CONSCIOUS PHOTOGRAPHY

The course of the gaze The course of the gaze

by Haris Kakarouhas
by Haris Kakarouhas

The course of the gaze - Bringing awareness to the procedure

 

Gestation or early period | Prosopography and urban private space, or the Cuban diary| Beyond mind’s identity to a New Earth 

 

Gestation or early period

 

 

How does a project mature? It is obviously a most mysterious, imperceptible process. It carries on independently of ourselves, in the subconscious, crystallizing on the walls of the soul. It is the form of the soul that makes it unique, indeed only the soul decides the hidden gestation period of that image which cannot be perceived by the conscious gaze. (Tarkovsky)

 

I got ivolved in photography producing pictures of interiors  and landscapes where people made their appearance only as distant figures. In my first steps, I was too shy to take a close picture of someone, especially of a stranger. One of those first pictures that still appeals to me was taken on a mountain on the island of Paros during a photographic workshop, after having spent many hours drinking and chatting with a local shepherd, Nikolas. The picture appealed to me as it reminded me of my childhood - I grew up in similar environment on a nearby island, but mainly because the gaze of his grandson, Thomas, with whom I identified, linked me to the picture and placed me inside its time. 

 

[Image 1 left -Nikolas & his grandson Thomas] 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, I produced portraits of men, whose presence became invested with symbolism, as they came to embody specific qualities, i.e. the biblical figure of the Patriarch, [Image 2 Simeon, Gounia – Kala, Georgia, 1996], or the serene face of the Saint. [Image 3 Mount Athos, 1995] For me these pictures functioned like symbols - they constituted an external point of reference that transcends me, and onto which, I myself project what I felt to be missing or lacking. They were of a different "size" and always seen from a distance. 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

[Image 2 Simeon, Gounia – Kala, Georgia, 1996]                                                              [Image 3 Mount Athos, 1995]

 

During that period, my father suddenly died, and I discovered that although I had numerous pictures of him, none of them immortalized him the way I had immortalized him inside me. So I decided to ask my mother to photograph her, afraid I would lose her too without having a picture of her I liked. After producing several photographs of her which didn’t satisfy me, one day to my surprise , I discovered an image on a contact-print that demonstrated the qualities which I acknowledged as my mother’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Image 4 My Mother, 1997]                                                                 [Image 5, Athina, 1997]


|  Overwhelmed by the result I decided to take up photographing other intimate faces and after numerous attempts, I ended up with the portrait of my girlfriend. (Figure 5)  By that time, I had produced numerous portraits, yet I felt that only few really were what I was looking for. I could acknowledge it when I would see it, but I didn’t know how to create it. The result was produced by means I ignored. But what was it I was looking for and that I could name only when I came across it? 

That period I also came across the Fayoum Portraits, paintings of faces gazing at death, which due to the ideas and aesthetic values underlying them, became points of reference in my artistic quest. I don’t want to omit that following my return home after my first visit to Cuba in 1998 -during which I had taken a few pictures- I discovered one more revelatory photograph. [Image 6] This picture was probably an extra reason for choosing Cuba as a place for exploration. 

 

[Figure 6, Regla, Cuba 1997]

 

But what was it I was looking for and that I could name only when I came across it? Did it relate to the other person’s personality traits? Was it a quality beyond identity -which we could possibly name the other person’s truth, his soul - or was it about all I projected onto the other? Alternatively, was it simply what I would like to see in a picture I created for the other? Did it have to do with his truth or mine? Did the picture contain an objective truth or a totally subjective one? Was it easier to discover it with someone I think I knew well, or with a stranger? Finally, Whose Photographs Are These? 

Subjectivity is directly connected to so-called documentary photography. Photographic literature had serious objections concerning objectivity. The photographer was thought to be an acute but non interfering observer, a scribe, not a poet. But as people quickly discovered that nobody takes the same picture of the same thing, the supposition that cameras furnish an impersonal, objective image yielded to the fact that photographs are evidence not only of what’s there but of what an individual sees, not just a record but an evaluation of the world. (Sontag) 

Beaumont Newhall adds to that by pointing out that “none conveys the deep respect for fact coupled with the desire to create the basically subjective interpretation of the world in which we live, that marks documentary photography at its best”, and finally Peter Hamilton proposes two definitions of the term documentary: documentary as objective representation, i.e. photo of a passport, and documentary as subjective interpretation. 

All the above is rather obvious. Firstly, it is by now clear enough that the instrument of the photographer is not the camera but his or her gaze. Even when he photographs without looking through the viewfinder –like Paul Strand, Walker Evans and others– the gaze is responsible for the selection of the pictures. Secondly, as Evans pointed out in a very early stage, the so-called documentary photography is a style in itself. Thirdly, the object is separate from its image. I mean they are entities of different texture, belonging to a different category- if it is so then which truth are we seeking? The truth of the object or the truth of the image? It is obvious that we are dealing with two separate truths. However, at the very instant of the creation of the photograph the truth of the image coincides with the truth of the object. Consequently, the photograph is an image that reflects not only the truth of its creator but also the truth of the photographed person at the particular moment of the shooting. 

Can the photograph convey the “intrinsic” or “universal” truth of the person, the truth that lies beyond identity or personality? Roland Barthes asks, referring to the “winter-park picture” of his mother, mentions how “in that picture of the young girl” he could see “the kindness that her being had grown once and for all, without having inherited it from someone,” and wonders “how could this kindness emerge from imperfect parents who didn’t love her as they should, shortly from a family?” He notices how “her kindness was exactly out of order, it didn’t belong to any system”…to further conclude that the rest of the pictures, “were only exhibiting her identity, not the truth, while the picture of the winter-park was for sure essential”, as it fulfilled for him “at least utopicaly, the ineffable science of the unique being”. 

All the pictures of my mother that I looked over seemed like masks concealing the last one, suddenly the mask disappeared, there remained a soul without age but not out of time since it was this particular air that I could see, of the same substance with her being, every single day of her entire long life. (Barthes) 

Barthes underlines that the "air is that ultimate element that allows us to gather the soul from the body -the animula- the little personal soul, good for some and bad for others". The sight of this image invoques in him a sudden awakening out of "similarity", a satori state where the words loose their impact, a rare and unique lucidity that may spring from “That’s it and nothing more”. The above also reflect my own reactions in the sight of the pictures of my mother, of my friends, even those of the young Cuban -who was a complete stranger to me. Those are the pictures that I call "prosopographies" meaning the “graphi” or image of the prosopon. 

 

My experience in Cuba

 

Judging from my experience in the field of photography, I realized that most of the times the subject, located in the periphery, is the point of departure for the artist, whose ultimate aim is to reach the nucleus where the essence lies. Achieving a purely personal artistic idiom, would involve transforming the materials of phenomenal reality into a private world. Personally, what I was always aiming at, was not representing or producing a comment, nor distorting or subverting reality, but rather simply viewing it in my own way. This intention is unaffected by the subject, which once becoming the dominant element of a picture, automatically drives it to failure. My intention has never been to depict an idea or concept, but to look for and discover ideas or other esoteric parameters, which shape the way I see, which formulate my gaze. This is what my work is all about. Overall, when I set off for my photographic exploration, choosing Cuba as the place, what I was really anticipating was to fully experience the new flavor this unknown place had to offer, while at the same time I was ready to face my own limitations and fears and ultimately allow my personal gaze to distill this overwhelming experience into photographic images. 

Being occupied exclusively with taking photographs for a period of two years, I finally had an answer to the question, how I can create an image of a prosopon. Firstly, I had to find a state of inner connection and silence, in other words to be in meditation. Then shooting was a spontaneous choreography, dominated by rhythm. And in that way, the person facing me, either under my direction, or not, would find his way in space. What I was essentially creating was a space, an energy field in which the other either participated or not. It was characteristic that during the shooting I didn’t hold the camera at eye level, and wasn’t thus constantly looking at the other through the viewfinder. Establishing eye contact with the other was my prime concern. This lasted for as long as it was necessary to create a communicative bond between me and the other, and allow us both to enter the common time of empathy. I would raise the camera and look through the viewfinder only after I had felt this common time had been established. This move usually took me just a few seconds, since the decision for the frame was already taken by the eye. Of course this process developed gradually through experience. Many times, mainly in the beginning, I was impatient and very demanding, trying to get from the other what I wanted, which always led me to failure. And, naturally, it transformed an exploring, playful and loving process into an anxious chase for an illusionary goal. 

My latter involvement in psychotherapy and the teachings of Diamond Approach as well as other practices of contemporary physical psychotherapy, and ego psychology provided me with an understanding of the subject of the prosopon through personal experience. It also gave me awareness of my photographic roots, of the photographic procedure as well as of the function of the image. 

In the Diamond Approach, students are taught various practices that develop the capacity to recognize and orient to and from the direct experience of presence, of the field of awareness. In addition, ongoing open inquiry into one’s experience, both of the content of mind/emotion/body and of the field of presence experienced by the student, and the effects of the latter on the former and vice versa, constitute a learning and orientation that support the ongoing revelation of various levels of the truth of the soul’s reality and of Reality beyond the individual soul. (Almaas) 

And with the term soul, I refer to the whole self, including all its elements and dimensions. Also, our true or spiritual nature does not need work; it is pure and complete. However, we need to work on ourselves in order to become sufficiently open and clear just to glimpse this nature. All this process made me more conscious and quite clear about my photographic practice, giving me the answers to the questions of the beginning. 

It facilitated a deeper understanding of philosophical and psychological approaches to the issue of prosopon, as well as themes like empathic communication. 

Therefore, I bring as an example the photograph that I love the most from the Cuba period

 

 

[Image 7 German Pozo Baldes with a friend Centro Havana, May 2002]. 

 

 

The photograph was taken one morning that I was wandering at Centro Havana when I saw a barber’s shop looking through the window of an old building’s basement. I had an instinctive impulse to enter in. I was accompanied by Carina, my Cuban friend. In the room there was German who, at that time, was cutting his friend’s hair (whose name I ignore) as well as another man who was sitting half-asleep in an old rocking-chair waiting for his turn. The thing that I reckon from German was a sense of politeness in his presence, something that I do not encounter every day. From the moment that I decided to lift my camera and afterwards, I do not reckon anything. I do reckon though that I felt like leaving and avoided taking any pictures for the next hours. Always, when the procedure of the shooting was so intense that I would loose myself, I wanted to escape. The only thing I remember is that when I left the building and walked down the street, Herman appeared in front of us holding a rose that he offered Carina after asking for my permission. At the time I had no idea about the picture, I discovered it approximately two months latter in a contact print and from the first moment I saw it I knew that it was one of the photographs I sought. To put an end to the retrospection of events, when I returned to Havana I gave Geman the photograph; he felt really proud of it and we even went out for a drink a couple of times. I did not photograph him again because I had the feeling that I would spoil this exceptional photo. 

Leaving aside the historical background and looking at the picture alone, one could focus on the information that is likely to be revealed on the poor conditions of life in Cuba. One could probably underline the obvious tenderness among men and speak of a society that lacks the fear of homosexuality. All that formulates what Roland Barthes defines as studium: he suggests a series of ideologies that concern systems or models of explanation or description of reality, but not the reality itself. Furthermore, one could focus on the frame, on the way the white -the t-shirt and the towel- flows in it, emerging dazzlingly from the darkness of the room, pleasantly spoiling the severity of the square frame. We could also focus on the hands of the barber holding the electric razor while he has his arms affectionately around his friend; or even notice the picture of the clown who seems enigmatic as if he is watching every movement from the far end of the room. 

Those are the punctum of the picture, the elements that expand the space beyond the boundaries of the frame, transforming it into time. (I am of the opinion that there can be more than one punctum in a photograph and that it is the punctum that transforms space into to time). However the ultimate punctum are Herman’s eyes. His countenance has an expression of longing, yet a longing for something undefined and his eyes look beyond their beholder, in a time dimension that is no longer horizontal, but vertical; his eyes look inwards. This is the look that puts me in a satori like R.Barthes’ (“Just that, just as it is and nothing more”). This is the photograph that I would call contemporary hagiography (icon). Not because the barber is a saint according to the profile dictated by religious institutions, but because at the specific moment he is in a state of holiness. Thus, he transfers his beholder -if the latter stands open and silent in front of him- to a similar condition; he makes him look inwards and guides him from the visible (form) to the spiritual (formless). Those are the pictures that I seek and though I know the procedure, each time it turns out to be different and unexpected. 

 

In connection to Mother Earth

 

My current work is focusing on Reality in a way more direct and clear. Nature is Real. So I witness the inner beauty and essence of the natural Reality. And people are part of It. They have taken off all kinds of identities some times their clothes too and stay simply Present in connection with Real. Also objects -human constructions- are part of nature. I don’t want to complaint for the ecological catastrophe -this is the job of media-, because by accusing you pay attention to distraction. I want to focus on what we lost, and this is Reality and our connection to It. 

This is not a project, is the way I live. I spent several periods of the year in the forests. And also I live with 'spiritual' communities being into nature. The procedure of photographing remains the spontaneous choreography, dominated by rhythm. Τhe difference lay in the fact that the person photographed is aware of that inner space of connection with his or her real self, thus facilitating and accelerating the photographic process. The difference as far as I am concerned is that, firstly, I am familiar of the procedure or I ‘know’ -something of little importance since life goes on beyond logical explanations. Secondly, it is of great importance the fact that I can finally be in that ecstatic space myself, I can be in that state of Being and this all that is needed, it is a blessing in itself. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring the ‘esoteric

 

In this personal, esoteric path, apart from the teachings of the Diamond Approach, I also encountered other spiritual traditions. I experienced different approaches such as the Orthodox internal prayer of the heart, the Sufi whirling and zickers (Dhikr), Buddhist meditation, Osho's meditations, and the shamanic rituals. All these different ways lead to a common ground, namely the reality of Being as expressed through various qualities such as peace, love, intelligence, consciousness, guileless joy.

Accidentally, I began to express all these experiences photographically. It happened for the first time on Mount Athos, where I found myself in a church in the late afternoon accompanying a monk to light the candles. Wandering around the church, I suddenly saw a chandelier that seemed beautiful in low light. I lifted the camera that I was luckily carrying with me, and I liked the result I saw. Until then, I had never made a blurry image in my photographic journey. But the particular image, albeit shaky due to the long exposure, pleasantly surprised me. So I continued this "game" and I liked the result. Somehow this motion in the image represents the silent sound of prayer.

A month later, while I was in Konya, Turkey, participating in a Sufi Sama ceremony, I stepped out of the circle for a while and took some pictures without even looking through the viewfinder of my camera. In a way, I was just following the energy of the prayer. The result in my eyes was the same. An image of exceptional beauty that expresses the essence of prayer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The course of the gaze - Bringing awareness to the procedure

 

Gestation or early period | Prosopography and urban private space, or the Cuban diary| Beyond mind’s identity to a New Earth 

 

Gestation or early period

 

 

How does a project mature? It is obviously a most mysterious, imperceptible process. It carries on independently of ourselves, in the subconscious, crystallizing on the walls of the soul. It is the form of the soul that makes it unique, indeed only the soul decides the hidden gestation period of that image which cannot be perceived by the conscious gaze. (Tarkovsky)

 

I got ivolved in photography producing pictures of interiors  and landscapes where people made their appearance only as distant figures. In my first steps, I was too shy to take a close picture of someone, especially of a stranger. One of those first pictures that still appeals to me was taken on a mountain on the island of Paros during a photographic workshop, after having spent many hours drinking and chatting with a local shepherd, Nikolas. The picture appealed to me as it reminded me of my childhood - I grew up in similar environment on a nearby island, but mainly because the gaze of his grandson, Thomas, with whom I identified, linked me to the picture and placed me inside its time. 

 

[Image 1 left -Nikolas & his grandson Thomas] 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, I produced portraits of men, whose presence became invested with symbolism, as they came to embody specific qualities, i.e. the biblical figure of the Patriarch, [Image 2 Simeon, Gounia – Kala, Georgia, 1996], or the serene face of the Saint. [Image 3 Mount Athos, 1995] For me these pictures functioned like symbols - they constituted an external point of reference that transcends me, and onto which, I myself project what I felt to be missing or lacking. They were of a different "size" and always seen from a distance. 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

[Image 2 Simeon, Gounia – Kala, Georgia, 1996]                                                              [Image 3 Mount Athos, 1995]

 

During that period, my father suddenly died, and I discovered that although I had numerous pictures of him, none of them immortalized him the way I had immortalized him inside me. So I decided to ask my mother to photograph her, afraid I would lose her too without having a picture of her I liked. After producing several photographs of her which didn’t satisfy me, one day to my surprise , I discovered an image on a contact-print that demonstrated the qualities which I acknowledged as my mother’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Image 4 My Mother, 1997]                                                                 [Image 5, Athina, 1997]


|  Overwhelmed by the result I decided to take up photographing other intimate faces and after numerous attempts, I ended up with the portrait of my girlfriend. (Figure 5)  By that time, I had produced numerous portraits, yet I felt that only few really were what I was looking for. I could acknowledge it when I would see it, but I didn’t know how to create it. The result was produced by means I ignored. But what was it I was looking for and that I could name only when I came across it? 

That period I also came across the Fayoum Portraits, paintings of faces gazing at death, which due to the ideas and aesthetic values underlying them, became points of reference in my artistic quest. I don’t want to omit that following my return home after my first visit to Cuba in 1998 -during which I had taken a few pictures- I discovered one more revelatory photograph. [Image 6] This picture was probably an extra reason for choosing Cuba as a place for exploration. 

 

[Figure 6, Regla, Cuba 1997]

 

But what was it I was looking for and that I could name only when I came across it? Did it relate to the other person’s personality traits? Was it a quality beyond identity -which we could possibly name the other person’s truth, his soul - or was it about all I projected onto the other? Alternatively, was it simply what I would like to see in a picture I created for the other? Did it have to do with his truth or mine? Did the picture contain an objective truth or a totally subjective one? Was it easier to discover it with someone I think I knew well, or with a stranger? Finally, Whose Photographs Are These? 

Subjectivity is directly connected to so-called documentary photography. Photographic literature had serious objections concerning objectivity. The photographer was thought to be an acute but non interfering observer, a scribe, not a poet. But as people quickly discovered that nobody takes the same picture of the same thing, the supposition that cameras furnish an impersonal, objective image yielded to the fact that photographs are evidence not only of what’s there but of what an individual sees, not just a record but an evaluation of the world. (Sontag) 

Beaumont Newhall adds to that by pointing out that “none conveys the deep respect for fact coupled with the desire to create the basically subjective interpretation of the world in which we live, that marks documentary photography at its best”, and finally Peter Hamilton proposes two definitions of the term documentary: documentary as objective representation, i.e. photo of a passport, and documentary as subjective interpretation. 

All the above is rather obvious. Firstly, it is by now clear enough that the instrument of the photographer is not the camera but his or her gaze. Even when he photographs without looking through the viewfinder –like Paul Strand, Walker Evans and others– the gaze is responsible for the selection of the pictures. Secondly, as Evans pointed out in a very early stage, the so-called documentary photography is a style in itself. Thirdly, the object is separate from its image. I mean they are entities of different texture, belonging to a different category- if it is so then which truth are we seeking? The truth of the object or the truth of the image? It is obvious that we are dealing with two separate truths. However, at the very instant of the creation of the photograph the truth of the image coincides with the truth of the object. Consequently, the photograph is an image that reflects not only the truth of its creator but also the truth of the photographed person at the particular moment of the shooting. 

Can the photograph convey the “intrinsic” or “universal” truth of the person, the truth that lies beyond identity or personality? Roland Barthes asks, referring to the “winter-park picture” of his mother, mentions how “in that picture of the young girl” he could see “the kindness that her being had grown once and for all, without having inherited it from someone,” and wonders “how could this kindness emerge from imperfect parents who didn’t love her as they should, shortly from a family?” He notices how “her kindness was exactly out of order, it didn’t belong to any system”…to further conclude that the rest of the pictures, “were only exhibiting her identity, not the truth, while the picture of the winter-park was for sure essential”, as it fulfilled for him “at least utopicaly, the ineffable science of the unique being”. 

All the pictures of my mother that I looked over seemed like masks concealing the last one, suddenly the mask disappeared, there remained a soul without age but not out of time since it was this particular air that I could see, of the same substance with her being, every single day of her entire long life. (Barthes) 

Barthes underlines that the "air is that ultimate element that allows us to gather the soul from the body -the animula- the little personal soul, good for some and bad for others". The sight of this image invoques in him a sudden awakening out of "similarity", a satori state where the words loose their impact, a rare and unique lucidity that may spring from “That’s it and nothing more”. The above also reflect my own reactions in the sight of the pictures of my mother, of my friends, even those of the young Cuban -who was a complete stranger to me. Those are the pictures that I call "prosopographies" meaning the “graphi” or image of the prosopon. 

 

My experience in Cuba

 

Judging from my experience in the field of photography, I realized that most of the times the subject, located in the periphery, is the point of departure for the artist, whose ultimate aim is to reach the nucleus where the essence lies. Achieving a purely personal artistic idiom, would involve transforming the materials of phenomenal reality into a private world. Personally, what I was always aiming at, was not representing or producing a comment, nor distorting or subverting reality, but rather simply viewing it in my own way. This intention is unaffected by the subject, which once becoming the dominant element of a picture, automatically drives it to failure. My intention has never been to depict an idea or concept, but to look for and discover ideas or other esoteric parameters, which shape the way I see, which formulate my gaze. This is what my work is all about. Overall, when I set off for my photographic exploration, choosing Cuba as the place, what I was really anticipating was to fully experience the new flavor this unknown place had to offer, while at the same time I was ready to face my own limitations and fears and ultimately allow my personal gaze to distill this overwhelming experience into photographic images. 

Being occupied exclusively with taking photographs for a period of two years, I finally had an answer to the question, how I can create an image of a prosopon. Firstly, I had to find a state of inner connection and silence, in other words to be in meditation. Then shooting was a spontaneous choreography, dominated by rhythm. And in that way, the person facing me, either under my direction, or not, would find his way in space. What I was essentially creating was a space, an energy field in which the other either participated or not. It was characteristic that during the shooting I didn’t hold the camera at eye level, and wasn’t thus constantly looking at the other through the viewfinder. Establishing eye contact with the other was my prime concern. This lasted for as long as it was necessary to create a communicative bond between me and the other, and allow us both to enter the common time of empathy. I would raise the camera and look through the viewfinder only after I had felt this common time had been established. This move usually took me just a few seconds, since the decision for the frame was already taken by the eye. Of course this process developed gradually through experience. Many times, mainly in the beginning, I was impatient and very demanding, trying to get from the other what I wanted, which always led me to failure. And, naturally, it transformed an exploring, playful and loving process into an anxious chase for an illusionary goal. 

My latter involvement in psychotherapy and the teachings of Diamond Approach as well as other practices of contemporary physical psychotherapy, and ego psychology provided me with an understanding of the subject of the prosopon through personal experience. It also gave me awareness of my photographic roots, of the photographic procedure as well as of the function of the image. 

In the Diamond Approach, students are taught various practices that develop the capacity to recognize and orient to and from the direct experience of presence, of the field of awareness. In addition, ongoing open inquiry into one’s experience, both of the content of mind/emotion/body and of the field of presence experienced by the student, and the effects of the latter on the former and vice versa, constitute a learning and orientation that support the ongoing revelation of various levels of the truth of the soul’s reality and of Reality beyond the individual soul. (Almaas) 

And with the term soul, I refer to the whole self, including all its elements and dimensions. Also, our true or spiritual nature does not need work; it is pure and complete. However, we need to work on ourselves in order to become sufficiently open and clear just to glimpse this nature. All this process made me more conscious and quite clear about my photographic practice, giving me the answers to the questions of the beginning. 

It facilitated a deeper understanding of philosophical and psychological approaches to the issue of prosopon, as well as themes like empathic communication. 

Therefore, I bring as an example the photograph that I love the most from the Cuba period

 

 

[Image 7 German Pozo Baldes with a friend Centro Havana, May 2002]. 

 

 

The photograph was taken one morning that I was wandering at Centro Havana when I saw a barber’s shop looking through the window of an old building’s basement. I had an instinctive impulse to enter in. I was accompanied by Carina, my Cuban friend. In the room there was German who, at that time, was cutting his friend’s hair (whose name I ignore) as well as another man who was sitting half-asleep in an old rocking-chair waiting for his turn. The thing that I reckon from German was a sense of politeness in his presence, something that I do not encounter every day. From the moment that I decided to lift my camera and afterwards, I do not reckon anything. I do reckon though that I felt like leaving and avoided taking any pictures for the next hours. Always, when the procedure of the shooting was so intense that I would loose myself, I wanted to escape. The only thing I remember is that when I left the building and walked down the street, Herman appeared in front of us holding a rose that he offered Carina after asking for my permission. At the time I had no idea about the picture, I discovered it approximately two months latter in a contact print and from the first moment I saw it I knew that it was one of the photographs I sought. To put an end to the retrospection of events, when I returned to Havana I gave Geman the photograph; he felt really proud of it and we even went out for a drink a couple of times. I did not photograph him again because I had the feeling that I would spoil this exceptional photo. 

Leaving aside the historical background and looking at the picture alone, one could focus on the information that is likely to be revealed on the poor conditions of life in Cuba. One could probably underline the obvious tenderness among men and speak of a society that lacks the fear of homosexuality. All that formulates what Roland Barthes defines as studium: he suggests a series of ideologies that concern systems or models of explanation or description of reality, but not the reality itself. Furthermore, one could focus on the frame, on the way the white -the t-shirt and the towel- flows in it, emerging dazzlingly from the darkness of the room, pleasantly spoiling the severity of the square frame. We could also focus on the hands of the barber holding the electric razor while he has his arms affectionately around his friend; or even notice the picture of the clown who seems enigmatic as if he is watching every movement from the far end of the room. 

Those are the punctum of the picture, the elements that expand the space beyond the boundaries of the frame, transforming it into time. (I am of the opinion that there can be more than one punctum in a photograph and that it is the punctum that transforms space into to time). However the ultimate punctum are Herman’s eyes. His countenance has an expression of longing, yet a longing for something undefined and his eyes look beyond their beholder, in a time dimension that is no longer horizontal, but vertical; his eyes look inwards. This is the look that puts me in a satori like R.Barthes’ (“Just that, just as it is and nothing more”). This is the photograph that I would call contemporary hagiography (icon). Not because the barber is a saint according to the profile dictated by religious institutions, but because at the specific moment he is in a state of holiness. Thus, he transfers his beholder -if the latter stands open and silent in front of him- to a similar condition; he makes him look inwards and guides him from the visible (form) to the spiritual (formless). Those are the pictures that I seek and though I know the procedure, each time it turns out to be different and unexpected. 

 

In connection to Mother Earth

 

My current work is focusing on Reality in a way more direct and clear. Nature is Real. So I witness the inner beauty and essence of the natural Reality. And people are part of It. They have taken off all kinds of identities some times their clothes too and stay simply Present in connection with Real. Also objects -human constructions- are part of nature. I don’t want to complaint for the ecological catastrophe -this is the job of media-, because by accusing you pay attention to distraction. I want to focus on what we lost, and this is Reality and our connection to It. 

This is not a project, is the way I live. I spent several periods of the year in the forests. And also I live with 'spiritual' communities being into nature. The procedure of photographing remains the spontaneous choreography, dominated by rhythm. Τhe difference lay in the fact that the person photographed is aware of that inner space of connection with his or her real self, thus facilitating and accelerating the photographic process. The difference as far as I am concerned is that, firstly, I am familiar of the procedure or I ‘know’ -something of little importance since life goes on beyond logical explanations. Secondly, it is of great importance the fact that I can finally be in that ecstatic space myself, I can be in that state of Being and this all that is needed, it is a blessing in itself. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring the ‘esoteric

 

In this personal, esoteric path, apart from the teachings of the Diamond Approach, I also encountered other spiritual traditions. I experienced different approaches such as the Orthodox internal prayer of the heart, the Sufi whirling and zickers (Dhikr), Buddhist meditation, Osho's meditations, and the shamanic rituals. All these different ways lead to a common ground, namely the reality of Being as expressed through various qualities such as peace, love, intelligence, consciousness, guileless joy.

Accidentally, I began to express all these experiences photographically. It happened for the first time on Mount Athos, where I found myself in a church in the late afternoon accompanying a monk to light the candles. Wandering around the church, I suddenly saw a chandelier that seemed beautiful in low light. I lifted the camera that I was luckily carrying with me, and I liked the result I saw. Until then, I had never made a blurry image in my photographic journey. But the particular image, albeit shaky due to the long exposure, pleasantly surprised me. So I continued this "game" and I liked the result. Somehow this motion in the image represents the silent sound of prayer.

A month later, while I was in Konya, Turkey, participating in a Sufi Sama ceremony, I stepped out of the circle for a while and took some pictures without even looking through the viewfinder of my camera. In a way, I was just following the energy of the prayer. The result in my eyes was the same. An image of exceptional beauty that expresses the essence of prayer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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