Ali Boyle: a Greece enthusiast opens up
Ali Boyle, one of Greeka’s top members for many years now, has given us a lovely interview about photography, his inspirations and his love of Greece. An Englishman who fell for the Cycladic beauty of Paros, he is a frequent visitor of the island, where he also retains two villas to rent.
When did you first visit Greece and on what purpose?
I remember it vividly; it was in 1978 and I was 13 years old. Blondie and The Boomtown Rats were playing on my portable cassette player. I had never been on an aircraft before, and had never stepped foot outside of Scotland and the UK. My step-father worked in the oil industry and was to be placed in the Middle East. Athens, at the time, was the nearest city that had a British school. We moved to Rafina, just outside of Athens, and myself and my 3 brothers went to Campion School in Paleo Psychico in Athens (it has since moved to Kifisia). Later that year my 4th brother was born in Athens … Going to school in Athens was an awesome experience, but being an adolescent teenager at the time I did not fully appreciate it; I would do anything now to re-live those 3 years. Imagine, we used to have our art classes at the foot of the Parthenon! I made some wonderful and life-long friends there and have since reconnected with them via the wonders of Facebook.
What was the aspect that impressed you the most about Greece?
There are so many things that impress me about Greece; the weather, the food, the culture, the religion. But the main thing is the Greek people themselves and their wonderful sense of warmth and their family-orientated spirit. Back in 1978, Greece had emerged from a dark period yet the smiles and warmth that radiated throughout was an absolute joy. Likewise at this time now, a dark period is passing yet the people I meet in Paros are still focusing on the future and still have the biggest smile, the warmest hearts and the widest arms.
Does this have to do with you visiting our country every year since?
Whenever I jump on a jet, my first choice is always to fly to Greece. I have had a great 30 year career working for a UK based airline (Virgin Atlantic) and I am lucky to continue to get very cheap travel tickets which allow me to visit your magical country many times a year. I started as crew at Virgin and flew around the globe for many years. I then moved into Crew Training and then eventually into Crew Management where I managed crew in India, Africa, Japan, Hong Kong and China. I am so lucky to have visited so many brilliant countries for so many years, but despite all of these places my favorite country, without a doubt, is Greece. I fell in love with Greece and followed my heart;
This year, I gave up my suitcase and jet-lagged lifestyle at Virgin, (I traded in my suit and tie for flip-flops and a pair of Ray Bans- Boy! it felt good!) and myself and my partner bought a second house in Paros. We hope now to make a living out of becoming “hosts” and renting our 2 houses out. I have recently built a website featuring some of my travel images. In addition, on the last 5 galleries of my web, you will see images and prices of our 2 houses on Paros. So, if anyone out there wants an awesome holiday on a gorgeous Greek island please get in touch with me (Greeka members get a 10% discount!).
Which destination would you suggest to someone who visits Greece for the first time?
That’s a tough question as I have still got so much exploring to do. My best advice is to pack a back-pack and fly to Athens. Spend a few days getting gloriously lost in the buzz of this exciting, dynamic and vibrant city, then jump on Blue Star to the Cyclades. To me every island is so different, like a wonderful Greek family with so many different characters. I love the party lifestyle in Mykonos, the stunning sunsets in Santorini, the hippy feel of Antiparos, the atmosphere and warmth in Ios, the barrenness of Folegandros, the beaches (and people) of Naxos and the complete serenity of Paros.
When did you start getting involved with photography?
I guess I was always interested in this area. I used to go on holiday with friends and was always walking 10 steps behind them taking photos. I never really understood the technical side of photography, and I never really studied it until recently, but I always had a keen interest. Ten years ago, sadly my Mother passed away at a fairly young age. My friend, who is a local artist in the UK was having an art exhibition. To help me regain focus, she asked me if I would exhibit my photos alongside her paintings. The exhibition went well and I sold quite a few of my photos on large canvas prints. It then spiraled a little from there, and my images got published in a few magazines. I soon realized that I knew very little about “actual” photography and so I started to learn about cameras and the technical stuff. I still struggle in that area … Please don't ask me about f numbers or shutter speeds! Last year I took an on-line course to help me improve and this year I am learning more about computer software (I currently use Light Room).
Which elements are, according to you, important in a photograph?
I love photographs that are simplistic in design, and ones that have a strong composition. In addition, light is so important….and you could not get better light in any other country other than Greece. The light and clarity in Greece is so superior … so sharp that you can see every detail, every petal on every flower. A boat can cast a shadow on the sea bed from many, many meters above. To me, a photographic image is a moment that is caught in time, and it should reflect that particular moment in time or that particular feeling. I am a great believer in that you do not need an expensive camera to take a good image, you can take a brilliant image with a standard cheap camera. But you’ve got to have the eye in the first place ... I also believe in not being scared in making mistakes (I have made many!). Don’t be scared to rip up the rule book and do it your own unique way. Life would be dull and boring otherwise.
What is your relationship with other Greeka members?
I have made many friends on Greeka and enjoy reading their comments or their messages, and I love looking at their images ... It always puts a smile on my face. I have been honored and privileged to meet up personally with Wes and Marja Feli and Radu and Sylvia ... We have shared many glasses of wine and nights of laughter together. Wes teaches me so much about my technical weaknesses and Feli has taught me so much about lighting and those dreaded f numbers! And Marja … have you seen her portrait shots? Wow! I hope to meet more of our wonderful Greeka members soon.
You spend a considerable amount of your time in Paros island. What is it about this island that attracts you so much?
There’s no secret, I simply love Paros. It is a magical island filled with serenity and calm, yet it is also filled with nightlife and fashionable and contemporary bars and restaurants: It has a real mix of everything. It’s not as wild and partying as say Mykonos or Ios, nor does it have the wow factor of Santorini, but it does have its own certain wow factor … The people, the villages, the gorgeous towns of Naoussa, Paroikia, Lefkes … The many, many beautiful beaches too. Paros does not have an expensive price tag, but the people here are rich in their hearts … And that is one of the most important things. To me, Paros is the Cyclades’ best kept secret.
Can you share a “secret” special place in Paros with our readers?
Haha, I have so many! But I would like to mention the village of Dryos where I live. Many people do not visit Dryos as it is not so well known, and driving through the village does not take long…but, if you are going to Golden Beach, you should visit Dryos too; if you stop and really look you will find some wonderful hidden gems. Here’s a few of my favorites:
Restaurant Anna: This is a typical home-style Greek taverna. The food does not get any more Greek than this, and the flavors melt in your mouth. Don’t ask for a menu, instead Anna will invite you into her kitchen and show you all of her cooking in her various pots and pans. It really is a wonderful experience and a superb taverna.
The Green Project: This is a well hidden diamond. Yanni will mix you a perfect cocktail whilst humming to cool chill-out music.
Annezina Restaurant: Wow, this is great for a more up-market yet very reasonably priced meal. It will bring out the romantic side of you.
Golden Beach Hotel Taverna: This is a great place to eat after the beach and the Customer Service provided by a lady called “Yanna” is simply superb.