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What’s the place in the world that means the most to you? And what would you do if you were there, right now? We asked four photographers – each a friend of SMR Days – just this, and they answered in pictures. The result is a love letter to travel, to cool Aegean seas and secluded Mongolian landscapes, to sun-kissed Italian islands and beaches closer to home – a portrait of the transformative joy of getting away from it all. It’s an ode to brighter days ahead, and the far-off places we’ll spend them.
“My twin Johnny and I dipped our toes into the hedonistic pursuits of Ios, Santorini and Mykonos, but they had nothing on Paros. It was unfashionably quiet in comparison, home to artists, potters and Greek dancers. We loved the island like a second home.
This portrait is taken on the roof of St John’s monastery, Naoussa, where in Johnny’s twenties he would sit in the relentlessly baking sun drawing the neighbouring caïque boat yard. He would sell his watercolours, intricate sketches of the slow process of building these ancient boats, to passing yachtsmen, funding his long summers on the island.
It had been 30 years since I had walked through the yard on the path up to the whitewashed monastery, 30 years since Johnny had passed away, 30 years until I felt able to follow that particular pathway, and, to my delight, nothing had changed, time had stood still – I was convinced that it was the same boats that stood on their heavy wooden plinths in varying unfinished shades of orange and blue. I made a quick sketch and shot a few frames on my little Leica; I love the contrasting shadow play on the chalky whiteness of the ancient Greek architecture.
That same trip I took Ange, my new wife, and my children to Paros – my daughter Pascale, and my son, named after the island, Paros. They took to the island just as Johnny and I had, Paros climbed the highest mountain and planted a flag staking his claim to his namesake isle, they read Durrell with their Kafka, drank Naoussa Boutari with fresh octopus. Reading, eating, drinking, bathing in Grecian sun and the Aegean Sea – a simple life of utter contentment, which I aim to repeat and revisit again and again and again and…”
“This picture was taken in Cefalù, Sicily. I was there for holiday in 2019 – my first time in Sicily – and I remember I was strolling around the city with my camera, watching life along the coast and waiting for some magical moments during sundown.
The picture is timeless – it could be an image from the 70s – and this was exactly what I felt during my time in Sicily. Sicily has something which just feels like everybody is just being present and living the moment, which is so rare nowadays. It’s especially not the easiest in times like now where escaping into memories is tempting.
If I were there now, I would probably go back to the place from last summer where we visited an untouched beach almost every day, part of a natural reserve where rangers were taking care of turtle eggs 24 hours a day. It was one of the most magical places.”
“This was taken in Dungeness in 2019, when I took time to explore our new home country with my camera. The slow way of working also allowed me to reflect on things, get some headspace and think about my future role as a dad while strolling around the landscape.
It reminds me of my memories I have as a child, thinking about holidays or even what ‘home’ means. I love the smell of washed linen dried in the sun. The sound of a pebble. But also the feel of your skin after a day out in the sun and a tiredness when the sun is setting.
The remoteness of Dungeness is very appealing. The whole area has something brutal but also vulnerable at the same time. It’s a bit lost in time. Not knowing that we would move back to Germany not long after makes this photo more of a memory, but we all agreed to come back a couple of times a year. If I were there now I would knock on the door, introduce myself and hopefully get to know people living there.”
“This photograph is of sheep and goats grazing outside a camp on Üüreg lake, Uvs Aimag, found in a remote western part of Mongolia. It’s difficult to access, the only option to stay is to pitch a tent. It’s the very first area I visited after the capital city Ulaanbaatar when I started to work on my Mongolia book project in 2001. The soft light mixed with the peaceful landscape reminds me of the beauty of Mongolia.
We had just arrived the day before after driving for two weeks from the capital city, cruising some 2,000 or so kilometres. This particular area is a place I love, very quiet, very secluded, very peaceful. It was the beginning of the summer, days were warm and nature was waking up after eight months of a long winter.
I stayed there for about two weeks making friends with herders and their families living around the lake. I have been back many times over the year, visiting my friends there, following and documenting their lives. It remains one of my favourite places to visit in Mongolia for its beauty, immensity and calm. I look forward to going back as soon as possible when all is back to normal.
If I were there now, I would get together with my friends, take a car and drive for weeks in the vastness of the country, sleeping in the open and taking my time.”