At the end of last month, I went -- as I have gone for the last three years -- to Chania in western Crete for Stella Johnson's Documentary Photography class through Maine Media Workshops. This time, instead of having to drive to Larnaca, fly to Heraklion, and ride the bus for three hours, I flew RyanAir -- a door to door journey of about three hours as opposed to one of nine and less than 100 Euros rather than more than 200.
I joined three other students, Stella, and four Greek teaching assistants, and spent 6 blissful days making pictures in and around Chania -- a town that I'm beginning to know.
As usual, Stella was a wonderful teacher, offering ideas and criticism as well as technical help. Seeing other students work and discussing the stronger or weaker points of images made for stimulating afternoons, and spending time with the TAs -- who provided a cheerful transport and translation service -- provided an interesting glimpse into Greek life at these troubled times.
Chania, a popular tourist town, has been spared many of the difficulties of the mainland. Like Cyprus, its population is still tied closely to the land, and even city dwellers have relatives still living in the villages, keeping chickens or livestock, raising olives, vines, or other fruits and vegetables. Empty shop fronts, 'For Sale', and 'For Rent' signs proliferate in the city's streets, and the tension of financial strain spills over in the form of fights in the market and more beggars on the streets than before, but people linked closely to the land remain versatile and despite sometimes drastic wage cuts, a sense of optimism remains.
I had wanted to photograph at an animal shelter, so Maria, one of the TA's contacted Silke Wroble who has been the advocate of Crete's sick and abandoned animals for twenty-five years. Working on a shoestring budget she takes in dogs, cats, birds, and any other animal that needs her care -- providing food, shelter, health-care, and, for a lucky few, the chance of a new 'forever' home, either in Greece or abroad.
As well as my usual hang-outs, the bus station and the cemetery,
I photographed 'behind the scenes' at Faka, one of my favourite restaurants.
Best Beloved joined me for the weekend, and as usual the Porto del Colombo Hotel was a great place to stay.