The Horse She Came In On
Maggie found this old, beautifully formed and crafted horse, and simply fell for the ‘presence’ it emanated. The life it had lived for some child, or maybe a number of children down the years. She bought it so it could continue living.
There’s an expression in filmmaking called room tone which is when the sound person asks for quiet so that the quiet of the room, the tone that exists in it, can be saved to used to fill any gaps in the sound.
This room gave off a tone to me the minute I entered it. The cloth , this simple ragg-y thing, set the whole room to its presence, and a mighty thing it was.
Antique fair, stuff everywhere, and too much to look at, and then out of the corner of my eye I get a sense that something – meaningless maybe – but a slight ambiguity, which came from a sliver of a moment when I wasn’t sure of what I was seeing, the light, the red hair, the coat engulfing, the 2 faced portrait, the gesture non gesture. Everything that was there in just that second, and nothing.
The stuff of Photography.
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.
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.
You know the expression; ‘I went to see a man about a dog.‘ Well on this day, we did. Gianni’s sheep dog had a litter of 10 and one of them was promised to a man who was for many years the man behind the Armani brand, now retired to a grand country estate nearby. As you can see from this dovecote, if a birdhouse can look this good imagine the rest.
He’s a kind and generous man who walked us all around his place with evident pride and pleasure. We went through woodland and pasture and vineyards and rolling hills and then through an amazing house. There was so much to see that I wanted to come back with my view camera and make some pictures that the place deserves. But for the moment these few notes are just the tip of the many places I responded to while with him.
But the mud/boot room takes the cake. What a holy ‘chamber,’ and for boots!
Ordinary things still surprise me. A hay bale for instance, rolled up in the fashion of today’s farming methods, is often just pitched into the stall for the cows to chomp it down in their own sweet time. But here it unspooled itself when the wrapper was cut, and mimicked the wave that was already set in motion by the winds while the grain was growing in the fields earlier that summer.
While standing in front of it, the ‘object’ it became was satisfying to look at in unexpected ways, and led me to both see it for what it was, and to reconsider it for the other non-objective properties it held. I saw the color it became in it’s season of drying, I looked at the light it appeared in in the darkness of the stall, I thought about the flatness it presented while at the same time being enriched with curves, swirls, and eruptions of forms that splintered out along its edges. All these small thoughts made me stand there staring at a hay bale!
At times I wonder how these simple things have taken hold of me; a city boy whose love of the messy mix of speed and life on the streets has been overtaken by the study of stillness in the form of natural or man made things. It must be a certain time of life I’ve entered. I am taking ‘long looks’ at things that earlier slipped by and now call out for consideration.