A collection begins when we are attracted to the same thing again and again. My first morning in Crete, I stepped out of our hotel and found a weary looking street dog curled up in a warm corner of the street-side coffee bar. I took her picture. She watched me warily. She was not interested in visiting with me. This was the first of the thousand pictures I brought home with me from two weeks on a goddess pilgrimage to Crete.
I met and photographed five other dogs. In my mind, I can also see the exuberant puppy who followed us to the labyrinth site. We were singing as we walked in a serpentine line along the deserted road overlooking the sea. The excited pup added her energy to the early evening, but I didn’t get her picture. The following morning, I returned to the labyrinth shortly after dawn to walk the spiral again, but no pup was around. I’d hoped she would join me.
Both dogs and cats have been reliable life-companions for me ever since I fell in love with a woman and her silver standard poodle named Genevieve. As a child, we did not have pets. My mother said that dealing with four kids was enough. As an adult, I’ve learned how both cats and dogs can be among the most satisfying of companions. Since falling in love in 1973, I’ve never lived without both felines and canines. Zelda, my first standard poodle is a legend. She lived to be fifteen and moved to Arkansas with us in 1987.
I’m not surprised that I sought out dog-energy when I was a stranger on the island. Dogs remind me of home and belonging. In many ways the semi-tropical October days in Crete reminded me of my girlhood in south Florida—especially the sight of the brilliant fuchsia bougainvillea vines draping the straight lines of buildings and arbors. When the vivid papery blossoms fell they sprinkled color on steps, courtyards, and doorways for days.
After walking the labyrinth that early morning, I roamed the small fishing village of Mochlos admiring the simple houses in the soft early morning light. I was gawking at everything. Open aired tavernas lined the curve of the harbor. Everywhere there were planters brimming with plants. Often I’d see cats slinking around the base of the pots wary of me. Houses in light colors nestled nearby. I saw whitewashed houses or terra cotta buildings or houses in soft pastel tones. All these were nestled side by side along the narrow streets.
Each structure or house had its own perfection. I was amazed how these buildings of simple lines could be so unique, and then so effectively enhanced by a bright door, or a group of five terra cotta pots, or a lush grapevine arbor over the front area. Blue doors appeared everywhere, but no house looked like a duplicate of another.
Doors have long fascinated me because they are both invitations and barriers. Many of the houses and tavernas were punctuated with blue—all different blues. Every turn brought a new sight I wanted to record with my camera. I wanted the opportunity to study that view of this house and this yard later. I wanted my friends to experience these streets with me. I found I was obsessed with photographing doors. It was the doors and windows that I had to document with the camera.
As I explored along the curving bay of Mochlos, I passed a storage shed located close to the waves where I admired the weathered, sun-bleached turquoise color on the lopsided doors. Another simple home captured my attention with its door and one window facing the street painted a clear deep blue. Then I came across a house fronted with a black wrought iron gate displaying the intricate curves of two large herons facing away from each other. Truly, I was sightseeing. Arched doors and arched entrances were of special interest to me because the curves softened the square buildings. Or, did the arched entrances recall the openings to sacred caves of the Great Mother?
That day, I learned a new visual vocabulary of blues–from the palest blue shade, to turquoise, to bottle blue, to brilliant blue, to a deep green-blue. At the edge of the Mediterranean sea, in that village, we were confronted with the rolling blue sea and the overarching blue sky. Repeating the vibrant blues of their world by the ocean seemed only natural.
There were no yards to tend, just small courtyards or tiny porches. The residents were growing lush plants in shapely terra cotta pots or huge reused olive oil tins with unique logos. On that early October morning when I was roaming Mochlos, I passed a Greek woman dressed in black sweeping the sidewalk and street in front of her house. We nodded at each other and I pointed to all the large pots with overflowing growth to indicate my admiration. Pink hibiscus flowers blooming in one pot caught my eye. As girls, my sisters and I would use needle and thread to string together large double hibiscus flowers from our neighbor’s six foot tall hedge to make flower leis to drape around our necks. We soon discovered that usually the ants on the flowers left the flowers to explore us.
As our group approached a small museum in Vori, I noticed the drama of how the arched wall entrance to the courtyard framed the bright blue door seen across the courtyard. With the vibrant green fern at the base of the arch softening the lines, this became one of my favorite photos. Actually, I began to have fantasies about living in a spot where I walked through a stone arch then crossed a courtyard to approach my own house with a blue door.
Another sunny day while wandering along the narrow streets of Skoteino, I found an abandoned storefront with four large windows and faded blue paint that intrigued me. After carefully framing the picture, I noticed myself with my signature wide-brimmed sun hat reflected in the window. I was surprised. I’d managed to insert myself into that Cretan town on that sunny day.
Because mirrors and glass, which are smooth flat surfaces, return light in an organized fashion to produce an exact image, I could include myself in some of the photos. After I first noticed this reality, I began looking for opportunities to include my reflection. I had fun playing with this possibility. I’m still playing at this.
Our photographs are a map of our interests. Our interests direct what we choose to photograph. Yes, it is a circular proposition. Our photographs indicate what draws our attention or sparks a memory. What images are we collecting? What appeals to our senses? What subjects propel us to seek more information? From Crete, I’ve gathered a collection of animal photos and pictures of lots of simple houses. Others of my photographs illustrate different strong attractions, curiosity, and passions.
The word “photography” comes from Greek meaning “writing with light”. In Crete, I was an illiterate visitor. I could not read or write. I knew little of the customs and history of the island. I was a stranger with a big hat who was interested in what I saw each day: from the solar hot water heaters on many rooftops, to the mountains strip-mined for gypsum to make sheetrock, to the thousands of brightly colored beehives that dotted mountainsides. The spotlight of my camera’s lens is a floodlight. I can write with words and ideas, and I can write with photographs. Both can be shared.