Lou Calen III: the Paparazzi

Expectations: none. How could I? I have no experience of the mentally handicapped.
Surprises: so many. I am going to try to convey them.
I learn from them. I suspected as much. Anyone who’s studied Diane Arbus’s work knows what an extraordinary perspective can be learnt – preferably without her own tragic bent. But every time I leave the home I want to piggyback on the intensity and extraordinary view I – what’s the word? borrow, I suppose – from them. Christian can’t look at people, but a camera serves as a filter between him and the world. Once he overcomes some technical difficulties, he has the photographer’s eye and a sensitivity for portraiture that leaves me impressed and jealous. Nicholas is a gentle but stubborn man whose images bring an abstract intensity to me that makes me want …

Lou Calen II

I posted some of the photographs captured by my parapazzi (the name just fits) here.

I’ll write about it later. For now, it’s still very fresh.

Turning into an Anorak I

An Instamatic as a child and a Pentax K1000 SLR purchased after working long hours in a pub. I took it with me on my first adult holiday in 1985.…

I don’t recall taking many pictures, though. All those buttons and numbers – no idea what they meant. And then, there was the downside to all that happy snapping: getting the damn’ things developed. If I hadn’t lost the roll of film, I would invariably curse at the short-sighted colour-blind moron who helpfully added the same colour cast throughout because the first three needed it. Thanks. The idea of developing my own struck me as seriously “Anorak”, a term anyone who grew up in the UK in the 70s-80s will understand as the preserve of bird fanciers and adults (always men, alas) who play with train sets.

In 2000, a Canon Sureshot S10 made a clu

Lou Calen I

Went to the home where I’ll be helping mentally handicapped adults take photos. I now have a minder (a professional I will work with). The home is bright, clean, airy and surprisingly homey. There was a good feeling there, from the family snaps to the calendars carefully marked with residents’ birthdays, one of whom took great pains to point out that hers is on November 29th. Now I know.…

Lou Calen, which means “oil lamp” in Provençal, is a home with some 50 residents who have a variety of disabilities ranging from Downs’ syndrome to autism. Some go back to their families on the weekend, others are in permanent care. Thursdays are grooming days and as I witnessed a very careful shave, I regretted my studiously cultivated four-day stubble.

I gathered that the home was rather surprised to se

The limit of my language is the limit of my mind

You mean something like this?…

“In other words: let’s sprechen franglais, μαλάκα

Help for English speakers. Try reading this 1) drunk, 2) with your glasses off 3) out loud or 4) all three. You’ll find it quite easy.

You are the_crème de la crème_. Your posts have a certain je ne sais quoi about them, but it is very fatiguant for uns to comprendere ὀλους posts in Englisch, français, Deutch, Ελληνικἀ & Polski oder Magyar. Additioner das Hébreu, Japonika ou even Australian and we’re all…. what’s an international word the entire planet understands? Mais oui, das ist so klar:


One of Noam Chomsky’s many famous expressions is que uno alien komming to Terra would think that tout le monde speaks una lingua with différents Akzenten. And Max Weinreich said that a langue is merely a Dialek

The first laugh I've had in a long time

A probably apocryphal story, but I love it:

One Monday morning, a High Court judge in London announced, “I’m afraid we’ll have to adjourn this case. I have written my judgement out, but left it in my cottage in Devon and I can’t get it sent here until tomorrow”.
“Fax it up, my Lord”, said one of the barristers, helpfully.
“Yes, it does, rather”, his Lordship replied.

Diary of a nostalgic drunk

Bought some Ouzo one year after I left the country that defined me. Never heard of the brand, but refused to drink piss-yellow pastis. This is my declaration of homesickness. The Ouzeria in Themisokleous street, that completely contrived effect and those gorgeous snails in the Cretan Ouzeri in Exarcheia and those subtle, lethal Gin Gimlets in my favourite bar, concocted with professionalism and a total disregard for who I am.
A beautiful, completely artificial Athens I recall and an outside…
A beautiful neurotic anorexic took to me to a psari taverna. The waves washed the power station in Lavrio and then our feet and a taverna table.
It’s a year ago and I grieve. I grieve for a life I never had and tried to understand.


Tonight, I came to the Big Town (Salon-de-Provence, population: 25,000 – that’s a megalopolis compared to my village of 700 souls). I sat in a café this evening and worked.…

And then, much later, as I eating something, a social worker resembling Mother Goose brought in a gaggle of adults with a mental handicap.

I’ve been trying for a year to find a volunteer program because I have far too much time to worry on my own. Calls left unanswered; calls not returned; general indifference and sometimes surprise when I offered my services here. France is a Mediterranean country (well, my part is) and Mediterranean countries rely more on families than on the State or third-party volunteer community work.

I used to work in a recovery program for drug addicts in Greece. I remember going there the firs


Ha, made a sale, my first. I can see it now: ditch the translating job, devote my universally acknowledged artistic genius to something I enjoy and then bring on the sports car, the house in Tuscany, a ketch in the Caribbean.

OK, at least an M9 and some decent glass?

I think it was Weston who said something about photography being wonderful as a hobby and damn hard as a job. And wedding photographers have my utmost sympathy. It’s hard to imagine Adams, HCB or Man Ray on the wedding round… although Adams was a print craftsman too and Man Ray resorted to smutty pics to make ends meet.

Well, only 4,500+ sales to go and I’ve got my Leica.

The important bit: whoever did buy that image, thank you for making me smile. The compliment was priceless…

Vital technical data

updated July 2012

ExiF, geo-tagging, layers in Photoshop… Yes, all these are vital data which must be recorded and preserved, if not in the image file, then not too far away, for the general edification of creator and public. The best one I’ve ever gleaned was: “Subject distance: 4294967295.0 m”. I was shooting the night sky and I just love the .0 degree of accuracy. As Picasso once said, computers are boring because all they do is provide answers.

PS CS6, LR4 and my camera all provide completely irrelevant data, which is my definition of metadata (what you don’t need in the end). Of far greater import for my creativity is the data relating to my sexual activity and alcoholic consumption (one tends to nullify the other as I grow older), the music I was listening to at the time and a host

Electronic Fugitive

Day 2: Base Camp
Have made tentative contact with nervous, skittish natives. Attempt at trade will have to wait. Natives seem curiously obsessed with art. Have yet to discover why.
Sherpas buggered off, but found remnants of previous explorer. Famous last words, so to speak.

Electronic Fugitive

Day 1: Base Camp
Have hired electronic Sherpas and left the dark valley. Smell of rancid yak butter still prevalent, but that may have something to do with frying an external hard disk. Sherpas desperately trying to shift my fat ass as I gasp in cold, rarefied air of creativity.
Attempt to scale first peak: upload image.
Four essays later, Sherpas given up in disgust. Apparently, I’m the one who smells of rancid yak butter. Bloody Sherpas.
Two guides have helped me climb first peak.
Base camp established: first contact with wild artistic natives forged. Will try to trade with natives when they begin to notice me.
Strange rites noted among natives. Not entirely sure what, but pretty sure they won’t eat me alive…

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