• hydra … our summer’s first and last port of call

    November 1st, 2017

    As stated before, I love islands. At their best they are little capsules of bliss. On an island you accept the fact that there is a disconnection from all that mainland hustle and bustle. You’re cut off. Which is a pleasure …  and while I am happy that there are more far islands left in this grand world to discover, my current favourite is Hydra. I am not alone. Far more distinguished company have resided or worked here – Leonard Cohen, Jurgen Teller, Sofia Loren among others. We had a celebrity sighting with a Game Of Thrones star. I’ve been twice and predict a return at the next earliest date.

    Although the amphitheatre arrangement style of the architecture of the port may be overshadowed by Santorini’s iconic and relentlessly photographed scene, Hydra doesn’t lack for charm. Strict codes preserve it from crass developments and ugly architecture. This is, for my money, exactly what I hope for on a Greek island. The fact that the port-side town lacks motor vehicles or even bicycles is a huge plus. Want to lug your bag up the hill, you have two options: shoulder the burden or hire a mule who line up, truculently, each morning to assist in the unloading of various goods at the port. They might not be the happiest islanders but their toils are greatly appreciated by a snap-happy generation of instagrammers as well as seven-year-olds who delight in being given a ride to the hotel along with overstuffed suitcases which don’t easily roll along on cobblestone streets.

    Given its proximity to Athens, (1.5 hours on the Flying Dolphin, 2.5 by Flying Cat) it’s a big favourite for casual weekenders as well as the elite traveller. The full spectrum of hospitality is available. We sampled two distinctly different properties. The rather grandiosely titled, Hydrea Exclusive Hospitality (at which the first four photos of this post were taken), located on the western edge of the harbour, is a magnificent perch, everything a romance seeker could expect style-wise from a design hotel. We also stayed at Miranda, an old captain’s mansion, which has its own old-world charm and much less “exclusive” prices, and where our welcome included another ubiquitous four-legged islander: a white and ginger street cat, we very creatively dubbed, Ginger. Hydra probably has the friendliest and most well cared for population of cats we have encountered so far, also much to the delight of the seven-year-old set.

    In terms of quality food and drink, you don’t have to wander far. Good, honest fare abounds. Side streets, in particular, offer a host of family owned and operated options. Eat whatever is featured on the daily menu. Fresh produce and other close-to-source ingredients make such dishes sing. Also sweet, sun-kissed tomato sauce with a hint of cloves make dishes such as rooster in sauce, or meat balls and sauce a daily craving. A side of fresh cut potatoes never hurts either.

    The most difficult question of the day is where to dip ourselves into the Aegean. There are fantastic places arrayed cliff-side to drink, take in the sun and plunge into Poseidon’s blessed pool. Yet some mornings the wind picks up and forebodes the need for a sheltered cove, in which case there are also beaches, usually requiring a 20-30 minute stroll, or a shuttle boat – if you don’t feel the need to exert yourself. When we wanted a beach our preferred choice was the Four Seasons (not the chain), which also comes highly recommended as a boutique hotel. It’s about 45 minutes on foot but the westerly walk features plenty of scenic places to stop and enjoy a refreshment or two. If speed is of the essence, there’s a regular shuttle boat every 30 minutes. While we can’t attest to the suites — having not stayed there — the food and the cheerful staff constantly deliver. Personally, I prefer to remain closer to the harbour, and so, from 10:00 AM most mornings, our favourite was the cliff-side, Spilia (pictured two frames above), where the super-friendly and talented bartender-barista, basketball aficionado Aggelos (pictured immediately above), hosted us with such natural good grace we almost felt like locals.

    As the sun moves westward, we almost always find ourselves at Hydronetta (shots 1, 3, 4 , 5 below) which means mermaid, for aperitifs. Just around the point from Spilia, the sunsets are a thing of legend. And despite some occasionally melodramatic playlists, we never felt the need to break with tradition. The sheltered cove was perfect for a dip on all but one evening where only yours truly felt comfortable venturing for a swim.

    After nightfall and a good dinner at somewhere like Kryfo Limani (Secret Port) or Pardosiako (Traditional) there’s always time for a digestif or two at Amalour, or you can head back to the port and enjoy a perennial favourite, Pirate Bar. But the music is really good at Amalour (immediately below) so don’t rush. In terms of atmosphere, the western portside Papagalos (Parrot), right below Hydrea E.H., is also good place to zone out next the gently bobbing yachts.

    While the season is now over for most of our preferred haunts, we’ll be kept warm with memories of a summer bookended by Hydra’s eternal magic. Thank Poseidon for the welcome tide that brings you ashore on Hydra. We now look forward to our return.

  • cansu & baskın

    April 15th, 2014

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    Don’t know about you, but I like a good party. However the party of parties is a wedding, so I have to say I like a good wedding even more. Today I thought I’d  reminisce about my favourite assignment of 2013: Cansu & Baskin’s Wedding. Like all the best jobs it was an opportunity to collaborate with some great talent, including a true friend and a great visual storyteller, Ahmet Polat — I certainly wouldn’t have been comfortable attempting to tell this grand a story without him. Over 400 guests! So let it be known that his shots feature prominently in this collection. Now that you know who I documented the event with, let’s introduce you to our two leads in this grand love story, the bride, Cansu, and the groom, Baskin.

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    Nice couple, no? If only every assignment found me working with such a fun pair. Not surprisingly, their family and friends were a class act and a spirited group of individuals too. When shooting a wedding, I like to include lots of the back story. It’s not simply about the poses, the set ups and I do moments. It’s as much about all the work and all the dear friends that brought two such worthy people together. That’s why it’s really important to document these moments in the lead up since they fly by so swiftly on the day itself. Read More…

  • cochine

    December 20th, 2013

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    Just wanted to share with you a sample of some photography I recently did for Cochine in Beyoglu. It’s a cozy spot halfway down Kumbaracı Yokuşu I first mentioned in a separate post last year that serves French-influenced Vietnamese cuisine and is run by a super great couple, Melis and Chris Maxwell (immediately above). This year there’s a new menu and some fantastic new talent in the kitchen, which is why they called me in to take some shots.

    I really love the place as it’s one of the few venues in town I will continue to hang around in after a great dinner. At most places, you might eat a good meal but won’t feel an inclination to linger once the plates have been cleared. That’s not the case here. With live music on many an evening and some quite nice cocktails being whipped up behind the bar, it’s easy to get into (and stay into) a Cochine kind of mood. In fact, if I were persuaded to go out New Year’s Eve, this is exactly the sort of place I’d head.

  • etched into the blue: tarabya

    October 22nd, 2013

    Tarabya Tree

    Grand Tarabya Hotel

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  • five years fresh … den

    September 20th, 2013

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    Years ago (almost five to be exact) I had a favourite morning hangout. I used to huddle over my laptop on cold winter mornings by the misted window, deeply embroiled in a novel I was working on at the time. After a while I finished the novel and moved to Yeniköy in anticipation of the beautiful daughter that came into our lives. At first Yenikoy was missing something, though I couldn’t quite say what. I established my mobile writer’s outpost at Caffé Nero which had all the mod-cons I needed. Personality, I guess you’d call it, was lacking. The staff were nice, but they came and went regularly. It wasn’t the same experience as saying hello to the owners at Den.

    In the last year, perhaps a little more, I started meeting my friend — and all around man of good taste — Maxime, for lunches at my haunt of old, Den. He liked good food but had tired of another nearby establishment’s snooty attitude. Was I ever in for a nice surprise. While the food at Den had always been decent during my novel-writing days, it was not something I craved. There were only a couple of go-to options on the menu. Over a couple of years they changed quite a bit. Today I’m spoiled for choice. Den’s partners and chef haven’t taken in the last half decade. In addition to some interior design changes, they overhauled the menu, adding ingenuity and innovation to some classics. Dishes like the Spicy Eggplant and Buffalo Mozzarella Penne, are the perfect comfort food with that little bit extra you’re looking for when you choose to dine out. They’ve also added thin crust pizzas and a range of appetite-whetting delights, including a damn fine Mille-Feuille. Here’ a glimpse of their labours. I can only wait to see what they’ll cook up over next five years. If the first five are an indication, it will be tasty.

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    Mim Kemal Öke Caddesi No 12 , Nisantasi, Istanbul / Telephone: 0212 224 2470

  • the farm store: 83

    August 20th, 2013

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    Farmer’s markets are something special, something not to be missed if you love food. But somewhere between Hirshtals and Hjørring in a place called Tornby in Jutland, there’s a long gravel lane crowded by soaring pines which leads to a store which looks fit to supply Valhalla. Fresh doesn’t do this farmer’s market justice — food is plucked from the ground or the vine about 100 metres from where it’s sold. It’s also displayed in an eye-catching, uncluttered way, on broad tables in colourful clusters, dirt still spilling off the root vegetables, while in among the produce are imported and local delicacies, such as French lemonades, gourmet English potato chips and local craft-brewed bottles of beer. Meanwhile, lightly humming coolers are stocked with everyday staples such as milk, butter and cheese. Here they grow potatoes worthy of a potato sandwich — and a sandwich is serious business to a Dane. At closing we were lucky enough to be given a tour by the farmer herself.

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  • shadow & light: the colour of the space between us

    March 21st, 2013

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    The range of emotions you experience in a city like this makes a minute wear like a day, a day like a week and a … well you get the idea. Yet there’s nothing wrong with feeling, right? But how much can you confine to such a small time and space? Something could rupture. Hope it isn’t us.

  • Lines in the silence

    March 11th, 2013

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    Quiet as a church. Swallowing footsteps like  thick murk. I know you’re holding back, hidden behind closed doors.  I’m also waiting, waiting for the shadow to cross the gleam beneath your door. You’re not moving. You’ve drawn a line in the silence. But inside there’s a big shout welling up. And I know you’re desperate to release it. No need to procrastinate, Istanbul. I’m ready. Tell me.

  • Contemporary Istanbul

    November 25th, 2012

    If you happen to be in Istanbul today, and are wondering what to do, drop by Contemporary Istanbul. Even if the venue is not quite right for the subject matter the selection of talent and work is something special. It’s especially encouraging to see contemporary Turkish art take its place right next to international artists without any dissonance. I’ve been a little distracted (in a good way) the last couple of years, so I haven’t had much chance to monitor what was going on art-wise locally to the extent I’d like to so it was particularly nice to bump into friends and artists like Emel Kurhan and Ahmet Polat, both of whom are enjoying international success. It’s particularly interesting to view art with other artists and discuss the work without pretence. It’s a fair, which means it’s every bit as much about transaction and collection as it is appreciation.

    As art is incredibly subjective, there’s always a certain amount that could be described as grotesque and cynical and exploitative. However, there’s at least as much if not more that is incredibly thoughtful, provocative and beautifully executed. The problem with such an event is that it’s on such a scale that it can become overwhelming and make you wonder if you’ve seen enough. After a few hours your head starts to whirl and your eyes begin to burn. That wasn’t a problem, however, when I saw my friend Ahmet Polat’s work. I’m clearly unable to separate the artist from his work, but just as I began to worry that too much of the work was distant and cerebral, I saw some of the work excerpted from his book and exhibition Kemal’s Dream. One print was of a father kissing his daughter goodbye through the window of a bus. Something in me just popped. That’s the final image that stays with me. The feeling captured in this print overpowered me and made me understand what I appreciate in art — sincere storytelling that makes us realize what we live for and what we need to share.

  • Istanbullu II

    October 10th, 2012

    There are so many great faces, and so many great stories to go with them in this city. What do each of these expressive faces tell you? How much can you read? It’s all there in black and white, shadow and light.