Despite how much I love my family, and despite the fact that I do enjoy my life, sometimes it's great to get away...
I just spent three days in the Cretan town, Chania, sitting in on Part of Stella Johnson's Documentary Photography workshop. The workshop ran for five days, but I only managed three -- driving to Larnaca, boarding Aegean's flight for Heraklion, landing to find two bus loads of riot police outside the airport (expecting me, were they?), taking the three hour bus trip to Chania and finally checking in to the wonderful Porto del Colombo hotel in the old city.
My mornings were spent shooting, editing, and in class seeing the other students' work and sharing critiques. All together there were five American students and between three and five local teaching assistants who helped with translations and introductions and organised locations for the students to shoot -- a leather factory, the gypsy encampment, the market.
This was Stella's fourth Crete workshop: I first met her four years ago when I took a Magic Moment class with Costa Manos, and last year I was also able to attend part of her workshop. She is a wonderful teacher -- warm and encouraging, positive and constructive. I feel that I made some good progress in my work.
The most important place that I photographed was the cemetary. Stella and I had been together last year, but both of us had felt intimidated by the loaded situation there. This year I was determined to get something from it, and was rewarded. As I wandered the aisles, photographing the different graves, their inscriptions, their mementoes, I wondered how to discreetly include the black-clad relatives who came to clean and sweep their loved-one's tomb. I stopped at the memorial to one young man and was exploring different visual ideas when his mother arrived with fresh flowers and candles. Mortified, I asked if she minded my photography, and she said not at all, and to continue... The experience was a gift.
The whole workshop was a gift -- of learning, of cameraderie, of good food and raki, of intense concentration... Thank-you to all who combined your energies to make it all possible.