The Continuous Line
When Maggie and I moved to Europe two years ago we decided to make a project together by alternately drawing a simple line across a piece of paper, and then the next day one of us would continue that line from wherever it ended on the sheet. We did it for 365 days. Here is the run of days at this time 2 years ago. Seeing all 365 laid out around a room becomes an amazing journey.
I had been continuing to work on some still lives with new objects that had come to me through my friend Gianni. The various weights and materials interested me, and this was a setup I had just started when I remembered that I was to open the new Leica store in Florence later that day.
I left the work as – in progress – and off we went to Florence. While waiting there for the Leica activities to begin I wandered around the nearby streets and came across this little drama on a dark side street. As soon as I saw her face I felt as if she was out of the 16th century paintings of madonnas and virgins.
At the little beach side hotel we were staying in – a real Italian family kind of place – the husband and wife chefs turned out homey and delicious variations of classic Italian cuisine. We went in to see them at work and were so taken with their honesty and sweetness that I wanted to give something back to them, so I invited them out for a portrait.
I couldn’t ask for a more playful pair of lovebirds. He simply found her irresistible, she was his ‘dumpling,’ and he couldn’t keep from snuggling and hugging her, even dancing around together for a moment. I suddenly felt that their restaurant (sadly they didn’t come back the next year, business being really tough in Italy’s economy, and we really missed them on our next visit) was their little theater, and so I photographed them on their ‘stage’ set. It’s one of a lot of frames I made, but it’s easy affection and real warmth keeps me engaged.
I was asked to give a talk at the Cortona, On The Move Festival, and then teach a workshop the next day. I arrived at the jewel box of an opera house and was amazed to see this small but grand old theater which was full of students and visitors by the time I was ready to speak.
Out on the street afterwards I was attracted to this couple, mainly the electric blue of her dress and the great pair of legs, and there was certainly a charge they both gave off.
Later in the day, after walking around the whole town for hours, I made my way out to the piazza which offered a grand view of the valley, and there I saw the couple again, she wedged into him so close that it justified my response in the morning. It’s always a delicate situation to get close to people who are in an intimate and private moment. It requires a kind of determined boldness, but also delicate footwork, and body feints and deceptions, something I have learned how to do by being on the streets for so many years. It’s exciting too, to see just how close I can come and still not be considered breeching the space they need for their own sense of freedom.
Whenever I see this kind of intimacy in public, the way she has fit herself into him and the way it looks! I find it tells me, or at least suggests to me, something of their, hidden from the public life, and that kind of eros, it projects makes me pay close attention.
Later I met up with the whole staff of the festival for dinner. We were twice as many as in this frame, but at some point I looked at that Renoir poster on the wall and felt that life continues as always and only the costumes change. Youth and energy, yearnings and life’s mysteries, spin us all through time so one day we can remember these moments of joy and freedom.
Leaving the restaurant I saw this old woman out in the night, and immediately felt the sense of time as so fleeting; that from youth and love and wonder, we come to age, and it seems but a blink.
On a quick dash to Siena to pick up eyeglasses that had been fixed I had some crowd time on the streets. As always it’s unendingly fascinating to watch our species and witness the parade of shapes, sizes, gestures, makeup, clothing, companions, family, emotions, and all the combinations that, as Shakespeare would say “…flesh is heir to.”