Monday, February 13, 2012

Greece of My Dreams, Part I

Dreaming of Peace
Monastery of Saint John, Patmos

In college, I took all the requisite classes for my studio art major: drawing, painting, printmaking, art history. Bowdoin is a liberal arts school, so I didn't have the breadth of exposure I might have had if I'd gone to art school. I did graduate, so I guess I'm passable at the foundations of making art. Truthfully, though, I think I liked the idea of being an artist better than the reality. I wasn't passionate about the art major. That was until the photography class I took as a lark in my second year. My love affair with photographs had begun.

Photography, as an art, is accessible yet requires creativity, knowledge, discipline, and a keen eye. I loved taking an idea, and making it come to life in the dark room. The subtleties of making images in black & white convey what I wanted to say, while creating a technically lovely print was a stimulating intellectual and creative puzzle. And then, I got excited about pushing the limits of the medium to see what would happen. For example, I did a series of photographs of deeply textured subjects, and then developed the hell out of the film to see how close I could get to an abstract image.

I felt a bit self-conscious falling in love with photography, though. It was as if, because of its accessibility, it was the ugly stepsister of the fine arts. Anybody with a camera could take a picture, right? I had the feeling that I was letting myself down somehow. That if I loved doing something so much that it didn't feel like work; I was cheating. I also had the feeling that other people thought I was taking an easy way out, too. At an elite school like Bowdoin, art in general, and photography in particular were not exactly looked upon as intellectually rigorous subjects. Once, when I told someone my other major was classical archaeology, they said to me, "Oh, so you're majoring in hobbies." *

*When I was in school, most fine art museums weren't actively collecting contemporary photography. I'm very proud that the Bowdoin Art Museum saw, relatively early on, that art photography is worthy of a place in the collections. They have had some of the most inspiring photography exhibits I've seen anywhere!

Technology has changed the way I make photographs. It's been an interesting process of relearning and experimenting, and I'm as happy and stimulated by the ways in which I can manipulate my photographs as ever I was in the dark room. It was always difficult for me to be totally happy with the color photographs I made in the years when they had to be processed by a lab. Digital photography has given me back control over what my prints will look like.

So, all these years later, two of my intellectually stimulating, creative hobbies are coming together. These photographs are Part I in the "Greece of My Dreams" series.

Oh, My Goddess
Remains of Temple of Artemis, Monastery of Saint John, Patmos

 Light From Within
Monastery of Saint John, Patmos

Three Sisters
All that's left of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

Seat of Learning
Celsus Library, Ephesus

Enter the Citadel
Lion Gate, Mycenae

Clytemnestra's View

Who's Your Daddy?
Temple of Zeus, Olympia

Dryad Flowering

Apollo's Legacy

After the Battle

Alien Landscape

Land of Milk and Honey*

*The monks and nuns in the quarter-mile high Monasteries of Meteora produce their own food. Before the road was built in the 1920s, a member would be lowered to the plain below to tend their gardens, animals and bees for prescribed amounts of time.

Between Heaven and Earth