Tag Archives: Photography

Way Marks on the Via de la Plata: A Spotter’s Guide


The Vía de la Plata, like many other Camino de Santiago routes, is inhabited by a number of different types of signs and arrows that aim wandering pilgrims in the direction of Santiago de Compostela.

Overall, both the main Vía de la Plata and the Camino Sanabrés variant are well way marked, although sometimes it may be necessary to pay serious attention, consult a map, or ask for help (it’s useful to speak Spanish in these cases).

Yellow Arrows

The majority of the way marks are painted yellow arrows. These are easy to identify by the fact that they are obviously painted, obviously yellow, and obviously arrows. They can be found throughout the route, from Andalucía to Galicia.

They are usually painted quite clearly,

[Arrow on rocks]

Between Los Santos de Maimona and Villafranca de los Barros.

but they may also be drippy

On the back of a sign in Camas.

or faded.

Between Torremegía and Mérida.

They’re usually just plain yellow, but in the area after Mérida, they tend to be outlined in red (and may be accompanied by a Saint James cross),

An arrow with a Saint James cross, between Aljucén and Alcuéscar.

and occasionally the yellow tends toward fluorescence.

Leaving Ourense.

Yellow arrows can be found on trees,

Between Almadén de la Plata and El Real de la Jara.

fences

Also between Almadén de la Plata and El Real de la Jara.

or fence posts,

Between Guillena and Castilblanco de los Arroyos.

rocks,

Between A Gudiña and Campobecerros on the Camino Sanabrés.

the front

Between Fuente de Cantos and Puebla de Sancho Pérez.

or back of signs,

Also between Fuente de Cantos and Puebla de Sancho Pérez.

little bridges over ditches,

Yet another photo taken between Fuente de Cantos and Puebla de Sancho Pérez.

pavement,

On the way into Alberguería on the Camino Sanabrés.

and occasionally even on fountains,

In Vilar de Barrio on the Camino Sanabrés.

stumps,

In the Parque Natural Sierra Norte between Castilblanco de los Arroyos and Almadén de la Plata.

crosses,

Between Aljucén and Alcuéscar.

manhole covers,

In Bandeira on the Camino Sanabrés.

and random posts.

Between Guillena and Castilblanco de los Arroyos.

They usually indicate the Camino de Santiago route, but may also point to albergues.

On the way into Alcuéscar.

They may also show where a route divides. If you’re lucky, a sign will explain the division.

In Granja de Moruela, you can choose between continuing to Astorga, or taking the Camino Sanabrés through Ourense to Santiago.

If there’s no accompanying sign, a guidebook can come in handy.

Somewhat before Silleda on the Camino Sanabrés.

The most difficult part of using a yellow arrow can be to find it. Sometimes they’re everywhere, but other times they can be quite hard to locate. For one thing, they prefer highways and countryside to cities, where they can be more difficult to find or even disappear altogether.

On the way into Mérida.

Once you find a yellow arrow, the procedure is generally simple: you walk (or cycle) in the direction indicated. However, there can be difficulties. In the case of ambiguous arrows, which might point straight ahead but kind of sort of aim to the side, the safest thing to do is ask someone if they’re around, and otherwise to continue straight ahead.

Please note that some arrows appear to point straight up in the air. You should not take this literally.

Following an arrow on the way into Ourense.

Stone Markers

Stone markers come in many different shapes and sizes, but they’re easily recognized by their generally stony nature. Unlike the yellow arrows, stone markers stick to their own climactic zone. Different species are found in different places.

Some types include the Parque National Sierra Norte markers (after Castilblanco de los Arroyos),

Between Castilblanco de los Arroyos and Almadén de la Plata.

Camino de Santiago rectangular markers (which I believe are native to Andalucía, although they may edge a bit into Extremadura),

Also between Castilblanco de los Arroyos and Almadén de la Plata.

cubes with a sketch of the Arch of Cáparra on their top (these inhabit Extremadura),

Between Aldea del Cano and Cáceres.

short white stones with a yellow shell and arrow (which seem to be found only in the province of Zamora),

Soon after El Cubo de la Tierra del Vino.

pillars with “Vía de la Plata” in English and Arabic with a metal pilgrim staff and gourd (which appear for a while beginning in Baños de Montemayor),

Between El Cubo de la Tierra del Vino and Zamora

pillars that say “Vía de la Plata” and have a yellow shell (found in the province of Zamora),

In Roales del Pan.

large stones with the name of the town and advice and well-wishes for pilgrims (I believe these are native to the province of Zamora as well),

Leaving Granja de Moruela at the beginning of the Camino Sanabrés.

artsy arrows and sometimes stylized pilgrims (found only in Galicia),

In Lubián.

and short posts with embedded shell tiles (also found in Galicia; they occasionally have plaques with the distance to Santiago, but these generally seem to have been stolen).

Just before Santiago de Compostela.

The stone way marks work in different ways. If they have arrows on them, you can follow them in the same manner you would follow painted yellow arrows. If there are no arrows, you can take them as a sign that you’re going the right way.

The main exception is the Extremaduran cube marker. These have a dashed yellow line running through a picture of the Arch of Cáparra on the top, which indicates the direction of the route. Be sure to follow the ones with the yellow squares (or green and yellow). I believe the green ones indicate the precise route of the old Roman road; in any case, they tend to take you off paths when not combined with yellow.

Another possible exception is any marker with a shell, although these can be tricky. Sometimes they point toward Santiago. In Galicia, on the official stone markers, I believe the “rays” of the shell always point to Santiago. However, you can’t rely on this for non-official markers, or with shells on other parts of the route.

Signs

Signs are found scattered across the Vía de la Plata. Apart from metal signs, they tend to be far more endangered than their stone counterparts. Different types are frequently found alone, or in very small clusters. They may be wooden, metal, cardboard, or made of some other material.

The two non-road signs that are found throughout the route (with minor variations) are a small blue one with a yellow shell and an arrow,

Shell sign

Between El Real de la Jara and Monesterio.

and a sign with a stylized pilgrim.

[Pilgrim sign]

Leaving Ourense on the Camino Sanabrés.

Some examples of non-road signs that come in small clusters include signs with a photograph of the famous Santiago statue at the Santa Marta de Tera (found in the neighbourhood of that town),

Just out of Santa Marta de Tera.

signs with “Camino de Santiago,” a shell, and occasionally other words (found on a small portion of the Camino Sanabrés),

Just out of Rionegro del Puente.

and occasional “Vía da Prata” (Galician for “Vía de la Plata) signs (in Galicia).

Between Castro Dozón and A Laxe.

There are also some signs that seem to be the sole remaining member of their species.

[Que Dios te acompane]

Just after Montamarta. The sign says "may God accompany you."

In Laza, on the Camino Sanabrés. "Camiño" is Galician for "Camino"

[Small sign]

Just outside of Zamora.

A common road sign warns drivers that pilgrims may be passing, but is also helpful for walkers, since it suggests they are headed in the right direction.

[Sign for drivers]

Leaving Salamanca.

Another popular sign warns pilgrims they’re about to share a route with a highway.

[Share the road]

Between Montamarta and Granja de Moruela.

Occasionally, there may be impostor signs, such as construction signs with yellow arrows.

Soon after Montamarta. I believe the larger arrows were related to construction, while the smaller one indicated the Camino detour route.

Detour signs can also create problems.

Soon after Mombuey on the Camino Sanabrés.

In this case, I tried following the more permanent way mark, which led me to a sign that warned of potential explosions ahead. I backtracked, decided that “desvio” meant “detour,” and successfully followed more temporary signs until I was back on the normal route.

Way Mark Habits

Way marks generally live alone. When pilgrims are lucky, they stay fairly close together. Sometimes, especially in cities and on straight roads, they’re few and far between.

But occasionally, they congregate in great numbers, leaving passing pilgrims with no doubt whatsoever of the route.

[Lots of way marks]

Just before Terroso on the Camino Sanabrés.

[Cluster of signs]

On the way into Ourense.

So in conclusion …

As they say at the Dead Dog Café, stay calm, be brave … wait for the signs.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 6:52 pm
, , ,
2 Comments

Santiago de Compostela: A Photo-Essay


When I was in Santiago less than a month ago, I spent a lot of time wandering the streets taking photos.

It wasn’t the best time to be in Santiago, from a photographer’s perspective. There was lots of (very necessary) restoration work going on. The Portico de la Gloria was covered up, as was the clock tower. And the Praza do Obradoiro was overflowing with tents—as I understood it, people were protesting against poverty.

But there was still lots to photograph. Here’s a small selection of my results.

Praza do Obradoiro/Plaza del Obradoiro

[Pilgrims arriving]

[Bicigrinos arriving]

[Relaxing in the Praza do Obradoiro]

[Staffs]

[Pilgrims hugging]

[Selling CDs]

[Pilgrim with pack]

[Pilgrim's bicycle by the cathedral stairs]

[Praza do Obradoiro]

[Bicigrino]

[Street artist]

[Entering the cathedral]

[Pilgrim with shell]

[Pilgrims at the cathedral gate]

[Photographing the cathedral]

Santiago Cathedral

[Santiago de Compostela Cathedral]

[Cathedral roof]

[Saint James]

[Angel on the Santiago cathedral]

[Santiago cathedral detail]

[Portico de la Gloria]

More Cathedral Plazas

[From the roof]

[Praza de Fonseca]

[Cafe]

[Sleeping pilgrim]

Pilgrim Office

[Donkey]

Museo do Pobo Galego/Museo del Pueblo Gallego

[Museum with very cool triple spiral staircase]

[Museum - fire]

[Museum - baskets]

In the Park

[Las Dos Marias]

[Park]

[Cathedral from the park]

[Fair]

On the Streets

[Two packs]

[Arches]

[Santiago cakes]

[On the street]

[Candles]

[Guy in red]

[Modern street]

[Man walking]

[Bakery]

[Santiago street]

[Pilgrims on the streets]

[Souvenirs]

[Couple]

[Santiago arches]

[Dog]

[Restaurants]

[Girl and spout]

[Stores]


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 10:51 am
,
5 Comments

Stones on the Camino: A Photo Essay


[Stones in the Pyrenees]

On the Route Napoleón in the Pyrenees.

One of the constants of my walk along the Camino de Santiago was the presence of stones.

They were in the walls of many of the buildings I slept in and the the old churches I visited. In some places, they made up the walls that lined the trail. Sometimes the stones were the road itself, in the form of gravel or cobblestones.

Then there were stones people left—often in heaps on crosses and memorials to fallen pilgrims, and sometimes near way marks. Occasionally they were piled into little towers (Inukshuks, as we’d say here in Canada), or assembled into arrows on the ground.

And of course there was the pile at the Cruz de Ferro. The tradition of bringing a stone from home to leave there may be a recent one, but every tradition has to start somewhere.

Especially in France, where I walked alone more, I’d sometimes pick up a stone and hold it in my hand as I walked. I’d leave it at the next pile of rocks I came across—usually on or around a wayside cross.

[Stones in the wall]

Stones in the wall of the lovely Gîte Dubarry, on a farm between Nogaro and Aire-sur-L'Adour.

It seemed like the right thing to do, though I’m not really sure why.

In part, I suppose, it was because the other stones were there already. People had left them in the past and would leave more in the future. Leaving my own stones made me part of that.

There’s something about stones.

We use them to mark graves. Some of the earliest altars were stones piled on top of each other in sacred places. And of course there’s Stonehenge, and the Easter Island moai, and so many other examples of sacred art or architecture, built up or hewn from stone.

In Cambodia, Angkor Wat and the other temples in the area are all that remain of a once-thriving city because only sacred structures could be built with stones. And when all the wood buildings turned back into jungle, the stones remained.

[Cross and rocks on the Chemin de Saint-Jacques]

On the Chemin du Puy, between Bessuéjouls and Estaing.

Maybe it’s the seeming immortality of stones that makes them sacred. Compared with living things, they seem to last forever.

And so we use them, perhaps, to represent the eternal.

Or maybe not. I don’t really know. I just know they were there, and they mattered.

I couldn’t take any with me, for obvious reasons, so I did the next best thing: I took photos. Here are some of my Camino stones.

[Stone walls on the Chemin de Saint-Jacques]

On the Chemin du Puy, between Chapelle de Bastide and Nasbinals.

[On the Chemin de Saint-Jacques]

Markers on the Chemin du Puy. A) A wayside cross between Chapelle de Bastide and Nasbinals. B) A modern pilgrim sculpture on the way into Aubrac. The inscription reads (in my translation from the French): "In the silence and the solitude, we hear no more than the essentials."

[Way mark on the Chemin de Saint-Jacques]

A Chemin du Puy (GR-65) way mark, with stones.

[Bible verse]

People also left notes, poems and Bible verses in piles of stones. This one was around a cross just past Labastide-Marnhac on the Chemin du Puy.

[Roman mosaics]

A Roman mosaic at the Villa Gallo-Romaine at Séviac, just off the Chemin du Puy. The gîte d'étape was right at the historic site, so I got to wander around the ruins in the morning before any tourists arrived.

[Cross and rocks on the Chemin de Saint-Jacques]

Past Uhart-Mixe on the Chemin du Puy, with the Pyrenees in the background.

[The Route Napoleón]

On the Route Napoleón in the Pyrenees.

[Arrow and rock piles on the Camino Francés]

Stones on the Camino Francés. A) Before Villatuerta. B) Between Navarrete and Ventosa.

[Pilgrims and arrow on the Camino Francés]

Pilgrims between Castrojeriz and Itero de la Vega.

[Arrow]

Before Astorga.

[Cruz de Ferro]

The Cruz de Ferro.

[Sonya at 100 km]

Sonya at the 100 km marker.

[Stone hermitage near Ferreiros]

Stone hermitage near Ferreiros where pilgrims leave messages.

[Galicia on the Camino Francés]

Walking in Galicia on the Camino Francés.

[Plaza del Obradoiro]

Pilgrims in the Plaza del Obradoiro, in front of the Santiago cathedral.

[Finisterre]

Finisterre.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 12:35 pm
, , ,
2 Comments

Music and Life, the Road and Photography: Oliver Schroer and Peter Coffman on the Camino


[Camino cover image]

The Pyrenees from the Route Napoleón.
Photo by Peter Coffman.

  this album is the record of an intersection,
            the story of a line…

                 …un Carrefour entre la musique et la vie,
                 le chemin et la photographie…

          es la combinación de música e imagines que
      nacieron de un paisaje y tiempo especiales…

…music born of a particular landscape and time.

—From the liner notes of the album Camino

The story begins, fittingly, with a pilgrim musician in a French church.

Architectural historian Peter Coffman was on vacation in Moissac with his wife, Diane, when he walked into a church, and found a man playing a flute wandering the aisles. The man, it turned out, was a musician walking an ancient route to Santiago de Compostela, stopping at churches to play and sing along the way.

That brief encounter stayed in Peter’s mind, and after he and Diane returned home to Toronto, Canada, he mentioned it to his longtime friend, fiddler and composer Oliver Schroer.

I said, “Isn’t that a great idea, doing a musical pilgrimage, where you stop in these places which are so acoustically amazing, and you make music?” And I said, “We should do this sometime.”

And Oliver said, “Yeah, let’s do this sometime.”

“So naturally,” Peter says, “nothing happened for several years.”

Five years later, in 2003, the two friends were living on opposite sides of the country, but they met up at Oliver’s family home for his father’s wake.

As they sat on the couch talking, the idea of a pilgrimage—something they hadn’t discussed in years—resurfaced.

But now, Peter says, the timing was right.

We decided at that moment, “Let’s do it next year. Let’s book off May and June. And we’ll promise to each other now that we won’t make other commitments.”

And that’s what they did.

Full Backpacks

[Backpacks on the Camino]

At a rest stop in O Cebreiro.
Photo by Peter Coffman.

Oliver and Peter didn’t see each other again until May 2004, when four of them met up in the small French town of Entraygues-sur-Truyere to begin walking: Peter, his wife Diane, Oliver and his wife Elena. They didn’t have time to walk the entire Chemin du Puy and Camino Francés, but they planned to walk a significant portion of each: more than a thousand kilometers altogether, from Entraygues-sur-Truyere to Pamplona, and then from León to Santiago.

The contents of the two men’s backpacks differed from the more usual pilgrim gear.

Oliver described his extra burden in the liner notes of the album that was to emerge from the journey:

                 in my backpack,

          I carried my violin like a wooden chalice,
like my own precious relic,

  carefully packed in its reliquary of socks and underwear and
          waiting to work a miracle.

                 my pack also contained a portable recording studio.

But Peter’s pack was heaviest. When the four pilgrims met up in France, he says, Oliver wanted to see what he was carrying.

“That’s not a backpack,” Peter remembers Oliver saying, after he’d looked inside. “That’s a camera bag with a little bit of clothing in it.”

[Peter Coffman with his backpack]

Peter (and his pack).
Photo by Diane Laundy.

The pack held Peter’s Nikon F3 (a brass-bodied camera), three heavy lenses, a bag full of film, and a tripod. Socks and underwear were crammed into a few small compartments. As near as Peter can remember, the whole thing weighed 13.5 kilograms (30 lbs).

Peter had thought long and hard over his decision to bring the camera gear.

Lugging it around wasn’t, as he points out, the most practical thing to do. And besides, he had burned out in the past working as a professional photographer. Since then, he’d done a bit of architectural photography for his job, but no more than that.

In the end, though, he decided to bring the equipment, and to shoot black-and-white film.

I did it black-and-white because in some way that seemed to suit this sort of romantic notion I had of the pilgrimage being an opportunity to shed all extraneous things, and just focus on essentials.

Before doing the Camino, he’d noticed there weren’t any books that fully documented the route photographically.

“And of course,” he says, “once I started walking along carrying this backpack with camera gear, I realized why.”

Art on the Camino

[Eglise de Sensacq]

Eglise de Sensacq.
Photo by Peter Coffman.

While they were walking, neither Oliver nor Peter knew they were creating music and photography they would end up sharing with others.

In the on-line journal Oliver kept for his family, friends and fans, he wrote that “the main plan is really to walk a huge amount and to concentrate on that. I may do some playing or some recording of things along the way, but the focus is most definitely the walk.”

Peter says he felt the same way about his photography.

The trip itself is challenging enough, both physically and psychologically in some ways, that I found it had to be my main focus. I couldn’t put anything other than the actual experience of walking … at the centre of things.

He brought his camera gear hoping to get some good shots, but because he was shooting film rather than digital, he didn’t know how the photos had turned out until he got home.

I didn’t know what I was capturing. I didn’t know whether or not I could do anything with it afterwards. I just thought, I’m going to go out, I’m going to shoot whatever I can—as much as I have energy for and so on—and I’m just going to gather raw material. And I’ll worry about what, if anything, all this stuff amounts to later.

Asked if he ever considered sending the camera gear home, Peter responds immediately in the negative. He didn’t enjoy carrying the gear, but he was having too much fun using it to send it home, he says.

Photographing the Camino brought back his love of photography, “this joy of going out and experiencing the world and responding to it by making these images of it.

It’s something I had always loved, and kind of lost touched with. But I was reconnecting with that, and it was great.

As Peter rediscovered photography, Oliver was fiddling in churches and cathedrals.

When the pilgrims walked into a building, Peter says, the first factor that would determine if Oliver would play was whether or not he had the energy. If he did, he’d walk around clapping his hands and making noises to test the acoustics.

And if both the energy and the acoustics were there, he’d take his fiddle out of its backpack cocoon—removing everything else in the process (“I was prone to strewing underwear or socks in the general area if I was not careful,” Oliver remarked in his journal)—and play.

Oliver described the experience in the liner notes:

in some churches I played for many people, in others for a single listener.

          j’ai joué quelques unes de mes vieilles
                    pièces fractales et spirituelles…

improvisé mucho.
          a través de semanas andando,

                    new pieces came

                              – one hill, one valley at a time.

Peter is a longtime fan of Oliver’s fiddling and would have loved to hear it anywhere, but the old buildings added another dimension to the music.

They were unlike anything Oliver was acoustically accustomed to, Peter says.

[As Oliver played in churches,] he started to understand his own music as something, in a sense, that exists in three dimensions—something that has to travel through space as well as extending through time. I could see him playing and listening to himself at the same time, and thinking, okay, what happens if I do this? What happens if I change my timing here?

Conques

[Fiddling in Conques Cathedral]

Oliver playing in the Cathedrale Ste-Foy de Conques.
Photo by Peter Coffman.

The four pilgrims reached the medieval valley town of Conques a few days into the journey.

Oliver, Peter says, had not had a good day. He hadn’t broken in his walking boots ahead of time, and was suffering because of it. The steep, rocky descent into the town was particularly tough on his feet.

But then they reached Conques, and he—like so many pilgrims—was entranced.

Peter had been there already. “But when you emerge in that town, it’s so staggeringly beautiful,” he says.

“It’s an amazing feeling.”

They settled in, and soon headed for the cathedral, where Peter so much wanted to hear Oliver play.

But there was a musical event on, involving the cathedral organist and some school children. The pilgrims waited around for a while, but the event dragged on, and there was no chance for Oliver to play.

“We began to think, is this actually going to work?” Peter says.

But he knew the cathedral doors were often open well into the evening. Much later, the group return to the cathedral, and found it empty. So Oliver gave a private concert to his three companions—his first time playing on the trip.

It was an evening to remember, as Peter describes it in the liner notes:

may 6, 2004.    a lanky figure in muddy boots enters through the west door of conques. out of his backpack he pulls a violin, gently disentangling it from the socks, underwear, and yards of sleeping bag that have protected it from the wear and tear of the road. it is hopelessly small in his large hands, in this huge building.

    l’homme commence à jouer.
    les notes et l’espace s’embrasent
    comme s’ils avaient attend cet instant depuis toujours.

“I was not just playing my violin in this church; I was playing the church itself with my violin,” Oliver wrote.

It felt like the largest instrument I had ever played. Playing a note was like sounding a gong. The sound bloomed out of the first attack, and then subsided only slowly.

In the morning, Oliver had a chance to improvise with the cathedral organist—another amazing experience.

“We were in Conques less than 24 hours,” Peter says, “but it was a very, very rich part of the pilgrimage.”

The Journey

[Peter Coffman and Oliver Schroer]

Peter and Oliver (with cow) in France.
Photo by Diane Laundy.

And so as pilgrims do, they walked, and walked some more.

Peter, asked if there are any stories he wants to tell, says, “For me to pick any particular story seems almost arbitrary in a sense. Because there are just so many. Where would I begin?”

Oliver’s journal relates some of these stories: the first day, when they started out walking nine kilometers in the wrong direction; the time the shops were all closed and they were out of food, but a local man befriended them and offered them a feast; the day Oliver lugged a bag full of cooked pasta—soon dubbed Fred’s brain—around in his backpack; an impromptu concert for a large group in a church in the woods; the evening Oliver and Peter scared local cult members away from the town hall where they were spending the night; an improvised, very moving ceremony at the Cruz de Ferro; the accidental eating of pigs’ ears; the joy of being able to dash over mountains once they’d were finally in good walking shape (“Mountains. HA! I laugh out loud at those puny hills!”); and tales of all the pilgrims and others they met along the way.

Oliver didn’t downplay the physical effort, either.

“I thought that somebody could make a tourist attraction called CAMINO!” he wrote from France.

It would be a theme ride in the tradition of Disney. On the ride you would be on a treadmill, with a 360° movie of beautiful landscape playing all around you. Fans would blow the most amazing medley of smells in your direction, while somebody repeatedly hit your feet with a 2×4. You would be under heat lamps the whole time, but every once in a while, someone would throw a bucket of cold water on you. CAMINO! EXPERIENCE THE WONDER! FEEL THE PAIN!

Peter said the other day, “Actually, the Camino is really easy, apart from the walking and carrying your pack!” That about sums it up.

When Oliver fiddled in churches, he didn’t always know if he’d be allowed to stay—he might be kicked out after half a minute, or have a chance to play for over an hour.

He couldn’t take the time to warm up, since he might only have time for a single song. So he would launch straight into the music he wanted to play.

“And I’d have to just put heart and soul into it,” he said in Silence at the Heart of Things, a documentary about his life.

The frustrating times when Oliver got kicked out of churches brought home to him how much his music meant to him.

“At home I can play any time,” he wrote. “But when I can’t [play] it bottles up inside me and I become very sad … it is a deep hunger that needs to be fed.”

Santiago de Compostela

[In front of the Santiago Cathedral]

Peter, Diane, Oliver and Elena in front of the Santiago Cathedral.
Photo by Peter Coffman.

After seven weeks’ walking, the pilgrims arrived in Santiago de Compostela, where Oliver was asked to play his violin at the pilgrims’ mass.

At first, he just wanted to say no. Peter never did figure out exactly why.

I think he was perhaps afraid of the responsibility of being an integral part of this event at which he’d expected just to be a spectator, in a sense. Although having said that, it was never like him to shy away from the stage, or the spotlight. I sensed that for some reason it was an emotionally complicated thing for him. He was very resistant to it.

But the sacristan at the Santiago cathedral had given Oliver permission to play at the cathedral whenever he wanted, so fiddling at the mass seemed like the right thing to do, Peter says.

He just realized that it wasn’t about what he wanted. It was about other things that needed to take priority.

And so Oliver played at the mass, and “of course it sounded fantastic and was such a great thing.”

Peter wrote in the liner notes about the pilgrims’ mass at the cathedral, and the point when he heard the words “cuatro de Canadá.” Four from Canada.

there was a time in our lives before the camino, and there is a time after it.

                              those three words mark the transition.

                at the climax of the mass a giant censer roars past us,

                                              a massive arc, leaving a sweet trail of smoke.

             it is joyful, celebratory, and incredibly exciting.

The botafumeiro had a big impact on Oliver, too, which he described in his journal.

The effect of this HUGE object hurtling directly overhead was astounding. At the apex of its swing, it almost touched the ceiling of this very large cathedral on either side. When it came overhead, it barely missed us. It was dramatically cathartic, releasing all of this kinetic energy along with the incense. It was like a joyful leap into the air, the end of the journey.

Camino: The Album

[Camino: the album]

The cover of Camino. Peter Coffman won the 2007 Independent Music Award (Album Photography) for his Camino photos.

Peter started developing his film immediately after returning to Canada, and began scanning and printing the photographs soon after—”just because it was exciting to see this stuff,” he says.

At the same time, Oliver was going through his recordings. As the two sent photos and music flying back and forth across the Internet, Peter says, they realized they had a potential album on their hands.

[Oliver] had all this music that sounded great. I had all these images that in certain ways, in their sensibility, seemed to fit the music—partly because they were black and white. There was this sparseness to the images that seemed to work with the sparseness of the music. That’s when we began to realize, we’ve got some interesting stuff here. People might like this stuff.

Two years after walking, Oliver released the album Camino. On it, his playing mixes with the sound of bells, of children playing, of pilgrim footsteps. The cover and liner notes are full of Peter’s photos, and writings by both men about their Camino experience.

In the documentary, Oliver described Camino as “an album of duets between violins and buildings.”

And the liner notes are another duet, this one between images and words.

Epilogue

[Oliver]

'On June 5, 2008,' Peter writes, 'Oliver played what he knew would be his final concert to an absolutely packed house at Trinity-St. Paul's Church in Toronto. It was a sweltering, intense, beautiful, and unforgettable night.'
Photo by Peter Coffman.

Oliver Schroer was diagnosed with leukemia in 2007, about two and a half years after walking the Camino. He passed away in July 2008.

A month before his death, he threw a concert, Oliver’s Last Concert on his Tour of this Planet. At one point during that evening, he spoke about the Camino, and played one of the pieces he composed along the way. It’s obvious, watching the footage, that the walk was important to him.

Peter was at the concert, of course, and recorded parts of it with his camera.

He’s kept up a connection to the Camino since the walk, through an exhibition and talks about his own photography, and by attending Camino-related events.

The Camino never really ended for him, he says, while he was working on his photographs and listening to Oliver’s music.

In a way, it kept us on the road; it kept the road with us. And that’s been the case ever since.

Every year, Peter says, he meets people “who connect to this [Camino] story in one way or another.

It’s one of those things that, for me anyway, once you’ve done it, once you’ve got it … you carry with you everywhere.

* * *

To hear some of Oliver’s music on-line, try a YouTube search. It’s bound to leave you wanting a copy of Camino, which you can purchase through Borealis Records (where you can hear parts of every Camino track) or Amazon.ca.

For more about Oliver Schroer, his music, and his experiences on the Camino visit his website, read his Camino journal, and/or check out my previous post on Camino (which has an excerpt from the documentary Silence at the Heart of Things embedded into it).

To learn more about Peter Coffman and his photography, visit his website. He has three wonderful galleries: the Camino de Santiago, Oliver Schroer, and historical architecture. (Use the bar at the bottom to slide sideways through the galleries.)


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 11:29 am
, , , , , , , ,
Comments Off on Music and Life, the Road and Photography: Oliver Schroer and Peter Coffman on the Camino

Stained Glass on the Chemin du Puy: A Photo Essay


[Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe Chapel]

Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe Chapel, Le Puy-en-Velay.

I don’t normally spend a lot of time in churches—or any other buildings dedicated to religion—but when I walked the Chemin du Puy, I stopped at just about every church and cathedral that was open along the way.

In some cases, they were true places of refuge: they let me escape the heat—and later the cold—of the walk. When I walked into my first city and was overwhelmed by the traffic and general busy-ness, I fled to the cathedral with its shafts of stained glass-tinted light.

The churches and cathedrals I stopped at were places of beauty, somewhere to sit and think, and maybe even pray.

I liked the oldness of them, and the simplicity. And I loved the windows with their stained glass.

These photographs—arranged in geographical order—are my celebration of those buildings and their wonderful windows.

[Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe Chapel]

Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe Chapel, Le Puy-en-Velay

[A church in Saugues]

St. Peter at a church in Saugues.

[Windows in Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole]

Modern stained glass in Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole: 1) Mary; 2) A detail of the same window;
3) Joseph and Jesus.

[Church in Saint-Côme-d'Olt]

Crucifix in the church in Saint-Côme-d'Olt.

[In Saint-Côme-d'Olt]

The same church in Saint-Côme-d'Olt.

[Stained glass abstract]

Also at the church in Saint-Côme-d'Olt.

[Church of Sainte-Radegonde]

The Church of Sainte-Radegonde in Saint-Félix.

[Saint-Jean-Mirabel]

The church in Saint-Jean-Mirabel.

[Abbatiale Saint-Sauveur]

The Abbatiale Saint-Sauveur in Figreac—where I fled to escape the city.

[Abbatiale Saint-Sauveur]

The Abbatiale Saint-Sauveur in Figeac again.

[Cahors Cathedral]

The Cahors Cathedral.

[Organ pipes]

Organ pipes at the church in Lauzerte.

[Stained glass in Lectoure]

A church in Lectoure.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 8:54 am
, , ,
5 Comments