by L. Bach
During the summer of 1972 I found myself on the island of Paros in the Aegean. I spent the previous year at the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule in Basel Switzerland studying photography and design on the Graduate level. This after graduating from the Philadelphia College of Art, where I studied with Ray Metzker. Not wanting to return to the States after living abroad, I accepted a position teaching photography at the Aegean School of Fine Arts on Paros in Greece. The school was a wealth of creativity, ranging from the fine arts, to a school of dance, theater and music. Once I settled into a schedule of teaching and photographing, I began meeting a fascinating group of ex patriots living on the island. Among the group was an American writer, Robert Cooke Goolrick, who had been working in London and now was living on Paros. We entered a dialogue that lead to a joint project, which began with the concept of a series of 14 line sonnets, one for each day in the month of August. The story spun by Goolrick was about an archeologist and a young male and female couple of artists. There was a fascination with Greece and the long history of cultures and artifacts hidden beneath the harsh landscape. The metaphor for the hidden secrets of the past brought to the present by this contemporary group of people. There is a magnetic and spiritual draw between the two men, while a strong friendship grows between the three. While the trio was young and drawn to the passions of living in a foreign country they were also drawn to one another, sharing ideas, concerns, artistic struggles and finally a physical relationship between the two men. While the poems grew, so did my vision and vocabulary of photographic imagery. The story grew, one poem and one day at a time, and so did the photographs, also one for each day in August. The photographs were not illustrations for the poems but rather my interpretation of the same story. One of our influences was The Alexandrian Quartet by Laurence Durrell, where a single event was seen and described by four different characters, all with their own visions, ideas and perceptions. The story evolves, describing the trio, their relationship, the environment dictating their lives, the history of Greece, ever pushing in on their contemporary lives. The most profound experience of the creation of the Paros Dream Book was that it was autobiographical. The couple lived in superficial harmony while the two men carried on a clandestine relationship, which ultimately lasted for years. Children were born to the couple and the trios’ lives went in different directions, sometimes colliding and sometimes distancing themselves out of survival. Photographically I developed a language of collecting photographic elements, which were sketched into collage like paste ups, which were later assembled in the darkroom, multiple printing the collection of images on a single page. Like an archeologist, I collected artifacts that were both talked about in the text and were symbols of the struggle we were all experiencing. In addition, formally there was a flood of images and ideas that the images could not be contained within the framework of a matt and inadvertently spilled out onto the matt. There was the opposite pouring in from the matt as well.
The Paros Dream Book
title note: [T. Shaw]
conception: single 1972
Robert Cooke Goolrick
fantastic realist (AAT)
themes: Autobiography [T. Shaw]
artists' book (local)
inspiration: the island of Paros, Greece [T. Shaw]
community: school Aegean School of Fine Arts, Paros [T. Shaw]
community: workshop Visual Studies Workshop [T. Shaw]
reception history: As I look back at the collection of 31 photographs and their 31 partner sonnets, I think of the unbelievable challenge of balancing art and life. The photographs met with a great deal of recognition, resulting in an exhibition at the Neuberger Museum on the campus of SUNY Purchase, as well as the beautiful book published by the Visual Studies Workshop. I was enormously grateful and proud of all the experiences that came from the body of work known as The Paros Dream Book. The place and many of the people are still in my life and always will be. After living there, off and on, over a 25 year period, I still feel an enormously powerful draw to the island and will always see it as home.
manuscript type: other
location: artist's archive