Only last year did I learn that the word photography means simply ‘writing with light’. Not exactly a stretch to have figured out really (even for a non Latin scholar such as myself!), but it really did feel as though this was exactly what I began to understand during my few days in Greece earlier this month. So, a more visual blog post from me today as an excuse to share some of the (hundreds) of photos I took while participating in a photography workshop on the island of Paros.
Making the decision to take part in this workshop was not something I did lightly; I found out about it only from an Instagram friend whom I have been in a small group with since March. It was expensive and not great timing as one daughter returned to school and the other almost off to university. It felt like a huge indulgence, but my goodness am I glad I took a deep breath and committed myself!
I’m not sure really why it took me so long to develop an interest in photography. I have always been visually inspired and despite my steadfast preference for monochrome and neutrals I have happily experimented with colour. From my first steps in interiors (sorry about the black skirting boards Mum and Dad) to a fashion and stage makeup course I undertook while I wasn’t allowed to work in South Africa. I think that for some reason, while I have always acknowledged my desire to create, I have translated this as a need to produce something with a purpose or function, illustrated by my many forays into crafting and love of workshops.
With twelve participants, three photography tutors, two cooks, a stylist and the inimitable Flore Vallery-Radot (responsible for creating the whole shebang) this workshop comprised a wonderful group of women with widely varying backgrounds but a shared interest in photography. Hailing from Greece, France, Germany, Italy, Finland, Canada, the USA, Australia and the UK many of us shared the experience of living and working in different countries and cultures. We were generously and beautifully hosted at the dreamy home of Sandra Choremi. As I told her, it was as if it had been designed and decorated directly from my Pinterest account!
It is always my experience when hosting workshops at the barn that women are exceptionally generous with their time and expertise, and I benefitted greatly during this retreat from tutors and participants alike as they patiently shared tips, tricks and techniques with me. Kim Klassen, Xanthe Berkley and Lean Timms inspired and enthused me with their varied talents and I so hope that I will do justice to the skills they taught me in the months and years to come. Karen Louise Faith spent her days foraging to provide the most beautiful decorations for the tables at which we ate every mealtime, and gamely taught us all how to make a botanical head dress too! We were fed unbelievably well with the most delicious fresh home cooked food by the very lovely Julia and Sophie, many of the recipes taken from Sandra’s own cookbook (a copy of which came home with me).
In truth though, I gained far more from this experience than just photographic skills; although I have lived in several different countries, and am pretty well travelled, most of these experiences have been with M at my side… at least over the last 25 years. Getting to and from Paros wasn’t possible directly so required an overnight stop in Athens on the way and in Santorini on the way home. Doing so alone filled me with both a sense of excitement and trepidation. I have long had a bit of a hang up about eating out alone and bizarrely it was probably this that bothered me the most. But, I took a deep breath and did everything I wanted to do. On my own. I explored central Athens, visited the Acropolis museum, took myself out to dinner, acted like a photographer, watched the sun set with a glass of wine, got up at dawn to watch sunrise and negotiated the local bus system in Santorini.
I know, it’s hardly earth shattering. But, it has left me feeling quietly satisfied. I came home with a sense that my axis has shifted slightly, I feel calmer and more content – happy to pursue my goals at a steady pace. It’s impossible to decipher whether it was the act of stepping outside my comfort zone alone, spending time doing something creatively absorbing or being in the company of so many lovely and inspiring women that is responsible for this feeling. A combination of each element perhaps?
What I do know is that it’s so often easier to find a reason not to say yes. There are always restraints – time, finances or geography – but overcoming these is part of the process. So, I challenge you all to say yes to an experience that has felt out of reach, unnecessary or self indulgent. You might just grow from it in more ways than you can anticipate.