As a photojournalist whose work appeared in magazines including Life, National Geographic, Look, and Paris Match throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Ivan Massar was known for action shots that caught snatches of history at its most vibrant moments: a protest on the Washington Mall, a civil rights march in the American South, a peace mission to Hanoi.
But somehow it was a most inanimate object — a door — that caught his attention during a vacation on the Greek island of Tinos more than 30 years ago. And it is the resulting series of photographs, “The Cellar Doors of Kardiani,” that the Groton School has selected for a show that opened Tuesday in its Christopher C. Brodigan Gallery.
At nearly 89 years old, Massar looks back on a career that varied with every passing decade.
Graduating from high school just months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, he joined the Navy and served aboard an aircraft carrier, the USS Franklin, where he photographed a Japanese kamikaze attack on the ship. Discharged three years later, he decided to attend art school in Paris — a city he quickly came to love, and decades later would celebrate in a London exhibition of his work called “Paris Je t’Aime.”
But the journey out of art school took him to a far different place than the City of Light — the small towns of rural Ohio, where he was the sole photographer on the staff of a daily newspaper, the Hamilton Journal News.
“It was good work, but after a year, I thought about how I didn’t really want to be a newspaper photographer in a small town the rest of my life,” Massar recalled.
Word reached him that Roy Stryker, who headed the Information Division of the federal Farm Security Administration during the Depression and used that role to launch a photodocumentary project focused on the country’s rural poor, was moving to Pittsburgh to start a documentary depicting its steel mills. Accepted to join Stryker’s staff, Massar and his camera explored not only the steel mills of Pittsburgh but also the coal mines of West Virginia, and the iron ore mines of Minnesota.
The endeavor was followed by several years of working for photo agencies that took him around the world and finally to the Boston area, and the Concord farm where he still lives.
A neighbor introduced him to a Danish artist living in Greece; she invited him to visit her there, and it was during a walk through the island village of Kardiani that he spotted the intriguing wooden doors featured in the Groton show.
“I was flabbergasted by the sight of these little cellar doors. In those white stone houses, the residents, who are farmers and fishermen, live on the second floor; they keep their livestock in the cellar. They build the cellar doors out of whatever pieces of wood they can get their hands on, and just nail all the random pieces together, 20 or 25 pieces of wood,’’ he said.
“As a result, each door is different. They reminded me somehow of the paintings of Franz Kline. The next day I photographed them all. Even as I was making them into prints, I thought, ‘Doors? Who is going to want to see an exhibit of doors?’ But my artist friends all thought they were great.”
From these photos, Massar hopes the Groton students and visitors to the museum will absorb a fundamental message about photography.
“Art is all around us if you learn to see it,” Massar said. “We can all appreciate it if only we can slow down, as Thoreau said, and take a closer look both at nature and at what man has built.”
“The Cellar Doors of Kardiani’’ will be on display through May 17, with an artist’s reception April 21 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the gallery on the school’s campus, 282 Farmers Row in Groton. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 978-448-3363 or go to www.groton.org.
SALUTE TO WOMEN: Vocal trio Rhythm and Pearls, composed of longtime Newton residents and friends Allison Donelan, Barbara Lietzke, and Sara Weiss, performs “Salute to the Girl Groups” Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Union Street Restaurant, 107R Union St., Newton Centre.
The show features hit songs past and present by groups including the Andrews Sisters, the Supremes, and the Pointer Sisters, and performed with classic harmonies and choreography.
Admission is $10. For more information, call 617-964-6684, or go to www.rhythmandpearls.com.
CLASSICAL GUITAR: “A World of Music,” Middlesex Community College’s spring concert series, continues with a free performance by classical guitarist Jérôme Mouffe at 8 p.m. Friday in the MCC Concert Hall, 591 Springs Road in Bedford.
The college’s newest music faculty member, Mouffe is a virtuoso guitarist from Belgium who will perform solo works by Isaac Albéniz, Agustin Barrios Mangore, and Giulio Regondi. For more information, call 781-280-3923 or go to www.middlesex.mass.edu.
DISCOVER ‘THIRD STREAM’: Lexington Symphony presents a program of “third stream” — a blending of classical and jazz — music Saturday at 8 p.m. in Cary Memorial Hall, 1605 Massachusetts Ave. in Lexington.
The ensemble will be joined by several talented alumni of the Lexington High School jazz program, of which Lexington Symphony member Jeffrey Leonard is founder and long-time director.
Symphony conductor Jonathan McPhee will give a preconcert talk about composer Leonard Bernstein at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 to $50; $20 for students. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.lexingtonsymphony.org or call 781-523-9009.
POETRY TONIGHT: Boston College junior Helen Spica represents her school at this year’s Greater Boston Intercollegiate Undergraduate Poetry Festival, taking place Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Yawkey Center on the Boston College campus, 140 Commonwealth Ave. in Chestnut Hill.
The event, which has drawn a record 26 schools, will feature remarks by Irish poet Peter Fallon, Boston College’s Burns Library Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies. Admission is free. For more information, go to www.bc.edu/poetryfestival.
ARTISTS TALK TONIGHT: The Concord Art Association is presenting a special exhibition of works by its member artists called “A Room of Our Own” through May 5.
A twist on the essay by Virginia Woolf, the show invites artists to explore their work spaces and how those spaces influence their art.
In conjunction with the display, the artists will hold a panel discussion titled “The Experience of a Coaching Group for Artists” at 7 p.m. Thursday at the gallery, 37 Lexington Road in Concord. For gallery hours and more information, go to www.concordart.org.
ON STAGES TONIGHT: This weekend, the Wellesley College Theatre presents “You Can’t Take It With You,” a play by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman that tells the story of the Sycamores, an eccentric three-generation family living in their New York City brownstone. When daughter Alice falls in love with the son of a straight-laced Wall Street banker, the two families clash in a disastrous dinner party. Performances are Thursday at 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10; $5 for seniors and youths; free for Wellesley, Olin, Babson, and MIT students and members of the Wellesley College community with ID. To reserve tickets, call 781-283-2000.
Youthquake Theater, a theater group started by Boston-based homeschoolers and run entirely by children and teens, begins its third season with a production of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” at the Arlington Center for the Arts, 41 Foster St. in Arlington. Performances are Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $8, or $5 for students. For more information, go to www.youthquaketheater.com.