Greece’s traditional colors of blue and white are reflected not only on its flag but also throughout the culture and architecture of its scenic islands scattered across the Mediterranean region. This is what Chicago-based photographer Andrew Merz came to see and capture during his family trip in the island paradise of Santorini.
“The people on the island embrace the water and nature around them, adopting and replicating the colors into their own homes and lifestyles, surrounding themselves with blue and white everywhere,” he shared for this Wanderlust installment.
Shot with a Mamiya 645 and Kodak Portra 400, Andrew’s aptly named “Summer Hues” is an attempt to capture Santorini’s famed beauty through its natural charm and the crowd of beach-goers that revel on its shores. With his film of choice emulating the relaxing mood surrounding the island, it’s easy to find yourself wanting to sail to the nearest island and bask in a balmy escape.
Andrew shares his Santorini story in our chat below.
Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what you do? How long have you been shooting with film? Anything keeping you busy or inspired aside from film photography?
My name is Andrew Merz and I am photographer in Chicago where I work as a contract and freelance photographer. I just recently graduated from DePaul University in Chicago with a BA in Photography and Graphic Design. Before coming to Chicago I grew up living and moving around abroad in 5 different countries for 3 to 4 years at a time. From Ecuador, to Vienna, to Mexico City, I have lived and learned to embrace and document different cultures. Photography came as second nature in order to document this lifestyle and with it came the beauty of film photography.
I was introduced to the magic of film photography 8 years ago with pinhole cameras and photograms. From that first initial moment, I think my curiosity is what has kept my passion for photography alive. Every new roll is a new experience and memory being rehashed and relived. Aside from film photography, I shoot a lot of digital and love to incorporate and feed that into my graphic design.
Please tell us the basics of your trip. What made you decide to head to Santorini? When did you visit and for how long did you stay?
My trip to Santorini was a family trip. My family is spread across the world so all of us coming together gets harder and harder. For that reason we try to set aside a time once in the year to all travel together. Last year we decided to go to Greece. We began our trip by meeting in Athens where we spent a few days sight seeing. From there we woke up bright and early and took a ferry to Santorini. It’s one of those magical places you always hear about or briefly see in commercials and I think it was just time we had to check it out for ourselves. From the moment we set foot in Santorini, I started shooting and taking pictures. We went during the summer months of 2016 and stayed for just a bit more than a week.
Did you do anything special to prepare for this journey?
When preparing for the trip I knew I would be shooting a lot and wanted to make sure to have both digital and film covered. I made sure to bring 5 SD cards and around 15 rolls of film both 120 and 35mm. We also made sure to set aside one day on the island to rent an ATV for seeing more remote locations and sights, which was totally worth it.
What were your first thoughts when you first set foot in this beautiful island? Can you still recall the first scene or view that welcomed you as soon as you arrived?
Upon setting foot upon the island I was instantly struck by the people and the colors. From the moment you arrive on the island, the people are there greeting and welcoming you. They are friendly and charming, adding an extra something to the island. Secondly, is the colors all around the island. The people on the island embrace the water and nature around them, adopting and replicating the colors into their own homes and lifestyles, surrounding themselves with blue and white everywhere. These two colors are the staples of Greece and one of the few places I’ve been where the colors of the flag true represent the colors of the people and country it represents.
One of the first scenes I remember when arriving was getting to the side of the island where my family and I were going to be staying, walking through the passageways down the island side until having it open to a spectacular and surreal view. The ocean and other islands expanding into the horizon with the sun setting behind them all was absolutely astounding.
What do you consider to be the highlight of your trip? Did you have any unexpected or unforgettable experiences during your trip? What did you do to make sure you bring home some photos to document these experiences?
The entire trip was unforgettable however there was truly unbelievable day when we decided to take a catamaran tour around the island. We began in the afternoon and sailed out to a few smaller islands with a group of 15 people, making little stops to swim and enjoy the scenery. As we turned around to head back to land we caught a gorgeous sunset that appeared to fall and dip into the ocean. We then ate dinner and enjoyed the rest of our night in Oia, a little town/city on the tip of the island full of wonderful food and sights.
Can you give an important piece of travel advice for film photographers like yourself?
When traveling with film I always try and remember to bring what is practical and what I’ll actually make use of. For this trip I brought with me my Nikon FG as well as my Mamiya 645. Bringing along the Mamiya was a tough decision. On one hand it takes marvelous pictures but on the other it is large, heavy and burdensome to use. In the end I made a mental check list of shots I wanted to take with the Mamiya and brought it, forcing myself to make carrying it worthwhile. I also had to be extremely cautious when bringing it with me to the beach for fear of damaging it with sand.That being said, some of my favorite shots from the entire trip were with the Mamiya. I believe it’s up to you to make lugging around film and cameras worthwhile. If you’re like me and are constantly switching and snapping shots then it’s always worth it.
Lastly, if you could take just one camera and one roll of film to a dream destination, where would it be, which camera and film would you bring, and what will you make sure to take photos of?
If I had to bring just one camera and one roll of film to a dream destination it would probably be something relatively compact but high quality. I would choose the Mamiya 7ii with some 120 Kodak Portra and go to Cuba or Morocco. Both places have been on my list for a while now and I feel like shooting with that set up would bring out the colors, vibrancy, and life. If I went to Cuba I would make sure to capture the old cars, the streets and people. Morocco on the other hand, would be great for marketplaces and possible portraits.
To see more of Andrew’s travel photos and the rest of his works, please head to the links below: