I am totally passionate about teaching and sharing my love of photography and the horses too. I hope you will join me for this wonderful opportunity. Space is very limited so email me!!! (keron @ keronpsillas. com )
I am working on a project that is very important to me…though sometimes I despair at my seeming lack of progress. Every time I have felt a little lost, uncertain of my purpose or without hope, the Universe has given me a sign. It’s just a small thing, but enough of an encouragement that says ‘go on, there are things to uncover still’.
Today, even while enduring a migraine, I picked up the laptop to check a few sites that always lift my spirits. But this day was different. Not only are my spirits lifted, but I stumbled upon another story that goes directly to the heart of the project I am working on. There is no mistaking the dual message: first, my quest is supported, and second, my hypothesis is correct.
I am no different, no more or less deserving than any other person on the planet. But I have learned that when we follow our hearts, when we allow ourselves to be known and our intention to be expressed, we are supported. If you need a little encouragement today, open your heart…express your intent…and follow the signs.
There’ll be much more to come about the project in this space, but for now, follow the link and enjoy. Life is beautiful. I am grateful. Thank you, Alice Herz Sommer.
It has poured rain for several days. A relentless wind makes sure it seeps through doors and windows and blasts down barn aisles. I find myself alone, far from family, mucking stalls in Portugal this Holiday Season. All the horse photography comes from a love of horses…and anyone that loves, truly loves horses, knows a lot about pitchforks and wheelbarrows. I’m adding to that knowledge bank now. While I do feel a little lonely I woke this morning thinking of how lucky I am to have this quiet time.
I have had a lifetime of wonderful Holiday Seasons. I have lasting memories of warmth and family from my childhood. Favorite gifts of, surprise, horse books, stand out along with visits to and from beloved Grandparents. Even in the sixties there were epic searches for items on the “list”. My grandmother told me she traveled many many miles to find “Don’t Spill the Beans!” Years later I would enlist friends and my delivery drivers to find Power Rangers for my son. History repeats.
The Holidays were about much more than gifts though. My favorite memories of all were the Christmas Eve concerts at church. I sang with our youth choir for years and during junior high I accompanied the choir on my flute. I grew up in the Presbyterian church. Ours was a great cavernous rectangle, devoid of decoration, but filled with light, old creaking pews, and in my child’s heart, spirit.
My favorite song to perform? Do You Hear What I Hear? We sang from the four corners of the church…two groups on either side of the balcony and two groups on either side of the front of the church. I was thrilled to be part of the group on one side of the balcony. It really did seem as if our voices could reach the heavens and have the Angels echo our song.
How lucky am I? The world is filled with people in the midst of violence, hunger, cold, and hopelessness. But I have memories of warmth and plenty and wonder. So I’ll be thankful for the opportunity to exercise, spend some time with horses and the unconditional love they offer, and absorb the glow from the warmth of years of happy memories. My hope is that you are doing the same or making more! And now it is time for me to go back to the barn, and my trove of memories. My memory of this time will be one of quiet but profound gratitude.
Wow! It has been an action-packed month! On November 1st, my latest book arrived. The Alchemy of Lightness was written by Dominique Barbier and Dr. Maria Katsamanis and includes 40 of my images in large format. I helped with the editing of this book over the last several years so it is with great joy that I can say it is now available! Click here to order your copy. It has been very well received. Thank you once again to Martha Cook, Rebecca Didier and all the team at Horse and Rider Books! You can see all their catalog of fabulous books by clicking on the button to the right!
Then on November 3rd, I had the great pleasure to give a lecture at InVision Photo Festival in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The talk was very well received (I was invited back!!!) in a gorgeous venue. I was a little nervous of course, but once I get started talking about my passion for photography I am difficult to stop! It was also fabulous to see old friends and students from the Banana Factory where I taught several workshops in 2009 and 2010. Thank you Janice Lipzin for the incredible opportunity! You have created a wonderful event that shows your professionalism as well as your passion.
I flew that night to Portugal to host a group of ladies for two weeks. They came to enjoy the Lusitano Festival that happens each year in Golegã. We enjoyed great weather (a welcome change) and spectacular events. Along with the horses we visited some cultural sights and then went to Pedro Torres’ barn for four days of intense training! See the link at the top of this page for a fuller description of the trip…and scroll down to see some more images. It was so good for me to share the parts of Portugal that I have come to love. Already looking forward to next year!
After the trip was over I flew to Prague to continue work on a personal project of mine. I’ll keep those details for another post, but I did find the PERFECT music to accompany the work I am doing. Prague is a city filled with all the arts, but especially music.
And now I am back in Portugal, catching up on image editing, blog posting, and emails. I have posted a new page (see above) that outlines a Mentoring program that I began this past August. It has brought me so much satisfaction and affirmation. Throughout my career as a photographer I have been the beneficiary of the best teaching in the world. It is an absolute honor to give this back to my students. Check it out if you are interested in advancing your skills!
I wish you all a joy-filled Holiday Season! Now…almost time to switch on the snowflakes. (Readers of this blog may remember this…) From a warm, palm-tree silhouetted evening in Portugal….thank you for checking the blog!
Following five wonderful days at Golegã enjoying the Lusitanos and the festive atmosphere, my ladies were ready to ride! For four days we had the privilege of riding and learning from a number of Senhor Pedro Torres’ horses. Ulisses and Trinco (European champion this year with Bruno Pica) taught the ladies the feeling of the upper level movements including 2-tempis, piaffer and passage.
The weather was perfect along the shore in Cascais. Perhaps a little breezy one day, but sunny and bright. We were also treated to a demonstration with retired world-champion Oxidado and Pedro’s new star Ahoto. Everyone remarked that it was tremendous to see the capability and athleticism of the Lusitano in full display. This seemed to be the theme for the entire trip.
Everywhere we went, whether at the Portuguese National School of Equestrian Art, sitting on Carlos Oliveira’s exquisitely light Botero and Talismá, or watching Ana Batista try new mounts for Tauromachie, we marveled at the horses. The Lusitano’s unique ability to offer brilliance and strength while maintaining a calm and willing attitude is the quality that engenders the great respect for the breed.
Enjoy the photos…and think about coming to Portugal to experience the finest Lusitanos and training. I have private trips available throughout the year, including riding opportunities and photography intensives with exclusive access. (email@example.com)
I am woefully behind with my blogging. So in order to catch up I will begin with a fun subject: Golegã, the Lusitano Fair that happens every year in November. I was host to seven marvelous ladies this year who were eager to soak in all the pageantry and excitement that the Fair brings. And of course, they are all lovers of the Lusitano!
We began with a trip to visit Carlos Oliveira and his gorgeous Lusitanos. After some tack shopping at Mundo Equitacao with Catia, Maria Joao, and Maria Helena, we made our way north to our lodgings. For the first six days of our trip we stayed at Ourem Castle, in the Pousada and at Casa Alta Royal Lodge. Both are highly recommended!
The sights and sounds of Golegã must be experienced to be believed. There are horses everywhere, of all levels of breeding, training, and turnout. But the strongest impression is one of a shared love for the Lusitano, this National Treasure. Riders in traditional dress complete the picture of this elegant animal. As the day lengthens into night, the sounds get a little louder and the Ginja flows a little easier! It is, after all, a festival! But it is also a competition. Congratulations to all the breeders. The classes this year were super competitive!
Though my ladies were keenly interested in all things Lusitano, we did make time to visit some local cultural sites, including Tomar and the Convento do Cristo. It’s just one of many UNESCO World Heritage sites in Portugal…but probably my favorite. The mysterious history of the Knights Templar and outstanding architecture examples culminating in an explosion of Manueline style captured everyone’s imagination.
After our week in and around Golegã we went to Cascais for a four-day riding intensive with World-Champion Working Equitation rider Pedro Torres. More about this amazing experience in the next blog. Until then….enjoy the photos from the first week! And if you look under November 2011 on the list of posts to the right, you’ll see more images from Golegã. Thanks for checking the blog!
I am happy to say that I am back in Portugal for several weeks. I’ve been feeling a little ‘down’ about not photographing enough, so I did something about it!
Photographing in an indoor arena is always tricky. And knowing we were going to visit Senhor Manuel Braga to photograph horses in his picadeiro gave me more than my usual apprehension. I remembered that the footing in this particular arena is nearly black. Oh well….nothing to do but try! When I arrived I had a big surprise though…just the week before, Manuel had replaced the footing and now there was a lovely white reflective floor!
It was late in the afternoon so the light was slanting and a little warm. Horses were presented and ridden and photographs were made. I was generally happy with the result when in came a gorgeous young black stallion. Manuel turned him loose for me to photograph him in liberty, saying “he is very expressive”. This was an understatement! The horse was a fabulous mover and he loved playing with Senhor Braga and Pedro. I was a very happy photographer.
There are some straight shots, a black and white conversion, and two with my favorite Flypaper Textures! Enjoy….more from the last several weeks coming soon!
If you are in the West Virginia/Maryland/Virginia area, there is a great photography show coming up in Martinsburg at the newly minted Berkeley Art Works: October 3 through October 27 in the gallery at 116 North Queen Street. I’ll be showing proudly but humbly with Mark Muse, Frank Robbins, Rip Smith and Robert Clark. I’ll miss the reception, but just manage to see the show when I return to West Virginia after some work in Brasil! I can’t wait. My fellow photographers have taught me a great deal and I am a big admirer of their work. Passion for learning, for printing, and capturing the light unite us though our visions are wildly diverse. Go see the show!
I visit the Whidbey Island County Fair each year during my week with Sam Abell at Pacific Northwest Art School. It’s a highlight for our students and a highlight for us. It is a place that is familiar, but full of surprises each time we go. This year, I fulfilled a promise that I make to myself each year. I went back to the fair after class was finished. That’s a luxury for photographers…the go-back. I am always so inspired by the work that the students produce, and this year was no exception. I was filled with ideas and creative fire, so off I went.
After photographing a number of subjects that were on my list I took a walk through the animal barns. I found this little girl, sitting in the pen with her pygmy goats, with no sign of parents or relatives nearby. I stayed for a while and made a number of images, trying to talk with her a little, offering to show her the picture on the back of my camera, but she remained in her own world. I thanked her and walked away. About twenty minutes later I decided to go back and see if she was still sitting all alone. She was. I asked her if I could make a few more pictures, to which she nodded her assent. That was the only interaction she offered the entire time.
So my thought process in making the images became this: how can I show her in the isolation and detachment that I feel? It’s not that she wasn’t animated, she was quite involved in her own story….talking on a (pinecone) cell phone, acting out the entire conversation, and alternately hugging and scolding her goats. But she was totally detached from the adults, adolescents and children walking past, some trying to talk to her, others reaching to pet her goats. It was unsettling.
Here is a small selection of images…the last being the one I chose to pull as THE portrait. Now I am undecided. I’ll come back another month from now and look at the images. Emotional detachment in the editing process is a good thing. Emotional detachment at a fair? Well, it was certainly photographically intriguing for me.
Comments, as always, welcome and appreciated. And if you like this post (or others) how about sharing the blog with friends? Thank you!
When I teach I tell my students that in order to have a viewer care about or become involved with their image, the photographer must care about the image they are making. But I like the way Paul Strand says it, that we must have something to say about the world if we are to create photographs. In other words, what are we trying to communicate? What do you want the viewer to know, to feel, to ASK? What implications are there in your photographs? Is your photograph suggestive, documentary, or literal. A combination of these? Perhaps all three?
I think about these questions unceasingly. I have come to the realization that I want to create photographs that transcend the literal, yet do not deny it. (borrowed from Sam Abell). What does this mean?
Consider the photo below of the sea stacks off First Beach on the Olympic Peninsula. It’s a straightforward photograph of a landscape, yet, it is suggestive of the eternal. The sea, the fog, a voyage to an unknown land, all evoke timeless existence, timeless desire. So, yes, it is a photograph of a seascape, but it communicates more because we, as humans, are wired in our DNA to look at the ocean with a sense of wonder. Where does the wonder come from? From a time when anything apart from the land was unknown, mysterious and dangerous? Perhaps from a time when a journey across the water meant freedom or opportunity…even servitude. Certainly it meant danger, but an ocean voyage could mean riches and fame as well.
Consider the image below….far different than the peaceful contemplative issue of the sea. But look deeper…there is solitude, and the image of a single candle to light the darkness. The eternal flame. It is a simple image of an interior, even a detail of an interior, but it is evocative of consciousness, thought, searching, and for me, hope.
For thought and discussion far more cogent than mine, check out the video. It’s part one of six on Paul Strand. It’s worth the time to hear the great master in his own words. And the catalog/book from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s show Stieglitz Steichen Strand is a revelation.
Here’s a review of the show. Sadly, I missed it, but now I have the catalog to bring the imagery even closer. http://www.photography-collection.com/exhibitions/alfred-stieglitz-edward-steichen-and-paul-strand-at-the-metropolitan-museum/
Picking up on the theme of important books (a’ la Robert Frank’s The Americans), I have been thinking of the books from my childhood that live strongly in my memories.
There are books that mirror and strengthen experiences. There are books that supported my passion for horses and there are books that helped shape who I am. But there was one book that spoke to me about what was important in life. First the books that paralleled my life at the time: From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Harriet the Spy.
My Mother took me to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York when I was 12 years old. I had read the book by E. L. Konigsburg (…Files…) and was excited to visit the very place where two children had their adventures. I saw the bed that they slept in, the armor and paintings that impressed them so much, and the fountain where they gathered coins to buy food. The book had the effect of engaging me in a museum that otherwise would have been challenging for a twelve-year-old tomboy from the countryside of West Virginia.
Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh, is a story about an introverted young girl that ‘spies’ on her friends and family. It wasn’t so much a parallel (I wasn’t a spy) as it was a book that made it ok to be the introverted and introspective girl that I was/am. I was always shy, but my mind was never quiet. It was challenging to fit in, but Harriet made it a little easier. I suppose it’s that ages-old story of a child seeking affirmation.
The books that supported my passion for horses were all of Marguerite Henry’s books along with Walter Chandoha’s A Foal is for You, and Mary O’Hara’s My Friend Flicka. A Foal is Born was a gift from a great-aunt who was loved, but feared. In addition to being a tender, loving book about a baby horse, the gift of this book showed me she had a softer side and that she cared for ME. My Friend Flicka opened up a world of adventure and emotion for me. The Wyoming ranges and meadows came to life, just as the possibility of loving something, someone, so fiercely that you would give up your life to care for them. This resonated so strongly with me…especially as it was about a horse! But throughout the book danger and beauty were intertwined. The lesson I took from that was to seek beauty, to value beauty and love and caring, but to understand that you must hold these things lightly. They are fleeting and delicate.
Finally, the most important book I had was Frederick by Leo Lionni. This slender book was filled with beautiful images of a humble field mouse in his home. His stone wall, the meadows and fields around it with their wildflowers and bounty, the blue sky above and the warmth of the sun were food for Frederick’s imagination, for his soul. In the dark days of winter while his family and friends were huddled deep in the stones, seeking shelter, warmth, and nourishment where there was little to be had, Frederick recounted his impressions, the things that filled his senses and gave him sustenance. The other mice realized that when they thought Frederick had been daydreaming rather than gathering corn, he was seeking, and storing, strength and inspiration. The entire mouse community was inspired and ‘fed’ by Frederick’s quiet introspection and subsequent offering of his feast of the senses. At eight or nine years old the message in this book was shockingly, deeply resonant. There was no one in my world to tell me that this was a way “to be”. The possibility that value could be placed on the thoughts that swirled around in my head was profoundly encouraging.
My path to becoming a photographer and writer was circuitous in the extreme, but Frederick was always there to light the path. Even when my feet were planted firmly on another road, on tiny mouse tiptoes he would slip quietly into my consciousness to remind me to sit and feel the warmth and color around me. His enormously round liquid eyes would look into mine and say “see the world around you”.
Look quietly, and deeply. And read good books.
Click on this link for a great interview with my friend and mentor, Sam Abell. And here’s another: Story Matters. Thank you to Jonathan Blaustein and Story Matters for the interviews. And thank you to Honey Lazar (click this link to see her amazing project, Loving Aunt Ruth, along with a stunning body of work) for bringing the first to my attention.
I continue to be inspired and stunned by the creativity and quality of photography being produced around the globe. This week I came across a great Street Photography site (on Facebook) that has me itching to shoot in Lisbon. My biggest question is how do I fit it in to an already overloaded schedule? I struggle with this each day while remaining grateful for all the opportunities that stretch out before me.
Enjoy these links…I’ll be back in a few days with a discussion about a portrait series….stay tuned…and go make some photographs!
The subject today: photography. The location: Whidbey Island. I’m delighted to be posting a gallery of images made during my three weeks at Pacific Northwest Art School assisting Arthur Meyerson and Sam Abell.
The surroundings are always inspiring, but the work and engagement from our students, along with the masterful imagery from Arthur and Sam, energizes my creative fire. So off I went to the Island County Fair and to haunt the shoreline. Some evenings I walked through town, some I walked the prairie. I just wanted to be open to light, color, and gesture…layers, refinement, and the concepts of eternity and impermanence. As always, the full expression of my intent is my personal benchmark for a successful photo. I realize that this is an entirely personal, subjective judgement. But it is the one most fully in alignment with my philosophy of living.
I’m so happy to announce that I will be teaching and assisting again next year for Pacific Northwest Art School, beginning August 4th for my four day class and then rolling into the next two weeks for Sam and Arthur! Stay tuned to the blog about other teaching venues and more opportunities for study, both in the US and abroad. Thanks for checking the blog….I hope you enjoy the images. Comments most welcome, as always!
It’s not often that I get to touch an important piece of Photographic History. But two weeks ago, during the Sam Abell workshop with the Pacific Northwest Arts School I did just that. We took our class to Port Townsend for an excursion and Sam spied in the case of a bookstore a hand-lettered sign that said they had the Robert Frank French Edition of The Americans (Les Americains).
In the eyes of many photographers, this book IS the Holy Grail of photography, even more so than Henri Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment. Paul Stafford, gentleman proprietor of William James Books, offered to show us the copy (as we had met him on a previous trip and he knew that Sam had a serious interest in the title).
We threaded our way through tall stacks and shelves to reach the back of the store. After four locked doors on various levels, steps in between, we arrived at the sanctum sanctorum. Paul placed the bubble wrapped package on a table and invited us to open the book. But first we had to get over the cover! A Saul Steinberg drawing??? This is a photography book….what’s happening? And then to open the book and discover so much narrative, in French? There is so little in the English edition that came later. But the images? The same photographic erudition, the same searching, frank observations, the same humanity. Indeed the images are mostly the same as in the later English edition.
It was a thrilling moment for me in several ways. I was there with my mentor, Sam Abell, who has his own richly deserved spot in photographic history, and I was seeing this book in its original state, its first incarnation…and in near pristine condition. As a book lover, this is a high-water mark for me! But then I had the opportunity to return with my other beloved mentor, Arthur Meyerson, during our class that took place just last week.
Again, Paul Stafford was tremendously kind and offered to show Arthur the copy immediately. I think Arthur was even a little nervous to be handling it! To my great joy, I photographed Arthur with Paul, and listened, as I had with Sam, to him recount why this book was so important to him. Personally, there were favorite images for Sam and Arthur…different images for different reasons. But they were also generous in their discussions with Paul about why the book was so revered and how much it influenced the world of photography after its publication.
Never before had people thought to make a lunch counter a photographic subject, or a funeral for a black man, or an afternoon picnic in a park with cars, blankets and young people making out. It wasn’t ‘done’ to photograph a black nanny with her white child. He broke the taboos and barriers, and expanded the consciousness for what could be considered art in photography. The tension, nuance, and cultural sensitivity that exists in his photographs was a clear contrast to what other contemporary photographers were doing. Low light, unusual focus, and cropping were all in contravention to the accepted photographic technique of the time. But the work produced a reflection of life in America in the 1950′s…not the world of Ward and June Cleaver, but the world of factory workers, transvestites, and segregation.
The art world was slow to embrace the imagery, even reviled it, but young people saw the worth of it…as did other street photographers. It energized the medium and changed it forever. Few works of art in any medium have had that effect. The Americans did.
There are far more sophisticated reviews of his work available than what I can offer. Here is one, a link to a story by National Public Radio. It’s worth the time! http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100688154
Once again I must thank my dear friends and teachers, Sam Abell and Arthur Meyerson, for lighting my photographic world and path. We do have the best times together and I know there will be many more.
I recently lost my stallion, who was 31 years old. He shared his life with me for many years, offering love, teaching, light. Today I learned that a friend lost one of their horses. It has made me reflect about the nature of sorrow and loss. What I feel most strongly is gratitude. Had we never had the beauty and love they offered our lives would have been so much poorer. Thank you, Fol Amour….and thank you Xama do Top, for the brief time we shared.
Sintra has long held a fascination for me. Years ago I read a number of books that spoke of this ancient city as a spot of initiation. Initiation into what? The greater esoteric mysteries, including the knowledge held by the Knights Templar and passed along to the Alchemists, Rosicrucians, and Freemasons. This is not a blog about the verity of any of this, but a musing on the feeling of mystery.
Any time we wander the streets of an old village or city we can try to transport ourselves to a time in the past. Some places, like the Marais in Paris or the Old Town of Prague make it easier to imagine what life may have looked like centuries ago. Sintra holds this appeal for me.
I visited the town again just a few days ago. I often take clients and friends here as one of our ‘must see’ places for their visits to Portugal. Generally I photograph lightly while hosting, but as my friends are also photographers, I was at ease with spending the extra time to make meaningful images. My intent was to reflect the mystery that I sense is present in the streets, the architecture, and the landscape. I wanted to add to that mystery a strong dream-like quality. So, lensbaby firmly affixed, off I went.
We visited my favorite spot in Portugal, the Convento dos Capuchos, where I have photographed a number of times. There are few visitors here so lingering to make images is an exercise in tranquility. The perfume of the woods, plants, herbs and stone all combine to make you feel like you are breathing a vibrating life force. Water emerges musically just as it did more than 500 years ago. It cools while it adds the feeling of movement and life to the silent surroundings.
The National Palace was a delightful surprise. In simple unaffected ways, the traditional art forms and high points in the history of the Portuguese people were displayed. Tile work of sophistication was expected because of the cultural treasure of the azulejos. But there were tiles of many different colors, mosaics recalling Moorish influence, and raised botanical tiles that are unique in all of Europe. Gardens glimpsed through mullioned windows and fairytale chimneys give the feeling of being in a time and place apart. Chandeliers in intimate reception rooms await the footfalls of liveried attendants. The intimate scale, so different from the grandeur of the Chateaux in France or Palladian Villas in Italy, invites you to imagine yourself in this court, among the travelers, discoverers, men of learning and science that attended here.
Photographically, I was enjoying a feast of subjects and impressions. I’ve created a gallery with one thought in mind: portray the mystery of this very engaging town. I started with shooting with the Lensbaby to distort and bend the light…like creating a visual tunnel to walk through. Then by further interpreting each image using various layers from Flypaper Textures, I arrived at the feeling I wanted to express in the images. This is how I followed my intent to its full expression. If you are interested in more about Flypaper Textures, scroll down through the blog, or click on the button there to the right….
One last thing about the images: at the end of the gallery you will see an image that was shot ‘straight’, but textured like the others. I’ve placed it here so that you might recognize how even a ‘good’ image can destroy the flow and mood of a set of images. Creating the photographic essay is a process of refinement. It’s about delicious and surprising small plates, not a sumptous feast. I have a ways to go with this one, but I am loving the process!
Perhaps it was the intent of the various Mystery Schools to engender an appreciation for the unexplainable, or perhaps Sintra is just a special spot on the planet, one of those ‘points of acupuncture’ most often marked by silent dolmens or soaring cathedrals. Whatever the reason, Sintra holds a special feeling for me. I’ll continue to visit, to explore with my camera, and work to give full expression to all I experience.
Thanks for stopping by the blog. ~K
In preparation for my upcoming class (July…Pacific Northwest Arts School), I popped my lensbaby on and had a great walkabout. My intent was to create images of intimate subjects as well as medium and wide landscape shots. It was great fun with a non-focused focus. Ha.
All the photographs were made in Obidos, Portugal. Obidos is a lovely village near the coast, about an hour and a half north of Lisbon. It was probably settled hundreds of years before the Romans occupied the area. The walls of the fortress/village went up around 700 A.D., and were strengthened under King Dinis I. In July the whole town turns into a medieval festival. I was glad to be there on a quieter day. The best part? Walking and creating with two dear friends visiting me in Portugal! Thank you, Riley and Karen!
Browse the images in the slideshow mode. I’ve added some of the thoughts I had while making the images. As always, comments most welcome.
And a reminder…there is still space left in Arthur Meyerson’s second week….and Robert Stahl has space in his September workshop. You couldn’t go wrong with either of these gifted, caring teachers. I have the great pleasure to be assisting Sam Abell and Arthur Meyerson again in August. A special thanks to Lisa and Karen for the fantastic program they have developed at PNWAS!!!
Friends and readers of this blog know that I am indebted to Sam Abell for his mentorship and aesthetic. I have just finished assisting Sam in his private workshop in Shepherdstown with a group of great photographers. We had four days of fellowship and fine photography, kicked off by a wonderful dinner hosted and prepared by Dianne and Paul Chalfant. (to continue the alliteration…..fabulous family festivities!)
Seriously, we spent each day engaged in conversation and creation of photography on a very high level. I’m posting a sampling of great images made during our time together, but they don’t illustrate the willingness to engage and stretch creatively that each of the photographers brought to the workshop. The thing that sets a workshop above another is not the instruction or the work produced, but the enthusiasm the participants bring to their work and to the conversation. Because of that, this workshop achieved a high water mark for earnest, thoughtful work.
Sam and I thank each of you for your spirit and your work. I am energized by your devotion to your craft and am carrying that force with me into my next project now that I am back in Portugal. Soon I’ll be on Whidbey Island for Sam’s first of two workshops with the Pacific Northwest Art School. Then I will be preparing for my own workshop there! I hope you’ll think of joining me. Later, in August, I’ll return to assist both Sam Abell and Arthur Meyerson! August is always a high point in my year. The students that come to the workshops are inspiring and marvelously creative….but they’ll have a long way to go to top our Shepherdstown Group!
I have had a great experience this week! I’ve been preparing for and then attended my show at The Bridge Gallery in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. As with any big endeavor there are usually a number of people involved. I have much to be thankful for and I’ll begin with Mark Muse. As I am just returning from a fabulous six weeks in Portugal, I asked Mark to help me by making the prints. He is an extraordinary photographer and a masterful printer. See the images below for how he was able to make my photographs sing! Then go and check out his work for a master class in restraint and subtlety! Kathryn Burns, gallerist and proprietor of The Bridge Gallery was sensitive, patient and encouraging the entire time. Kathryn, THANK YOU for making a dream come true.
Having a show at The Bridge Gallery was a ‘big deal’ to me as I have attended numerous shows there for artists I revere and who have inspired me for many years. Jim Kline, Michael Davis, Mark Muse, Tico Herrara, Hali Taylor, Frank Robbins, Rip Smith, Benita Keller, and Charlie Shobe are just a few of the names that come to mind. I’ve had wonderful teachers and artists to emulate for a very long time. This community has given much to its artists and art-lovers and they turned out again in force last night! Hundreds of folks enjoyed the show on a perfect spring evening, which was great as many had to wait outside before there was space to come in.
The best thing for me about the show? Listening to people describe their reaction to the work and the thoughts and feelings it evoked. I’ve often said that when I make a successful photograph I am blessed three times. First, the experience of seeing it creates a thrill. Second, the confirmation that the image is good (technically) aside from the emotion of making it, gives a feeling of satisfaction and affirmation. Third, when a photograph elicits a response from a viewer (and I am lucky enough to know about it) the understanding and communication that arises is a very special moment for me. Humbly, I had many of those moments last night. The joy I am feeling will keep me going, keep me seeking refined and subtle imagery for a very long time. Thank you to all of the people that took a moment to speak and share with me last night.
The show is up until May 5th. I hope you’ll stop by if you are in the area. And as an extra special treat, you’ll see the lovely work of Isabelle Truchon! Her oils and assemblages are uplifting and engaging.
Here are some wall images from The Bridge Gallery. Thanks for checking the blog! I know it’s been far too long between posts.
Today’s post comes entirely from a message from a dear friend. I thank him and wish you ALL a Happy Valentine’s Day!
Happy St. Valentine’s Day!
Saint Valentine was a Roman Priest at a time when there was an emperor called Claudias, who had an edict that prohibited the marriage of young people. This was based on the hypothesis that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what might happen to them or their wives or families if they died. However St Valentine secretly married them anyway.
In the year 269 AD, St. Valentine was eventually caught, imprisoned and tortured for performing marriage ceremonies against the edict. The story goes that the last words he wrote were in a note to the daughter of a Roman official encouraging her to faithfully love to the end her new husband.
He inspired today’s romantic missives by signing it, ”from your Valentine.”
Life must be lived as play. ~ Plato
Every once in a while I enjoy looking back at images in the archive. I thought it would be fun to play with Flypaper Textures on some old favorites. I think it’s useful to examine old images from an emotional distance. I often tell students that the best time to edit is at least a month from the time you made the images. Yes, we all have to look at them as soon as possible…but don’t throw them away for at least a month or more. When the emotional energy/heat has faded we can begin to see our images much more objectively. It doesn’t matter how far we had to climb or how long we had to wait or what light we had to battle…the image must stand on its own merit.
That may sound strange coming from me in a post about texturing and layers. After all, it is image manipulation. But here’s the caveat: a bad image will not make a great textured image. Start with a good photograph and then enhance the image in a way that amplifies a concept you are trying to communicate. When I am photographing I am always thinking about communicating what intrigued me, what made me care enough to stop and create images. Then, if the image can be enhanced with textures or layers, then I think about those qualities again. Perhaps I felt a somber mood or a mysterious brooding atmosphere. Maybe I just felt the image was going to be painterly and planned right then to add textures. Its likely that if that was the case, I photographed in order to support that intention.
Here are some old favorites re-invisioned. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment if you want to learn more about using textures and layers. Have fun with your images (and CLICK MY BUTTON….over there on the right…for Flypaper Textures)!
“Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?” ~Walt Whitman
I’ve been blessed to live with magnificent trees throughout my life. As a child my world was bounded by a great maple for climbing, an ancient half-shattered walnut, and a pear tree that brought wasps in summer to devour its decaying fruit. There was also a great cedar tree that was home, periodically, to Stanley, and later, Ethel. These were blacksnakes that terrorized my mother, were pets to my father, and mysterious challenging beings to me.
Later I lived on the side of a mountain adjacent to the Appalachian Trail. The vast forest was sheltering and nurturing. Terms like BTU’s, cord, cured, and standing dead became important to a household that heated primarily with wood. But the woods also held mystery, challenge, and triumph for two growing boys.
A mighty oak stands sentinel in what was my backyard for the fifteen years I lived on my farm in Shepherdstown. I watched it spread its canopy and offer its shade, increasing each year until it covered what once was a bed for sun-loving lilies, bee-balm, and peonies. Summer evenings brought dinners outdoors. Candlelight and dancing fireflies from its branches illuminated the smiles of guests faces. Heavy mast years warned of big snows in the winter and the yard would become a feeding ground for far too many deer and squirrels. But the animal I enjoyed most was a club-footed crow that sat on a branch near my bathroom window. He cawed at me for years, especially during winter months. Listen! he said. Listen to the moonlight make its way through the branches and the crinkly soft crunching of the snow. Listen to the quiet.
I live now in a land of cork oaks and olives. What they lack in stature they trump all others with their history of partnership with the land and its inhabitants for several thousand years. The rhythm of life is largely unchanged for the people that harvest the olives and cork. I’m enjoying it visually. But I am also in-tune with this rhythm and what it means to live by the seasons.
I’m going to write more about this in my next blog. For now, here are a couple of tree pictures from many years past, and a few I made two days ago. Enjoy. A dear friend from home keeps me updated on the Sycamore near the railroad and the mighty oaks at the turn at Hendricks farm. I hope you have special trees in your life too.
I have been thinking all day about what to write on this last day of the year. In the midst of thought I received a note from my from my very dear friend, (and super-amazing photographer) Honey Lazar. She shared a link for her latest blog on Loving Aunt Ruth.
I read, and then re-read the post. It says everything about what I am feeling and would try to say. With a full heart, I encourage you to visit Honey’s blog. http://honeylazar.blogspot.com/2012/12/aunt-ruth-and-father-kevin-oneil.html
Wishing us all a peaceful end to this year and a sparkling beginning for the next. With love and appreciation, Keron
After a few ‘non-horse’ posts, it’s time for an equine feast! (Photographically!)
I had the great pleasure to see the Four Classical Schools Exhibition in Paris again this October with the Barbier Farms group. I was there for the first performances in 2007 and to return was great fun! Overall, I thought the show was engaging, beautifully staged, and perhaps the choreography was a little more interesting this time. The Spanish Riding School from Vienna gave a lovely, tranquil performance, the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art was exciting and the Pas de Deux was a crowd favorite, the Cadre Noir from Saumur was gorgeously turned out and gave a thrilling jumping exhibition and stunning Quadrille, and my favorites, the Escola Portuguesa de Arte Equestre were regal and classically tactful. So, Kudos all around!
Just before we left the South of France for Paris, we went to visit Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado. Frederic and Magali were the original performers and choreographers for Cavalia. We spent nearly an entire day with them and were treated to a wonderful impromptu performance at their house with many of their horses. Then we had a visit to their breeding farm with a surprise champagne reception in the field with the mares and babies. Their warmth and hospitality was matched only by their love and respect for their equine partners. Thank you, Frederic and Magali, for this marvelous gift.
I never liked chickens as a child. I thought they were slightly scary. Probably because I considered them unpredictable. But as a photographer, I have grown to love them! I’m sharing a few chicken pix (and other critters) with my readers and asking you to think of them in a new, non-scary way: think of them as hope and opportunity.
And who doesn’t think a lamb is a very cute thing? But do we think of lambs as a meal (yikes) or as a way to a better life for a family because of the gift of its wool and progeny? The lambs, the cows, the burros, the bunnies….all are potential symbols of hope. Only you and I can turn that potential into action.
A number of years ago I was introduced to the good work that is being done by Heifer International. I’ve encouraged friends and family members through the years to consider them during this season of giving. There is so much need in the world, amongst so much excess. Something as small as a flock of chicks can bring hope, nutrition, and stability to a family where there was little or none before. So…..click the link!
This is a season to reflect upon the Light that has been offered to us all. All faiths, all paths, through all time. As I have come to understand it, the only appropriate response, in gratitude, is to offer your own light to others.
My photographs create a way for me to express my gratitude for all the guidance and inspiration that I have been given and then pass along my experience to those who are interested. The amazing thing is this: in the act of creativity I am blessed layer upon layer.
I experience the moment of inspiration (a divine spark) and then get to prolong that experience by discovering more layers in what I’m seeing/feeling. This experience grows exponentially when I can share it with others. I am always amazed (and continually grateful) that people write to me to talk about the photos and the inspiration or insight that they have received. This gives me the opportunity to speak about the guides, teachers and mentors that I have in my life.
They share their light, unceasing. And it is glorious.
Honor and share your own. It is just as glorious.
Readers of this blog will know that my favorite quote is from Antoine de St. Exupery: ”What is essential is invisible to the eye; one must see with the heart.”
While visiting the home of Ana Batista and Orlando Vicente in Portugal, this feeling, this belief was vibrating in me while I watched the horses work.
The epicenter of the Lusitano culture is the Ribatejo in Portugal. We were in the heart of it, watching and participating in the most important aspect of this culture. Working with bulls over hundreds and hundreds of years guided the breeders to create horses of amazing functionality, and brilliant, courageous…. but calm temperaments. We saw all of these attributes in action, along with the finesse and ability of their riders! This was the soul of the Ribatejo. 500 years of diligence, respect for the essence of the horse, and clarity of vision has created spectacularly bred horses. They enjoy what they are doing and perform with elegance and spirit.
As the light faded I had to shift my tactics for shooting. Slowing the shutter and feeling the movement was exactly what was needed. Though I was photographing, not riding, I did feel part of the moment, not just an observer. It was sublime.
The results? Of course it is entirely subjective, but I am pleased. Pleased because the images bring the feeling, the experience, right back to me. I hope I’ve communicated a little of it to you, my reader. Thanks for stopping by. And if you REALLY love the images, come with me on the next trip in Portugal. Zip me an email and I’ll send you an amazing itinerary. Lastly, for my photo friends, these images were created with a slow shutter, panning, and a FLYPAPER TEXTURES layer or two in Photoshop using mostly the overlay blending mode. It’s fun, creative, and super simple. Push my button….just over there on the right side of the panel….and you can see all the fabulous things that Jill and Paul are doing over at Flypaper.
My life has been immeasurably enhanced by living and working with horses. In the past several years I have traveled to beautiful places and met lovely, inspiring people that share the common thread of a love for horses. In the last three months I have been in Spain, France, and Portugal for extended periods. The opportunity to become part of the rhythm of daily work with animals has re-awakened my love of living with horses. This part of my life has been dormant for nearly eight years. My stallion, Fol Amour, is retired (he’s a very spry 29 years old!) and living in California. I see him often, but not daily. Winston Churchill said “there is nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse”. I have always known it, but it is alive in me once more.
While traveling in Europe, often I steal away to favorite esoteric sites to photograph and absorb the mystery. Tomar, Sintra, and the Convento dos Capuchos are a few of my favorite spots in Portugal. I’ve included several new images from these spots.
Here is a small gallery of images made since September. Most of the horses are the beloved Lusitano….but the breed is not the most important part of a horse. The teaching, grace and acceptance that all horses have to offer is their unique gift to mankind. As always, I welcome your comments and questions.
Next up: a report of a wonderful trip through the South of France and then on to Paris for the Four Schools performance!
I have been too long away from my blog and as the days and weeks passed, returning to it seemed an enormous challenge. But today is the day! I try to be mindful of the spirit of gratitude every day, but in browsing the photos that I wanted to share I was strongly reminded of the gratitude I feel for the earth we inhabit. It is full of wonders. They are just waiting to be noticed and appreciated. I think all living organisms share this trait. Often the touch of mankind disturbs this beauty, but if we are gentle, we can exist in harmony within the landscape and exhalation of our earth. So today I will inhale the beauty and strength that we are offered and exhale gratitude.
For my photographer buddies, most of these images were taken with an AWESOME Zeiss Distagon 2.8 21mm hunk of glass. I am still coming to grips with it, but I’m loving the challenge. Thank you, Mark Muse (Super talented photog and total gear geek) for showing me the beauty of this lens.
One of my photos from my trip to Interagro (fabulous Lusitano breeding farm in Brasil) is the cover of the September issue of Dressage Today! I’m so tickled that they chose this image as it is a favorite of mine and the favorite horse of Dr. Paulo Gonzaga, founder of Interagro Lusitanos. Also in the issue are other images from that trip, included in a story about Dr. Hilary Clayton. And….there is an interview and photo essay that I did with Mestre Luis Valença. So I am pretty psyched about it. Now, to grab some copies for the archive!
I have just completed my annual two week stay on Whidbey Island. I had the very great honor to be assisting Sam Abell and Arthur Meyerson in their respective workshops. As always, the students were fantastic and set the bar high for each class. The work produced was super and in every instance each student pushed their own work forward. This is incredibly gratifying for a teacher. Each class excelled in their attitudes and willingness to create new work and to try to see in an expanded manner. So congratulations to the participants….and big gratitude to Lisa and Karen at the Pacific Northwest Art School for promoting these two Masters and their classes. It doesn’t get any better, ANYWHERE!
Lots of news this week for Meditation for Two and my photographs! I’m thrilled and very grateful for a super publisher!
Originally posted on Trafalgar Square Books Blog:
Tribuna Equestre is an online television channel dedicated to all things equestrian in South America. The “Masters Series” features prominent riding masters, including Dominique Barbier, who co-authored MEDITATION FOR TWO with photographer and writer Keron Psillas. The episode featuring Dominique Barbier was filmed in Cotia, near Sao Paulo, Brazil. You can see the introductory interview with Dominique, where he discusses his passion for keeping equestrian art alive and promoting nonviolent methods of training dressage horses throughout the world, as well as his book MEDITATION FOR TWO, in the video clip below (the interview begins about two minutes in and is subtitled).
Keron was so generous as to share some of the wonderful photos she captured during their day filming the episode. “We always have fun playing in the shadows at the end of the day!” she says. Watch for Keron’s article on revered dressage master Luis Valenca in the…
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I’m tickled pink!!! I’m the guest blogger today on Vision and Verb…..a blog by a great group of female writers and photographers. I hope you’ll click on the link and check it out! The topic is an important one for me and one that will resonate with most photographers. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Thank you!
I continue to be delighted by great reviews for Meditation for Two, my book with Mestre Dominique Barbier. Here is the link for one from Patty Lasko, Editor of Dressage Today: http://broadcaster.aimmedia.com/dm?id=7BE80CE7103D774A158CFCBAFC4638F1
And we also received a wonderful notice in the USDF Connections Newsletter:
A LOVE LETTER TO THE HORSE….Sometimes we get consumed by the extrinsics of riding — this aid, that aid, this competition, that award. We lose sight of why we fell in love with horses and dresssage in the first place. In a pretty little book they call Meditation for Two: Searching for and Finding Communion with Your Horse (Trafalgar Square, 72 pp., $24.95), French-born classical master Dominique Barbier (Dressage for the New Age) and photographer Keron Psillas bring us poetry and flowers and flowing manes and Iberian horses in stunning seascapes. Musings on the nature of horses and horsemanship. Even a training tidbit here and there. Meditation for Two begs to be given as a gift or to be enjoyed in a quiet moment in your favorite sun-splashed nook.
It is so gratifying to know that people are enjoying the book. And it has really ignited a fire in me to get the next book underway! Stay tuned for that news. You can click on the link above in the site header (Meditation for Two) to order the book from me. Thank you!
From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I found this after posting all the other images. As it turns out, it is my favorite. Thank you to Martina Brandes, as this is her horse, Bomilcar Interagro…and of course to Cecilia Gonzaga at Interagro Lusitanos. It is such a pleasure to visit and a great honor to photograph the horses!
I have had a super busy three months, with many miles logged on 777′s and the like. But wherever I land, I have the pleasure to be with beautiful horses and even more beautiful people. It makes all the hard work worth it! As I am sitting here in Cotia, near Sao Paulo, watching the setting sun rim everything in gold, my thoughts turn to grace and good fortune. As a photographer I sometimes complain that all I ever get to photograph are horses. First, it’s not exactly true, and second, how ridiculous! They are spectacular beings that have brought so much beauty to my life! How utterly human to be a bit ‘bored’ with this from time to time. And again, how ridiculous. So I’m giving myself a good kick in the pants and adjusting my attitude. The time will come when I am somewhere else on the planet and engaged in another photographic endeavor. But for right now I can only say ‘thank you’.
For my photographer readers….forgive the lack of editing? I am offering this gallery to my horse-lover friends! It is a collection of images from Brasil, Portugal, and Apassionata in the US. Enjoy!
Just before my most recent assignment in Kentucky (to photograph the opening of the US Tour of Apassionata!) I was in Brasil to photograph for Dressage Today. Our destination was Interagro, the incomparable Lusitano breeding farm of Dr. Paulo Gonzaga and his daughter Cecilia Gonzaga. Cecilia and her husband, Cristiano, have created a paradise on earth for Lusitano lovers. With nearly 1,000 horses and numerous stables, arenas, and pastures stretching into a seemingly endless vista, it is difficult to take in the care and detail that created such a wonderland.
But care and detail are everywhere if you stop for just a moment to reflect on the view in any direction. From the Interagro symbol on the tops of the stall dividers, the meticulously prepared riding surfaces, and the flowering shrubs planted to enhance the architecture at every turn, to the gleaming tack and polished wheels of the Marathon carts and the shining coats and braided manes of the gorgeous Lusitanos, it is evident that a loving, clear, precise vision guides every activity at Interagro. But make no mistake: this farm is not about show, it is about the working Lusitano! Everyone is busy at their particular task and the tasks are myriad. Interagro breeds driving horses, dressage horses, and working equitation horses. Subsequently, there are indoor and outdoor rings for each discipline as well as miles of roads for driving carts and carriages.
The gracious hospitality we received is the memory that has stayed the strongest. I have the feeling that we stepped into a time and place that exists in an alternate reality. A reality that values refinement and ease in every endeavor. Yes, I am gushing…but I’m sure I’d be forgiven if you could only share this experience. And the best part….you can! I’ll be announcing a very special workshop that will take place at Interagro this fall. With Cecilia Gonzaga as our host and guide, International Morphology Judge Davi Carrano to inform us about the Lusitano breed standards, and me…your favorite equestrian photographer, to ignite your creativity and expand your vision of equine photography, we will experience the finest the Lusitano world can offer. Details coming very soon in this space. Stay tuned and tell your horsey/photographer friends!
I’ve just returned from shooting the opening engagements for Apassionata North America. WOW!!!! It was so much fun. The horses are gorgeous and so beautifully trained and the performers and staff were all so gracious and generous. It was a lot of hard work but so rewarding and fulfilling. I’ll write more about the experience, but I wanted to get this gallery up quickly for everyone to enjoy. What I will say is this: the audiences LOVED the shows. The response from the people was ecstatic! So……go see this show! It’s wonderful for all ages and even non-horsey types. It’s just great entertainment. As always, comments welcome.
And for the last bit of Apassionata news….my photo from Frankfurt is the cover of this month’s HORSES FOR LIFE! I hope you’ll click on the link and go preview this month’s issue. It’s always filled with intelligent, passionate, and insightful writing….all for the well-being of the horse. Thanks, Nadja, for all your hard work and love for the horses! (CLICK HERE TO PREVIEW)
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free…’ Elder Joseph, Shaker Community
I made a new friend Sunday. He is sweet, sensitive, curious, kind, genuine, handsome, intelligent, gentle, angelic. We had a conversation that lasted for hours with neither of us able to move away. We talked about adventure, friends, animals (his favorite is the horse), racing, work, making new friends, imagination…..an entire galaxy of topics in this relatively short time.
Ten days ago, I had to fly overnight to Frankfurt, Germany, and then photograph the entire next day and night without rest, little food, and all the while feeling not quite up to the challenge. This was an important job for me and one that I wanted to create the absolute best images I could for a variety of personal and professional reasons. When I walked into the Festhalle in Frankfurt I was immediately concerned about my ability to do so as the space was so dark and cavernous. I don’t shoot with flash, and it would have been forbidden in this instance as my subject was horses. I was photographing the performances of Apassionata and the team that Mestre Luis Valença will be sending to the United States. The show debuts in Lexington, Kentucky, in late April.
I was prepared, had all the appropriate equipment, but I knew that if the technical challenge of such low light could not be overcome then even the most compelling image would be useless if it could not be used for print or projection. So I cranked up the ISO (1600 and 2000….EEK!!!) and set about the work. I resist chimping the screen in most instances, and with the action so fast and furious I would have lost the moments had I been looking at the back of my camera.
So about half way into the first half of the show I let myself relax and enjoy the actual performance. I noticed that I began to have a natural smile on my face rather than a conscious one….and I could feel some of the tension leaving my body as well. I decided to dial the ISO down…and choose moments to shoot rather than chasing every shot, every gesture. I was laughing out loud during the comedy parts, and floating into the romance and magic of the story. I was enjoying myself and allowing my curiosity to push aside the doubt and concern.
Back to my new friend: In all likelihood I will never see him again, but the impact of this meeting was so strong that it has caused me to write this blog post, and more importantly, to re-examine the swirl of my present life. Alexander, in the short time I shared with him on a cross-country flight, crystalised the lesson I had offered to me last week. His insistence about combining the world of imagination with the world we have built and others have built around us showed me that it is possible to remain a creative being, uninhibited by daily circumstance or momentary challenge. His self-discovery in the midst of self-creation was powerful to watch and reminded me that its okay, even better to PLAY while working. His example reminded me to drop the fear (the real word behind concern, worry, and insecurity) and rest in the knowledge that my intention will create a way.
Our teachers are all around us. Open your eyes and see with your heart. Thank you, Alex, for the simple gift of your spirit and kindness. You are so wise and wonderful. I hope your fourth birthday brings you all you can imagine.
I’ve just received a copy of the latest review for Meditation for Two…..I can hardly believe that it is as glowing as the previous one. I had to post it and offer my thanks to Mary Daniels for her thoughtful, generous remarks. It’s going to be published in the February Issue of Dressage Today, available January 2, and on DressageToday.com. Dressage Today???? How cool is that for an equine photographer/writer? Pinch me. Again. (You can have your very own copy by clicking on the tab above!)
by Mary Daniels
As the title might offer a clue, this is not a how-to book about how to train horses, but one about a very personal and unique philosophy—“Because the nature of the horse demands it, this is a mystical, metaphysical book,” says Barbier. He writes about “allowing our thoughts to be happy ones, finding our smile and learning to use it through discipline, meditation, visualization and love.
“This book is a reflection about the love of horses and how much they care and want us to be better. It is my belief that were we to allow ourselves to listen, were we to allow them to speak, they would surely have offered such a book to us.”
I agree with what Psillas says in her introduction to this book. That “we ride as we are,” which is true, and “what better purpose for a life than to hold the space for beauty.” To me, horses are a thing of beauty. A joy forever as a great poet once said, and beauty is medicine.
Perhaps I am not mystically inclined enough to understand all of the text, such as the preceding idea that were they allowed to speak horses would offer such a book to us. The ones I know might just ask for a charge card to the nearest greengrocer, or a romp in the hayfield. It may be one must belong to the Inner Circle of this following to be able to absorb the more esoteric aspects of this philosophy.
But there were parts I liked very much and here are a few from Barbier: “Horses and humans: the idea of separation first and then a coming together when mutual respect and understanding are attained is too simplistic, though not to be ignored. Rather, if I can say, it is the sense of oneness first, and then how to remain in that oneness that I believe is the essence of successful and symbiotic interaction between human and horse.
“The horse must trust the student. He must accept and enjoy a comfortable position, something that does not always come naturally. In turn, the student must trust the horse, both physically and mentally. If your riding mentality is based in fear, the horse cannot believe, understand or feel comfortable with you. Panic and evasions follow. A void in the student creates a void in the horse. Horses are the mirror of your soul.”
“The attitude that we are the only or best conduit of energy is a limiting one. The horse is already here. We must learn to be here. Our undisciplined minds and our egos cause us to live in the past or in the future and we must remind ourselves constantly of the goal of self-realization. Unlike the horse, we are so busy doing, we forget simply to be, we are so busy working, we forget to enjoy. Horses demand our presence, and this mental discipline in turn allows communication and oneness to happen. They teach us to be in and stay in the present, to share the same vibrations, the same space, the same energy. They teach us to replace organized unhappiness, unfulfilled dreams and expectation with the attachment and appreciation of the very moment. When acceptance and grace flow between horse and rider, the centaur can exist.
“An undisciplined mind is like a young green horse—full of life, scattered and uncensored. All manner of achievement is possible when the horse, like your mind, comes to the calm knowledge of self and respect of others. Together these notions bring harmony and joy. Gratitude and reverence allow us to be and feel that there is nothing we cannot do. Remember then, to say thank you. The open mind and the readiness for the path to further enlightenment will create real-life miracles.”
And my favorite: “I consider the shoulder-in the miracle movement. But I prefer to call it shoulders-in. The outside shoulder must be included in the movement, in our feeling of the movement. From the daily work for the original work-in-hand around one pillar, a technique centuries old, we need to understand why this is such a revealing movement, why it is such a powerful tool. The simplest answer is that it gives the horse a feeling of togetherness, then of independence. He learns where his legs and his body are in relation to himself and to the rider. This knowledge offers security to him and in turn, imparts an additional, undeniable mental strength, as any successful human athlete can attest,” he writes.
That said about the text, one must remark that the accompanying photos are lovely. Many of the subjects are of the Portuguese Lusitano breed, one of the world’s most striking and handsome. But there are also photographs of natural and man-made wonders, from the floral to the architectural, which make you pause and reflect.
The design of the book, by Psillas, is elegant and pleasing to the eye. “The display type of this edition of Meditation for Two is Cezanne with a nod to Dominique’s French heritage and to link and respect the arts of handwriting, photography and bookmaking, as well as the influence of the painting Masters on the history of photography,” she writes. The Old World sensibility in its creation makes this book a keepsake, a gift book bound to be appreciated by the receiver.
I had such a wonderful surprise yesterday when I opened an email message from my publisher. She wrote to tell me about a great review in an important online journal for my book, Meditation For Two. Happy as I was to read such nice comments, I realized that this was much more than a book review.
The words written by Cindy Foley were an affirmation on so many levels. First, people are searching for a deeper, more meaningful relationship with their horses. Dominique eloquently speaks to this throughout the book, and in the life he has led for the last forty years. Second, the power of the written word to reach people is magnified when you hold a book in your hands and immerse yourself in it. And third, the photographic image, when made with love and layered thoughtfully into an essay, can facilitate and amplify the connection. In Dominique’s words, it can “…create a greater molecular change”.
Cindy “got it”. I am grateful that an even greater number of readers will have the opportunity to experience the transformative nature of the book because of her generous review. The most important thing about the book is its message; not the photographs, or design, though I am happy to have created them; not the number of books sold (though greater numbers would be super).
From the review: “The photos are misty, blurred…chosen because they speak without the need for a caption. They’re soulful, matching the words.”
If you are a photographer, consider your message. Work to find ways to incorporate your images with thought-provoking texts. I’m happy that Cindy understood why my photographs lacked captions in the book. I work hard to create images that speak by themselves or rest easily but meaningfully alongside a considered text. I believe it has made me a better photographer.
One last ‘message’…..my life works because I am surrounded by loving, kind people on every side. I have to take a moment and say thank you to Debra, Lisa, Chaya, and Alea for taking such wonderful care of my horse. Fol Amour is 29 now but thinks he is 5, still a stallion (and knows it), but has a good life because he is worked and cared for daily. I am on and off planes and zipping across continents, but my heart is at ease because I know he’s right where he should be. Here’s a picture of Chaya with her boy, Winston, taken just yesterday at Barbier Farms in Healdsburg, California. Thank you, Chaya!
I made my journey to Auschwitz and Birkenau knowing fully that it would be sorrowful and perhaps impossible to photograph through tears and stunned disbelief. All these emotions swirled through me and rendered my whole being mute. Not just my voice, my entire being. I couldn’t formulate a thought, much less express one; verbally or photographically. Then, I raised my camera as I was stumbling along, stopped to make a photograph, and began to come back to myself. Gradually, I understood that this act of creation was more than an act of self-preservation, it was a way to look deeper. With this intent, the overwhelming sorrow lessened just enough for me to regain some composure and begin to walk purposefully, to see, purposefully.
The lasting impressions from both Terezin and Auschwitz/Birkenau are of silence and permeating cold. I created the photos below with this awareness. In the photographs I’ve chosen for this post, as an idea to portray a silent conversation, I have blended images from Terezin with images from Auschwitz/Birkenau. Most of the people that were sent from Terezin on the dreaded transports perished in Birkenau.
I hope my viewers will keep this in mind: the photos are an artistic expression of what I saw and felt. They are not indictments, religious commentary or judgement. My intent is to simply reflect my personal experience in a place that has infinite layers of horror, grief, loss, and teaching. My intent is not to create offense or add sorrow. If you are troubled by the imagery, write to me. I want to hear your thoughts.
I’ll close with a quote from Longfellow: “Therefore trust to thy heart, and to what the world calls illusions.” As all the places I visited retain only the faintest trace of the living, I had to rely on a deeper sensibility to gain a small foothold in the incalculable darkness. I hope that the images I offer will resonate with you. It is simply my heart speaking.
You may recall that Terezîn was formerly called Theresienstadt, under Nazi rule during World War II. It is/was a garrison town built in the 1780′s as a fortress by the Hapsburg rulers. You can read more about it by clicking this link. My interest in Terezin is multi-layered and even a bit complicated. But over all of it lies this sense of amazement for the life that the residents of Terezin ghetto created for themselves during this descent into Hell.
From the first days, the residents, in the form of the Jewish Council of Elders, decided that to survive this experience, the children must be educated and the community as a whole must have access and participation in the ARTS. Performances of original plays, musical recitals, Verdi’s Requiem, and the renowned children’s opera “Brundibar”, took place in Terezin regularly. The education of the children, though forbidden, went on nearly without stopping. Thanks to incredible teachers and instructors, children produced art works and magazines for the entire community. These activities, along with their involvement in “Brundibar” would be, what one survivor described, “the last source of great joy in their lives.” (Jiri Kotouc, Home L 417).
I am working on a project that came from my need to understand the human capacity for such darkness in the face of joy, love, and humanity. It is proving to be more difficult than I imagined. But I’ve decided to put up a few photos from my days in Terezin, just to communicate a little of the solitude and sadness that still lives here. Terezin is unique in all of Europe in that people inhabit, today, the very same structures that housed Jews, Danes, Poles, Czechs and others, the vast majority of whom perished in the Holocaust. More than 10,000 children lived in Terezin, fewer than 200 survived.
I want to photograph the people of Terezin today, against the backdrop of all this history. It’s not easy. I haven’t been successful yet. But I will keep trying.
If you have any interest in this story, I urge you to read The Girls of Room 28, by Hannelore Brenner. You will be saddened, uplifted, and probably left with the same questions that have haunted me for a number of years. But I predict that you will have a deeper understanding of the importance of art and education in all our lives.
More than anything, the children longed for the open spaces of their villages and towns. I spent a day driving all over the countryside, when fog hung in the air and hoarfrost coated every surface. I wanted to get to know the countryside a little better. The damp and cold, coupled with the moody lighting and absolute stillness was to me totally appropriate. It turns out that I don’t know how to portray sadness and sorrow…. a sadness and sorrow so deep that it threatened to engulf an entire people. In the end I could only photograph what I saw and what I felt.
This week marks the 70th anniversary of the very first transport to Terezin of Jews from points all over what was Czechoslovakia. It is just a small footnote in a large history. But it is not forgotten.
I’ll close with the words of someone far more articulate than I, Rabbi David Cooper:
“…what happens when the suffering is too great? When it engulfs and extinguishes people and hope? I don’t think we have learned a thing collectively. Is it enough that individuals have? It must be ~ and therefore, every heart, every light DOES matter. This alone gives me hope.”
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber
I am a student of history. What began for me, in the winter of 2000, as a fascination with medieval history, and particularly the history of the Knights Templar, has brought me to Tomar, in Portugal. It is one of the oldest Templar sites and one of the best preserved.
When I decided to come to Golegã for the Lusitano Festival, I thought briefly about visiting Tomar and then let it go. After all, I had serious work to do! When it came time to find a room, the best option – as Golegã was completely booked – was a lovely B&B in a little village called Vargos. Vargos is exactly half way between Tomar and Golegã. So I chuckled and booked the room. Over the years I have become used to the synchronicity of the Universe and am only mildly surprised (but always delighted) when it surfaces. Arriving in Lisbon after an overnight flight through London, I found myself in a rental car in pitch black night with tons of traffic in a driving rainstorm. Fun, right? With nothing to do but move forward, off I went with a GPS in search of a tiny village.
I arrived in the Vargos after several hours…no problem…but where was Casa dos Vargos? There are no numbers….no visible street signs….no lights. After a little scrambling on the Iphone for an email and number I located and called Dona Pilar, the proprietress of Casa dos Vargos. In no time I was warm and dry in a tremendous salon. I can’t call it a room. The ceiling was at least 16 feet high and the furnishings were tasteful and very very old. I was happy and relieved.
As I was trying to settle in to sleep, I read from the various literature in the room about the majesty and antiquity of Tomar. I resolved to go there before I visited Golegã the following day. Below you will see a gallery of images from the town of Tomar as well as the Convento do Cristo, which was the original 11th century fortress, church, and seat of Gualdim Pais, Master of the Order of the Temple in Portugal. The Convent of Christ has been home to many other important people, including Prince Henry the Navigator.
The Templars are famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, for many things, but most notably for the occult wisdom they were said to possess. Many people believe this wisdom was the basis for the Masonic Order and the Rosicrucians. During my time in Scotland in 2002, 2003, and 2005, I traveled to various villages in search of traces of this order, and to uncover connections with the aspect of the Divine Feminine in sacred and theological traditions.
Now the story returns to the present. After my visit to Tomar and the Convento do Cristo, I had to get to work in Golegã! I put all thoughts of mysteries and investigation aside….until Monday morning when Dona Pilar asked “have you seen the chapel?” What chapel? I had no idea what she was speaking of. At that very moment I was stuck in a quandary about what to do next and where to go…..but I went along with her, happy for the distraction. We went out the door and around the courtyard while she was explaining that the home had been in her family since the 16th century…and that I was going to view their private chapel. ”It is full of the most beautiful Azulejos….all very old and of very high quality…you will see, it’s lovely!”. Lovely doesn’t begin to describe it. Dedicated to Saint Anna, the artist had created a vision that enhanced the architecture of the church, fitting every piece in a tapestry of depth, detail and perfect symmetry. I was entranced. Upon leaving, we turned to have a last look at the door and Dona Pilar says oh so casually “Oh, have a look at the cross.” I lifted my head to see the cross on the tower and it was a perfect Rose Cross. With my mouth open I turned to look at my host and she said, “oh yes, they are very rare. As you may know, they were destroyed all across the country, but as this was a private chapel, it was left alone.”
What does any of this have to do with anything? Just this personal observation: when I am unsure of my next step or searching for the correct path, I am almost always given an assurance of some sort to ‘move forward’. This was one of those instances. It was the trip to Scotland in 2005 (for a deeper investigation of Rosicrucian philosophy and evidence of the Divine Feminine teaching in architecture) that got me started in photography. I have come a long way since then, but I remain grateful for all the guideposts, the mystery and abundance of the Universe, and for the care of people like Dona Pilar.
Images below from Tomar, the Convento do Cristo, from the Cistercian Abbey of Alcobaça, and the Casa Dos Vargos. Thank you for taking the journey with me.
Now, after many years of wanting to visit, I have been to Golegã during the Festival of the Lusitano. Golegã: home to a number of legends of Lusitano breeding, including Manuel Veiga of Quinta da Broa, and Manuel Assunçao Coimbra. As a longtime student of Mestre Dominique Barbier, I have been familiar with these names and have regarded them as the height of perfection for the classical Lusitano. Tracing bloodlines from Broquel to Larapio, one of Dominique’s stallions, has been a pathway through breeding and cultural history in Portugal (and Brasil) for the last fifty years. Dominique’s original stallion, Dom Giovanni, was also a horse by Broquel.
But Golegã surprised me in so many ways. It was not just a history lesson or homage to the great breeders. It is a living, breathing, celebration of all things Lusitano. The rich culture surrounding this great horse is multi-faceted, and as a living organism, it is in a state of constant change. One thing remains the same; the festival is held each year over the Festival of Sao Martinho on the 11th of November.
I am still catching my breath from all the excitement, imagery, sounds and smells. Golegã was THE complete sensory experience. Hooves clip-clopping on cobblestones, with breath from nostrils and steam from flanks mixing with the smoke from roasting chestnuts….all competing with the cries of children wanting to pet the horses and the calls from one friend to another over a pulsing crowd, creating a marvelous cacaphony. I hope the pictures will give you a sense of the vibrancy of the Lusitano Festival. It has been a rich harvest for me and a rare instance of the reality far exceeding the dream. I am truly blessed.
My favorite moment from Golegã? That’s easy…the conversations and camaraderie all built around the love and passion for a great horse. Having dinner in a very small restaurant and meeting people from all over Europe that knew each other through the Lusitano, coming together to enjoy the festival, was a memorable night. It reminds me that the world, though vast in size and full of wonder, is made small, even intimate, by the connections we share and create with others.
Tomorrow I’ll put up a small gallery of images from Tomar and the Convento do Cristo, along with a few from the Cistercian Monastery at Alcobaça.