Time As Light
When I began making these new still life photographs, in the year before this image below, I found myself working in a dark environment which was a strange thing for me to do since ‘Light’ was the phenomena that marked my photographs as mine. So why the dark? What was so attractive about that? These thoughts, and many more, are questions that rise up out of the chance events of our lives when combined with our creative impulses.
To tell the truth though, it was the weather! That summer the temperature in Tuscany was over 95 every day for 3 months – it never rained – and so searing was it that during the middle of the day it was impossible to be outside, so I retreated into the little studio that Maggie and I shared on the farm we had rented. The studio has never been my normal habitat.
Confronted with a dark corner there, darker than this one in the photograph from Bonnieux, I made many studies on different backgrounds, and over 2 to 3 weeks of work I finally arrived at this dark cloth as my sfondo (background). In fact I took this 100 year old piece of stained linen and had it printed with a dark tone I made out of a number of reassembled photographs of mine so that i had just what I needed to place my growing collection of dark objects on.
There is a story that perhaps some of you know, but which I heard from Ben Maddow, a friend of Edward Weston’s, when he was writing a book about him back in the 70’s. He told me that the famous image of The Pepper was made by placing it inside an old tin funnel (if you look closely you will see the curves of the funnel below the pepper) and that Weston put it far back in his studio away from the light in front. And that he told his sons, Brett and Cole, not to run around since the exposure was to be a long one and he didn’t want the floor to shake. Then he made an exposure (the stories vary from 6 minutes to many hours), letting the slow accretion of photons come to caress and build the light on the dark pepper set inside the dark funnel, in that dark corner of the studio.
This story always pleased me, and because I’ve used an 8×10 view camera since 1976, and know very well the generosity of the light, especially when time is used as light, I appreciated the strategy, and decided to adopt it to my new work. It has taught me more than I can say here, but perhaps as this blog continues, and these images appear, I’ll carry this inquiry further along.