The little saw-toothed fringe along the tops of Tuscan hills has always pleased my eye. This particular passage is one that I drive by several times a week and it gets me every time in every season. Why? Why do some places have that power, even when it is a far away and slender note of attraction? Perhaps it is just that, the minor tone in the major space, and yet…it pulls at me, not just my eye, but all of me, with that gasp of recognition that this place, right now, right here, adds something to my life.
Some things are just pleasing because they are. Not for the graphics which certainly could be a part of the pleasure too, of course, but for some small and barely noticeable relationship which plays the eye for only a second, but is enough to tell the brain to consider its potential.
For me the clusters of foliage of the lecco tree, like a big broccoli, and they way they hold the light along their tops, brought me into connection with the clusters of clouds dissolving and reorganizing every second. Somehow they relate for me, the near and far, the substantial and the vaporous, the varied greens and the luminous whites. The pleasure of standing still for a minute to take in the world as it is.
I find this form of discovery a kind of play that is both serious and light handed, and it keeps my instrument tuned.
This road is one we have walked on almost every day for the last few years. The land rolls and dips and changes color with the seasons and the light. Some days it has a piercing blue sky and on others it is rain soaked and leaden, or rain bowed and glorious, and it never fails to lift my spirits. I salute it by raising the camera in acknowledgement, and saying thank you.
There are 2 kinds of light; natural and man made, and often we find ourselves in the presence of both but fail to consider the photographic possibilities that their dissonance presents. I’ve been looking at this phenomenon for 40 years now, ever since I started using the large format camera in 1976, and I am always pleased to take a few moments to look hard and see the ways in which the color temperatures of the light play against each other. There always seems to be a photograph out there.
When I began making photographs in 1962, John Szarkowski was the head of Photography at MoMA, where he wrote his first book called, “The Photographer’s Eye,” and in it were many ideas about what happens when you use all the wonderful visual assets that photography offers, and to consider the challenge each posed.
One of the ideas was Vantage Point. The following is part of what he had to say about that way of looking at things.“If the photographer could not move his subject, he could move his camera. To see the subject clearly — often to see it at all — he had to abandon a normal vantage point, and shoot his picture from above, or below, or from too close, or too far away, or from the back side, inverting the order of things’ importance, …….”
Here, I was lying on a beach lounge, and when I looked up the combed cloud was gliding across the space between the 2 half seen umbrellas. Had I not been lying down exactly where I was my point of view would not have contained this thought.
Just sitting at a friend’s dinner table watching the oncoming dusk slowly draining the light of the day. A long meditation on change. Light, gliding from the fullness of white clouds to the saturated last licks of color at their tops, and then, right before my eyes, it’s gone, like a magician showing his trick and we not being able to see it – that’s magic! Not seeing the change while looking at it.
Nature is the magician beyond measure, and every day the phenomena of light shows us such variety and delicacy as to fill our hearts with wonder or joy.
I have only seen this kind of cloud formation 3 or 4 times in my life. Each time I am filled with a kind of awe about the mystery and potential it portrays, and I find I am drawn to standing out in whatever the weather will be that accompanies it. I try to imagine what the tops of the clouds look like, up there in the bright sun above them, while down below the menace and roiling, bulbous forms suggest a fierce climatic doom may be upon us.
And then it passes. Blown away like all moments, no matter if they are angry or benign, they just go on about their endlessly dissolving – one can’t say merry – way into becoming something else. For me this is a reminder that photography, like nature, is made of continuously unfolding moments that are rich with the rare and unexpected gatherings of energy, all of which are individually addressed to each of us.