George Panagakos Photography

Photo Essays

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 . . .


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.

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.