• A Dream Named Thessaloniki II

    April 3rd, 2012

     

    I’m still wandering down the corridors of memory. Stumbling perhaps. It’s a dreamy place I’m in and I’m not yet ready to relinquish it. Thessaloniki, Salonika … what was its magic? Was it the right amount of decay versus newness? Old visions merging into the new? The people? Perhaps it was the space in which to walk, empty but not vacant.

    Modiano Market. A vast roof above, still functioning stalls. Vegetables. Eggs. Meat. Cheese. A burst of voices, laughter. A flash of a smile. Then a beautiful silhouette. Her heels clatter on the stone. Her shadowed figure merges with the light at the end of the corridor. Cafes, tavernas, mini ouzeri clustered beneath the decrepit canopy.

    More signs I can’t read. This is intriguing. I want to come back. But it is shuttered at night when I return though, drowned in shadow, and locked. Next time, stay for lunch.

    The architecture of dreams. The crumbling and the cracked. The smooth walled and restored. Soaring ceilings. Fresh paint. Just the right amount of quirk.

    A wine bar named after Hermes, the first craftsman, the first intelligencer, the first alchemist. Didn’t sample the food, but the beer works. The dining locals seem pleased. A crowd worthy of more than a glance. Animated faces. Families. Couples. Cigarette smoke shot through with late afternoon sun. This too is a place worth returning to.

    An interesting couple. He’s black clad, alternative, she’s pretty, flashing eyes and a crinkling burn scar on her arm she makes no attempt  to hide. They are backlit, spotlit almost, in the window. They are having too intense a conversation for me to interrupt. I’d like to take their photo, but the mood between them isn’t right, it seems. There’s a debate, maybe about trivial matters, maybe something serious. Best to leave them in their bubble.

    Thessaloniki light. It penetrates the windows, the buildings, the cracks. It has space to illuminate and bring alive anything it washes down on. The air  moves too. It is not thick or heavy, but fragrant with the sea and the perfume of trees. Perhaps it’s not so strange that the cigarette smoke never chokes or cloys.

    The photography museum. A well curated collection by Greek talent shooting the vastly different places across the Middle East, from Dubai to Cairo in a converted warehouse building. Just the right amount of despots and the downtrodden. A suitably stark cafe with a terrific view of the passenger terminal quay. More parents and children. A toddler kicks the table, shattering the peace with his father’s coffee cup. Nobody minds.

    Back to The Met. An international crowd. Greek. Turkish. Arab and African. Japanese. All dressed in expensive, well fitting clothes. Late afternoon drinks. I’m always greeted in Greek. I like this. English has infiltrated too much of the world, stolen too much of its mystery. I like hearing other languages, like codes waiting to be broken.

    The sun is falling. Time to put the camera down. Another dream awaits me in the room.

    This one I won’t photograph.

  • Reading list: THAT MAGAZINE.

    March 16th, 2012

    Crack the champagne! Another of my favorite quarterly magazines has just celebrated its first year with its fifth issue. Though its distribution is limited to Istanbul (for the moment, as my sources tell me a special issue is headed to Art Dubai) THAT MAGAZINE  is well worth looking for and holding onto. I have to hand it to Editor-In-Chief, Mr Johnson, each issue gets better and better.

    Highlights from the latest include a photo essay in one of Istanbul’s recycling plants, as well as an excerpt from Brendan and John Freely’s upcoming book. The article is entitled Your Guide to the Best Pubs & Clubs of Galata circa 1900-1930. I loved the excerpt and I’m now really looking forward to the release of the book. I’ve often imagined all the wild characters and intrigue circulating through that era of Istanbul, and from the details in this piece, I have to say reality seems no less enthralling than I’d thought.

    THAT MAGAZINE is free and available throughout Istanbul’s finer drinking holes and swankier cafés. Simdi on Asmalimescit has some, and I’m told a fresh shipment has just dropped in Kadiköy. Drop me a line and let me know what you think of the latest issue. I’d love to know.

  • Reading List: Port Magazine

    March 8th, 2012

    In the contest of print versus pixel for my reading time, this is a victory for the old school. Port Magazine is a magazine for lovers of print. However, this doesn’t make it fussy or stuffy, or the slightest bit behind the times. This is merely a testament that print is still a very relevant, far from dead medium.

    A lot of magazines, rather like newspapers, these days feel like vanity, or seem to be struggling with their transition from print to pixel. Quite frankly a lot of them should abandon the paper they’re printed on.

    This doesn’t seem the case to me with Port. This is an assured magazine. And it has to do not just with the crisp paper it’s printed on, or the elegant design, but the content. Yes, this magazine has content, and it’s so good, I’m almost relieved it’s published on a quarterly basis. This is a magazine to flip through once identifying your subjects of interest and then return to later when you can properly, consider the articles, essays and opinions, the wonderful photography at a more leisurely pace. This is not a hasty, waiting room sort of mag.

    If you’re truly reluctant to part with your tablet, both the premiere and third issue are available in iPad format. Just type in Port Magazine at the iTunes store.

    But really, I think it’s worth putting your hands on the latest copy and losing yourself in the tactile pleasures of print once again.

  • Reading list: James Salter

    March 5th, 2012

    Due to technical difficulties, I seem to have lost— in fact, deleted by my own blundering—my original post. Somebody recently suggested I start a reading list on my site, so with that in mind this is the first entry under that title.

    A Sport And A Pastime, for the simple reason that it was the first book of his I read, and also the one that has stayed with me ever since. Literally. I picked it up back in 2006, before a brief escape into the paradise of Turkey’s of Turkey’s Lycian and Aegean coasts, and have yet to relinquish this copy. I have bought other copies, and loaned them out, but it’s the one book I never put down. I’ve read it from start to finish many times, but I have often carried it with me to pop open at random and read, if only to remind myself what good writing is whenever I feel lost.

    The book tells the story of a love affair between a Yale dropout and French shopgirl as they tour France. The nameless narrator recounts their tale in fragments. What he tells has been told to him, observed by him and imagined by him. Salter’s France is as vivid as the real thing.

    I’ve accorded Mr Salter’s book my first reading list post for a simple reason. No other writer has taught me so much about good writing in the last ten years as Mr Salter. His prose is, in a word, luminous. Five words of Salter’s can render an image as vivid as even the best photographs.

    If you’ve read this book, I’d love to know what you think. If you haven’t, I can’t recommend it, or his other writings for that matter, enough.