It has always amazed me to see how ruthlessly orchard growers purge their fields once the trees have stopped producing as they had in previous years. Even when the trees seem fairly young as these do. But this kind of husbandry is wise and farsighted. They know what the land can do, and what changes it needs to continue to be fruitful.
In their practice I can see my own pruning methods as I have edited my work over the years. I used to call it the ‘sticky finger’ approach. That is; whenever I paged through stacks of prints (back in the 60’s and 70’s and 80’s I printed like crazy – thus my 50,000 prints that I recently went to New York to sign for the sale of the archive) and so while reviewing prints, whenever I came across a photograph which, for whatever reason, refused to go quietly into the ‘Out’ pile, although sometimes it did so on a first cut, but then, somehow, it worked its way back into the mix of the ‘In’ pile, because each time I saw it, it ‘stuck to my fingers,’ as if it was telling me, wait a minute, you don’t get me yet, there is something here beyond your understanding at this time.
So I held on to those quirky images until either I caught up to what they were saying, or, by pinning them to the wall over my desk so as to catch my roving eye while speaking on the phone, or while daydreaming, I finally got their message.
Whatever the case, hard cutting is necessary for future growth, be it an orchard or a body of work.
Early Silent Night
Looking down on a small town often lets me feel the ‘sense of place’ that gives a locality its identity. Bonnieux has that quality; the butcher, the bakery, the newsstand, the market, the city hall, the church, all these basics set in an almost storybook perfection in a landscape of simple beauty. It is immensely fulfilling.
We have all done this, I know. And I don’t often like to try to find figures in clouds, or patterns and faces in shadows, or other potential sources. So when Maggie and I went to Bagno Vignoni – a Roman bath town nearby – for a lunch and a lie down under the Linden trees; because this was the time of year that Linden trees let out a perfume that is like syrup in the air, and it had become a 20 year, mid-June, ritual of ours to make this pilgrimage. So I was surprised, while looking up into the trees, to be reminded of the paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo.
I’m sure you have seen these famous paintings of fruits, vegetables, animals, woodland plants and flowers, etc. But there we were, under the animated spirits of the trees, and with a contented, post lunch dreaminess, we watched the spirits emerge.
Nature and Culture
Ah, Nature and Culture. Hand in hand they march together, constantly surprising us by their affinities, incongruities, dimensions, choice of habitat, and simple will to defy all expectations. Sounds a lot like photography to me. So when I came upon this bunker-like window, along the street of a tiny borgo of just a few houses, it stopped me in my tracks.
How did this get there? Was it by human hand? Or was it a volunteer seed dropped by a bird, or shat out and pre-fertilized and grew into this lovingly embracing, but prickly plant. And though when I see this, and make a photograph of it, what really comes to mind instead of merely a big print, is a vision of it in a grand scale, on a plaza somewhere, or in a big white box space of a museum. It looks so formidable and dangerous, and also playful and funny.
So many things to see in things.