Category Archives: Italy

AUGUST 15, 2015

From The Car

The stuff that people advertise themselves with! Why this crazy bird? Why so big? Why hang it over a balcony?

I glimpsed it at 50 mph as I slowed down while passing through a seaside town and by reflex I shot it, as I usually do for things that jump out at me this way. Frankly, if it wasn’t the only thing of interest that I saw on that 15th of August, during my ‘picture a day’ work, I’d probably never bother with it. But because something from every day must be acknowledged this is the one that said to me, ‘…have gratitude for small and strange things.”

08-15 From the car L1032463

AUGUST 12, 2015

Vantage Point

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.

08-12 Sky L1032390 copy

AUGUST 3, 2015

A Moment’s Notice

The world is crazy! I walk into a shop that has both junk and antiques in the doorway, and inside was a picture of someone’s mind, a mind that developed over many years of selecting things, and those things shape the point of view of their world. Sometimes you see great visual style and recognition, and other times just a mash up of stuff as if its a rolling wave of junk that landed in somebody’s place.

So what to make of a dead cat with a slivery, papery, wooden looking surface, whose shape is still prowling and leaping at some long gone invisible prey. And it leaps over a rolled up modern poster, onto a scale with old weights and a huge wheel.  On the shelf above it rests a stack of folded cartons, and above that is a strange cutout shelf that was probably made for a sink, by the shape of it, and then, above it, the kicker of it all is a chaos of wrought iron stands, and chairs, baskets and shelving. Is it a photograph? Or an inventory? I stepped back to look.

Perhaps it’s simply a record of a moment of surprise, one that keeps my mind and eye alert for the next strange thing that comes along. This game of sight of ours is often about staying ‘tuned’ to our own instrument, and being ready at a moment’s notice to play beautifully.

08-3- Shelves L1032108 copy

 

JULY 25, 2015

Dumpling

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.

07-25-chefs L1031883

JULY 23, 2015

Pauses

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.

07-23-Church L1031787

JULY 13,14,15,16,17, 2015

Vienna Bound

I’m leaving tomorrow for Vienna for the rest of this week to open my Retrospective exhibition at Kunst Haus Vienna. I’m fully scheduled for talks, interviews, tours, openings, and general PR and Press. I thought I should put up a few days worth of the blog so that I wouldn’t fall behind.

07-13  The Director of Galleria San Fedele in Milan had come down to the farm to discuss an exhibition that would be centered on the spiritual qualities in my work. San Fedele is a Jesuit organization. It was a lot of fun discussing it with him as he was a knowledgeable man and had a great eye for the spiritual quality of my imagery. He selected about 50 photographs and I knew he would find the right balance – and he did. He made a remarkable show from his point of view. It was a cut I would never have considered making with my work. It pays to let other people in – at times – to take a fresh look at what one knows so well.

07-13 L1031409

07-14  Late in the day, Gianni, Luana and Maggie and I hiked over the nearby hills, and as always we lost ourselves in conversation and time. Walking this land is a privilege that I continually feel grateful for. The curves and rolling roads, the colors and textures, the ever surprising, yet now familiar places, always fill me up with the sense of spaciousness.

07-14 Maggie-Luana L1031452

07-15  Portraits of Maggie are becoming a larger part of this summer’s work. When she is out in the garden and lost in her own thoughts and tasks, I see her looking like a big kid at play.

07-15 Maggie L1031462

07-16  We went to Bologna to have a look at Morandi’s studio in preparation for a future project I would like to do there. He was known for keeping hundreds of his objects stuffed into corners of the studio, lined up under his tables and easel, piled on shelves, and gathering the dust of the 60 years since he died. (To give you an idea of how long some projects take it was only a month ago, now, in 2015, that I was able to have 2 full days alone in his studio, and they were awe filled days. This is his day bed in the tiny studio where he made all of his paintings.

07-16 Morandi's bed L1031526

07-17   Maggie on a chilly afternoon in July.

07-17 Maggie L1031558

 

JULY 12, 2015

Sonnets and Lifeboats

I never expect every day to provide a photograph of real consequence. The truth is; many days are often spent doing other tasks, working on books and exhibitions, doing chores and ordinary life basics, attending to the business of making a living and staying afloat, and so sometimes the day seems to fly by without an opportunity to really be somewhere where things are supposedly happening.

Perhaps that’s why so many images of Maggie going about her life here, making the garden that now, two years later, is something that was developing in her consciousness and in real time, and required the patience of many seasons to reach this stage of being. Part of my discipline, as you can see, is to try and make the most out of what I am given, which has always been my way as I work in the, “trust the world to show you interesting moments,” method that has been my approach all these 50+ years. So in that regard Maggie has become my local muse on the days when I have been unable to venture far beyond of the space we live in.

But there is something else at work here that needs considering; by choosing to live in Europe we have thrown ourselves into the life raft together and are each others sole companion (soul, too) most of the time, and that fact has shown me that Maggie is someone I continue to observe every day, and so for the first time in our 25 years together I was able to concentrate on the ordinary reality of watching her live. We have probably all seen the great work Harry Callahan did with his wife, and Weston with Charis, and of course there are other examples.

I have no idea what I have amassed as yet, and what the overall quality and meaning of it will be, but for now, it is like an ongoing love sonnet made with images,. These things take time and trust to build, just like Maggie’s garden.

NB: After I wrote this post I took another look at the photograph for this day and thought, what is it about This image that made me want first to make it, and now to post it? I can tell you that none of these photographs of Maggie are set up as photographs. They are the instant observations I make when I discover her doing something and I get the call. Here, I turned the corner of the house to find Maggie standing there spraying an arc onto the bushes, but then I saw the cloud and the spray in relation to each other, and then the whiteness of her shirt came into play with the cloud, and then the shirt’s slipping off her lovely shoulder in that perfect way, and then the ‘bite’ of that black strap into her soft skin was duly noted, and made me see all of her, her posture, the way her head sits on her neck, and turned slightly, so that no face is seen, but a profile of the very edge, which tells me a lot, as I can ‘know’ what her face looks like from that edge without seeing it. And then the drapery of her shirt; sculptors in ancient Greece carved those lines in marble 3000 years ago, and they were able to look in the marble drape for the curve of a hip, just slightly carrying the weight of the supporting leg so that the swell of her body beneath the cloth gets the attention it deserves. All of that is what appeared to me as i caught this glimpse of her. 

07-12 Maggie garden L1031401

JULY 11, 2015

Seeds and Sunshine

Silvia, the farmer on whose property we live, has been coming by with whatever is in season in her orta ever since we started living here. On that day in this photograph she brought zucchini and melanzana, and as I often do I make a portrait of her and the gift, which seems an appropriate way of thanking her while keeping a record of what a farmer’s wife can look like in the 21st century. Silvia is gentle and sweet, yet strong enough to handle big animals, carry heavy equipment, and bear up under the stresses of gardening, raising  sheep, cows, pigs, chickens, dogs, and children, and weathering all the unexpected events that nature hurls at farmers everywhere.

Those zucchini wound up in this omelet about 30 minutes later. So it is in life on the farm; garden to table in no time, with informal still lives and portraits as memories. Then, when the evening cooled and the call to walk in it came, we took to the road that is always suggestive of adventure even when it is just along our familiar old road heading into town. It never ceases to please us and tell us exactly what time of the season it is.

On this date the Queen Anne’s Lace is lacily trimming the borders of the roadsides. In some way these offhand photographic notes on the seasons show me the constancy of time, the year after year perfection of seeds and sunshine, which results in a measurable and quantifiable experience of time’s passing.

07-11 Silvia L1031345

07-11 Omelet L1031347

07-11 Maggie flowers L1031368.

JULY 10, 2015

Berm and Schnoz

On the way back from Lucca, shooting from the car as I often still do, this earthen berm with a.. …..what is that thing anyway… sticking over the top of the berm like a droopy schnoz, called out to me and made me laugh. The reason I think some photographs have a surreal feeling is that the world is surreal more often than we might think it is. Is this someone’s idea of art? Is it an industrial site with work going on behind the berm and the schnoz lets the gases out?  Is it a lost wind sock from a nearby airport come to earth right there? Whatever it was, it made for a moment of visual excitement, a humorous few minutes of speculation, and the feeling that the world is always giving off unexpected pleasures. If you are willing to see it that way.

07-10 FTC L1031278 copyBy the time we got home the day was producing its own set of miracles, besides arriving home safely. The Tuscan skies, almost as often as the skies over Ireland, produce rainbows of long duration which fall to earth in their own pot-o’-gold, wheat field landscapes. Maggie seems to me to be my very own pot-o’-gold, my good fortune at the end of the rainbow.

the 07-10 Maggie L1031338

JULY 8, 2015

Tempus Fugit

Time is measured in many ways; seconds, minutes, hours, days, seasons, years.  There is camera time, sports time, heartbeat time, music tempo, it goes on and on. But in our new life in Tuscany we can see time’s progress through the accumulated, incremental changes that have taken place in the garden that Maggie has made on the stoney and sterile soil.

This picture, made 2 years ago while I was working on the photograph a day project, shows the granola-like rocky surface of the area, in which Maggie used pots of plantings to simulate a garden feeling in what was just a summer rental place to us then.

In the two images below you can see what time; garden time, growing time, pondering what will grow here time, looks like in real time. The photographs themselves are merely records, the original one made on a day when I was caught up in other things and probably made the photograph just to say I made something that day, and yet now, 2 years later, the ‘record’ is, for us anyway, invaluable as a way of seeing where the passage of time, and all our considerations, have brought us.

07-8 Garden L1031179

 

07-8 Garden L1008578

 

07-8 Garden L1007984