Thursday, August 14, 2008

Notes on Greece

Speaking of Andy, while we were in Epiros, photographing a 14th Century monastery that perilously overhangs an endless gorge, I sent him a message, because as a backpacker I knew he'd dig the place. I sent him detailed coordinates of the hiking trail so he'd be able to look it up in google earth. No need. He was there with my dad a few years ago. They hiked the Vikos Gorge, stood just where we stood over the precipitous gap in the earth, and never told me about it. My dad was stationed in Albania at the time, so it's not a stretch geographically, but you gotta know that feeling when you look on a corner of the earth with awe, is a feeling too exotic for seconds.

James just made us an at home version of something we drank in Greece nearly continuously: the cafe freddo (which is Italian), but the locals drink a cafe frappe, made with nescafe and espresso, I think, blended like a milkshake with ice. Why don't we have these in New York!? The pitiful ice coffees from our local place just don't have that kick, or the cute straw. If anyone knows where I can get one here, let me know! James made a spinach pie that was good too, but it didn't have those 11 other herbs and greens from Epiros that makes a real pita. Thank goodness all our stores here carry Greek yogurt, or I might have missed my flight home.

In a meeting a few months ago I told a photo editor who asked us where we'd like to go, off the top of my head I said that we'd love to shoot a story on Greek food. The universe conspires... We keep a map of the world in my office, and a few years ago we started to put pins in the places we'd like to see next. We got five pins each. Out of those original ten places, we've already been to half. We moved 5 pins to new locations, and yesterday, we got to move the Greece pin to...Costa Rica. FYI: there's pins still in Buenos Aires, Mont St. Michel, Antigua, the Azores, New Zealand...

We learned a valuable lesson in Greece: another use for Polaroids. When there's a language barrier, we memorize the phrase: May we take your picture? (in greek, phonetically: Moo eh-pee-TREH-peh-teh na sass PA-ro fo-to-ghraf-EE-ah?) Everyone says yes, but it is a concession, a gift these subjects give us that allows us to do our job. We began taking an extra polaroid of the shot and giving it to them, the only thing we have to give as a gift to them in return. Never in my life as has something so simple been met with such joy! Giggles, smiles, profuse handshakes. It's fun to watch them pour over the shot with their friends, put it away carefully to take home. Medium format polaroid is gorgeous as most of you know, and not to brag, but the people we photograph seem pretty excited about how good they look. The beauty and generosity of these strangers who let us take their picture! It was a powerful daily reminder of the sheer power of the medium we have chosen to communicate through.

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