This is another post from the past, written while I was in Turkey visiting the Lycian tombs above Simena. Four and a half years later, this remains one of my very favourite photos, writings, and memories, from the trip. It was originally typed on a Turkish keyboard, so the ‘i’s have no dots.
There would be no more perfect place to be dead than here hıgh on thıs clıff overlookıng the wıne dark sea where your lıfe was lıved. Your bones are cradled now ın death by the ancıent olıve whıch once nourıshed them ın lıfe. The buzzıng beetles sound your funeral dırge and the sure-footed goat forms the only processıon ın memorıal of your death. The tımelss sun warms the stone of your tomb and the earth embraces your dust untıl only the olıve remembers.
I am currently trawling through my Facebook notes and want to share some of my favourites here with you. I wrote this in 2009 after travelling through Turkey and Greece on a study tour. Enjoy!
As I have traveled this summer [May-June 2009] I have seen many things that until now were only images in a lecture slide show or maps in a text book. Sculptures, mosaics, sarcophagi, buildings and whole towns came alive as I finally saw them in person for the first time. I tried to experience these things how the ancients did. I asked myself questions constantly. What did the ancients see and feel and smell and hear as they walked down this street, gazed at this sculpture, crossed this mosaic floor or sat in this theater seat? What did they think about their surroundings—or did they consciously think about them? What view did they see from this sanctuary or what landscape surrounded that monument? Along with these questions, though, there was always one more: What does it mean to see a sculpture (or building or town) first hand rather than as a picture in a text book?
The simple answer is that it means you can experience it rather than just see it. Art and architecture are not static things; they interact with their environment (both built and natural) and they interact with you, the viewer. It is only in experiencing this first hand that one can really understand it. If a picture is worth a thousand words then an experience is worth a hundred thousand pictures. No photography, film or diagram, no matter how skillfully executed, can ever replace the experience of walking through the same physical space that the ancients did.
How can a photograph capture the sense of anticipation when walking the Sacred Way into an ancient sanctuary? Or the thrill of standing in the Asklepieion at Pergamum and seeing the acropolis rise sharply into the sky? Can a textbook properly convey the taste of water from a sacred fountain or can words capture the soothing breeze at Cnidos? No map in any book is able to convey the sense of wonder when you turn around to see the Athenian Acropolis perfectly framed by the Arch of Hadrian, nor can words capture the sense of serenity as you stand at the topmost terrace of the Asklepeion at Cos and looks across the narrow waters to Asia Minor. There is no way to understand the bulk of the Temple of Apollo at Didyma save to wander through its columns. The Alexander Sarcophagus might hold a viewer’s interest for a moment or two as an image in a slide show, but when seen in person in the Istanbul museum all time stands still and it exerts a powerful, irresistible pull. Is there any way to understand the importance of a sculpture’s size and orientation than to be dwarfed by a Roman emperor or a Greek god? It is not until you see Alexander the Great’s sculptures in person that you realize he will never look at you—his gaze is forever fixed on his next distant conquest. To physically move through the buildings of Cos’ ancient agora and harbour district, knowing that your feet tread where others tread thousands of years ago, creates a sense of closeness to the ancient people who really weren’t that different from ourselves.
And that is, perhaps, the most important bit of all: the realization that these were real people who moved through these spaces and wandered around these monuments and worshipped at these sanctuaries. They were like us: They sought to create beauty in their lives and surrounded themselves with beautiful spaces and filled those spaces with beautiful objects. These objects and these spaces have lives and stories of their own and are a direct link with the people of the past. They are not static images in a book or on a slide and to know them only as such is to know but a shadow of the real thing.
A private, rural garden open for public tours. Morland Place can be found at 102645 Grey Road 18, Owen Sound. It is a large European-style architectural landscape including French, Italian, perennial and contemplation gardens. There are also interesting buildings, hedges and a large maze. http://www.ruralgardens.ca/
On our way up to the Bruce Peninsula for our second camping trip, my co-explorer and I discovered five abandoned buildings within a short distance of each other. The photographer and architecture-lover within me could not resist stopping; the explorer and archaeologist within my co-explorer couldn’t resist either. The houses were achingly beautiful, each in its own way. I’m not brave when it comes to entering them, so I focussed on capturing the exterior beauty of decay in black and white. I really enjoy shooting in black and white since it allows me to focus on the play of light and shadows.
If I were in charge of things, universities would be required to build in the neo-classical styles or, at the very least, collegiate gothic. I think the University of Guelph is the most gorgeous university campus I’ve seen. I love how they have preserved the original buildings (including original houses and the bull ring) while in-filling with modern buildings. The buildings from the 60s are unfortunate, but the more recent glass constructions complement the original brick and stone buildings.
The Lee (http://www.erlandlee.com) is currently closed to the public, but you can still enjoy the building’s board-and-batten heritage exterior. I stopped by this evening at the perfect time of day and caught it in the golden light of the setting sun. The house commands an amazing view out over Lake Ontario from the very edge of the Niagara Escarpment.