Two doors, two sides of the street.
Two doors, two sides of the street.
Sunshine and reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I never want it to end.
“People always think that happiness is a faraway thing,” thought Francie, “something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains – a cup of strong hot coffee when you’re blue; for man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you’re alone – just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness.”
It’s strangely similar to summer here in Amsterdam. Sun-filled days, warm evenings on the balcony, and slow walks through the city. We have had just one bout of morning rain this month. I’m hoping that things balance out in the coming weeks, so the weather saves a bit of strength for when it is truly summertime.
Here, a few sights seen on an afternoon stroll through Oud Zuid.
In one month, I will breath the air of the Northwest again. After a stop in Seattle for the wedding of a friend, I’m headed south to Oregon and my family. This also means a trip to some of my favorite stores and some yet-to-be visited shops.
The Move, a short film inspired by Amsterdam-style moving, illustrated with paper by artist Mandy Smith.
A Friday evening walking through the center of Amsterdam with distant relatives, in town for the weekend. A beautiful dusk sky and the streetlamps along the canal just beginning to light the way.
Lately, bits of German have begun to peek through my dreams. After several years of studying the language, to have a phrase, sentence, even a conversation appear in my dreams feels like I have passed a sacred milestone. Looking a bit more into the link between language learning and dreams, I found this New York Times article, which reads:
“…dreamtime fluency is a metaphor for becoming an insider, someone for whom the language isn’t foreign and whose own nativeness is neither feat nor achievement; it just is, as natural as breathing.”
I wish I could say German is no longer foreign, but that probably won’t be the case for many years. One curious thing, until the last six months I have never thought about language consciously while dreaming – in what I assume was English, my native language. Something about the appearance of German in my dreams causes me to actually register the change. It’s an “Aha, this is something different, but I know it” moment. Strange, isn’t it? Do you speak any other languages? Have they ever appeared in your dreams? (image via)
I first came across the work of Greek photographer Stratis Vogiatzis a few years ago when I heard about the publication of his book Inner World. A long-term photographer, he captures something wondrous and inexplicable in the worlds he explores. Equally, his descriptions of his projects cast poetic shadows alongside his photographs. After three years and more than seven countries into fishermen, I talked with Stratis about the project, where it came from and where it has taken him.
When did you start the project?
Stratis Vogiatzis: I started this project three years ago and it is still in progress. I started taking pictures of my small island in Greece, Chios, and then I continued to document the life of the fishermen in the whole region of the Mediterranean Sea and in more than seven countries. I don’t know when I will finish. I think deep inside me I don’t want this project to end because I don’t want to lose all the magic that is present when I am inside a fishing boat in the middle of the sea. And I don’t want to stop eating fresh fish.
Why were you drawn to the subject of fishermen?
Stratis Vogiatzis: I was born and raised on an island and I spent all my childhood close to the sea. The sea is very important for my balance. When I am away from the sea for a long time I don’t feel okay. When I was doing a project about this island, I photographed fishermen as well. Someone asked me why I was travelling with them and I answered that I was doing a project about the island. He answered, why don’t you make a project about fishermen as well. I thought that it was a great idea. Doing a project that has to do with the sea? Fantastic!!
How has the project changed over the years? What was the original focus of the project, what is it now?
Stratis Vogiatzis: At the beginning, it was more of a reportage. I wanted to document the various forms of fishing and document the life of the fishermen in a more journalistic way. Over time, this changed because I changed as a photographer. At the beginning, photography for me was about the image. Now it is about the experience. It is not about a good or a bad image. It is about taking a true or a false image. Although it sounds heavy to say that photographs – in order to have value for me – must be the document of a religious experience. The fishermen project evolved into a very personal project and all the images that have descriptive value have no importance for me now. In a way, through the world of the fishermen I speak about my longings, my fears, my need to communicate with others.
How much time do you usually spend with the fishermen on their boats?
Stratis Vogiatzis: It depends. The longest I stayed in a boat was one week. But it’s not only in the boats. I also spent a lot of time with them in the ports. The thing is that I wanted to spend more time with them. I have worked on this project for three years, but not with the intensity that I desired.
In your description of the project, you talk about the energy of the sea. How do you think if affects your photography?
Stratis Vogiatzis: Many times I felt a drama was taking place in front of my eyes, a drama that shows the desperate, primeval need of the people to tame nature, to overcome their weakness against the power of the sea and demand that she obeys their will. It is my strong belief that ‘the people of the sea’, as Proust called them, are the gatekeepers of a world totally unfamiliar to us. Being with them is a unique experience, to see how they deal with the wind and waves, the methods and the sea paths they follow when they hunt the fish and the incredible stories they share. It always comes as a great pleasure to observe the very special relation they share with the sea and its secrets. The connection that these people have with the sea is something that we cannot understand. They know the sea like we know a certain neighborhood in the city we live and, at the same time, the sea remains the biggest mystery for them. Although they know her mood, the winds, the currents, nevertheless they will always be foreigners invading an alien space.
What is it like to photograph in such a small space with lots of people and without much privacy?
Stratis Vogiatzis: What strikes me is the simplicity of their life inside the boat. The word personal space doesn’t exist in their vocabulary; they share a small space inside the cabin that is transformed into a small world in which they laugh, fight, communicate, spend time together. They eat upon a newspaper and when they finish eating, they gather the newspaper and put another one where they drink tea or coffee. When they are exhausted, they simply lean on each other or they find a small corner where they can rest. They are is no complexity in the life of the fishermen, neither I think the hypocrisy of pretending to be something different than they really are. What overwhelmed me the most was the authenticity of their lives and the fact that they are keeping the same simple, ‘insignificant’ way of life. The limitation of the space they share is exchanged by the infinity of the ocean and the harsh conditions of their work are exchanged by the freedom the share being in the middle of the ocean. Every fisherman is a traveller and every fishing day is a journey for them.
Has your experience photographing the fisherman made you reflect on your profession as a photographer? Are there any parallels?
Stratis Vogiatzis: I’ve never seen photography as a profession. I still don’t know how to act as a professional. I wished I knew, but I don’t. On the other hand, I consider myself very lucky that I can do what I love in photography and still pay the bills. I don’t think that the fishermen project made me a good professional, rather the opposite. At the same time though, I found a space inside me, a connection with the photography that I want to preserve intact.
All photos used with permission from the photographer. To read more about the project, click here.
This project by artist Candy Chang has generated a lot of talk, but I had to write about it for those who don’t know it yet. Chang converted the side of an abandoned house in her New Orleans neighborhood into a giant chalkboard, with a prompt to inspire passersby to write their aspirations for life. She explains the objective of the project:
Before I Die transforms neglected spaces into constructive ones where we can learn the hopes and aspirations of the people around us.
After seeing this project for the first time, I found myself thinking about what I want to do before I die. Marcus and I recently made a goal to travel to a new country every year, I hope to write a book in the near future, and I want to be fluent in Germany someday. There are so many things, but in the end I just want to be content and feel like I was a part of this world. What do you want to do/feel/be before you die?
A perfect spring day. Waking Saturday morning to fresh air and the breaking light. Grocery shopping, a trip to the fruit and vegetable market, over the bridge to take food scraps to the neighborhood zoo. Greeting a friend sitting in a corner café, a stop at the flower shop. An afternoon in the sun, a book and fresh strawberries within reach. Balcony doors open to the sounds of the neighborhood taking in the spring.