George Panagakos Photography

Evolution. Or renaissance. Professional, personal. Lessons. Big ones, lately - good and bad. Photography is my constant. This is the show. It is a new show because, for a time, I tried shooting what my heart is not into. But I loved the people, for sure. You will see a mix of personal and professional work here. Look. Read. Enjoy.

This is George's Photo Blog
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Tourist Shooting – Washington, D.C.

So, back at it. And for good reason: it’s time. It’s been a wild ride. Major life changes – with no small amount of crazy. And crazy busy. Grateful to say hello again to this process here – and to let it be a part of my process.

So, in the early days, I took my cameras everywhere; bought 35mm slide film by the 100-roll case; shot and shot and blew all my money on that film and the processing of it. I was excited. Life was good.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Photography still excites me, but life tends to quell that excitement at times. Things have become a case of doing it because I am getting paid. Mostly. Even though liabilities have increased dramatically recently (gulp), 2011 and 2012 have been very busy, solid years and I’ve had plenty time behind the lens, and it’s been mostly satisfying work. I have a recently-formed association with a long time friend, colleague and stalwart of the industry, Jim Raycroft. For anyone who knows Jim, it is needless to say that we are on the road – a whole lot. Thankfully, it’s the end of the busy season and I have time to sit and write on this here blog.

A friend said to me recently: “I’ve never watched you shoot”. Her words did not strike me immediately as being anything more than expressing interest in seeing me do my thing. But, as is my nature, words often take time to soak in. Those words eventually came to be understood, whether intended or not, as “George, why have I never seen you shoot?” Well, damn the torpedoes. I’m going to start doing my own stuff for my own reasons again.

The most recent trip was to Washington, D.C. and New York City for a couple of hotel properties and – what else – a big boat. It’s great work, but all work and no play  has been my story, lately. Sad. Sort of. Unless you are reading this and have no work. Which, as we all know, is the case with too many people.

So, I found a few hours one morning to go and make some photographs. I have spoken on this blog about photo walks before (see: Following Through on a Threat) I have not yet learned to detach. No; far from it. But, I had gotten used to just walking by the same places again and again making something from nothing. Making something from things I’d seen a hundred times and finding a new way to look at them. Exciting.

So, we’ve all seen these couple of Washington things before. Here is my take on them.

It felt good to simply be a Tourist. Shooting.

P.S.: The launch of a major, long-term project is under way. The first shoot is arranged and the team is being assembled. Some of you may have heard something of it before. It is evolving, conceptually and strategically – as this blog will. I’ll keep you posted.

Taste of Winthrop

Studio neighbor Saidh with his lobstah ravioli

Recently, I joined my local Winthrop Chamber of Commerce. I thought, since a live in a small town, why don’t I make some connections with the people who are living and doing business around me. Good thing I did, because while volunteering to shoot their annual event called “The Taste of Winthrop”, I had the opportunity to indulge in the all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of offerings on display from a few dozen local eateries.

Have a look. The event was held at the Winthrop Yacht Club.

Piggy from Blackstrap BBQ

The gang from Moonstruck, my daily coffee stop.

Crostini from El Paisa

Frozen Hot Chocolate from Twist & Shake

On the deck at the Winthrop Yacht Club

Mid-Summer Re-Cap

Wow…….  I don’t even quite know where to begin…..  As I sit down today to write this blog post, I’m overwhelmed when I reflect upon the people, places, and events of the summer thus far and the people I’ve been priveledged to meet and work with recently.

I am flooded again with a deep sense of gratitude.  It feels as though everything is coming together in an amazing tapestry of events that continues to change and evolve from one day to the next.

I can’t wait to see what work/passion/life has in store next, and I’d love to share some of the most poignant and personally fulfilling highlights in the following paragraphs if you’re willing to journey along with me on this sometimes whimsical, sometimes rather “deep” (for lack of a better word!) ride.

Summer nuttiness kicked off with an event at the Four Points Sheraton in Revere on June 24th in which I was delighted to help my friends Vanessa Mangiacotti and Amy Corkern who hosted a Parrot-Head/Cruise-ship themed party complete with a high-end, high tech large,cardboard anchor and Carribbean tarp-of-a-backdrop in which I photographed guests as they arrived.  I am being a little facetious about the props and just joking around a bit (!) but the pictures turned out fantastic and I give Amy and Vanessa kudos for their resourcefulness! Delicious hor d’oeuvres, food from an incredible buffet,and pina coladas flowed in abundance and a great,lively time was had by all!

Next, in early July, I traveled to Atlanta with a very good friend and fellow artisan to attend a convention where the first copies of my book were made available to the public and met with great enthusiasm!

Anyone who knows me well will appreciate that this particular moment was monumental in my life and well, what can I say except that I’m very proud!

My next adventure began on July 1, 2010 when I photographed a “High Tea” at the Nahant Country Club and was asked to be the exclusive photographer for all fundraising events for an organization that I am so thrilled to be partnered with.  The organization is called “Women & Wishes” (www.womenandwishes.org) and it is a non-profit organization for middle-class women who are struggling with life issues such as sickness, divorce, etc., who do not qualify for government aid.

I am particularly honored to be partnered with the new Boston Chapter, as this is a cause that is very near to my heart, having watched many a female friend and loved one struggle with these very same issues.  Not to mention the fact that it’s kind of hard to NOT have fun photographing an event like this with nothing but lovely women “dressed to the nines” all around!  To my friend, Beverly Dawson, director of the Boston Chapter, thanks for your patience while we had some “technical issues” while taking pictures of the tree-planting! (inside joke)

Finally,I had the priveledge in mid-July to photograph a wedding in Marblehead of a beautiful couple named Patty and Alec, who I am glad to truly call “friends”.
To say that the ceremony was unique would be an understatement! My favorite part was having to stop taking pictures to lend the groom my wedding ring because in all of the excitement the rings got left behind!  It was hilarious!  And to you, Patty and Alec, may your journey together increase daily in love, laughter, and amazingly priceless times with one another.

Well, friends, I am literally off to Greece as we speak until August 18th for a little bit of business, a little bit of R&R… But that’s a whole ‘nother post for another day!  Until next time, I hope this update finds you healthy and well and thank you as always for your interest and support!  Eyia-sou (pronounced “YIA-sou, meaning “goodbye/to your health”)

The Old, Familiar “Ding” from a Jury of Your Peers

Last night, the BlackBerry went “ding” once again, informing me that I have a new email. What I opened and read was quite a pleasant and unexpected surprise. I had all but forgotten that I submitted the entry a couple of months ago. I want to share this news, and so, I am posting the salient points of this email informing me that I have been selected to be featured in the Best of ASMP 2010.

The ASMP is the “American Society of Media Photographers”, one of two premier organizations for commercial photography in North America. The competition was for the “Best projects” of the past year by the membership of ASMP. The project I submitted is the soon-to-be-released “The Metropolis of Boston and It’s Parishes”. This is a significant honor for me; to have been chosen by my community to be recognized for the work I have done.

There will be further updates regarding the release of the book, and about exhibitions that I am lining up to showcase the images and the book. A small selection of the 417 images of mine in the book can be found on my website, www.GeorgePictures.com, at the “Greek Church Book” link.

Here is the info:

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Dear George:

Congratulations! You have been selected as one of the photographers to be featured in the BEST OF ASMP 2010! This year’s entries were overwhelmingly strong, with nearly 1/3 of the more than 200 entries receiving a rating of 4 or above in our scale of 1 through 5. After several weeks of review and deliberation we are confident that the final selection represents an outstanding range of ASMP membership at it’s widest scope. The featured projects represent a wide array of photographic subjects and markets, plus representation from different membership categories and geographic areas, from coast-to-coast.

Again, congratulations on your selection and thanks very much for your collaboration in making the BEST OF ASMP 2010 our best issue yet!

Sincerely yours,

Jill Waterman

Editor: PDNedu and PDN Custom Media & Events www.pdnonline.com

Senior Editor: The ASMP Bulletin www.asmp.org

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Below is my original entry with the ONE (!) photograph (above) that I had to choose to be representative of the project and a 200-word description:

“Best of ASMP” entry:

“Interior Dome of Saint George Cathedral, Manchester, New Hampshire

This is but one of more than 11,000 frames made for the “Metropolis of Boston and it’s Parishes,” a large format, 320 page coffee table book detailing the history and visual beauty of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis (Diocese) of Boston and the 63 individual communities, plus other properties. Two-and-half years in the making, this is the biggest project of my life to date. Slated for publication in the coming weeks, the volume is a combination of three of my great loves: photography; my Greek heritage; and the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith.

The project was undertaken while a student at seminary, while desperate for funds, and even more desperate for the opportunity. I had returned to school after a twelve year photography career to pursue other interests and dumped most of my photo gear and let my studio go. Lacking even the most basic equipment, computer and software at the outset, the 50% down-payment was just enough to cover a digital camera body, two lenses, a MacBook, and the student version of Adobe Creative Suite. The next several months were spent driving all over New England, eating what I could take with me, sleeping in my car, in church basements, and in priests’ families’ homes.

The process has been a real education, and one I am grateful to have had. It has brought me back to photography, which is a calling in itself.

The beginning of the show circuit.

My head is as big as a pumpkin right about now. My ego is basking in the glory of a shower of words that were meant, I think, to do just that. They were very genuine words, no question, from a very motherly yet serious-minded individual who had called me back to discuss my first exhibition of the photographs I made for the upcoming book, Greek Orthodox Churches of New England – The Metropolis of Boston and its Parishes. Maria Anagnostopoulos, director of The Greek Institute in Harvard Square, Cambridge, has agreed to a showing of my work from mid-September to mid-October, and she is thrilled with the work. Thank you, Maria.

This is a very exciting time for me. Two-and-a-half years of effort are finally beginning to bear fruit. The book is getting printed very soon. I am pursuing opportunities to show this tremendously consuming, long term project. One has just materialized, another is getting closer, and the more and more possibilities are opening up. And I am open to suggestions. Anyone? Bueller?

Updates to follow . . .

The Ones I Come Back To

I imagine it is the same with many of us. Photographers, that is. I make a photograph. I look at it. I may just skim through the frames, looking for “The One”. I don’t find it. I move on.

Time passes, I look at it again. It strikes me. “Can it be the same photograph I saw before? How? Why didn’t I see it? By what criteria am I judging this time. By what did I judge six months ago?”

It is baffling. I am, often times, not a good judge of my own work. I am too attached to it. Many of us are too attached to our own work, I think. But there’s a conundrum in my psyche. On the one hand, it may be insecurity that tells me that my stuff sucks. On the other hand, it’s as though like my work is a part of me, no less than an eye or a limb.

Another conundrum lies in that I have spoken of attachment on this blog before; about how necessary it is to undertake the task of purging it. Certainly, a near-impossible task except for the most holy of people. For the rest of us, the process of incremental advancement on that path will have to suffice.

Here is a photograph of a little boy who had his face painted as a tiger at a sort of a block party the night before, in a little village in Greece last summer. His demeanor as I was photographing him was one of total connection, of “OK, here I am. I am yours. Make my photograph. Make a hundred . . . make a thousand.” But he never said a word. Silence. It was almost spiritual.

Until he said: “How many pictures are you gonna take?”

Then we were done.

I finally found a vacancy.

Deer Island

I am often fascinated by really big things. One of my most memorable shoots took place at a steel mill. The scale of the operation was mind boggling. Not only was the physical size overwhelming, but the noise, the heat and the network of components necessary to keep the plant in operation, as well. Unforgettable.

One mile down the street from the studio is the Deer Island Waste Water Treatment Plant. This is the second largest wastewater treatment facility in the United States. It serves over two million residents of 43 cities and towns in Eastern Massachusetts. It covers 130 acres and has nearly 1.3 billion (with a “B”) gallons per day pumping capacity. Unfortunately, I don’t have the kind of access to the facility as we did at the steel plant, but I may see what I can do about that. There is, however, a “Harborwalk” that rings the entire island and it is quite a draw for walkers, runners, picnickers and, certainly, photo enthusiasts. The views of a much cleaner Boston Harbor (due in large part to this plant) and the Atlantic are fantastic. As part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Park, you may some day see it incorporated into a land/sea photo workshop/excursion run by yours, truly, and my good friend, Jimmy.

Until next time . . . Peace.

Following Through on a Threat

At the end of my last post, and even before that, as well, I mentioned something about posting some images from what I call my “Photo Walks”. After a hiatus during which I have been frantically editing and re-shooting the nearly 500 images for the upcoming book on the New England Metropolis (Diocese), I am back to the Photo Walks and back to posting on the blog. And, by the way, it makes me very happy to see people actually visiting the blog. The only thing I might like better is to see some feedback from anyone who may have some. Comments, questions and encouragement are always welcome.

So, I imagine some may wonder what a Photo Walk is. It is an exercise, or “stretch”, that came to me by way of a friend and mentor, Ian Summers. Simple thing, really, but it feels great. The idea is to take a walk every day for a set amount of time; I am doing forty minutes, and making one photograph at set intervals of time, i.e. every seven minutes. Wherever you find yourself at that seven minute mark, you raise the camera and make a photograph of something, anything, within your field of vision.

Now, the point of this stretch is not necessarily to make pretty pictures, though, hopefully that may happen from time to time. The essential key is for one to detach from the process of making photographs. Very spiritual term, that “detachment” is. We hear it spoken of as the ultimate aim of the spiritual life. And it applies to all aspects of life, including photography. You see, many people undertaking a creative endeavor, or even making a living from creative endeavor, often experience, for lack of a better word right now, stuckness. This stuckness, in my experience, stems from a fear that the work I am producing is not “good enough”, my ideas are not “good enough”, not profound, not award-winning, not the most inspirational and fulfilling work the world has ever seen and, therefore, the work has no value and neither do I, and oh, woe is me, etc. etc. Very deadly stinkin’ thinkin’, of course.

Well, how many times have we heard it said that there is no success without failure? No light without dark? No good without evil? There is a certain amount of these complementary items and more in every one of us. And both sides of the equations are useful for growth. The Photo Walks are set up so that there is failure built-in in that everything I come back to the studio with will not be perfect. And it is useful to be able to accept that. But they take a step further in that they force me to look around and draw a story out of whatever is in front of me at that given moment, not what I wish was in front of me. Very practical, really. Kind of like a musician who sits in a room, practicing every day, every day, every day and, every once in a while, has a little breakthrough, has a little growth spurt. I am not sure many photographers think in similar terms of “practicing” their craft as would the musician or an athlete. And even though I think there are some fundamental differences regarding certain natural sensibilities a photographer might have, the Photo Walks are just that: good practice time. And it’s o.k. to fail during practice.

I will make a few selections from these walks and, no, I will not show you the failures – unless they’re all failures, that is. And if they are, that’s o.k., too. I’m stretching.

Come back next time for a little explanation of Deer Island, where these photographs were made. Fascinating place if you’re into sewage.

A Final Fikardou.

It is surely apparent that I was taken by this little village, and having made two posts on it already, one might think that is enough. But no, it is not. I would be remiss to not make a little recap including some of the things I have written about but not shown in pictures. The little tavern, our feast, my nephew (2), and of course, one, last, lonely door.

I must make a little note here regarding my approach during this trip and from around this time forward. There has been a shift in the way I am approaching my picture  making. This shift can be attributed, and gratefully so, to a sort of a mentor, coach, consultant, call him what you will. His name is Ian Summers and you can find him at www.heartstorming.com. Ian came to my studio from Pennsylvania in early this month and we had some wonderful discussions, heartstorming, planning, preparing etc. etc. etc. We are on the phone almost daily, massaging the plan, collaborating, creating. It is inspiring, hopeful, ambitious, wonderful. George is gonna be the talk of the town before long.

I’ll be back next time with some selects from my photo walks.

Peace be with you,

Doors. Of Fikardou.

Doors. I experience deja-vu every time I think about the word. The discussion I read as a teenager in “No One Here Gets Out Alive” about how the band the Doors came upon their name, has the image stuck in my mind forever. Doors of perception, doors to the unknown, doors to – and all that psychedelic stuff, y’know?

Well, times change and so does George (well, ok, kind-of). I still see doors as highly symbolic, and the symbolism doors hold is deeply entrenched in humanity’s collective consciousness, for sure, and has been since time immemorial. Old Testament (Deut. 6:6-9) and New Testament (Mt. 7:7-14) symbolism include themes of deliverance, bondage and danger. If we search annals of human creativity from those times onward, and, before, I am sure, certainly there are myriad uses of doors, gates, entryways, to represent the creator’s efforts at conceptualizing thoughts that doors provide a choice tool for doing.

That said, the photographs below were made with absolutely zero consciousness of the fact that I made so many photographs of doors in such a short period of time. Go figure.

Doors of Fikardou. Enjoy!

Fikardou. If you don’t speak Greek, don’t even try to pronounce it.

Though the trip to Cyprus was due to such a mournful loss for our family, we did take some time out of our very busy few days to visit a fascinating and beautiful place. There is a village that is said to be the oldest historically intact in Cyprus, less than an hour south of the divided Capital city of Lefkosia (Nicosia). Its name is Fikardou and it is deserted by all but 4 permanent inhabitants. Listed on the UNESCO World Heritage (Fikardou) list of sites of cultural and historical significance, it received the Europa Nostra prize in 1987 , for conservation and adaptation efforts undertaken there.

After stuffing ourselves at the tiny little village tavern with village sausage, grilled haloumi cheese, wild greens with eggs, fried chicken livers, pastitsio, lamb chops, salads, etc., etc., etc – and after a few jesting (but loving) comments that only close friends and family can make about my cameras being appendages on my body, I excused myself from the table to use what precious little time we had to go outside and photograph the surroundings. I had great company in my little nephew Marcos, who barely left my side during the entire trip.

I hope you enjoy these, there will be more to follow:

Another Dreaded Phone Call.

Childhood memories yield way to the stark reality that those who helped make them must go away one day. Sometimes this happens much too early, sometimes not soon enough – if it happens slowly and painfully. Sometimes it happens in an instant. And we are left with only those memories.

My little girl gets such a thrill when exploring the ground, squatting down to get as close as possible to the teeniest, tiniest little insects, snails, lizards, pebbles, flowers. In Greece this past summer, Uncle Andreas, with his steady, calm presence, his patience, and his lack of judgement, was her audience, her teacher, her encouragement.

My little girl’s perspective on the passing of my dearest uncle came in the form of arms outstretched in front of her, palms upturned, shoulders shrugging, and saying “I met him one time, only one time, and now he died.” Hopefully, she’ll keep those memories of him, however faint.

I could write many words about my uncle. He is the one I look to as my prime example of the family man. His wife, my Aunt Dimitra, my father’s sister, is like a second mother to me. His children, my cousins, Miltiades and Yioula, are just like brother and sister to me. He is the constant, quiet presence of all the summer times in Greece, where we all gathered for our vacations. He was the rock.

Uncle Andreas was a high school principal and administrator, he was the chief finance officer of the teacher’s credit union, he was the organizer of a new political party in Cyprus. He was up at 4:30 every morning, reading and playing math games with equations that went on column after column, page after page, just for fun, just to keep his mind working so that it would not get stale.

Uncle Andreas gave me one final gift. He gave me an opportunity – an opportunity I had neither the strength nor the presence of mind to do at my father’s funeral just a few months ago. He gave me, with my aunt’s and my cousins’ permission, the opportunity to make a photographic record of the funeral and burial of the man who looms so large in my life. I realize more and more, as time goes on, that photographs are the way I am to communicate. In these photographs I am trying to communicate my love, my sorrow, and my many, deep emotions tied to this event and the life that was lived by this extraordinary man.

Memory Eternal, dear uncle.

Onward and Upward, Interrupted.

The first days of the new decade were supposed to be a resurrectional phase in George’s life. I am not referring to any kind of “New Year’s resolution” or any deliberate coincidence of events. There was no plan in place as to the timing of what is happening.

Strangely, it is only now I realize that the events leading up to and culminating in the setting of solid plans for a course of action coincide with the dawning of the teens. The “onward and upward” title of this post is a reference to my sister’s wishes for me a couple of months back, the day after I established this here blog. This post marks another one of many little new beginnings in my efforts toward doing whatever is in my power to realize my dreams and aspirations.

The “Interrupted” part of the title, well, that’s a different story. Anyone who has ever had them can attest to the fact that back problems are very well capable of interrupting just about anything one had planned.  Especially if it was resuming a physical conditioning program that was left off many years ago in favor of long hours and not enough sleep as a freelancer.

Well, whenever it is God’s will versus my will, I, as all others, lose. As much as one tries to suck it up and wait it out, there comes a time when you just have to do something. This point of realization came on hands and knees in the middle of a sidewalk, unable to move. Hmm? Sure wish I’d thought of doing something earlier.

OK, so, not all is doom and gloom, for sure. I did stop smoking. And I stopped drinking coffee because what is coffee without a cigarette (ok, all non smokers may reserve comment). At the store on New Year’s Day, ready to buy a pack o’ smokes, I thought to myself, “Hmm? (again – hmm? happens a whole lot with me) this whole smoking thing sure is stupid.” I got back in the car and drove away. I just flipped the switch. Wicked cool.

Next up is a little exercise – one week of taking “Photo walks” This is something anyone can benefit by, I think. I’ll give more detail once I begin posting images from these photo walks right here on the world renowned GeorgesPictures Blog.

Until then, love all people.

-George Panagakos

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