How to choose one image to sum up a feeling about a place? The Dordogne is green yet rocky, authentic yet touristy. This image doesn’t say any of those things, except perhaps authenticity. This postbox in Limeuil was still being used, quietly rusting away in the square. Authenticity is a really slippery concept. I didn’t manage to visit Lascaux, or rather Lascaux 2, which is a totally faithful copy, created, I believe, by a fascinating artist and conservator I once met called Adam Lowe. (He’s also been working on a reconstruction of a tomb in the Valley of the Kings. See his amazing website here http://www.factum-arte.com/eng/artistas/lowe/default_en.asp ) The original caves are closed for conservation reasons. We didn’t go, in the end, because we kept saying ‘yes, but it isn’t the original Lascaux caves’. We were being lazy, it was hot, canoeing and swimming seemed more appealling. It is interesting how if you work in museums, when you’re a tourist you often do give cultural attractions a miss. Actually, I’m sorry I missed Lascaux 2. I would have been interested to explore how it felt to be visiting a copy, using the height of reproductive technology, of a place that is such an icon of human image-making.
Here are my photos on Flickr http://flickr.com/photos/bridgetmckenz/
They’re all travel photos. Why is that? I suppose because I’m not a photographer – I don’t feel I can share my photos just on aesthetic merits. Also, it’s not appropriate to share lots of family photos. Travel is a genre that fits in between. And I’ve been lucky enough to go to some amazing places recently. Marrakech is a photographer’s dream. But you also feel a little bit the classic tourist in pursuit of the authentic costumed Orient, snapping away at all the signs of difference. It’s very much an easy, stylish, visually rich experience of an Islamic country and you can’t help but just enjoy the spectacle.
In Skyros, we were there to document the oldest Pagan festival in Europe. I felt a real pull between the position of observer behind the camera and the position of joining in the dancing and enjoying the sense of trance. There were virtually no tourists (non-Greeks) visiting for the festival. It was a homecoming for exiled Skyrians. We were quite conspicuous with our film cameras, but everyone wanted to bring us into their circle dances in the bars at night (though not in the more formal community dance once Lent had begun). We met an English woman who had married a Skyrian man – she talked movingly about being allowed to wear the precious traditional costume on Clean Monday, learning how to do the deceptively difficult circle dances, feeling a great affirmation of her belonging when the visitors gradually leave on the ferries, and yet also her bewilderment at the way the community can isolate others with their bitchiness and at the strangeness and patriarchal force of the Yeros figure and the Apokreas festival. We also met a woman coming in on the ferry from Athens, whose family lived in Skyros. She was planning to dance as Yeros, a very contraversial thing to do. Because Yeros’ face is covered with the skin of a kid and the entire body is transformed by the costume she could hide her identity. But Yeros has a hugely important ritual of dancing and stamping on the earth with 50 kilos of goat bells around him, in order to release Persephone and bring on the Spring. The masculine energy of this act is very important, something that can’t be perverted by a woman acting it. On the other hand, Apokreas is carnival, topsy turvy time, so anything goes…
Again I’m learning by doing, seeing how you put images in a blog. This is Yeros, a pagan goat-man taking part in the Apokreas festival (or Goat Festival) on Skyros. I went there in March learning film-making, and filming the festival. It was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. I’ll write more about the festival soon as it raised all kinds of questions about belonging and identity, island cultures, the continued resonance of Greek myths and more.