Monday, July 14, 2008

Santorini (Greece) = Geometry + Color + Shadow

Regular readers of my blog, and those that have seen my work in Lenswork , Focus, and Black & White magazine, know that I am primarily (indeed, almost exclusively!) a black and white photographer. While I have dabbled with color in the past, and print in color on occasion (the last time involving images taken in Hawaii, with an "explanation" provided by this 2006 blog entry), almost everything I do "seriously" (and seriously try to sell) is in black and white. O'Reilly publishing also published a "color portfolio" (of sorts) of some flowers, but these were considerably older than the "2005" byline date would suggest, and - moreover - were never meant to be part of a larger body of work. Generally speaking, and without apology, color is simply "not my thing."

So, it came as somewhat of a shock to my system to learn that Santorini, Greece - a veritable paradise of color, geometry and shadow that my wife and I were fortunate enough to visit for a few days earlier this month - effectively makes a mockery of everything I held sacred about black and white ;-) Trying to render Santorini in black and white, even if duo- or tri-toned, would be like trying to convey to someone who had never heard of George Carlin what his "seven words you can't say on television" are without uttering what those words are, and doing so in a PG manner. Simply not possible.

While I tend to "see" the world in tones, not colors (a habit I think I first picked up when my eyesight started going bad when I was five; since - without glasses - the world is made up mostly of featureless, colorless splotches in my visual field), I recognize that when color is the primary - or otherwise important - focus of my aesthetic attention and therefore needs to be expressed, it behooves me to render the scene in color. But color is by no means my primary focus. And to the extent that my (mostly B&W tonal) aesthetics dictates how I perceive a photographic environment, and what grabs my attention in the photographic environment, it is simply a fact that I have seldomly produced a body of work consisting of color images. However, Santorini renders all such musings and intellectualizations absurdly moot. Aside from its intricate labyrinth of criss-crossed and interlocked walkways (that passerbys must occasionally share with mules), Santorini is nothing but color; glorious, breathing, living, and sometimes blindingly bright color!

I am convinced that color is somehow born and nurtured here, before being unleashed in muted tones elsewhere in this world. A result partly of the eternally bright midday summer sun and partly of the bright local hues and saturation, Santorini is ablaze with color. This is somewhat of a paradox, as most of the buildings are painted a bright white, and are devoid of any color; of course, this accentuates the omnipresent colors that much more and renders them, if anything, more intense.

Since we were there for only a few days, I regret not having the time to "attune" myself to the fantastic - and phantasmagoric - Escher-like architectonic forms. I was more in "point and shoot" mode, trying to capture as much of the colorful geometry as I could in the time we had, than in my more usual slow, deliberate, and contemplative frame of mind (which, had I followed, would have resulted in far fewer shots; perhaps none at all (!). As it turned out, I did manage to find several wonderful scenes that show some of Santorini's unique charm (though I'll let kind readers judge for themselves).

On a physical side, what I will always remember about Santorini is the steps; endless steps, ups and downs, and more endless steps ;-) My wife and I needed about 80 steps or so to get down to our hotel room from the main desk (which is itself about 75 steps removed from the "top" of Fira, the town we stayed in), then another 50 to arrive at the hotel's restaurant for dinner. It is the first place either of us has stayed in with the amusing (and slightly surrealistic) property that, if - after locking your hotel room and before arriving at the hotel's restaurant - you suddenly remember that you have forgotten something absolutely vital for the rest of the day, you will pause, in mid-step, for considerably more than a few minutes (partly to catch your breath and partly to just think), reflecting on the pros and cons of going back to the room for the item; and, 9 times of of ten simply decide to forget it. This place is just hard on the legs and lungs! Though we were both immediately winded less than half-way up the first series of steps the first day there, we soon acclimated to the mini-climbs and were hardly out of breath by the last day. Just in time to prepare for our hike down Samaria Gorge on Crete, our next stop; but that's another story. (We also both found our thighs had expanded two or three inches in girth with pure muscle after we got back home.)

I have posted a mini "point and shoot" portfolio of Santorini's Geometry, Color, and Shadow - (no B&W to be found anywhere ;-) - here.


David said...

"Regular readers of my blog, and those that have seen my work in Lenswork , Focus, and Black & White magazine, know that I am primarily (indeed, almost exclusively!) a black and white photographer."

I, for one, am delighted to read this. There's a world of beauty in B&W and I look forward to your work in the "gray domain!"

Anonymous said...

I see your point - those azure skies are breathtaking! Thanks for sharing, Andy, I much enjoy your tremendous talent.

Po said...

Wow! I wish I had your talent. You have some amazing photos!


Anonymous said...

Santorini is ablaze with color

Ablaze with blue, anyway. Your lovely pictures have only a few exceptions. If we count black and white as two colors, you're essentially going from two to three, and I would argue that thinking/seeing in three is very different from thinking/seeing in many. I'm not by any means saying you shouldn't be doing full color, but that's not how your portfolio strikes me.

Anonymous said...

Oh you are so right about the fabulous 'colored' Santorini!

Have a look at this Santorini gallery of mine to see additional angles and you are also invited to download and watch my relaxing Santorini photo slideshow with music by clicking here - 3rd in row (but please bear with my "eye"... I am just a hobbyist!)