tumor.” Silence. Then she added: “I checked the results from your four-year-old tests; they showed precursors to cancer. Something should have been done back then. You should file a complaint when all of this is over.” And then she told me exactly how much she and her colleague had to remove from my body. I was shocked.
One and a half days later: the surgery.
Standing in front of the large mirror: grief, vulnerability and sadness about what had happened were in a chaotic fight with relief, strength and joy to be alive. I have always had problems accepting my own body, and now I really looked worse than ever, way beyond miserable. My abdomen was swollen, my chest flatter than usual, my arms were skinny and my cheeks hollow. I need to see a psychologist, a psychoanalyst, a healer or maybe a priest? I need help!!! I thought. I can’t handle this alone.
Instead of crying, a profound calm and clarity suddenly overwhelmed me.
At that point I made peace with my body.
For the first time in my whole life I didn’t criticize it.
I was grateful. My body was working on my survival, to heal, to get back into balance. I accepted it completely. A totally new and surprising experience. I decided to heal myself without help from any therapist. Mixed feelings would wave over me in the times to come. Sometimes I nearly drowned in helplessness, vulnerability, sadness and confusion, but that would subside, and the mood from when I woke up after surgery took over and saved me from sliding into a long-term depressive state. A sense of being uplifted and miraculously protected carried me through the following months.
During the surgery all lymph nodes in my abdomen were removed, along with the cancer and anything else doctors feared the cancer could have spread to. I was afraid of developing lymphedema. Removed lymph nodes are lost. They don’t come back. But the system can make new vessels for the lymph fluid to circulate in the body. The lymph system is important for keeping the body healthy. Lymph fluid protects against infections, and the lymph nodes cleanse the lymph fluid before it enters the blood vessels. I did research. I consulted websites from experts, medical centers and hospitals all over the English speaking world. I found the right food to eat, and how to perform lymph massage, and when I could touch my stomach again I started to do this massage every day. And I meditated. I also did a mild exercise program until I – slowly, little by little – could do bits and pieces from my Ashtanga yoga routine. Exercise should not be exaggerated in the beginning. It can make the condition worse. The most effective thing was lying on my yoga mat, stretching, moving and trying to tune in to my body’s needs – what kind of movement, what kind of food, how much rest – and follow its signals. As a mild start, I walked. Walking stimulates the lymph system. So the third day after surgery, I went out. It was a Nordic dark-all-day day, and freezing. It was raining a little bit too, and the air was sharp and fresh. I usually hate that kind of weather, but that day:
I was floating.
I hardly felt any pain.
A strange light filled me with joy, energy, gratitude.
A year before I received the cancer diagnosis, I discovered that my hairdresser, D, was a psychic and a healer. Since I was a small child, I have felt a spirit, an angel – or maybe God – was watching over me. In difficult times I would talk and listen to that…energy? Ask it for help or protection, or advice. But during my depression I lost the contact. So when D gave a course in “Connecting with your spirit guide”, I attended the course and re-established my connection to this protective, guiding, healing, knowing-it-all energy. It was incredibly easy! As if it had been waiting for me to make contact again. I call this energy: Divine. I had always kept my religious or spiritual life to myself, but I needed someone to talk to about these matters on my way out of the depression and anxiety, and especially during the three weeks from my first test to the diagnosis. D was my constant support and help.
When I received the cancer diagnosis, I consulted Divine. Divine told me I was about to be transformed. I interpreted the words through my worst perspectives, and thought I was going to die: that something would go terrible wrong during surgery, and that I wouldn’t wake up again. I was scared. I was sad. There was so much I wanted to do in this dimension, and now there was no time. Divine tried to calm me down. One day when I was resting, I suddenly felt I was being healed by some light-spirits. It was wonderful and strange and very real. Like they were making me ready for surgery. Later l told D about it. We were sitting in her salon, talking for ten minutes before the next customer arrived. D smiled. “Yes I know,” she said. “They are still with you. I can see them.” It didn’t convince me, and I prepared for parting with this world. Which is why I felt such surprise and joy when I woke up after the anesthesia. From then on, I listened to Divine with trust and no fear. I can say much about that, but in short:
All areas of my life have been deeply affected
As I said earlier, I have experienced recurrent depression and anxiety since childhood. Even on “good days”, I still tend to be a little nervous, often in combination with low self-esteem. I have built up a way of forcing, fighting and pushing myself to do a lot of things, no matter how frightening, exhausting, painful they might be, just to appear normal, or not to disappoint anyone. That underwent a change. A transformation. A greater sense of purpose is permeating my life. And that provides me with the feeling that I – just like anybody else – have my own right to be in this world. I’m still nervous, and tend to sense everything without filter, but at the same time I feel protected and secure.
Every third month I go back to the hospital to be scanned and examined for precursors to cancer. In October 2017, all results had been fine for one year!
To see more pictures by Titika Røtkjær, go to Instagram.
‘In my next life, I want to be a cat.’ Charles Bukowski, On cats
I knew I had more lives left. So when the moment came, I knew what my choice would be. ‘In my next life, I want to be a cat’ were my last words on Earth as a human. If you say it at the right time the magic can operate, and it did. It always did…
By chance, I always remember my previous lives. It takes a little while to remember, but after few weeks, the knowledge and awareness of past experiences become conscious. Time is needed. I was two months or so when I realized I had become a cat. I felt dizzy at first, but day by day I felt more comfortable and started to explore my new territory, every corner of it.
I am shy, a little frightened of everything. Noises sound different than before and I am so tiny that everything looks gigantic from this perspective. It is so intriguing to step into this world and discover it as if it were a new one. Cat’s eyes give me a deep awareness of things, something that wasn’t there when I was a human.
I enjoy being a cat and experience new sensations every day. I love jumping like a kangaroo, and moving like a crab with all my hair standing up. Spinning around, playing with my tail, is such fun. Sometimes I stop for a few seconds because I get dizzy, and then I start again until I fall on my back and keep playing, shaking my paws in the air. I value each moment for itself, and it’s a great joy to live it so fully.
I love inaccessible places, and I find my ways are becoming more adventurous each day. The stronger I get, the more I experiment. It took me some time to be able to jump on the low table, then on a wooden chair. From the chair I could access the library. I like to walk on it, surfing between books and plants I can play with. Once on the library, I was able to climb on to furniture I couldn’t access before. I enjoy this point of view every day now; most of the time I sit there in the morning.
I’m playful and I love to hide in the most unexpected places. Things move and I am always keen to stop them in different ways. I also like to watch the human I live with and surprise him when I think he can’t see me. Hide-and-seek is truly my most favorite game.
I love corners and I usually anticipate my human’s moves to frighten him when he comes by. At the very beginning I loved the grey armchair, but now I prefer a 70s one because I can watch him more easily from there when I rest. Any noise he makes, I just open my eyes to see what he’s doing, in a glimpse.
In the morning he writes on a small table in his bedroom. If I’m not playing around or asleep on his knees – he’s quite comfortable, I have to say – I like to sit there and watch his pencil moving. It’s quite fascinating, but soon I can’t stop myself from playing with it. I love to tease him. I guess I’ve kept my great sense of humor. Look at my face, sometimes I smile from the inside…
I love light. At night, I play with my shadow reflected on the wall because of the light. Windows are still my favorite places. I love looking down the street, at people passing by. I hate motorbikes and trucks. They are too noisy for this quiet, peaceful life.
Each time I hear their sounds, I escape from the window and go hiding in the library. There I’m safe and I feel better and I can enjoy the books I push down. He likes to pick the books I play with, my human. Maybe he’s curious to know about my readings…
It’s true that we have things in common. We both love rain. I remember the first time I saw rain as a cat. Its sound against the window was magical. I am more sensitive to sounds now and I really enjoy hearing them as if they were little songs in my heart.
It’s been a few months now. It’s just the beginning of this road, but I already enjoy it. I sleep fifteen to sixteen hours a day. I’m peaceful and quiet. My world is a territory I’m never too bored to explore. I eat around twenty times a day in small portions. I have my crazy moments. I can be sweet and ask for attention when I need it, or I can be wild and independent, refusing caresses when I’m not in the mood for it. I’m free. I enjoy any occasion to play. I’m a cat. I live in the moment.
The wind strikes the hillsides mercilessly and all the boats at the tiny port resemble carved pebbles. Late in the afternoon, a steep road pushes the travelers towards Chora, and as the sun sets behind the village, one can only see an outline: electricity pillars, TV antennas and a cluster of houses in front of the orange sky. It is a settlement stretching oblongly on the top of the island, resembling dice bestrewed after the only game played under that sky once upon a time. Hills swallowing one another wrapped with dry stacks – and down below, the sea.
A stripe of barren land amidst the sea: this is Anafi. A dozen Saints supervise the island from their churches, scattered guardhouses made by whitewash with a lonely window to the Aegean Sea. In the taverns of Chora, which in fact are just homes with welcoming courtyards, the talk of the locals always leads to some Saint who helped them in times of need. A woman is narrating how she survived while swimming: behind the high waves she saw the church of Agioi Anargiroi. If she could escape death that day, she promised to celebrate a liturgy. Tonight, she is narrating that story again, with her hands crossed tight upon her chest.
All those locals staring at the horizon narrate past stories about the waves and simultaneously observe the travelers. The elderly women, dressed in black, banish their mourning by looking at the linen clothes of the vacationers; their outfits betray middle-class salaries and a complicated life. All you need to say is “hello” in order to make the local heads turn the other way, and then one is free to cross the narrow alleys without being observed anymore. This word seems more than enough to eradicate the label of Stranger, in the exact same way the smoke of the slow boat that carried the same Stranger to Anafi is vanishing: like a doctrine that dies.
It doesn’t take that much time to get used to that settlement on the top of the rock and the initial indulgence soon transforms to insouciance. It is liberating to climb the stairs between walls that do not oppress you and at the same time act like a shelter from the howling wind. Up here, the trade is still in its archaic version and the feeling of being broke or petty is not a misfortune but a chance to gain access to whatever remains from life if you subtract all the norms: the sea, the soil and the bushes, with their peppery scent, stand there like an unripened summer.
At Klisidi, a broad beach full of tamarisk trees, an occasional crowd takes a breather next to the stormy sea. The bodies that got shaped through gyms and weight control prefer to lay down complacently ashore, their feet digging holes in the sand. All this life of maintenance and preservation has dried the sense of danger within them and the only ones swimming are the middle-aged, faces that have no illusions of perfection to lose. The desire to exist prevails against the desire to lessen the risk.
By contrast to the pretentious Santorini, the tacky trend of the sun-bed is non-existent here. One brings tomatoes, cheese and a bottle of water and tries to settle in beneath the tamarisk trees. You then have all the time in the world to see the sun following its orbit, to imagine the waves crashing at the Monolith, to observe the ants running in the hot sand, and to feel grateful for the breeze that visits the beach every now and then and cools down the salted skin. The rough sea bursts on the peaceful landscape, exactly as a man bursts when smothering from injustice. But, alas, you must know how to endure this prehuman rage: you don’t need berms against the sea.
The curves of the white houses imitate the curves of the landscape. Those suspicious roofs have seen people migrating to distant cities and never return. The roofs know that a hundred and fifty heads will sleep there during the winter, people who won’t have the courage to leave the house when the wind will howl without mercy. They will expect a last dosage of hope from the boat that appears only twice a week, like a lost frame from a Visconti movie. It is the resurgence of the moral that keeps them alive though, not the supplies that the boat unloads.
All those hills that the old bus is daily traversing on a slow speed isolate Chora from the rest of the island. The rattlesnake roads seem to push away the Monolith, which stands all alone on the edge, with a monastery on top. One can gaze from the butte two islands with vivid names, Pachia and Makra, both of them always being the first to taste the weather’s mood. The hikers on the way to the Monolith look at each other with some sort of complicity. None is revealing his secret, none succumbs to the temptation of sharing his life with a stranger he met on the way to endlessness.
Like dots on an arid landscape, people hike towards the white rock as if they are sailing on a sea of traumas.
Later in the evening, the lanky girls sit on the pavement of the little square and the locals stare at their wet hair. It is a spot that the alley broadens and seems to be demarcated by the two mini-markets of the island. The men sit on the chairs of the coffeehouse and listen to the girls’ laughter for a while, before they once again sink into their talk about daily life. They talk about hunting, share thoughts about council tax, as well as ideas on how the water will reach the fields. They contemplate the future of the island’s accommodation facilities. They light cigarettes, they blow their smoke and, when the only thing left from them is the filter, they stub them out on the ashtray with fingers made of steel. They have already forgotten the girls in their summer clothes, and they are so engaged in their talk that they fail to remember a basic rule: in the ashtrays of Anafi there always rests a wet napkin, so that the ashes won’t disperse.
It’s not the people that let the night fall, but the square itself. The nights in Anafi have been identical for centuries: a luminous piping on the top of a rock and beneath it an unfathomable darkness. The talks seem to be recorded by a stenographer who’s using his last chalk. But humidity erases the words, and when the sun rises, no one remembers last night’s promises. This ritual is repeated continuously, without interruption, every night. Yet, the day that one embarks on the morning boat, he will see Anafi for one last time. Up there, on the top of the rock, Chora appears like a white, shaky line. It is, of course, drawn by chalk.
What does a Grryo Christmas look like? We asked each member of the Grryo Lead team to share their heartfelt experiences…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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” – the feeling when the season’s circus is all around but you’re not in it yet. @tonivisual
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
Seriously, Sheila, what’s with the side eye?
It was the dark season.
Days melted into nights:
We had to shine for each other.
Walking around late, I wanted to go home, when I saw him:
Reading a book under a street lamp.
Did he see me?
He closed the book and walked away.
The light followed him.
I followed him too.
And as he passed a bench, he dropped the book onto it.
Gifts and messages may arrive in unexpected forms, I thought,
and snatched the book, put it in my bag,
and went after him.
I nearly lost him. I ran. I stopped. I turned a corner.
There he was: heading for the river.
The River Tyne glistened and whispered with a cold breath.
I listened and stared into the surface.
It moved patiently.
He suddenly slowed down.
I looked up. I felt dizzy.
The earth tilted.
Secret songs from the universe
drowned the night in silence.
The light he radiated cracked the shadows, and expelled the darkness.
Sometimes far, sometimes close, he played with distance,
as if he was showing me that it was not real.
He stopped and stared directly at me,
everything around us became bright and peaceful.
Then: he disappeared!
I may have blinked? But I cannot explain.
The night overwhelmed me with clear sharp silence and frozen beauty.
No one in sight, no loneliness either:
A soft, yet intense energy lifted me.
All the past was gone
– except its beauty.
Nothing was left
– except a blessing.
I went home. The book.
My hands were shaking, and a letter fell from under its cover:
Of course you would notice the man with the strange light.
And, my love, even though it was late and the town was empty
on your way back, you must have felt it:
We do not walk alone.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
You can find Christian’s work on Instagram and on his website.
For more of Valeria’s work, visit Instagram.
An Interview with Brendan Ó Sé
The Mobile Photography Awards are currently receiving submissions for their 7th annual competition. The iPhone Photography Awards have a call for entries through March of 2018 and the Mira Mobile Prize winner was recently awarded for 2017. These are just a few of the photography competitions available for smartphone photographers throughout the world. When other contests are added, locally and globally, then photo enthusiasts shooting with smartphones have numerous opportunities to submit their creative work for an opportunity to rise to the top.
In the past few years I’ve submitted my own work to these and other contests, on a local and global scale. I’ve experienced the rush of having pieces selected as winners and honorable mentions and the disappointment of rejection. I wondered, as I prepared my entries for yet another contest, if I could gain some insight from someone who has experienced these competitions from two different perspectives. Brendan Ó Sé immediately came to mind, so I caught up with him to see if he would offer a couple of thoughts. An interview ensued which I’m gladly passing on to you.
A word about Brendan before we begin. He is a highly recognized photographer throughout the world with top photos in all of the aforementioned competitions and many more. Brendan was part of the original Apple World Gallery of images shot on the iPhone 6 in 2015. His photography was showcased on billboards and posters in major cities around the world. He has also served on the juror panel of the Mobile Photo Awards and will enjoy that role yet again this year. For readers to gain a greater understanding of his talents I will be including a link to his website and social media connections at the conclusion of this interview.
Apple World Gallery – Brendan Ó Sé
Brendan, I want to thank you for this opportunity. Will you briefly describe your involvement in mobile photography contests?
I’ve been a judge on a number of them now over the past few years. It’s great to be on the other side of things after previously being an entrant. I guess having been fortunate enough to have won in the major mobile photography competitions (MPAs, iPhone Photography Awards and Mira Mobile Prize), the organizers invited me to judge in these competitions. It’s been a great experience, and also one that comes with responsibility to ensure the best images get the recognition they deserve.
Brendan Ó Sé
Would there be any advantage to try to guess what a certain juror is looking for and submit photos according to his/her tastes?
From my own experience I know how hard it is to put together a series of images to enter a competition. The selecting part is easy. The hard part is deselecting. The thing about the MPAs is that Dan Berman (founder) assigns categories randomly to judges. So, it is very unlikely that I would get the Street Photography category. Also, speaking personally – though I am sure it is the same for most judges – I would be hesitant to select an image which people might feel was very similar to my own style of photography, unless it was a stellar shot that could not be ignored.
I probably will repeat myself in this interview, but I really believe you’ve got to go with your instinct on these things and not be guided by what you think judges might like. I know I have entered competitions thinking a particular judge likes a particular style, and entering accordingly. It never works out.
Brendan Ó Sé
How important is the storytelling aspect of submitted photos in contests?
Photos are springboards for stories. Strong images will connect in a way that the viewer can enter the image and allow his or her imagination to build on what is presented.
How does composition figure into selecting a photo for submission?
Hugely. A technically perfect photograph cannot compensate for a poor composition, but conversely a dynamic and engaging composition can overcome technical flaws. For me, photography is always about composition, story and the moment.
Brendan Ó Sé
How daring should a photographer be when it comes to originality? Should all caution be thrown to the wind or is it good to exercise discipline according to the “rules” of photography?
I am not really one for rules. Rules can stymie creativity. Again it comes back to trusting yourself. If you are an experimental photographer and entering the MPAs, there are categories there just for you, like Digital Art/Photo Illustration, Visual Effects and The Darkness.
I think it is a good idea to check the winning shots in the different categories from previous years to get an idea of the types of images that can fit.
Brendan Ó Sé
What do you find are the most common mistakes people make when entering smartphone photography competitions?
Well, the biggest mistake, one which surprisingly does happen, is to enter an image that is not shot and edited on a smartphone.
Other mistakes would be when you have three killer shots of the same person or the same location, but they are all in essence just variations of the same. Don’t enter the three. You are diluting your chances, as all three will not be selected.
Take some time to check previous winning shots in the different categories to see if your shot is a match in type. Often entrants will post photos that just do not fit the category. In saying that, I must commend Dan for ensuring high-quality images entered in the wrong category do not get looked over.
Brendan Ó Sé
Do you believe it is helpful to get second opinions about what to enter?
Definitely, but ultimately you’ve got to trust yourself.
Brendan Ó Sé
So let’s say I go to someone for confirmation about my photo selection. Who would you recommend I seek out?
I have a couple of people who I would trust. My wife is probably the best judge. A simple nod or shake of the head does it for me with her. I would say to reach out to a photographer friend who will be honest with you, but ultimately go with your guts and enter what you feel are your best shots.
Brendan Ó Sé
Brendan, you’ve been extremely helpful. To finish up, if there is one most important tip you could give someone entering a smartphone photography contest, what would it be?
Prepare for disappointment. You probably are not going to win. I know that sounds harsh, but it is the truth.
But here’s the thing. If you enter a competition, you want to win. You want all others to come after you. There is no other motivation. When you don’t win, you can feel despondent. You examine your work. You hold it up to that of the winners. You cast an overly-critical eye on it and wonder where the hell you are going in your photographic journey. But, this feeling passes. And it passes because the endeavour, the hobby, the passion you have for it cannot be diminished by the choices of a judge or judges. No, the passion, the desire to show what you see and to show how you see it surfaces and you get out and you shoot again. And you enjoy it. You get back to looking at others’ photos and they inspire you and the whole things kicks off again. You want to learn. You want to sharpen and sensitise that eye to see better. And you begin to dream that next time will be your time. You’ll win.
I guess what I am saying is competitions are great if you do well, but they sure do suck if you don’t. Photography should not be a competitive pursuit.
My advice to anyone entering a competition, be it photography or not, is to always get back to why you do it. You will find that the answer is because it’s fun. If it’s not, then give up. Find another hobby.
Brendan, I want to thank you for giving us all a better idea of how we can remain passionate about our smartphone photography and remain focused on what is important at the same time. I know I’ve certainly learned so much from you in this interview and I’m sure many others have as well.
Learn more about Brendan through his website and following his social media on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Tommy Wallace is a smartphone photographer based in central Arkansas with life experiences branching as far as the Pacific Island of Guam. Locally he photographs the people and places of Arkansas and participates in photo competitions close to home as well as internationally. Follow his insights on smartphone photography through his SmartPhotos Blog where this interview first appeared.