Fears and Memories in Helsinki

Fears and Memories in Helsinki

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March of fears and memories. At the end of every downward road the sea appears frozen. Huge slices of ice are floating on the water like melancholic islands. Blue eerie light all day long. The wind is whipping the faces as a reminder that winter never really ends here. It’s a frozen waft that comes from somewhere far away, probably from the history of Helsinki, that cast off the despots but not the architects.

“It’s getting dark, too dark to see”

The trams, sleepy but obedient, are carrying the thickest winter coats. The seams have unraveled due to the double layer of pullovers beneath them and the eyes read the co-passengers like a book with a beginning, but without a middle or an end. Most of these thick coats are disembarking in front of Central Station, its entrance always covered by a shadow that seems amphitheatric. Doors open and close and the beggars are walking around, fishing only the bad-tempered passengers: it’s a glance of solidarity that they’re searching for, not the money in the wallet. One should spend a quarter of an hour in front of Central Station, because on that spot all the neighborhoods of Helsinki are condensing; on that spot the wrinkles on the foreheads seem like frozen railroad tracks.

“Hand in hand”

One can never really leave Central Station behind, not even when you see the buildings by Alvar Aalto and think that you’ve landed in another city. On this latitude and longitude, modern architecture resembles slices of concrete ice, which must rise above the everlasting piles of snow. The contemporary buildings are quiet in the interior: the laughter and talks of people seem to be less loud than whispers. Quite often, the voices seem to be getting distilled by the tall windows and they soon convert to light. The high heels of a woman, the keys of a guard, the crying of a baby, all that noise tends to challenge the serenity: it’s the denial to surrender in the dogmatism of walls.

“The orange balloon”

The studious visitor, the one that carries in his luggage grief but not hope, is usually jealous of the people sitting inside the cozy cafés. The windows are steamed by faces exhaling words; human snouts crouching into wide coffee pots. Aside, on tiny plates, sweets not bigger than sugar cubes present proudly themselves: they cost more than the coffee. All those underpopulated tables are becoming a cheap allegory about life up north: people diffused in a territory, trying to muzzle the weather by shutting a heavy door in its face, the same way that one is shutting his eyes in order to forget.

“Temple”

One is tripping over the threshold of the Ateneum or Kiasma museums in order to learn something that has little to do with art. In Ateneum, among sorrowful paintings hanging from black walls, a newlywed couple is shooting marital photos. A blonde woman is dragging her wedding gown on the stairs and next to her the husband is dressed in a fine suit. The photographer is chasing them on the staircase, is searching for them on the halls and is climbing on the first floor for a panoramic photo of the couple; everything is taking place among paintings that talk more about the ones that passed and less about the people left behind. An older man is staring at a painting by Albert Edelfelt, the one with the coffin of the young child on the boat; the man turns afterwards, his head towards the newlyweds. He doesn’t applaud nor disdain them: he seems to be playing a match of chess in his head, where destinies of happiness and sorrow battle against each other. If, one has to judge by his gaze, the grim version of the destiny is leading.

“Shadows are falling”

Whatever can’t be easily controlled is often getting drowned in a glass of alcohol. In the city’s market-halls, where the wooden kiosks stand next to each other selling fish, cheese and souvenirs, the locals anchor in the tables for a glass of Jaloviina. It’s a strong drink that burns the innards and fires up the talk. At the port’s market-hall, most of the people sit next to the windows and cover themselves with blankets that look like sheepskin. They stare at the little ferry that returns back from Suomenlinna, panting in the frozen sea. The glasses are getting a refill every now and then and the view of the six little islands doesn’t cause any feeling of security: the old fortress has become an outdoor museum.

“One step at a time”

The sea is everywhere. Once in a while, somewhere ashore, somebody is exiting a steaming building and runs towards the sea. He or she is half naked and is holding a towel. A dive for a couple of seconds into the cold sea and then the person runs back inside again. The less courageous prefer to stay away from the sea and they just sit on the chairs outside of the sauna. They return two, three times inside the steaming building and they repeat the ritual as if this is a ceremony of purification. It’s a siesta that has to be done with eyes wide open and the body suffers without tears.

“No surrender”

March of fears and memories. Up here, on the frozen north, the spring has been waiting for months around the corner, that overrated season of the year that always arrives triumphant and merciless. A long winter is trying to stay behind; all that silver light of the snow is the deepest version of darkness. One is visiting Helsinki in order to embark, sooner or later, in the northernmost metro of the world. The underground itineraries are never too distant, but they resemble journeys under the skin. The metro stations seem to be built on the stomach of eternal rocks and the itineraries carry on endlessly. But there comes, after all, one day that the passenger is emerging on the surface. The sun has gained some courage and appears finally in the sky while the trees are wearing their leaves again. It’s an almost violent moment, which romanticism falsely taught us to assume as peaceful. Whatever emerges then on the surface is just buried fears and memories marching on together.

“Ice reflections”

The doors of the market-halls remain open and the windows of the cafés are not steamed anymore. People avoid museums. They prefer to stand on the piers of the city, where both small and big boats are getting ready for shorter or longer journeys. A man and a woman are embarking on a vessel. They are still young and they put a basket between them. They are going to Suomenlinna in order to stretch a tablecloth on the ground and clink their wine glasses. A person they loved passed earlier this spring. They are going to the old fortress to talk, to get emotional, to laugh and to stare at the city from afar. Meanwhile, the people left behind on the piers of Helsinki are observing the scene and turn into potential painters. The shorter journeys are for the boats; the longer ones, for the people.

“A distant farewell”

“The future islands”

THE END

Building up a connection with Beijing

Building up a connection with Beijing

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Building up a sense of connection with Beijing through the iPhone lens – by Paul Yan

It is one thing to live and work in a city of another land other than the motherland you were born in; it is another to get used to and be in peace with it even though you have lived there for ten years. Here’s my story of how I gradually developed a sense of connection with the city of Beijing through the act of photography, which is non other than mobile photography.

I was born and raised in Taiwan, which has been geographically and culturally part of China since antiquity, but not idiologically, since 1949. Although the official languages of both lands are practically the same, the written forms are very different. People of Taiwan write in the traditional Chinese characters, while citizens of China write in the simplified form that was developed and finalized in the 1950s. The difference between the two is so great that it’s common that a person who is accustomed to one form doesn’t recognize the other. The differentiation can be found in many aspects of life including ethics, patterns of behavior, aesthetics and values.

I had been working in the music production industry of Taiwan since 1990 and was fortunate enough to have worked briefly in Beijing in the mid-1990s, participating in producing a few musical projects that are now lauded by the Chinese media as classics of the Chinese rock and pop music. However, I didn’t feel the need to move to China to continue my music production career as I had enough work to do in Taiwan. It was in 2005, after being encouraged and invited by my friends, that I moved to Beijing to continue my music production career. Everything had been going very well with work, I’d made many new friends and I had been supported by old and new customers. However, it was pretty hard for me to really establish a comfortable rapport with the city.

Everything changed after I started to take photographs, mainly in the street of Beijing, with my mobile phone in 2015. On my days off from long hours of studio work, I frequently went out and roamed the streets of the city for over 6 hours at a time to shoot to my heart’s delight. That became my only mode of exercise to keep me fit. I found myself opening up and chatting a lot with strangers in the street while taking photographs with them in the frames as the human elements. Sometimes environmental portraits are made after brief conversations with my human subjects. Being mindful of the happenings in the streets and parks, feeling the heartbeat of the city, I began to build up a real sense of connection and belonging through the act of mobile photography.

It’s a splendid myth that the act of mobile photography has brought me closer to the soul of the city of Beijing after living in it for ten years.

 

[Smoke on the Cluster]

You can find roadside Barbecue stalls everywhere in Beijing, and all over the country, when the climate is warm enough. Roadside BBQ is a major pastime for the people in the evening; you can smell the smoke and scent from afar. Upon seeing this stall, I asked the chef if I could photograph him working – he was totally cool in front of the lens. My right hand almost got burned while taking this one as I was holding my phone very close to the grill while he was sprinkling spice over the clusters of mutton.

 

[The Day After]

After kissing my mother goodbye at Beijing airport, I decided to stick around outside the airport building to take advantage of the overpass under which people would walk by. I pre-focused on the floor a few meters in front of me, held my phone right on the floor to get the composition and then waited, squatting… A couple of minutes later, this lady walked by and I released the shutter with the phone’s ear-buds cable as she just got into the frame walking in full stride. Thanks to her curiosity about what I was doing, she glanced my way over her shoulder while the photo was shot.

 

[A Stroll with Siddhāttha]

Early winter morning stroll in the woods, I felt peace and imagined walking behind Mr. Siddhāttha Gōtama, aka the Buddha (the Awakened One) – listening to him teaching me how I could practice to be free from all attachments to ego and everything. This was shot with the Slow Shutter Cam app in Motion Blur mode, focus-locked on the nearest tree, scanning the phone vertically to achieve that blur.

 

[Progressive, in Raving Lights]

A photographic tribute to all the classic progressive rock bands like Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, Rush and Marillion, etc.. This was shot on an overpass with the Procamera app set to 1/2 second at ISO 32. I focused on the floor and wiggled my phone vigorously when these people walked into the frame to take the image. The light streaks were headlights and tail lights of passing cars.

 

[Tread the Path]

I was experimenting here, taking low-angle shots with the Manfrotto Wide-Angle add-on lens. After locking the focus on the ground in front of me. I set the shutter speed and ISO in the ProCamera app in my iPhone 6 Plus, then squatted on the edge of the pavement by the boulevard leading to Tian-An-Men Square in Beijing and waited for my prey. I had the top edge of my phone right on the pavement and tilted the lens up towards the low afternoon sun with the intention of including only someone’s legs in the frame. I saw a man coming by while another was in the distance. The shutter was fired when the one near me was about to walk out of the frame and the one in the distance was right in the triangle formed by the former’s stride.

 

[Kalyāna-Mitra – Lesson from a Tree]

This tree, among others, has always been erect on the bank across the small river close to where I live, and can be see from my balcony every day. It changes from being leafy to bare and the cycle goes on through all the seasons. It has become one of my friends in nature and has been a living reminder to me of the lesson of impermanence and equanimity in all conditions. It’s my “Bodhi Tree” if you like. One day, I decided to shoot a photo of us two together…

 

[Into the Unknown]

I was strolling in the eastern downtown area of Beijing one afternoon when I came upon this entrance/exit of a subway station. An escalator connected the station to the ground level where a translucent blue canopy had been installed. Refracted blue light fell on the walls and the ceiling inside the tunnel, rendering the people on the escalator as silhouettes against a blue background,  when one looked up from below. The words “twilight zone” came to mind when the scene met the eyes.

 

[Crossfire in the Jungle]

This image was taken at a crossroads in Beijing, where cars honk their horns relentlessly at everything in front of them, right at the instant when the traffic lights go green. Life in the urban jungle isn’t so easy for a lady, especially when you’re threatened by carnivores on wheels that don’t know pedestrians are to be respected.

 

[Ascent to Luminescence]

Me and my wife were visiting a friend who was a professor at medical school. This stairwell was just outside his office. I thought the profile of the stairwell wall, when looked down from the upper level, was geometrically interesting for a photograph… but not that interesting without a person in the frame. So I had my wife go down to the level below and asked her to go up with her hand on the rail. I took the photograph while she reached the spot that I’d pre-visualized for the composition. Thanks to my lovely wife for her co-operation!

 

[Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side!]

Shot on a rainy night outside the entrance of a supermarket near home. I saw the wet pavement reflecting the red light emitted by the neon sign above the storefront and thought it would make good foreground for an image. A girl walked into the frame pretty soon. My lips pressed one of the volume buttons of the phone’s earphone cable to fire the shot, right when her legs were in wide stride in front of the bright store light.

 

[Up is the way!]

I was wandering around a bus station one afternoon when I hit this spot under an overpass where a triangle was formed by the columns and the edge of the overpass. Without hesitation, I focused on the stairway, carefully composing the scene so that the top tip of the triangle touched the top edge of the frame, and waited for my prey to get on the stairway.

 

[Mama told me not to come!]

It was in a lovely August afternoon last year when this photograph was taken. A few kids were playing and running around in an open area of a park, and the pinky dress and shoes of this jolly little girl attracted my eyes immediately. I pre-focused on the ground about 1.5 meters in front of me, squatted and waited for her to run past me, and she did!

Viva innocence and purity!

 

[Universal Fountain of Love]

At the fountain in the frontal plaza of the Hyatt Hotel in Beijing, which was pretty close to the Royal Palace/Forbidden City/Tian-An-Men Square. The fountain was lit from inside the rim around which people like to take selfies or pictures of their family and friends. The plaza is usually swarming with people in the evening so it can be hard to take a clean photograph of the fountain.

The girl in the frame had just finished posing for her friend’s smartphone on the rim of the fountain and was bending down to pick up her purse, getting ready to leave when I took this photo.

 

[Nothing Lasts Forever]

The city of Beijing had a pretty heavy snowfall on November 22nd 2015.  I was delighted because I had been hoping for the advent of snow so I could go out and have some fun shooting in it. My white trip started at about three in the afternoon.  I had already been rewarded with a couple of worthy frames when patrolling in the wafting snow before this image was taken. The snow on the branches of this tree by the river, along with the snow on the surrounding ground, were tinted electric pink by the row of red neon signs on the other side of the road. I put my iPhone on a tripod and set it up about 3 meters from the tree and half a meter above ground. I angled it up approximately 30 degrees so I could have the tree, with its hanging leaves, as a natural frame that partially veiled the residential buildings across the steaming river.

The sun had completely set when I began working on this image. To have the ISO value as low as possible to avoid noise and grain, I set the shutter speed of my ProCamera app to the slowest it could go: 1/2 second, and I had to set the ISO to no lower than 160 before under-exposure was inevitable. I left the auto white balance on as the colour temperature decided by the app was quite spot-on on this occasion. The app’s self-timer was set to 25 seconds, giving me time to get into position in the frame, playing the human element.

This image, as a self-portrait, conveys my state of mind at the moment:

Steam on the water, snow on the ground, leaves on a tree, smoke from a cigarette, man in an overcoat – all conditioned things are but fleeting existence. Nothing lasts forever. So don’t be attached whatsoever.

May all be in peace and joy!

Paul Yan is a talented photographer and Picker. He is the first author to be published on Grryo following the announcement of our partnership with Picwant.

See more of Paul on : Instagram | Interview video on YouTube

German Hanami

German Hanami

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“It is spring time now! While the world looks for a new war to fight, you look for a cherry blossom to watch!  Let the stupid seek violence; you seek the elegance!” Mehmet Murat ildan

The wind picks up a plastic bag from the street and swirls it into the air. The crackly noise breaks the silence; the kind of silence that only an early Sunday morning can bring in a big city like Cologne. It’s quarter past 5am, the sun hasn’t come up yet, but the sky already has that golden shimmer. I am loading my car with cookies, hot tea and of course my camera gear. Alexandra (a friend I met on Instagram) and I are going to Bonn to enjoy a very special treat. One that only lasts for a couple of days every year.

Hanami – Japanese – “the enjoyment of the beauty of flowers”.  A word that is mostly used to describe the more than a thousand-year-old tradition that exists around the blooming of the sakura. The cherry tree.

In the 80s, when the city of Bonn decided to undertake major restorations in its city centre, they also planted cherry trees. Today, for a few days in April, a handful of narrow streets are dipped in pink.

I pick up Alexandra at the river Rhine. There is still a chill in the air but it is promising to be a beautiful day. We are engulfed in mist as we drive along the big river and then down the six-lane highway which, usually full of traffic jam, is now completely deserted.

Enjoing the silence of an early sunday morning.

As we get out of the car in Bonn we are greeted by the aroma of fresh coffee. Some of the locals have opened their windows and one of them is looking down on us while we slowly make our way along the street, our heads tilted back.

The sun rises and we begin to feel its warmth. As we turn around a corner onto the main cherry-blossom-street, we almost bump into another photographer. There they are, about ten other early birds, with their tripods and big cameras.

The things we do for a good photo…get up at 4am on a sunday!

I own a small DSLR camera with a standard zoom lens and a 50mm that I really like, but a lot of my pictures are still taken with my phone. I enjoy the spontaneity of it and that I have the result right there, ready to edit with an app and share it straight away if I want to. Apart from my phone, my other constant companion is a plastic bag. I get a few strange looks as I pull it out of my bag to get down on all fours into the curbstone.

#beautyiseverywhere Don’t you think?

The meaning of cherry blossoms in Japan is best summarized as a symbol of perfect beauty and the beginning of spring, a time of renewal. And then there is the fleeting nature of its life: a cherry blossom lasts only for about two weeks. It falls after a long maturity in the moment of perfected beauty.

An ocean of pink in a blue sky.

The Japanese cherry trees in Bonn are not plants whose fruits can be eaten later. These are ornamental cherries with many pink flowers.

As the morning goes on, more people appear on the streets. The café owners and delivery men don’t pay much attention to us taking pictures of their trees. They are used to this madness around at this time of the year.

Slow living.

Alexandra tells me about her first visit here, a week earlier, on a Saturday afternoon. “It was so busy“, she says, “people were waiting in line to reach one of the few high points in order to get a clear shot of the flowerage.” Entire busloads of tourists, couples in wedding attire taking wedding pictures one month before their wedding, girls posing for their Instagram pages…

The unknown Instagramer and her photographer.

And in fact, the crowd starts to change while we continue down the street. After the bright daylight has replaced the golden sunrise, the professional photographers disappear one by one; families, groups of friends and photographers with their models fill the air with happy chatter.

We all know what this will look like in Instagram, don’t we! 😉

The occasional car scatters the crowds onto the sidewalks for only a moment. The magic of the pink tree tunnel has us all back in the middle of the road immediately.

“In the cherry blossom’s shade there’s no such thing as a stranger.” Kobayashi Issa

It’s almost 10am now and my phone is about to die. Alexandra and I have walked up and down the pink streets a few times, but now it’s becoming a challenge to avoid getting caught in the different camera lenses pointed everywhere. We return to our car and head back home, leaving the cherry blossoms to the masses that will appear shortly. We will return next year.

My lucky shot. I didn’t even see them before editing this picture.

“Ah, if in this world there were no such thing as cherry blossoms, perhaps then in springtime our hearts would be at peace”. Ariwara no Narihira

Thank you to my lovely friends Alexandra and Alexandra! @alexandra.loves.cologne for being my photo walk buddy and @whisper_feather for being my editor!

For more cherry blossoms in Bonn visit the IG hashtags #kibo17 and ‘kirschbluetebonn. See you around! @tonivisual

Changing beauty by Caroline de Bertodano

Changing beauty by Caroline de Bertodano

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Changing Beauty – The Changing Face of Beauty

© Caroline de Bertodano

For centuries beauty was represented by natural beauties. Salome, Guinevere and Nefertiti to name but a few.  Later beauty was portrayed in artworks such as Botticelli’s Spring, Rossetti’s Other Woman, da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and many Impressionist works. All evocative of something more than appearance. The Greek male nude sculptures and the female nude deities of Eastern Ishtar to the later Western art such as Donatello’s “David”, Titian’s “Venus of Urbino”, celebrated the natural human body.  All to stir the mind as well as the sensual passions. Very recent depictions of beauty in art are dormant and beg the question as to why? A backlash to society’s ‘meat market’ and physical fabrications?

© Caroline de Bertodano

Through the ages, the size and shape of beauty have come and gone but natural was ever present. Different body types and features went in and out of fashion aided by the armoury of clothes and makeup but ‘natural’ was the foundation.  People simply got on and appreciated more what they had been born with.  In recent times, celebrity has replaced almost everything and as the avarice consumers we have become, we follow like sheep.

© Caroline de Bertodano

The reality of beauty, either male or female, is that almost every person is not happy in their own skin and has a list of what they feel disdain for about themselves, if not pure self-loathing by many women. An agenda of what they would change if they had the money. Massively increased depression & eating disorder numbers have the psychiatrists rewriting the psychology books.  If we add ageing to the equation, what was ’50 is the new 30’ and now ’50 is the new 70′  based on looks alone. Media role models advocate nothing but shallow appearance, they negate the actual being, of being human, born natural and undoubtedly will die as bare to living as death intends. Time will always transcend the superficial.

Every age has issues of imperfection but never before to such extremes and even the 20 somethings have joined the mass hysteria in the quest for perfection and elusive eternal youth, where beauty is considered to reside. Exaggerated ideas of imperfection and the ‘fixing myself’ phrase is often heard. With the explosion of social media and its consequential hunting grounds, the idea of perfection is now so media influenced by pretense, false impressions of image, persona and of course the eternal super skinny body form…. no surprise there! Many men are taken in by these falsehoods. But in this age of ’swipe right’, they just move on to the next idea on their perfection list, wondering why they cannot find true and lasting love. Women have become competitive instead of supportive, putting good images of themselves to annoy other women or for attention that they lack in reality.

© Caroline de Bertodano

“I’d like to say that I would be happier in my natural skin but given the opportunity, I would enhance myself. It would seem silly not to. When we live in a world where celebrities and superstars are always looking amazing and we are exposed to the ideal woman and figure all the time, why wouldn’t you want to keep up? There seems to be a much higher standard of beauty… not a natural beauty but a beauty that can be made through cosmetic surgery. You only need to look at the ‘IT’ girls of now and look at a ‘before and after photo’ to realise they are doing it. It eventually just comes down to money. Money can buy physical beauty essentially and if I had the money I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t make changes to myself. Every girl has something they hate about themselves or feels self-conscious about and if it somewhat bothers you, of course, you are going to want to change that. It is not like there are any female role models advocating natural of ‘inner’ beauty but quite the opposite really; young girls are bombarded and almost brainwashed by social media about what is a normal young girl should or does actually look like”
Eva 21 years.

 

© Caroline de Bertodano

There is a chasm of difference between plastic and cosmetic surgery.
Plastic surgery is ‘reconstructive’ for medical reasons and includes, burns, limb loss, birth defects, trauma and disease and is vital, both externally & internally life-saving.
Cosmetic surgery is elective, ‘a choice’ by an individual to enhance appearance only.

© Caroline de Bertodano

With endless procedures, media & social influence, the idea of beauty means many are starting to look alike. Some so alien from their original self they become modern day monsters as procedures ‘fall’ and they lack the money to redo them. Expressiveness and uniqueness are being lost. The expressiveness of a child’s face in laughter, the look of love, is the beauty & emotion within that is expressed externally.

 

© Caroline de Bertodano

However, in some adults, they can no longer show emotion on over engineered faces, which in turn affects the emotional communication in relationships. First impressions aside, if we are all impressed by certain looks alone, the character, mind and soul; the internal self,  go unconsidered and disappointment and failed relationships surely follow. Is Audrey Hepburn, one of the iconic beauty’s of our time, now ‘imperfect’?  Her beauty came from what was inside as well as outside and many talk of her internal light.

 

© Caroline de Bertodano

The greatest beauty is the true natural beauty requiring three vital ingredients. Looks, mind and soul. Ever fallen in love with someone you least expected to and been surprised because they are not your ‘normal type’ but because of ‘who’ they are, not just what they looked like?  Imperfections pale into insignificance on realizing emotional depth, mindful heights and the confidence they generate. True beauty is the combination and what artists for centuries before us tried to depict.

 

© Caroline de Bertodano

I would rather see the truth in someone’s eyes and the micro expressions that connect to the soul’s windows than an empty one-dimensional being that simply ‘looks good’. Beauty will always change but not at its core. My Mother used to say, ‘feed the brain and soul as well as the body’ and true beauty is those three things that make up the internal natural light, ‘the natural beauty’ and the only thing that will sustain relationships and transcend the chattels of time.

 

© Caroline de Bertodano

© Caroline de Bertodano

© Caroline de Bertodano 2017

Find Caroline de Bertodano on Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter |
‘Fishing in the abyss’ by George Pavlopoulos

‘Fishing in the abyss’ by George Pavlopoulos

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I grew up next to the sea and I felt that I had everything: an endless summer, the song of the cicadas, a bunch of faces that refused to grow old and the taste of watermelon under the pine trees. The sea resembled an uncultivated field, where childhood was constantly being reborn and rewarded. I don’t remember all the faces I met, but I do somehow recall sudden expressions and fleeting images: the talk of older people before sunset, the whispering lips of women, the sweating foreheads of busy men, the agony for the coming winter, as well as the promise that a triumphant summer will conquer our lives again.

Then I lost the sea and the transition was violent. Entering the next phase of life kept me occupied but I could hardly somehow manage to return back to the early days. I wasn’t nostalgic or pessimistic; I was just longing for some sort of simplicity, a way of life based on spontaneity, on free will and on outspoken truths. Adulthood did not arrive as a blessing but as the fulfillment of a dreary prophecy. All the potential punishments of our childhood became our daily adult routine: “you’ll be left alone” or “you won’t get any money” or even “you are not allowed to go out”.

The legendary summers looked like shipwrecked boats; they couldn’t set sail because they were too damaged, nor could they reach the shore and start all over again clean. I equipped myself with artifacts, some long existing objects, humble in their existence, easy in their use. Technology has altered them but it didn’t taint their soul. They seemed to have been always there, on that remote planet, as a way of expression and their purpose was to create worlds that we’d probably never visit.

“Yellow Balloon”, Athens 2016

A family of sorts, Vilnius 2016

At first it was a pen and a paper, then a typewriter and later a laptop. Despite its technological evolution, the soul of the written word did not change and there will always be someone willing to lock his body -but not his spirit- into a silent room and start writing. Respectively, at first there was a smartphone, then a compact camera and later a bigger one. Contrary to the ancient belief, images do not consist of a thousand words; they consist of all the words we were not able to write.

“Wrinkles and movies”, Bologna 2016

“Far Away”, Berlin 2017

I can never afford to lose people, but when I started dealing with absence it seemed to me that there was only one way back: the narrative. Through writing I felt I could re-visit, through photography I felt I could re-see. The return to childhood has nothing heroic in its heart and I could never identify with Proustian moments. It was simply that old longing for simplicity sending me to the white paper or the black film.

The white paper and the black film are always an interpretation of a narrative that fails to be resonated: words that fail to be written deliver always a white paper, while photos that fail to be taken deliver always a black image. The eternal battle of the two irreconcilable colors is not only a clash between light and darkness but also the inability of self-expression on a given day. If the creative adult is indeed a child who has survived, one can only imagine how painful a white paper or a black film really feels.

“No man’s land”, Berlin 2017

“The Letter”, Athens 2017

I can’t recall most of the faces of these old summers. They seem to be lost in a sea of oblivion and they are only allowed to emerge for an instant every now and then. Nowadays I spend less time in front of the sea and I am not that spontaneous anymore. I’m spending most of my days in big cities, where History adds an extra weight on the already long faces of the Europeans. Sunny days are good for the body, but only the cloudy ones make me feel really productive. I’d wake up rather early and I’d write until noon; then, I’d take my camera in hand and go out.

The city is crowded and I’m searching for dark corners, spots where the contrasts are magnified. I’m standing there for twenty, maybe thirty minutes. I’m waiting for a face to appear from the darkness, somebody that will remind me of the people I used to know: faces from past summers, lost loves, absent friends, people I rarely see. Some days no one appears, but I live for the day that a familiar face will emerge from the darkness. This is a re-connection of sorts, a short return to the simplicity of childhood: a person, an expression, a scene. The memory is finally serving its purpose, which is to remind us who we really are: we are nothing more than a patchwork of all the people we ever met. For a dense moment I feel like being in front of the sea on a warm summer afternoon. I am extremely young again, I am revolted against oblivion and I’m fishing in the abyss.

THE END

George Pavlopoulos is the author of three novels. He has also written several travelogues and short stories. You can see more of his work on his Website as well as on Instagram.

“Only the inventors survive”, Athens 2016

“The journey of sand”, Bologna 2016

“The man who could not dream”, Berlin 2017

Kings in water, Budapest 2015

“Ghosts”, Athens 2016

“Early summer”, Athens 2016

 

 

 

“Christmas”, Berlin 2016

Towards the future, Berlin 2017

 

Ode to Winter

Ode to Winter

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I  remember, as a child, fumbling in the complete darkness of my bedroom. The clock having just struck my morning anxieties, and myself heading toward the window to summon the day into the room. Rolling up the night around the slats of the blind, the picture of the wakening day gradually unfolding before me. I usually paid little attention to it. A glimpse that made me feel both reassured that the world was still out there, and worried my school was too.

Some mornings had a different feel though. As soon as a glimmer of daylight crept into the dark, I already knew at its particular brightness that the day would hold different promises. It had snowed and perhaps it might keep snowing!

When I reminisce over the snow days of my childhood, I cannot single out or describe this or that particular day with its own distinct facts. Yet alive in me are a set of moments spreading from this time, grouped in my mind by a similar naïve joy, etched with such emotion that my memory has decided to gather them into one souvenir.

And I can see myself, pulling a chair by the window and watching the snow come down slowly over the wet plain, settling silently in the hollows, on the roofs, seizing the roads and the alleys, covering the ugliness brought on by the day. Then, having made everything even, everything level, it is forced to accept it must fall on itself. At this point, one’s attention is no longer drawn to anything and ceases to recognize. And now one can only see one’s own images projected on the white screen offered by the winter.

Or, I was outside. Snow had stopped  and I was trying to identify parts of the scenery, my playground, my bicycle under a bump. And it was like attempting to read a book in a foreign language, familiar enough to follow the story line, yet not the details.

To this day, I prefer winter to any other season. Not only the snow, but the cold that enlivens or numbs. The fury of the wind when it blows the leaves off and gives them back to the earth, which later chews them and gobbles them up. I enjoy this harshness and this severity. People meet and get to the essential, because it is too cold to linger and tell more.

I enjoy the monotonous landscape. The nature when it depletes, gathers itself, and mourns. The ground that is brown then grey then white then dirty. The flight of the birds that is shorter and heavier. The way they suddenly flock into bands, ruffle the trees and the electrical cables. The ones that decide to remain lonely.

I enjoy watching the night as it awakens the day with the city lights turning on one by one like fireflies on a summer night. The shadows are longer, more present in the home. Our lives languish, it is a slower time, allowing us to look backward. As when walking in the snow, we have to stop and turn around in order to see our own tracks.

And last, I enjoy winter when it shies away, out of breath, and suddenly gives way to perpetual renewal, to the sweet illusion we call Spring.

Anne Closuit Eisenhart is @lesfifoles on Instagram

 

Ode à l’Hiver – Par Anne Closuit Eisenhart

Je me revois, enfant, avancer à tâtons dans le noir de ma chambre. Le réveil venait de sonner mes angoisses matinales et je me dirigeais vers la fenêtre pour convoquer l’aube dans la pièce. Tandis que j’enroulais la nuit autour des lamelles de mon store, se déroulait à mesure devant moi le tableau du jour qui s’éveillait. Je n’y prêtais d’habitude aucune attention particulière. Tout juste un regard qui me rassurait car le monde était toujours là, et qui m’inquiétait car mon école aussi.

Certains matins, il en allait différemment. A peine un rai de jour se glissait-il dans l’obscurité que je savais déjà, à l’éclat spécifique de la lumière, que la journée tiendrait d’autres promesses. Il avait neigé et peut-être neigeait-il encore…

Quand je me remémore les jours de neige de mon enfance, je ne peux bien sûr pas décrire telle ou telle journée précise avec ses faits bien à elle. Mais continue de vivre pourtant en moi un ensemble de moments s’étalant dans ce temps, regroupés dans mon esprit par une même joie naïve, inscrits avec suffisamment d’émotion pour que ma mémoire décidât de les réunir en un souvenir. 

Et je peux me voir, tirer la chaise près de la fenêtre et regarder la neige descendre lentement sur la plaine humide, s’installer, silencieuse, dans les creux, sur les toits, s’emparer des routes et des chemins, recouvrir la laideur amenée par le jour. Puis, quand elle a rendu tout égal, quand elle a tout nivelé, se résoudre à tomber sur elle-même. Alors le regard n’est plus arrêté par rien et cesse de reconnaître. Et l’on ne fait plus que voir ses propres images intérieures se projeter sur l’écran blanc que nous offre l’hiver.

Ou encore,  j’étais dehors, il avait cessé de neiger et j’essayais d’identifier le paysage, mon terrain de jeux, mon vélo sous une bosse. Et c’était comme tenter de lire un texte dans une langue étrangère suffisamment familière pour qu’on en comprenne la trame pas assez cependant pour qu’on en saisisse tous les détails.

Aujourd’hui encore, je préfère l’hiver à n’importe quelle autre saison. Pas seulement la neige, mais aussi le froid qui vivifie ou engourdit, la fureur du vent qui arrache les feuilles des arbres et les rend à la terre qui les mâche puis les engloutit. J’aime cette rudesse, cette âpreté.  Les gens se croisent et se disent l’essentiel car il fait trop froid pour en rajouter.

J’aime le paysage monotone. La nature qui se dépouille et se recueille. La terre brune puis grise puis blanche puis sale. Le vol des oiseaux qui est plus lourd et plus court. Cette façon qu ‘ils ont soudainement de se mettre en bandes, d’hérisser les arbres, les fils électriques. Ceux qui décident de rester solitaires.

J’aime guetter la nuit quand elle réveille le jour, et regarder les lumières de la ville s’allumer une à une comme des lucioles un soir d’été. Les ombres sont plus longues, plus présentes dans la maison. Nos vies se traînent, c’est un temps plus lent, fait pour regarder en arrière.C’est comme quand l’on marche dans la neige, il faut s’arrêter et se retourner pour voir ses pas. 

J’aime enfin l’hiver quand il se dérobe et, à bout de souffle, cède la place à l’éternel recommencement, à la douce illusion qu’est le printemps.

Anne Closuit Eisenhart est @lesfifoles sur Instagram

Blazing Sun and Hard Shadows – A Noir Chronicle

Blazing Sun and Hard Shadows – A Noir Chronicle

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The labyrinthine streets spread like cracks on the downtown area of São Paulo. I walk shouldering my way through the crowd, keeping the man in my line of sight.
The street I chase him on is older than the very foundation of the city. It already was a path crossed by animals and natives along the forest, before the Society of Jesus forged a spiritual connection with the Madhat Pasha street in Damascus. São Paulo was meant to be the Heaven’s Capital on Earth — so it’s written on the letters exchanged between the Jesuits. Truth is, it became a kind of El Dorado of Brazil. Drifters from all over the country seeking fortune on this piece of land, mostly failing nowadays.


I’m trying to make some sense of my woolgathering. It comes with the job, I suppose.
The job isn’t new — you’ve already seen the story. Maybe you even took a part on it. It all comes down to someone wishing something one can’t have.
I could tell my client exactly how the story ends, but I wouldn’t get paid for playing Sherlock. The job has taught me that seeing is important. People are drawn to suffering like moths to lamps — a kind of messed up script hardwired in our brains.
I’m not a monk to delve into the philosophy about it, nor a scientist to prove it. I tell what I see, that’s all.
I wait for the man to exit the restaurant. He’s oblivious to me, although I’m a little too big to ignore. He’s alone, without the briefcase. I know where he’s headed to, so I decide to go somewhere else.


São Paulo was known as “the land of drizzle”. Things have changed during the last decades — for the worse, if you ask me.
It’s Autumn, but it doesn’t feel like it. This temperature could be Summer in any northern hemisphere country. I wonder if the heat loosen the reins of civility here, making people less patient, less good tempered.
Regardless, businessmen march with their dark suits and bright ties on the shadows of financial buildings. They march side by side with the ever growing homeless population, ignoring them behind their sun glasses, puffing on cigarettes and checking their phones. Billboard men on every corner wear plaques advertising gold and diamond brokers, shady attorney services, the sale of doctor’s notes for paid absent days at work. They have blank stares and tanned, cracked skin because of the sun. I wonder where their minds wonder.


I see the woman where I already knew she was. It’s a matter of pattern recognition. People are much more predictable than they think.
When she gets tired of waiting, I follow her. I debate for a moment about my options here. I decide to play by the rules of common sense.
She walks like a ghost, dragging invisible anchors and lost in her reveries. I wait by the old phone cabin as she takes a turn and faces the sun, as if this path could lead her to some kind of enlightenment. Or maybe it’s just me, seeing her story as mine. Pattern recognition.


She enters a small store and leaves with the bag. She wanders through the streets until we arrive at the site of the city’s foundation. I remember that before the Society of Jesus, this place was a cemetery for many indigenous tribes. They met here to bury their dead and to negotiate. Death and contracts seems to be always hand in hand in a twisted way.
The Imortal Glory stands tall, on the top of the stone column, as a guide for the lost. I write the time and place in my notepad and take one last shot as the woman walks to the bus stop.


Then I leave her, hearing the whispers of my own demons feeding on my thoughts. I debate again about my options here.
There are certain rules I promised to never break again – which doesn’t means it won’t happen. There are things much stronger than promises in this world.
This city is a spawn of such things. So is this job.


From all the stories about São Paulo, there’s one that seems like a prophecy for the dwellers of these dirty streets. An omen I constantly see between the lines in every case, like a signature of Fate, although few know about it.


There was a Portuguese pirate living on the coast, about 40 miles from where the Jesuits would settle. He was the most merciless Indian hunter at the time, killing most of the men and enslaving the women for his pleasure. But things suddenly changed.
History tells he was not only converted by the priests — joining their mission — but became a feverish believer and preacher among the native Indians. One day, when the Society of Jesus decided it was about time to expand their influence, it was the former pirate who picked the shortest straw.
He left towards the unknown landscapes beyond the Society’s settlement and crossed paths with warriors from a local tribe. And you can guess what happened next. A rain of arrows left him bleeding to death under the blazing sun.
One of the Jesuits later wrote in his letters that “the Lord would establish His Church, now that He had bathed the foundations with so glorious blood”.
A city founded by religious missionaries, with a promise of Heaven, consecrated by the murder and the blood of a former pirate.
This job has taught me that promises of light are bound to hard shadows. All the contracts signed with Fate have secret dark pages we can never read.
I feel a lot like this city.


The phone rings on my way back to the office. I see the client’s name on the screen and I ignore the call, but I know he will be waiting for me. Moths and lamps.
I keep walking aimlessly for a while collecting faces and silhouettes. The man lights the cigarette but seems like confessing on the sidewalk. Another man sees when I point the camera at him and leaves with a suspicious look. For a brief moment I almost can understand what I’m looking for. What is the purpose of this, what’s the story I’m living in.


When I meet my client, I show him everything I’ve got. I explain the case using the words as knives, twisting the blades a little more on each sentence.
I take no pleasure doing this, don’t get me wrong. I’m another kind of monster.
The job had taught me that such pain is the closure the clients seek — and I’m good at the the job.
He pays me and disappears behind the door. I hope I never meet him again.
Looking through the window I see the sun vanishing behind the buildings. The last rays of light ignite the polluted air on the horizon with the most beautiful red and orange tones. People cast long shadows down there on the streets.
I close the curtain and shut off the phone as the day slowly ends. In less than an hour there will be just shadows — the city’s true calling.
I open the bottle of bourbon and wait for the night and its truths, relieved by the distance from the promises of the day.

THE END

Leandro Leme is a photographic artist from São Paulo, Brazil. More of his work can be seen on Instagram  | 14&15 Mobile Photographers. 

Stories in Square by Antonia Baedt

Stories in Square by Antonia Baedt

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I am a storyteller by profession. Most of my inspiration comes from everyday life. I believe our lives are made of a never-ending string of stories that connect us all to one another – if we are just willing to listen. By sharing pictures on Instagram, I feel like I am offering something in return to people who share their stories with me. Through their pictures, I can walk along an Australian beach, sit on a rooftop in New York City, dip my toe into the icy waters of Canadian lakes or sit in a cozy café in Warsaw.

11 months ago, I created an Instagram account as a task assigned to me by my employer. I never saw the point of social media, where most people seemed to connect digitally to people they knew in real life. But Instagram has turned out to be a window to the world. My Instagram feed is a collection of ideas, coincidences and random things, that catch my eye during everyday life. I am not a photographer and I don’t have a theme or style to my account.

 

Finding beauty in ordinary things is what inspires me most.

About half of my pictures are very spontaneous. I often stop during the day to take a photo with my mobile phone. This was one of those crappy days at the office. Nothing had gone according plan and I left a lot later than I had hoped to. Carrying a pile of paperwork, my bags, and the trash, I walked over to my car, just wanting to get home. The bright yellow caught my eye. After a moment’s thought I disposed of the trash, threw my stuff in the car and spend the next 15 minutes bent over the stairs with my phone. Strange stares by passersby ensued. The next day the leaves were gone. Someone had “cleaned” them up.

The Mummelsee in the German Black Forest area engulfed in fog.

Besides everyday hidden beauty, bad weather has become a welcome photo opportunity. This picture of the lake is the outcome of a business trip. I was supposed to bring back picturesque photos of a popular tourist area. Well, as you can probably guess by this picture, that was a complete disaster. It rained for 3 days straight. I fell in love with the dreamy mood of the thick forest all engulfed in fog. Now, I go out hunting for fog and rain on purpose.

Chasing fog during a visit in die Central German Uplands, where I grew up.

Creating and learning as I go is one of the gifts IG has given me.

Not all my pictures are things I find along the way. The other half of what I post is planned. Copying artists that inspire me is my way of learning. I don’t necessarily aim for an identical picture, but I like the reverse engineering part of it. Everyone who spends some time on Instagram will spot some patterns of what is popular. Lamps, candles and fairy lights are a current trend. I thought: you can’t judge something you haven’t tried. So, I went on a photo walk with a fellow Iger, all set up with lamps and fairy lights. We realized quickly that taking an atmospheric picture like this is much harder than it looks.

After living in Cologne for many years, I am discovering it all over again.

A fellow Instagrammer has a similar picture of the church in his gallery. It was taken in the city I live in. I was so fascinated by the angle, that I started looking for the position he must have taken it from. A fun way to explore places you pass by every day.

 

Sometimes I have to wait a while for the perfect opportunity to take a picture I have had in mind for a long time.

Pictures rarely turn out exactly the way I intended. If they do, they take a lot of planning. As with my experiments, I constantly look for locations and great light. The tracking of weather, seasonal changes and the movement of the sun have become part of my every day routine. Because I don’t have a lot of time to take pictures, I use that info for the occasional quick hunt – by leaving an hour early for work to stop along the way, for example.

 

Connecting with people all over the world and making new friends is what makes Instagram so special.

Last but not least, my new-found Instagram friends are a wonderful way of creating new pictures. I am lucky to have met a few in real life. It is amazing to see how different the pictures are that you each took of the same things. I have learned a lot about photography and how different Instagrammers see the world around them.

“The frozen tree”

I often get up before sunrise to chase for that magical light only the rising sun can give you. This picture was taken on a Saturday morning. It was freezing cold. The morning fog had just lifted and everything was covered in ice. Billions of tiny crystals reflecting the harsh sunlight. If I can’t go with a fellow Iger, I like to go alone. I can walk and stop at my own pace and just enjoy the silence of a fresh day. This time I had a few of my IG friends with me. We connected via a group chat app and were each out hunting for the perfect picture that morning. All in different countries but all looking into the same rising sun.My photos are snapshots of my life’s stories and my way of bringing my visual ideas onto paper, so-to-say. As a storyteller in the movie industry I think in pictures every day and connecting stories to them comes very naturally. But I am not a photographer for photography’s sake. I take photos to have something to share on Instagram. Something I like and something I hope a few people can connect to, so that the strings of their stories and mine can intertwine.

 

So let’s connect! You can find me on Instagram @tonivisual or visit me on koenigsfilm.de

Tangueros. A Lovers discourse by L. Bird

Tangueros. A Lovers discourse by L. Bird

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Paris, late at night last September, tangueros are dancing on the plaza of Opera Garnier. It takes a second to stop. Then, time flies. Tango, the dance of love captured me, again… While I was taking photographs, an idea emerged. If reasons of Love resist to any understanding, would it be possible to identify the signs of its discourse as steps of dancers always appear to me –  like a vibrant illustration of this intimate dialogue between lovers?


How is it possible to apprehend what love is? The mechanisms of love are a mystery… Raymond Carver, a fabulous American short stories teller wrote ‘What We Talk When We Talk About Love.’ With such a title, he might have found the best angle to approach what love is. Not love itself but what is involved in love… Also, Roland Barthes, a French philosopher tried in ‘Fragments d’un discours amoureux’ to analyse the language of love, elaborating, a kind of analytical board of its various figures as Dmitri Mendeleïev classified the chemical elements… According to Barthes, the discourse of love is highly ‘choreographic’ and he compares them to movements of dancers. Analyzing this discourse, he called the logic of the reason and applied it to the things of heart. It seems to be a seductive way to find some kind of answers to this mystery. ‘Tangueros’ series tries to take its part in that wondering quest.

Tango is easy to be seduced by. The body language of this dance and its music are certainly very powerful, even if it would be easy to confess this is a personal belief coming from its practice… The colors of Tango are black and red, and nobody ignores that red roses have thorns too. Each step of this dance could be the last one. It is a dialogue converging to a climax. Even if one of the dancers is supposed to have the lead in this conversation, any of the dancers is free to stop its course for a moment, introducing a new step to this sparring verbal. That’s how the dance occurs. In that way, Tango steps are really close to the figures Barthes identified. Re-reading ‘Fragments d’un discours amoureux’ while editing the photographs of this series was like growing evidence… This series of steps was like some of the loved ones.

* This shy distance of the very first steps when dancing is not already in question.


* This precarious balance after, what is not yet a couple, starts dancing. Dancers need these steps to know each other.


* The mistaken steps, and how the dancers need to adjust their movements when in doubt about the meaning of dancing together, are still in the air.


* This impossible try to let it die, inspired by this primitive fear of being hurt. How thrilled it is to hold on to, despite of it. How sweet it is too, to quiet each other in this need of trying, at least, just trying.


* The very first dancing steps. They are not perfect but something is happening and it’s already taking both of them beyond words.


* How this new grammar of steps provides the energy to give and ask for more that they might think at the very first sight. Sensations don’t allow them to think any more – steps are coming from something deeper.


* The need to take a break, just like birds on a wire. It goes too fast and finding breath to articulate is difficult. Suddenly, fear and blossom of dancing are intimately melted.

* These moments of grace where feelings can only be expressed with free movements, just like an air of bandoneon. Imagination took its part in this earned and sublimed trust, coming from previous steps.

* There is a belief in this balance which seems perfect. One move and the other is able to finish the sequenced steps the first dancer suggested. Intimacy is pushed to its limits in what seems a perfect match: bodies are vibrating, hearts are beating strongly and minds are filled with pure sensation. For the time of a dance, bodies and souls are extended to a kind of eternity as if this moment had to last for ever.


Steps and signs. Step by step, a grammar of these signs is enlightened: its subjects, its objects, its sequenced sentences, its rhythms, its breaths and its poetry. Unless what it is about remained a whole mystery. Photography captures moments; images are like signs of living love, living lives. Photography is itself a grammar helping us to approach deepest mysteries as close as we can. As a photographer, it is a never ending dance…
L. Bird, Paris, December 2016.

L. Bird is an independent photographer and film maker based in Paris [France]. Her work is all about storytelling, whatever it concerns [whether photography, series or short-movies]. Her work’s aesthetic is mainly inspired by street and documentary photography, but in such a manner, that it always turns her images into contemporary tales…

You can find her on : Instagram | Website

We Wish you a Merry Grryo

We Wish you a Merry Grryo

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What does Christmas mean to you? Do you look forward to this season earnestly or is it a mere family ritual and gathering that you do every year?… Here at Grryo, all of us in the team, come from different countries across the globe with distinct backgrounds. In this post, we will all share what Christmas means to us and how some of us Celebrate it.

Tommy’s contribution

Christmas for me is deeply rooted in my faith in Jesus Christ. This holiday is to be a reflection of everything he is and I find it summed up in the word giving. I’m talking about giving without any expectation of a return. This year I have found a couple of actions that demonstrate the type of giving I mean.

John and his wife Shayla started helping a couple of weeks ago at Soul Food Cafe, a local food ministry to the hungry. John’s heart was touched by the need he found all around him. Putting his photography talent to use he had the idea of doing free portraits for anyone who wanted one. On the particular day I visited John there, he took over 50 portraits in front of this tree as Shayla, with infant son “Cotton” in tow, gathered information. This week they are taking photos with Santa. In the meantime he made a video on Facebook about what was happening that generated 1500 views and gained help from several local photography clubs.

This past weekend I helped a group of teens that joined with several hundred other local Arkansans to fill food packs to send to hungry children in Haiti. A local restaurant, Tacos 4 Life, gives enough from their profits to feed one child for every meal they serve. They do this by teaming with Feed My Starving Children® which is a non-profit organization committed to feeding hungry children. They organize volunteers to hand-pack meals specifically formulated for malnourished children, and then ship these meals to distribution partners. These kids gave a couple of hours of their time on a Saturday to pack 492 boxes of food packs. That’s enough to feed 291 kids each day for a year.

Simran’s contribution

Christmas has always been a favorite holiday for me. Despite living in Indonesia with the largest Muslim population, this festive season has always brought me a feeling of joy, warmth and excitement. For many Indonesians, Eid/Idul Fitri is the main holiday season that is celebrated extensively. The Christmas decorations and carols around Jakarta are mainly found in every mall across the city. The roads and streets are not light up with lights or decor as it is regarded as a normal public holiday. It is being recognized and celebrated more now by people in Indonesia. For me, during this festive end of the year season, it is more of winding down and enjoying the break from a well-spent hectic year.

Pictures of Christmas decorations in various places I found, that captured my attention.

Colourful Christmas ball ornaments on a huge Christmas tree at a nearby mall. The popping colours and lights was a lovely sight to capture.

A beautiful framed setting done by TWG Tea at a nearby mall. As i was walking past, I noticed a girl sitting next to the teddy bear and her friend taking a picture of her. The colours and moment itself intrigued me to capture it as it is.

Although, Christmas doesn’t hold a special meaning to me, someday, I would love to experience this festive season in countries that celebrate it. So, I can also experience the spirit of joy and bliss.

Elaine’s contribution

A huge part of Christmas for me is being thankful for, and spending quality time with, my family and friends – particularly my husband and our two boys. Our lives are pretty hectic; we’re always rushing from one thing to the next, Monday – Sunday. It’s all good and enjoyable, but hectic. So the few days we have over the Christmas period, where deadlines and school runs are thrown out of the window, are very special.

Playing board games and watching films together. Catching up with friends. Having late night adventures in the woods with our boys and their torches.  Watching my kids playing and running free, without a care in the world. Like children should. Watching the adults behaving like kids again too. Enjoying the magic of school nativities and music concerts. Eating mince pies that we don’t even like. Wearing silly jumpers and daft Christmas accessories.

Enjoying long walks in the cold.

Not setting the alarm clock.

Decorating the tree together.

Remembering dear loved ones.

Enjoying the little things.

Joe’s contribution

Because I work for a non-denominational church a lot of my time revolves around special events around the church. My wife and I have to get creative with our time to enjoy the holiday with our kids. We have our usual family traditions like decorating our house and listening to Christmas songs by Louis Armstrong. We also drive to neighborhoods and marketplaces adorned with a lot of Christmas lights and if when we can afford it, we will go to Disneyland to enjoy fake snow and watch people play at the skating rink.

The weather folks say that it snows in my region along the coast of Southern California only once for every hundred years, so unless we drive 2 hours up to the local mountains, any expression of “White Christmas” is man-made.

My family wanted to focus more of our attention on people in need this year. Our kids participated in Operation Shoe Box and filled a shoe box with gifts and a note to be given to a child on the other side of our world. Locally, I went with our church group to deliver groceries we put together to families nearby, so they could have a Christmas dinner.

It’s a special time of year for us. We could go insane trying to keep up with all of the traditions that go along with this season. Plus,  it is too exhausting to get swept up in the shopping frenzy that happens from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. At my home, we try to simplify how we the celebrate birth of our Savior Jesus Christ by helping folks in need and getting together with family and friends.

Susanne’s contribution

December, the darkest of the months. I feel the lack of shadows, I feel in me the lack of light.

Yet Christmas gives me hope. It brings light, all sorts of lights: tiny little ones, bright ones, yellow, red and green, the white paper stars we set up on our window sills early in December. Christmas celebrates light and reminds me that nothing lasts forever, not even the darkest days. That light remains. That I’ll have the shadows back soon again.

I’ve always loved Christmas, how it changes us, the magic of it, and I spend the Christmas days together with my loved ones.

Hope you enjoyed our little contributions from the Grryo Family to spread the joy and spirit with you all.

Thank you to each and every one of you for your participation and contributions throughout the year. We deeply appreciate it.

We would like to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Blessed 2017!

Enjoy the holiday season with your loved ones and we look forward to another exciting new year with you!

The Gift of Receiving

The Gift of Receiving

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“If you wish for light, be ready to receive light.” Rumi

As the season of gift-giving fast approaches, I’ve been thinking about the gifts I’ve received this year – images graciously given to me by my trusty old camera.

I’ve been interested in the practice of contemplative photography for a while now, and through it, continue to discover new and surprising things about this craft. A few years ago I came across The Little Book of Contemplative Photography by Howard Zehr, a book I have come back to again and again, not only because it is a quick and easy read, but because of the wisdom contained in its pages.

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There is a particular chapter in this book that continually challenges me and makes me rethink my approach to photography. In this chapter, Zehr discusses the language and metaphors of photography and how aggressive and predatory they are. History shows that photography was once considered a gentle and respectful art, but its image as an art form became much more aggressive when small handheld cameras were introduced in the 1880s. It was around this time that people started going on photo shoots, carrying their arsenal of equipment, aiming their camera, taking their pictures and capturing their subject…metaphors that gradually became deeply embedded in our culture and consciousness. Before long, advertisers were marketing camera products that would ‘shoot to kill’ and camera store services that would ‘blow you away’. We began to use telephoto lenses and, more recently, smart phones to covertly photograph people. This shift, where the act of photographing became something of a hunt, has had a massive impact on the way we practise photography today.

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When I first read about this idea, I’d been learning photography for a couple of years, so naturally I began to consider this in relation to my work and my process. I’d certainly been striving to ‘capture’ my children with my camera and getting frustrated when I didn’t get what I wanted or when I got something ‘wrong’. This put me in the position of taker, not receiver, and of triumphant predator when I did get something ‘good’.

But, the reality is, as Zehr quite simply points out, that when we photograph, we do not actually reach out and take anything. Light is reflected off our subject and enters through our camera’s lens, projecting a picture. So, essentially, the image is being received, not taken. And for me, here lay a secret to experiencing photography in a new and more profound way: I could open myself up to receiving images; I could change my perspective so that I no longer viewed images as trophies, but as gifts.

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So where did this leave planning a conceptual photo session or the discipline of hunting out and capturing an image? Exactly where they belong, in their perfect time and place. Because whatever the situation, as we stand behind our camera we have an opportunity to experience new possibilities. We can do that by recognising that there is so much more to photography than our skill and our equipment – or, as Zehr so aptly puts it, we can shift our perspective so that we approach our art making with ‘wonder, respect and humility’. In other words, instead of seeing photography as a conquest, we can see it as contemplation; instead of seeing it as an exposé, we can see it as a revelation; instead of being concerned with control, we can embrace surprise.

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No doubt, we’ve all experienced photographic surprises – sometimes by sheer accident (like when we unintentionally press the shutter) or sometimes simply because an image was unexpected (like when we think we didn’t ‘get’ anything good, but are later surprised to find that we did). But what interests me most is not this lack of control; rather, this concept of awe and humility, as a mindset and approach towards art making in general. By visualising myself receiving rather than taking images, I have been continually taken aback by what light has revealed inside my camera. I’ve relaxed. I’ve opened myself up to mystery. I’ve not always been given what I wanted, but what needed to be expressed was expressed in a new and surprising way. This surrender has become a very sweet part of my practice. Because it’s not only the unexpected images that are gifts – they are all gifts.

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Of course, this change in attitude is easier said than done. Ironically, it takes a form of conscious effort to remember to let go, and even now, though I’ve intellectually understood the concept, I sometimes fall back into rigid ways of thinking. But whatever happens, the intention is set: to place myself in a position of receptivity and be surprised by what’s out there. As Jay Maisel once said, ‘The pictures are everywhere. If you’re open, they will find you.’ I try to be aware but not anxious because, at the end of the day, I am just a tiny part of the equation. There is something bigger, more magical and mysterious that takes place when my hands get a hold of the camera – something I can’t actually control.

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I was recently amazed to discover that one of my favourite photographers, Sally Mann, had made references to this mystery and magic, and that she herself viewed photography as a humble act of receiving. In Immediate Family, she wrote, ‘At times, it is difficult to say exactly who makes the pictures. Some are gifts to me from my children: gifts that come in a moment as fleeting as the touch of an angel’s wing. I pray for that angel to come to us when I set the camera up, knowing that there is not one good picture in five hot acres. We put ourselves into a state of grace we hope is deserving of reward, and it is a state of grace with the Angel of Chance.’

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And so, as the year draws to a close and a new one begins…whether you are a street photographer or a still life photographer, whether you photograph landscapes or your own family, and no matter what camera you use…there are gifts waiting for you. Be open to receiving them, and they will find you.

Portraits of a Distant Reality

Portraits of a Distant Reality

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For 6 months trip by the Otomi – Tepehua,
Indian zone of the state of Hidalgo, Mexico area.

Most people who allowed me to portray their faces do not speak Spanish.
They have their own native language. They harvest coffee,corn,
peas, beans etc …

The small stories that accompany each portrait are words, thoughts and
ideas from both sides.
Just as the photographs were taken, a translator told me what they thought.

This is a sign of the profound strength of our state, Hidalgo.

P2

The sun, the only witness who saw the afternoon’s work, marked my face more than my husband. The night came only to ask “What did you do? What’s to eat?” No one more than the sun, insolent, asked: “How much do you have to work today, so anyone will notice?”

P1“Above, always above.”

We see the light. We prefer because we care for others,  because we do something eternal day to day. Above, the place we come from and where we are going. Where the routine is forever and always the same. Here in this heaven, it helps us all to be one. The light comes and enlightens us; leaves us at night, because the next morning we will know that this, too, is the afterlife.

P7

My eyes see nothing, always the same, always the field, always the rain. I am a survivor of my office, rain flooded fields. Hope fills my hands with mud every morning.

P10

You see my face marked? You’re looking at all the lines on my face?

I do not understand what you say. I want to know who you are and why you came to my home to see me.

Wood has struck me with oils and textures. He did not return and could not stop to wait; wood waits for no one.

P6

I had no chance to dream.

I’ve been in the field since the beginning of my memory.  I know no change. In the field there are no options. The field is routine, very noble and very beautiful. But without options, they believed that the earth would not hold, and showed them the power the land gives me when I’m in the harvest.

They need to know their opportunities out of the field, but someone has to show them that they cannot be afraid to leave the place where they were born. So I’m here in front of you. I know my chances.

P3

Road over the streets:

pavement, dirt, dust…

I hope for someone, just hope. Road and wait.

I am what you have forgotten: the street pavement, dirt and dust.

P8

The field has always been my way of life. Water, wind and poverty have always gone ahead. My happiness does not survive with corn and coffee. Flying with the annual harvest where happiness flooded every home. Buyers come quickly to see us. We cannot always sell at our discretion. We are not always happy.

P9

I cannot look at you.

You are a foreigner and nobody knows where you come from.

Who buys from you?

I have stove ash all over my mind and you do not stop using that thing to steal my face…

P4

Raided under my cheeks, under my cheekbones, survives a smile that stands forged by fire brick. The lips that support it have been sullied, wasted and returned to sully the river. Angry eyes that hide more than joys.

P5

Steal my soul because you cannot steal anything else.

My body is dust.

The illusion age.

I was born in a world full of neglect and violence. Rob my soul because men want my body. Rob my soul because it has no economic value; it is useless here. Take her. Transform her into hope and light.

With special thanks for your participation in this project:

Timo Viejo(@timoviejo)

 

 

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