Personal blog of Derek and Margaret, working in Dominica, W.I. founders of Ozone Zone – an Independent Canadian book publisher specializing in coffee table books of architectural treasures and lush gardens. We also promote fine artistic photography. This blog contains unofficial reports and comments from our various trips, photo sessions, and jobs – an unofficial scrapbook of our travels, explorations and photo-related work. See “about” for more.

Posts tagged ‘art’

Preparing photos for fine photography competitions /salons – juror’s tips – PART 2

MDB_6975

Judging process at Al Thani Award for Art Photography in Linz, Austria. Photo by Faizal / Mia Besari.

As promised, I will share with you all detailed thoughts and things I learned about judging process, based on example of my experience as a juror at the Al-Thani Awards for Art Photography 2013. Why this one? This salon have had the number of entries close to 10,000, very high overall quality of entries, and was judged within a very limited time – two days – which as my colleagues-jurors confirmed – is now quite a standard procedure. We like it or not, high volume salons do not allow for much time spent on each image at the first screening, and rely on jury’s ability to quickly decide on the first round. So, this salon is a good example of a large-scale, very efficiently organized competition.

There are a few points worth discussing, so let’s start with naming them here: 1) Stick to the theme of category you enter. 2) Select your best images AND make sure they have enough bang. 3) Try for your work to be original and unique. 4) Take your time to edit your images the best you can.

Above points may seem obvious, but they are vital and I saw many entries clearly  ignoring them. Even most tiny weak points could make the difference between the final “yes” or “no” for your image.

Let’s begin with talk about the “Stick to the theme” aspect. While most photo competitions or salons have  an “Open” theme – there are sometimes special or leading themes. They can offer you a higher chance of winning – IF you stick to these themes well. If you don’t – you may actually harm your chances of winning. At the Al-Thani Awards for Art Photography we had several categories, and a main, special theme. On top of Open Color Prints, Open Monochrome Prints, and Open Digital Images, the special theme was “Discovering the World”.  If you think of it quickly, you may think it calls for travel or nature photos. But such themes need to be thought of a bit deeper if you hope to win.  Keep in mind that in today’s world the number of photographs taken everyday, and number of people travelling are enormous. Therefore, to be better than other competitors you really need to show your creativity, understanding of the theme, and stick to it.

We had thousands of photos to judge, and some fantastic images had to be rejected from the main category because they did not adhere to the theme. All jurors were reminded over and over by the chairman to think of the theme when voting. “Does this image help us discover the world, or shows us someone who really grasps something new in his understanding of the world?” – we were asked. And we had to take some tough decisions to select finalists and winners. We had to pick photos showing us the most unique and unusual places and situations, or action showing convincingly that persons on a photo really do discover the world.

To give you some examples we faced  – would you decide between a fine, artistic photo of a butterfly,  a fine long exposure photo showing  the grand canal in Venice,  a small boy in a class learning geography with a globe, or perhaps a slightly less refined image of climbers on a remote, little known peak of  exotic mountains? 

While all four did show us something from our world in an attractive way – we had to ask ourselves– is the butterfly photo really  about “discovering the world”?  Chances are you’ve seen many butterflies in  gardens and on  meadows, or at least on many nature photos. Therefore it is not a real discovery to most of us to see yet another butterfly – however lovely it is, and this would be the first image to go, despite its fine artistic qualities. Perhaps it would stand better chances in the “Open” category – a perfect fit for a Nature category. The shot from Venice can be most fine, but it is a cliché in a way – thousands of people shoot from the Rialto bridge the view at the grand canal, and while the submitted photo may show us a glorious sunset  lighting and a well composed scene, it  still does not have that sense of discovery the theme is calling for. So, this one had to go either. It would do in any Travel category, though.  Now, between the studying boy and climbers – the boy’s face expressed a thrill at learning new things, one could see he tried hard to learn and remember something new about our world. The scene clearly showed the boy “discovering the world” in his small ways.

The climbers were visibly exhausted, yet determined to reach the peak, to expand their limits and succeed in their quest. Not only that, but we all – looking at the photo – had a sense of learning something new, seeing some far-away, remote mountains –seeing their harshness through eyes of these climbers.  Additionally, this shot was done from an unusual angle, giving us a different perspective than typical “calendar-style” mountain photos. So, this image both showed us people discovering something about our world, and also gave the viewer something fairly rare to discover.
Conclusion?  With first two photos rejected without even  considering their quality, the voting would proceed on the two last images. Now it would be seen which one has a better composition, technical quality, and an overall story to tell.  With not hundreds but thousands of images to select from, a jury has no choice but really stick to all rules and use these criteria to select best images without mercy.  By sticking well with themes, you help jury consider your image and make yourself a favour.

Another quick example – something we noticed a few times, and had to remove these entries. If you enter “monochrome” or “color” themes  – know their definition. While a photo done all in tones of blue is a monochrome, adding even one more color to an image disqualifies it immediately. We noticed a few photos entered as monochrome, and they had a touch of extra color. Even if it is just a bit – it breaks the rules, and will have to go.  And, believe me – it will be noticed. If not at the first selection, then when discussing  the potentially winning images.  An unfortunate reason to remove good photos.

Most  of best international photo salons have paid entries these days, and you would be surprised how many people pay to enter, only to waste their chances by not taking real care about themes. Consider this, and you are already better than them, a step closer to winning.

Thank you for reading. Part 3 is coming very soon, please Follow and Like this blog, if you find it helpful.
HERE IS DIRECT LINK TO PART 1 of this article.
Thank you!
Derek Galon

Sorting photo prints for judges.

Sorting photo prints for judges.

 

Advertisements

Getting Lost in Venice

Venice in November was for us as fascinating and magical as in summer months. More quiet, sometimes covered with fog, it presented a different face than during busy tourist season. We were fortunate that after finishing photographic work for a client, we still had time to explore this amazing city. Here are a few of “our discoveries” about Venice we would like to share.

View from the famous Rialto bridge

View from the famous Rialto bridge

_DAG7869
_DAG7795

Although Venice is small enough to get across within a couple of hours, it is also one of the easiest cities to get lost. We were drawn into the maze of narrow streets and canals, some marked as calle, fondamenta or ruga or simply not marked at all. Getting lost in the tight lattice of  alleys in Cannareggio and Castello was a highlight of our Venice experience. The 118 islands that make up the city are small; space is very precious. Surprisingly, we encountered many private, secret gardens hidden behind ancient walls, tiny courtyards filled with exquisite plants, roof terraces shaded by pergolas and balconies full of greenery. Narrow windowsills made of stone displayed clusters of white and red cyclamens on almost every building we passed by.

_DAG7393

Acqua alta” – high water – occurs in Venice more often that we thought. It happened twice during the week of our stay. This temporary flooding is caused by exceptionally high tides, and it usually lasts for 3-4 hours. At that time, the most fashionable shoes are rubber boots, and you really need these to get across Piazza San Marco. City installs a network of elevated gangways for pedestrians when this tidal phenomenon happens. _DAG7512

San Marco Basilica

San Marco Basilica

_DAG7901

On Torcello

It is hard to believe that the island of Torcello was once a thriving centre of the whole lagoon even before Venice was built. Today, almost nothing remains of its former splendour. The major attraction is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta founded in 639 with Byzantine mosaics, the oldest in Venetian lagoon. Torcello reached its peak in the 14th century, and was finally abandoned  as a result of devastating malaria. This quiet and peaceful island offers a perfect refuge from busy streets of Venice.

A traditional wine shop - bring your own bottle, and get a fine wine at a super-low price!

A traditional wine shop – bring your own bottle, and get a fine wine at a super-low price!

We hope you enjoy this short story by Margaret Gajek and photos by Derek Galon.
If you do, please share and follow our blog for more. Until next time! Ciao!
_DAG7344

typical Venice gift store window

typical Venice gift store window

Preparing photos for fine photography competitions/salons – juror’s tips

This is a multi-part article intended for fellow photographers interested in participating in various international photo salons. Such salons are a nice way of displaying photos in galleries and photo clubs, also getting deserved recognition and often helping get photo distinctions of such fine international organizations as FIAP, PSA or RPS. Winning a medal at a fine salon can be a real honour and a way of gaining international exposure.  However – it is not always easy to win, and I hope my article may help you get a few steps ahead of your competitors.

Over the years I judged various art competitions, mostly photographic ones. That always is a good learning experience giving me an insight as to how a jury can see and evaluate submitted works. _DAG8427

 

I just returned from Linz, Austria,  to where I was invited as a juror of  the famous Al-Thani Photo Awards for Art Photography – one of the world’s most fine and highly attended photo salons offering not only medals, but also very high financial awards.  Being a juror there had been a really unique experience for several reasons:  quality of submitted images was overall very high (making our work most difficult, but exciting), working with co-jurors – highly experienced artists-photographers from around the world – gave me an insight into their views, knowledge, and judging styles, and lastly – the sheer number of submissions being in many thousands,  made me see some fantastic works – sharpening  my eye, and improving my judging abilities.

The process of judging so many images in a very limited time, along with all  aspects mentioned above, allowed me to see challenges of participating in such photo competitions more clearly. We often discussed that  after our jury work, and I want to share what we all learned there,  in a hope this will help you to prepare your submissions in best possible way.

Please Share and  Follow this blog to read next parts of it – I will share with you within next few days all what I learned as a juror of Al-Thani Photo Awards.

Thank you!
Derek Galon

Painterly – art photo series by Derek Galon

Recently, we posted photos and notes from various local gardens. To break away from these, here is our 99th post – this time about art photography and old paintings. For those enjoying our travel stories – we are just scheduling our next photo trip, and will be reporting from the Caribbean soon. For the moment, let Margaret – an art historian – tell about my recent art photography series “Painterly” from her professional point of view… Thanks! Derek.

============================

Photography and painting have been linked together and have influenced each other since the invention of photography in 1837. Early pictorial photography tried to emulate painting by emphasizing the “atmospheric” elements: using vague shapes, dimness of outline and subdued tonalities to convey a sense of mystery. Late 20th century paintings by Photorealists were made with technical virtuosity to emulate photographic images that were frozen in time, and these paintingscouldn’t exist without photography. These are perhaps the most different examples of a strong relationship between these two unique media that share many similarities.

Anatomy Lesson.  Image awarded with FIAP Ribbon at Solway Small Print Exhibition 2013, in UK. From top left: Kristin Urbanheart Grant , Tom Gore Gore, From lower left: Aleta Eliasen Dusty, Derek Galon, Jon Hoadley Herman Surkis ,David Goatley. In horizontal position: Michael Ward.  Body paint: Kristin Urbanheart, Makeup: Aleta Eliasen,  Jon: lighting master Derek: additional body fx Dusty: costumes Herman: deliver the liver.

Anatomy Lesson. Image awarded with FIAP Ribbon at Solway Small Print Exhibition 2013, in UK. On display in Black Box Art Gallery in Portland, Oregon, USA.
From top left: Kristin Urbanheart Grant , Tom Gore Gore,
From lower left: Aleta Eliasen Dusty Hughes, Derek Galon, Jon Hoadley Herman Surkis ,David Goatley. In horizontal position: Michael Ward.
Body paint: Kristin Urbanheart, Makeup: Aleta Eliasen,
Jon: lighting master
Derek: additional body fx
Dusty: costumes
Herman: deliver the liver.

Derek Galon’s latest series of “painterly” fine art photographs draw inspiration from the art of painting in a new, creative way. His images are not a nostalgic attempt of getting back to the times when photography imitated painting. These are subjective and original creations drawing inspiration from famous masterpieces of the 18th and 19th centuries. Some refer to specific paintings: Rembrandt’s Anatomy lesson of Dr Tulp or a series of paintings, like bacchanalia by Titian. Derek’s images are a marriage between theatrical qualities of old style masterpieces (with subjects carefully posed and staged), and photography’s ability to seize the moment in time. These dynamic and arresting images portray a compelling narrative, every prominent element in a photograph serves to tell a story, a very different one each time.

When I studied fine arts, I was fascinated by old masters such as Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Titian, Brouwer,” says Derek. “After decades of photographing, working on complicated assignments, experimenting with lighting, and learning advanced computer editing, I decided I am ready to go full circle. I went back to fascinations of my younger years, creating a series of images in a painterly style. These are not copies of old masterpieces, but anhomage to their timeless excellence. My images take the essence of old canvasses – from early paintings of mythological characters, through masters of chiaroscuro, through romantic imagery of Pre-Rapahaelites – up to Surrealism.”

This version of Derek's Anatomy Lesson has an extra surprise in form of an iPad used by one of students (Derek playing the role himself).

This version of Derek’s Anatomy Lesson has an extra surprise in form of an iPad used by one of students (Derek playing the role himself).

Rembrandt’s famous painting Anatomy lesson of Dr Tulp was one of Derek’s early inspirations. Rembrandt’s brilliant group portrait was commissioned by medical doctors. Each of them paid a part of a fee and each expected to be depicted with equal prominence. Instead of featuring passively sitting or standing individuals, Rembrandt broke with tradition, choosing the scene where subjects participate in the action of a moment. Rembrandt’s revolutionary vision has a distinctively photographic quality: a photo-like dynamic scene with action frozen in time. Derek’s Anatomy Lesson relates to these narrative qualities of the masterpiece. Spectators eagerly leaning towards the corpse are in fact Derek’s friends from Victoria’s art scene, who helped him with production of the image. This is their portrait, executed with “Rembrandt style” chiaroscuro and “Rembrandt lighting” commonly utilized in fine portrait photography.

Pan, Bacchus, and Ceres.  Bacchus, Pan, and Ceres - medalist at London International Salon of Photography 2013, in UK, and Gold medal winner at 151st Edinburgh International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography 2013, in UK.With lighting assistance by Jon Hoadley. All models from Victoria, Canada. Top left: Chrisscreama, Standing Center: Walking dreamer, Bottom left: Aleta Eliasen, Daniel Corbett, Michael Ward, Derek Galon (me!), Chrisscreama again (far right), Model in front: Kim Brouseau

Bacchus, Pan, and Ceres – medalist at London International Salon of Photography 2013, in UK, and a Gold Medal winner at 151st Edinburgh International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography 2013, in UK.
With lighting assistance by Jon Hoadley.
All models from Victoria, Canada. Top left: Chrisscreama, Standing Center: Walking dreamer, Bottom left: Aleta Eliasen, Daniel Corbett, Michael Ward, Derek Galon, Chrisscreama again (far right), Model in front: Kim Brouseau

Derek’s Bacchus, Pan and Ceres is another complex image, full of compositional challenges. It is inspired by bacchanalia scenes painted by Titian for the palace of Duke Alfonso d’Este. Titian referred to these paintings as “poesie”, a visual equivalent of poetry. The scene on Derek’s photo shows a hedonistic, merry company of the wine god Bacchus, Ceres – goddess of fertility and agriculture, with Pan – the huffed god of wild nature and their friends. This mythological scene with strong erotic elements is also humorous and witty, it has a fun-filled touch to it, and a sensitively chosen colour palette.
Creating and photographing these group scenes has lots of challenges”, comments Derek. “Painters often interpret perspective or lighting rather loosely. They can bend reality to create most dynamic and impressive scenes. In a photo studio with a group of models, problems are many: unwanted shadows often cover people closely standing together, or sometimes the perspective of the background does not go together with dynamics of the front composition which may require a slightly different focal length. It takes forever to set the right lighting using many strobes, and trying to make it look very simple and natural.”

A.Brouwer Paints His Tavern Scenes. From left: Herman Surkis, Tom Gore, Dasty Hughes, Derek Galon, Jon Hoadley, Carl Constantine, Mike Hebdon, Aleta Eilasen, (+ Sally The Dog). Makeup aleta, props - Derek, Costumes - Dusty + Disguise The Limit, lighting consultation - Jon Hoadley.

A.Brouwer Paints His Tavern Scenes.
From left: Herman Surkis, Tom Gore, Dasty Hughes, Derek Galon, Jon Hoadley, Carl Constantine, Mike Hebdon, Aleta Eilasen, (+ Sally The Dog). Makeup – Aleta, props – Derek, Costumes – Dusty + Disguise The Limit, lighting consultation – Jon Hoadley.

One of the most challenging images to make was the Tavern based on genre paintings depicting scenes of everyday life, especially art of Adriaen Brouwer, Flemish artist of the 17th century. Brouwer himself felt very comfortable in taverns and often painted the peasant and “low life scenes” he witnessed. Like Brouwer’s work, Derek’s Tavern is full of movement and action. Portrait-like characters are engaged in complex interaction. Their faces are expressive, even slightly grotesque. Derek cannot resist in joining the merry company and playing a fiddle. His image is full of good-natured humour, and created with visible care for detail. The colour palette made of warm translucent browns and greys is well blended into the atmosphere of the whole. As Brouwer sometimes used his friends – painters, to model for him, Derek once again invited his friends from Victoria’s art photography scene to model for this image. One of the models actually depicts Brouwer himself, painting the vivid scene before him and clearly enjoying it.

The Knight Of Might with the fine Michael Ward from Victoria - model.

The Knight Of Might with the fine Michael Ward from Victoria – model.

While Derek’s Tavern makes you reach for a glass of beer, his Knight of Might stirs very different emotions. We see a gnarled man whose face is weathered, the skin of his face rough. Although his armoured body looks powerful and mighty, he looks exhausted, sensitive and vulnerable. He’s holding a lady’s handkerchief – is this the reason he looks so pensive? For how long he’s been separated from his loved ones, how much pain did he endure during his voyage? We’ll never know. Dark reflections of moonlight correspond with his brooding, inner landscape of the soul. This image was inspired by romantic paintings by John William Waterhouse. To successfully create specific mood and atmosphere of the image, Derek relays on models’ ability to deliver the best acting performance. Their creative output is vital to the success of the image. Here, Derek was aided by his longtime friend and a professional art model Michael Ward.

The Passing - Pieta. With Michael Ward and Stephanie Kingston.

The Passing – Pieta.
With Michael Ward and Stephanie Kingston.

Michael is also involved in another atmospheric image called The Passing – Pieta inspired by paintings of similar subjects by Michelangelo and Titian. Young woman mourning over the body of a dead man; his pale glowing flesh accentuates the feeling of sorrow and loss. The background of a derelict church reflects the feeling and mood of the piece.

Further exploration of darker themes brings Derek’s fascination with one of the most timeless and haunting Nightmare paintings by Henry Fuseli. Although having a different concept, also very Gothic and Freudian, Derek’s Monstrous Deception

Monstrous Deception - tribute to Nightmares by Henry Fuseli. WithBrandy Sapala, Derek as the monster, and Callum Shandley as the mirror reflection.

Monstrous Deception – tribute to Nightmares by Henry Fuseli. With Brandy Sapala, Derek as the monster, and Callum Shandley as the mirror reflection.

is equally scary. Like in Fuseli’s painting, the scene is made of gradual realizations; we need time to fully understand the horror. The young man kissing the girl is only a pretender. In fact, he is this shady monster-like creature who stares at us from darkness. His facial expression implies his annoyance with viewers for discovering his deception, while the lady on front of him seems to be unaware of it, falling into his trap. The scene is dramatically timed, slowly unfolding to show us additional, perhaps intentionally hidden details. Only 27 years after Fuseli painted his last version of the story, Mary Shelley wrote the famous piece of Gothic literature – Frankenstein.

Creating interaction and a narrative story in a similar way to paintings is yet another challenge. Old canvasses often have symbolic details and secondary interactions or meanings, which can be discovered as you take time to study a painting. Such multi-level dynamics require not only a fine planning and preparation, but also good acting skills of all the models, great concentration during the shoot and lots of patience. Many of my ready images are actually combined from best parts of several shots, like a jigsaw puzzle assembled of the most attractive elements picked from the whole session. Finely painted flying cherubs, angels, or special effects dazzling us on old masterpieces, require much planning and meticulous photo editing and I wish I could just paint them on my photos instead.”

Brown Over Green - Still Life. A tribute to paintings by Chardin.

Brown Over Green – Still Life. A tribute to paintings by Chardin.

Derek’s still life image Green Over Brown brings a different mood. Without the drama of other photographs in this series, it depicts a simple world of austerity and calm. You almost need to slow yourself down to appreciate it. Inspired by masters of still life, especially Chardin and Spanish “bodegon” painters, it shows the beauty of everyday objects that surround us. The items portrayed were selected not for their allegorical vanitas meaning but for their shapes, textures and colors. The objects are gradually emerging from the subtly toned background.

Pygmalion - a tribute to Jean Gerome, one of Derek's favourite old masters. Xevv McModel and Brandon L. - models, makeup/body paint by Aleta Eliasen, light consultant - Jon Hoadley.

Pygmalion – a tribute to Jean Gerome, one of Derek’s favourite old masters.
Xevv McModel and Brandon L. – models, makeup/body paint by Aleta Eliasen, light consultant – Jon Hoadley.

Jean-Leon Gerome, the prominent artist of Orientalism movement, was a keen follower of photography and adopted this new media for his work. He was an indefatigable traveller to the Middle East, frequently accompanied by a photographer. Gerome’s technique was of impeccable precision, and some of his paintings have almost visual reality and crispness of Photorealism. Derek’s Pygmalion drew inspiration from Gerome’s versions of the mythological story of Pygmalion, an artist who fell in love with the sculpture he created. The image depicts the moment when the sculpture of Galatea is brought to life by Pygmalion’s kiss.

For me, masterpiece paintings are the source of limitless inspiration. No matter how fancy our digital imaging will get, old canvasses will never stop thrilling us” – says Derek. Photographing architecture and landscape foran everyday living, I return to my world of art images like to my sanctuary, and I treasure every moment of this work. Now, with my art winning medals, getting internationally exhibited and sold, it gives me even more motivation than ever to continue.”

by Margaret Gajek, MA, writer, researcher, art historian, co-founder of Ozone Zone Books


All images copyright Derek Galon. Please respect our copyright. Thank you.

Derek’s art prints (limited editions and open editions) are available directly by contacting him at:
derek (at) ozonezonebooks.com  or from the Gallery Vibrante.Thank you, until next time – we hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, please FOLLOW us, click SHARE and show it to your friends.

Taken By Angels - Derek Galon's more contemporary, light-hearted and humourous image taking from old canvas masters.  With Michael Ward, Sharon Ace, Aleta Eliasen, Karissa T. and Jen Wright - models. Makeup - Aleta Eliasen.

Taken By Angels – Derek Galon’s more contemporary, light-hearted and humourous image taking from old canvas masters. With Michael Ward, Sharon Ace, Aleta Eliasen, Karissa T. and Jen Wright – models. Makeup – Aleta Eliasen.

Last Few Weeks

hatley1bNot much happened with our travel plans since my last post. There are some technical issues delaying our next trip to Montserrat. Therefore we spent last few weeks visiting and photographing our favourite local gardens. Some of them we already presented on this blog – but at a different time of the year. Now, with wisterias and rhododendrons in full bloom, these gardens look just spectacular!

hatley-bridgeOne of our favourite gardens is the Hatley Park, a large chunk of land on grounds of Royal Roads university in Victoria. It is divided to several sections, such as Italian garden (with fine wisterias), Rose garden – which is just starting to bloom, and the oldest Japanese garden in the whole BC.

I hope these few photos from there are to your liking.

_DAG4861

Another garden we visited was the Finnerty Garden belonging to the UVIC. Well kept, with a massive number of rhododendrons, it is another place to enjoy in Victoria – and there is no fee for your visit.

_DAG4884

Smaller, but very well established Playfair park, has very large, matured rhododendrons. They are so huge that you can walk under them, and enjoy the colourful carpet of fallen flowers.

pecker1

It is remarkable how different in feel these places are. All of them have lots of rhodos, but each garden lives its own, unique life, offering a totally different experience.

_DAG4779_80_81

The unusual rainy weather we are having made all colours juicier, more dense, and all these places are lush and full of life. It is great to travel, but we should never forget to enjoy what we have at our door step.

To fill you with other things – last time, I reported about a second place at IGPOTY (UK) and the Gold Medal in Austria. Well, just after that I received another exciting news – London Salon of Photography – one of the most progressive international competitions/exhibitions awarded my Bacchus, Pan and Ceres with another Medal._DAG5206_7

I also had couple of studio art sessions and I am now editing my newest works. Ah, one of my newest is already done – with great help and assistance from Margaret – my newest auto-portrait! I hope you enjoy!

Bacchus, Pan, and Ceres - awarded in London.

Bacchus, Pan, and Ceres – awarded in London.

Thank you, I hope to see you soon, when I place our next post. Bye for now, and SHARE if you like these images.

My auto-portrait.

My auto-portrait.

Cheers!

Derek

All photos copyright Derek Galon, Ozone zone Books, please respect our copyright. Thank you!

All Colours of Life – in memory of Anna M. Galon, 1926 – 2013

Anna with father, colonel Zbigniew Brochwicz Lewinski.

Anna with father, colonel Zbigniew Brochwicz Lewinski.

We usually post here notes from our journeys, or photography related stories. Today however, we share with you a sad story about a last journey – the one we are all to make one day to come.
Last month we lost Anna, a fine editor working closely with us on our Ozone Zone books. She also happened to be my mother. A double loss – like a single loss is not enough. She was an internationally respected language expert, and we were lucky to have her in our team. She was an exceptional person, and we were lucky to be in her family. It is now hard to come to terms with the simple fact of her departure – forever. Perhaps we should find some comfort in knowing that she had a long, very colourful, although sometimes quite dramatic life.
Anna M. Galon (often using her maiden name Brochwicz – Lewinska) was born before the Second World War in Poland, in a very privileged family. Her father, colonel Zbigniew Brochwicz Lewinski, was one of the most trusted officers of marshal Josef Pilsudski – the legendary Polish leader behind many Polish successes of early twentieth century. In fact, marshal Pilsudski was Anna’s Godfather. Her early childhood was filled with interesting people and travels, and with lots of happiness.  But it all ended too soon.

As a young girl, she was thrown with her family by the war on a lengthy and painful path of constant escape through Rumania, Italy, and France, to eventually land on the British soil. Anna spent there many years studying arts, philosophy and literature at the University of Glasgow, and the famous Glasgow School of Art (later studying also at Oxford). Scotland became her new, or perhaps the REAL home to her. However, she fell in love with a young and attractive Polish concert pianist Lucjan Galon. When deciding to return with him back to Poland, little did she know it will totally change her entire life. Going back to a different, communist Poland was a one-way-ticket kind of trip. Once there, you had no way of going back (or anywhere else, for that matter), and coming from the “capitalist West” you were under magnified glass of communist special services for a long time.

Fifties and sixties brought for her harshness of everyday reality and proved a tough time to bring-up and educate two boys – Daniel and Derek. She never felt at home in this totally different Poland  managed by the heavy Soviet hand. Anna found a refuge in classical music, also indulging herself in teachings of the East, studying various masters from India. She found some fulfilment in teaching languages, also sharing her extensive knowledge of Tibetan and Indian philosophy – making life-long, deeply-rooted friendships with some of her students.

malwina-sm

University years – Anna Malwina Galon in Scotland.

To Canada she went unexpectedly in early eighties. Divorced for some time, she packed her things in a hurry at the news of her older son Daniel being gravely ill. Daniel escaped from Poland couple of years earlier, and emigrated to Ottawa. There, diagnosed with severe heart condition he did undergo a life-saving heart transplant operation. Anna stayed in Ottawa to help with Daniel’s recovery, and never returned to Poland. But she wasn’t entirely happy in Ottawa either. Fluent in several languages, she reinvented herself as an accredited court interpreter, also translating for Canadian government, various writers and also poets. Translating poetry was always a joy for her, and she did it splendidly. Perhaps because – as her brother Andrew recently said – Anna did not translate just words – she was great at translating the meaning.

At that time – it was in late eighties – we both with Margaret arrived in Canada, but not being in love with Ottawa, we soon moved to Victoria. Then, some ten years later my brother Daniel died, using up the gift of extra years of life he received from Canadian doctors. It was a devastating time for my mother, and soon after, she decided to move to Victoria and join us. And here, in Victoria, a small miracle happened. She met lots of interesting people and made lots of very good friends. Anna also found a group of people with whom she could pursue her passion for poetry – she simply found her home! Yes, last years of Anna’s life in Victoria became perhaps her most happy time. Still translating to make a living, she devoted herself to arts, creating well respected “Poetry Lovers’ Circle”. Public performances with the Circle, presentations of best Polish poems translated often by herself, and world poetry readings at the exclusive La Run theatre rewarded her for many hard years. This was the food for her soul, and her joy. Only the closest friends knew that for each performance she paid with days, and later with weeks of health problems. She never complained, and always found reasons to be happy. But while Anna’s soul was in bloom, her health sharply deteriorated – she became practically homebound.

malwina-z-lucjanem-sm

Anna with her husband, concert pianist Lucjan Galon

Unable to perform with the Poetry Lovers’ Circle, Anna concentrated on studying teachings of the East thought by her friend and spiritual teacher, Nadhia Sutara. Poetry and writing remained vital for her, same as working with us on our books. Her mind was always so fresh, crisp and young that people talking to Anna by phone never realized they talk to a lady over eighty years old.

Postponing and cancelling our overseas photo jobs we were able to be with her on her last days. She suffered badly, enduring strong pain. We will never forget her incredibly brave attitude and amazing detachment from unbearable pain and misery of her body. In her last hours she cracked some very sharp jokes about her passing, and her very last words were to thank all people she knew – for  interacting with her life, both in good and not so good ways.
She left behind a walking stick awaiting in vain her touch, an old computer on which she typed with her sore fingers her last poems, and a sense of emptiness – a great sadness that we could not be with her for any longer.

Anna Galon in Victoria

Anna Galon in Victoria

Her friend Nadhia at the news of Anna’s passing, wrote from her ashram in India a few words which perhaps best summarize Anna: “I shall dearly miss her, as I am sure you both will. She was a great inspiration to me all these years, especially as her health deteriorated. She always found something to be grateful for, something to rejoice in, and never ever complained. I have invariably found people get ‘deader’, not wiser, as they get older, but Anna was the greatest exception and a wonder to me. I’ve never met anyone over 50 who was so alive, so innerly vital, so willing to grow and break new ground as she. I’m a typically broken product of the ‘Great American Dream’ (Nightmare, actually, as you are finding), unable to deeply love or trust anything, and her gift for unconditional love and trust left me breathless.”

Derek Galon and Margaret Gajek

Stashing for a rainy day

Every sight and sound that charms you ––
stash it!

Stash away prudently:
sunlight sparkling on the snow
the trembling
of a raindrop on a pendant leaf
mist over meadow…  a duck among reeds…

a heron
tall and intense on its rock
by the water’s edge

the symphony of the forest…
wind whispering among leaves

plump groundhog
– little brown pillar of curiosity
on watch among the weeds…

the inconceivable vastness of ocean
hurling its might against the shore

a blade of grass
a flower

each moment of delight ––
Stash it!

Carefully put it away
into the storehouse of joy
within your heart

For future use…
for a rainy day…

To act as source of strength and endurance
through frosty winters and dark nights
through quagmires of despair…

Reminders of light!

Anna M. Galon
Ottawa, New Year’s Eve, 1989/90

Bequia, a Feast of Colors – book already printed

3141We received several messages asking when the previously mentioned book Bequia, a Feast of Colors will be ready. We had a bit of delay caused by an emergency in my family, but now all things are back in their tracks, and I am happy to say the book is already printed. It is being packed for cargo shipment, and I expect it soon will become available. You will see it available on Julie’s (author’s) site here and we also will post the news about it. It may take some extra weeks for Amazon to add it to their inventory.  Anyway, it is ready, and I would like to share with you the very first photos of this -still smelling of print- book, I received these from our printer just today. Looks good to me!3143

Cheers!
Derek

PS
We went totally silent in last weeks, sorry. It was because of my family emergency and funeral. I personally lost my mother, and we – Ozone Zone – lost an amazing team member, experienced editor and translator. Anna was behind our multi awarded books Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean, and Exotic Gardens of the Eastern Caribbean. With fine poetry and literature translated to several languages, decades of studying literature, philosophy and arts (universities in Glasgow, Oxford, and Torun), Anna became internationally respected language expert, and we were lucky to have her assistance. We will miss her on every step.3142
Her fantastic editing skills helped our books get all these awards. She worked with us on our another book, and we hope to see that book published soon. Thank you Anna for your amazing work. And thank you, Mother, for being such fine person I will remember.  Margaret plans to post a story in her memory, once we get a better grip on everyday life once again.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: