Trick of the Light
The quiet that exists in European towns the day after Christmas is both eerie and peaceful, alternating between them both in ways that made us feel as if everyone had disappeared from the planet, and then grateful to be experiencing the town as the solitary travelers.
In the somewhat grim, darkened streets, the cold and damp was even more penetratingly chill and then, suddenly, a beam of light slipped out from under the cloud bank and struck home, and then was gone in barely the blink of an eye.
Church Wall, Bakery Wall
I wish all of you the very nicest of holiday times.
I have just returned to New York City for a 3 week or so, intensive period of work. I must sign 30,000+ prints for the upcoming sale of my archive. A life’s work is on the line, and so my studio director has signed up a team of assistants to work with me for 6 days a week, 8-10 hour days, in order to complete the sale by a certain date.
Just today I signed 1550 prints, so I can see the path through this as an endurance test, but one I happily commit to. What this means in terms of the blog postings is that I will most likely not have the concentration to write during this period. But by this time you have read me regularly, and you get the drift of my thinking, although I hope I have not been too repetitive, still my concerns and my limits have been out there for all to see.
I propose doing the simplest thing to keep the blog going until I can be fully present once again. That would be to post a picture a day as is my blog’s raison d’être, but without my making commentary. However; now that you have read my kind of responses to seeing and working, I am open to seeing what it is that any of you might contribute to the images I show, your take on them for example. No obligation, believe me, just my own curiosity to see what ways, if any, I may have provoked you into thinking about this crazy, wonderful medium of ours.
You’ll be hearing from me again when this is done. Wish me luck on this Once-in-a-Lifetime deal.
Chairs are sitting everywhere. And as I wrote earlier this month, I have been collecting them in a steady but casual way for many years, slowly watching them build a presence in my archive. I have no doubt that one day I’ll find the time to take a hard look at the collection to see if it is worth publishing as a book.
What I like about this particular body of work is that I’m not out hunting for them to become a set of photographs. The work grows on its own like a kind of ‘folk art’ collection of oddities that accumulates its strength from the variety of the objects in it.
What pleases me in this photograph, besides the contrast between the two value systems within the frame (the place and the chairs) is the amazing object the chairs make when seen stacked that way. The chair’s simple form becomes a rich and beautifully graphic result as a single design motif, in a way it is just like all the wooden beading everywhere in the paneling. It accumulates by simple addition until we take in the wonder of it. That coat rack ain’t so bad either.
The Duomo in Milan is one of the largest churches in the world, and like so many cathedrals of this scale it took a long time to be completed, close to 800 years. The sculptures on the facade came last, probably sometime in the early 1800’s.
When I was there I saw an amazing pair of figures, which although I have seen the building before I had never noticed the detail in the drapery covering – or not – the figure on the right. It is an astonishing image for the front of a church.
Some spaces just ring with authority. Even when they might be just a small neighborhood chapel, or a convent, or school, or some old ruin that has the aggregate of time on its side. Coming into this neighborhood in Siena I was surprised at how the building and the ‘wings’ of the subtly curving street so perfectly related to the two doorways of the church, one with that seashell with a madonna or saint, and the other with the wings over it.
Little moments of pause and reflection have been the part of carrying a camera that I probably have learned the most from. Just about everything I know I have learned from photography.
Whenever I see architecture of extravagance; cathedrals, palaces, monuments, etc., particularly from 4 or 500 years ago, I give myself over to the experience of wonder that they produce in me. I love the birthday cake-like fantasía that architects in those days offered their wealthy clients, and that those clients, often the Church, would accept that kind over-the-top decoration, probably as a way to bring the paying multitudes in, grandeur being a seductive call or advertisement for the pageants produced therein.
Looked at today these places still hold up their end of the bargain, as one can see by the tourists regularly visiting these sites. For me though, it’s part of a continuing record I keep of the craziness of a past time, and I wonder what of our structures today might still be here 500 years from now.
We went to Lucca to hear a Leonard Cohen concert and the day started off sunny and bright, then dark and stormy, then back to sunny again, and on and off for most to the day. I always like being out in the weather, watching the way it clears the streets as everyone runs for cover. Sometimes it produces a photograph or two.