Greg A. Chianis Photography: Blog en-us (C) Greg A. Chianis Photography (Greg A. Chianis Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:22:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:22:00 GMT Hole In The Floor


I wanted to share with you the backstory about one particular image that I took earlier this year entitled, Hole In The Floor.  The image was captured at an old abandoned farmhouse in Creti, Italy.  It is hard to believe that the small town of Creti actually showed up on my map, it turned out to be just a cluster of two or three buildings along the roadside.  I discovered this particular building during my most recent visit to Tuscany this past June.  It is one of the larger farm buildings I have seen on my travels thus far.  To me, at first glance it appeared to be a bit disproportional, with its long length in comparison to its relatively shallow depth.  It followed the usual rural Italian theme; farm animals on the first level, and living quarters for the farm workers on the second.  The long side of the building was parallel to the unimproved gravel road that for whatever reason didn’t have a very defined edge.  Small random trees, and weeds that have now turned into shrubs and bushes covered the expansive two-story façade.  In some strange way the overgrown vegetation served as a barrier from the limited farm road traffic.  All of the leaves were covered in pure white dust from the dry road conditions.  

As I pulled my car alongside the building, I noticed a farmer plowing his field across the road.  Spray-painted on all sides of this structure, were words that were now faded from the sun.  They were the Italian words for precarious and danger.  By now, I have gotten used to seeing those words, and recognize them easily almost as if they were written in English.  These places truly are dangerous, no false advertising there.  With roof structures collapsing under their own weight, floor systems sometimes non-existent, and bulging walls abundant, even with all of these dangerous conditions, I remain drawn to these places like a magnet.  I am always careful about where I step and always know where my escape route is if something should accidently happen.

The challenge I faced on this particular hot June afternoon was the farmer.  Although he was across the road in the middle of a field plowing, he was keeping an eye on me, I could just feel it.  The Italians are strangely protective of their property, understandably so, yet they are also very free and welcoming.  It was hard to tell which side he was on.  In all of the hundreds of these buildings I have been in, I have only been yelled at once.  I guess my record is pretty good in that regard.  My concept is to always respect what is there, and leave it like you found it, without touching anything.  The farmer was on a tractor outfitted with treads like you would find on a military tank or bulldozer. They continuously made that distinctive clack click clack click sound.  He was plowing long rows up and down the hill, and the whole time while he was plowing he was watching me.  I am sure that he was asking himself why is that guy taking photos of my building?  Each pass would take about five minutes or so.  Without even looking at him, I knew he had turned around and was headed back up the hill.  The sounds of his tractor were different going up compared to coming down.  I was determined to get inside and try to get a photograph or two. My only hope of doing this was when he had turned his back to me and was plowing up the hill away from me.  I waited outside, and took some useless images, simply stalling for time.  As soon as he made his turn, I quickly took advantage of the situation and carefully scaled main stair, which led to the second floor entrance door.  The stone stair, cantilevered from the exterior wall, had eroded to the point where only a few feet of it remained projecting from the wall. I hugged the face of the building, pushed away the vegetation on my ascent and rapidly made it to the top of the stairs as fast as I could.  The landing felt amazingly solid and safe compared to everything else around me.  When I turned to my left to enter the building, I composed this image with the huge hole in the floor dominating the foreground in front of me.  I could physically go no further, the hole in the floor prevented me from entering the building.  I stood there for what seemed like hours in order to absorb the scene in front of me, I was overwhelmed.  The entire time I kept listening for the reversal of the tractor sound, signaling me that I needed to make my exit.

The bright afternoon sunlight poured in from the holes in the roof above.  It was almost like someone stood outside with a huge flashlight and illuminated the space below.  There is so much going on in this image, that it even now, several months later I continue to see different things for the very first time.  One can clearly witness the effects of weather and decay that this building has suffered.  The destructive forces of nature have created an irreversible condition, and building will continue to die a slow and painful death.  I quickly grabbed two or three images, being careful to maximize the depth of field of the shot and then heard the track noise change.  I made it back down the crumbling stairs to the safety of my car.  I don’t think the farmer ever had a clue as to what had happened.  I have the fond memories of trying to outsmart him and ultimately reach my photographic objective.  


(Greg A. Chianis Photography) Mon, 22 Oct 2018 18:47:16 GMT

Happy Summer!

Many people have a pre-conceived mental image of the Greek Islands.   They imagine a picture perfect post card setting that includes romantic white washed buildings set in contrast against the deep blue Mediterranean Sea.  On a recent trip to the island of Santorini, I discovered those picturesque vistas, and it was truly a beautiful place, but I also discovered the not so picturesque, and several images of the past.  Following my usual form, I was in search of the “non-typical” photographic subject matter.  While making another stop on my photographic journey to Santorini, I continued to find myself drawn to the old and abused structures.  Although my friends Clive Minnitt and Phil Malpas of Light & Land encouraged me to focus on the rich forms and unique compositions found on the island, I was lured away by those houses and buildings that have been left abandoned by their owners and that now fall into the hands of Mother Nature and the occasional vandal. 

I have no idea why these structures captivate my interest; it is most likely some deeply rooted psychological issue that attracts me to them like a magnet.  As I make my way through the commonly found ajar front door or occasional broken window, it makes me wonder as to whom the last person was to leave?  Did they lock the door, or did they just close it?  What was on the menu for the last meal cooked in the kitchen?  Who used the bathroom for the last time? When the occupants went to sleep on that last night, did they realize they wouldn’t be sleeping there anymore?  These are all questions I ask myself as I carefully examine my surroundings.  I tend to treat these places like a crime scene, being extra careful not to touch any surface, or leave any footprints.  Unlike the many visitors before me, I have a strange level of respect for what these places once were and more importantly what they are today.

As I strolled through the quaint village of Oia (pronounced eeah) located on the north end of Santorini I too visualized the many photographic compositions that Santorini is famous for, but I also made note of the occasional abandoned structure.  While my fellow photography friends fought the heavy tourist traffic and digitally captured the typical white and blue architecture, I was deep inside the dark, abandoned volcanic houses breathing mold infested air, getting bit by God only knows what kind of bug, and wiping the clumps of pigeon droppings off the feet of my Italian tripod.  There is something intriguingly captivating about these places, the more secure they are, the more questions they ask, and the greater the interest and desire I have to photographically document them.  


Many of the houses on Santorini are hand dug straight into the volcanic rock located hundreds of feet above the sea.  They commonly have a barrel vault shaped roof or ceiling that has been cut into the near vertical cliff wall. These ancient residential structures are typically five to six times as deep as they are wide and have no natural light source other than the windows and door found at one end of the long and narrow structure.  As I made my way through the adjacent rooms of one particular house, the light levels began to diminish as I proceeded from one room to the next.  The deeper I went, the darker it got.  The last space in the long chain of rooms was reserved for the bathroom.  I discovered this special space in the state of total darkness.  As I stood there in the bathroom door opening, attempting to compose my photograph, I heard what sounded like a low level electrical hum.  Knowing there wasn’t any electricity anywhere to be found, I remained puzzled as to what the source of the sound was.  As I examined things closer, I finally realized what was making that sound; it was tens of thousands of small gnat sized bugs clinging to the whitewashed wall surface.  I suddenly felt very stupid, as I had originally thought the walls were just stained black from age.  I guess my human presence that had invaded their space had gotten them excited and their movement created quite an audio stir. 

Even though I was there midday, with the sun at its highest point in the sky, the only light source for my work was what filtered through the front door and adjacent windows. As with all photography, the light played a critical role in the preparation of, and success or failure of the photography.   No filters were required, just long exposures times, accurate focusing, and lots of patience that included an occasional swatting of a bug or two.  I captured all of the images that day in black & white in an attempt to convey the mood of the environment and to better understand the existing forms, light and shadow.  Enjoy!

As a footnote, I will soon be updating my website with additional Santorini photographs, along with a few other destinations.  Please be on the look out for that notice.  As always, thank you for your interest in Chianis Photography.  Please feel free to email me with any comments at: [email protected] I look forward to hearing from you soon.


(Greg A. Chianis Photography) Mon, 22 Oct 2018 18:40:02 GMT