Category Archives: Maggie Barrett

JULY 30, 2015

Work in Progress

This image reminds me how much work goes into a ‘work in progress,’ and ultimately how much of it gets tossed aside. While I was making the picture a day work Maggie was working on a novel and I had the daily pleasure of hearing her read the next chapter to me. And I saw how, over time, the chapters kept being rewritten, polished, and edited again, and again.

The process of building the character’s lives, framing them in the moment the story takes place in, weaving history into the overall design, as well as the impending future, and all of it kept together in this version of the manuscript sitting on the table while Maggie was rereading sections of it. Standing nearby I was reminded of the lengthy give and take of any process driven effort we may make, whether it is an unrolling daily sequence of photographs, or the continuous adding of words on a page.

All of it requires a belief in the primary instinct behind it. I have always trusted my urges in this way, and gone forward into the discovery of what may come from simply following the guide that arrived, seemingly, out of nowhere.

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JULY 24, 2015

Surprise

We had gone to the seaside for a couple of days of play, and while we were waiting for dinner on the first evening I decided to make a photograph of Maggie. We walked out to a little patch of ground surrounded by pine trees, and while Maggie was standing there a loud CRAACKK sounded, and this huge branch came tumbling down right near where Maggie was standing.

As soon as she recovered from the surprise she began to do her old mime stuff with it, and began rolling it offstage like some huge elephant dung ball. She’s funny that girl.

07-24 Maggie tree L1031822.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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07-17   Maggie on a chilly afternoon in July.

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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.

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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 1, 2015

The Present

Sometimes just sitting around and talking offers unexpected gestures and expressions, and can often lead to a kind of intimate portraiture that doesn’t depend on the ‘pose,’ but rather flows from the state of being you and the subject find themselves in. Especially when it is family or friends, and the camera doesn’t present an intrusive presence into the mix.

I love this relaxed way of seeing, and in a way it is like street photography, but the kind where one is simply out for a walk and living in the wonder of the present moment. It’s always the present in photography.

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JUNE 16, 2015

Then and Now

Two years ago our place, which was then just a summer rental, looked like this, a gravel covered acre with not much else . Now that we have a long term lease on it we have made some improvements. Maggie is the giardiniera and treats the whole space as a work in progress. But it is really more like an ‘earthwork,’ given how she conceives of all the elements and spaces that the garden consists of, almost as if they were ‘rooms’ outside, where one can go when a different experience is needed.

Part of my daily shooting has been to document the changes that have come over the place as Maggie makes it come into focus. Documenting everyday life has its joys as much as being out in the world at large and watching the crazy goings on out there. I like the mix of the two.

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