I arrived at the Hellenic International Studies in the Arts (HISA) school with an open heart and mind, wanting to be artistically challenged and changed. Maria, my photography teacher, did just that. My classes with her started out one-on-one and by week two we had another student join (a girlfriend of one of the other teachers), rounding out the class for the remainder of the semester as just us three gals. I was so nervous in the beginning that Maria was going to look down on me for not knowing what the hell I was doing with my Pentax, but she was wonderfully patient with me and took extra time before and after class for the first few weeks to go over the basics with me.

Once I had learned about my camera, we started my introduction to the darkroom: I learned all about the toxic chemicals used to develop film in, the specific order in which things must be done, the pitch-black room in which film must be removed from the camera in, and the various types of prints that can be made in a dark room (because it’s not all just film from a camera!). Maria started me first on shadow prints and then we moved on to film prints, but she gave me the freedom to move back and forth between the two however I wanted, based on my inspiration for the day.

Maria’s personal photography was all about emotion and intuition. She instructed me to follow my gut in choosing what to photograph, but to take my time and truly study my subject before actually taking the picture. Maria was of the philosophy that a photographer should have a camera on them at all times, and so I did.

I would wander around the town of Paroikia for hours at a time with my Pentax, my Sony, and my trusty iPhone in tow so that no matter what I came across, I could photograph it in whatever manner I felt drawn to. Before long, various shopkeepers knew who I was and would smile and wave as I meandered down long cramped side streets in search of the perfect shot to capture the essence of my experience in Paroikia. I spent much time sitting by the sea as well, photographing the sand, mountains, trees, and water itself.

Maria’s advice to connect with your subject and take your time photographing it stuck with me, and my days in the Mediterranean sun were long and filled with snapshots of inspiration from my everyday life.