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!
How my mobile phone helped me to discover photography and what I learned along the way
Not too long ago the number was 36. That was how many pictures you could take with one roll of film. I went through about three of them per year. Two for the holidays and another one for the remaining family get-togethers. The constant lack of remaining shots on the film, the hassle of taking that little black box to be developed – it’s safe to say, I wasn’t a fan. To me photography felt complicated and out of reach.
Digital photography came along and things changed. People around me still took photos of their holidays and families. But now it wasn’t 36; now it was more like 360. I would sit through endless photo presentations, but picking up a camera myself wasn’t an option. Things seemed to get even worse when mobile phones turned into cameras. I remember buying my first smart phone. “I want to make phone calls and send text messages, why does this thing have a camera?” Oh, sweet ignorance…
They get us all in the end
Eventually, while everyone else was already busy taking selfies and stuffing Facebook with pictures of their daily lives, my inner photo geek awoke. First, it would only stick out its nose into this wondrous world of social media and mobile photography, quickly retreating whenever someone accused it of finally being interested.
What really caught my attention were blogs and, of course, Instagram. There I found people using their phones beyond the odd snapshot. For years I’d visited Instagram pages in my browser. Just for their photos. The social part of the app was too far out there for that little photo geek. Consumption okay, but sharing? No way! It takes confidence to put yourself out there. Most Instagramers, like me, are not professional photographers. However, this isn’t National Geographic, it’s a phone app and we all learn a thing or two as we go along.
The best camera is the one you have with you
Yes, I know. Phrase-mongering! But it’s still true and I learned the hard way. It was my second visit to Australia. The first time I went, the camera I brought gave up on me after two weeks. So one year later I returned home with only two photos, and a travel diary, but that’s another story.
Armed with a new DSLR and lots of determination, this time I was going to get it right. However, DSLRs are heavy and did I mention complicated? So it stayed in my bag for most of the trip. Not so my phone. It saved the day more than once and slowly but surely taught me to approach photography from a different point of view. That of a storyteller.
Getting to this place meant a long hike through a dry river bed and the burning heat of the Australian outback. We started before sunrise. Guided by the light patches of white sand, we made our way through the bush and gum trees rattling in the morning breeze. Without sunlight the rocks appear black. They radiate the heat from the day before and there is a distinctive scent in the air that can put me back to Australia in an instant.
As we reached the bottom of the river bed, the sun began creeping over the edge of the gorge and turned black into glowing red. It was beautiful but also meant we were up against the clock. Walking back with the sun up was not an option. So when we finally got to the end of the gorge there was just time for a few pictures with my mobile phone. The big camera stayed in my bag the entire hike.
This guy was about as big as the tip of my thumb. There were thousands at this beach in Tasmania. We had a blast trying to capture them in a photo without having them retreat into the sand or running away. This was a beautiful place and sunset, but I would not remember it as vividly had we all not spent an hour or two chasing crabs with our phones.
There is a difference between capturing the essence of a memory and a snapshot of a moment
At some point during my trip I began capturing things simply for their uniqueness or beauty. These photos have no story, but they form one if I put them all together.
They aren’t about what happened but what it felt like to be there. The color of the water, the texture of the sand and maybe even the sound of the birds in the morning and the scent of the gum trees at dusk. The details of everyday life.
Suddenly everyday things become special
Power plant along a freeway.
We all know them. The things we pass by on our way to work. They are familiar and yet we rarely pay attention to them. Especially when they represent the negative things of what we do to our environment. This, however, caught my eye. Since my phone camera and I have become better acquainted, I catch myself looking for interesting shapes and colors. I had stopped at the side of the road for the canola field, but ended up posting this on Instagram.
Sometimes a picture can make my day. Like the cool T-shirt you got for a bargain or the train you almost missed.
The perfect ending to a not so perfect day at the office.
For the non-professionals among us, our phone can be our best friend
I admit, I like my DSLR and I use it often. There are things that my phone just can’t do and I enjoy the challenge of learning about exposure, aperture and all those other things. But there are times when it’s not my camera but my ability to use it that reaches its limits. And more than once my phone has gotten me the photo I wanted.
This is not fog. It’s the heaviest rain I have ever been in. A sight to behold, but my camera wasn’t happy. Holding the camera in one hand and the umbrella in the other I just couldn’t get anything in focus. Freezing, drenched and quite annoyed I finally took a few shots with my phone. Not perfect, but sooo much better.
My phone makes me a hunter for opportunities
I am a writer and sometimes I desperately look for a picture to illustrate a thought. That’s when I go on secret photo missions. Wherever I go, I try to create an image that will translate that picture in my mind into something others might recognize.
Instagram caption: What if you could jump and dive into that other world?
And sometimes it is a song.
“There is nothing more difficult than talking about music.” – Camille Saint-Saëns
🎶 Camille Saint-Saëns – The Aquarium, Carnival of the Animals 🎶
Gadgets – every photo geek’s dream
Be warned! There comes a day when even the humblest mobile photographer opens their bag and it’s full of equipment. Halfway along my journey, I discovered gadgets. My favorite is this tiny lens that produces the most amazing macros.
The Alien – A beautiful poppy, so creepy up close.
My next lesson is how to do street photography. It helps to only have my phone. It doesn’t feel as intrusive when I sneak up on people.
Lovers on the love lock bridge in Cologne
There is still a long way to go before I master those intense portraits taken on a train or in a café. Let’s have a talk about your friendship with your phone or how to tackle those little photo geek insecurities. Find me on Instagram @tonivisual and say hello!
Thank you, Alexandra, for editing! @whisper_feather
“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.
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