Silo, Birdhouse, Power station, Pump house? Who knows what its function was or is, but it puzzled me every time I passed it. Sitting there out in the countryside, at a junction in the road, the only landmark of its kind, I finally had to stop the car and give it a moment of my time. I never figured out what it was.
The Heart of Darkness was not Dark that Night
The storm did amazing damage everywhere in our part of Tuscany. Bridges were washed away, roads undermined, walls toppled, and it became clear how lightly our man made structures sit on the earth.
I love being out early in the morning, especially on days when the change in seasons makes for atmospheric effects which are in play for about an hour until the heat of the sun dissolves their airy beauty. I walked toward the road I have photographed many times already (see it just 2 days ago) and it always offers new takes on itself, which is part of what I love about photography; the possibility to reconsider something in a new light.
I went down into the valley to see what being deep in the mist looked like, and made some photographs that had graphic markers as their starting point. Funny how that is sometimes; graphics or symbols don’t often interest me any more – having had a lot of them in my early years – but in this veiled space of fog and atmosphere, things near to me jumped out in a way that made them seem interesting again. I like being re-educated by what’s right there in front of me.
Right out my front door! The sheep often come by, bells jingling, dogs herding, and the shepherd, a strong, silent presence who merely needs to move his shoulders, or body, a certain way and all the sheep move where the silent message sends them. Sometimes it’s a whistle, or a precise grunt on his part, and the sheep come to a standstill.
Magical. Like the stuff of fables. But to see it still alive in our world today is to connect immediately to what the past must have been like, with flocks of sheep moving over the fields everywhere, and shepherds, their silent guardians, living on the land with them as a large integrated unit.
The year before, when I encountered him way out in the fields, I made a portrait of him, and when he passed by today I brought it out for him. He looked at it, and I believe he couldn’t quite believe it was him, so unused to a mirror is he.
A lazy mist drifted through and over the valleys that the road rolled through, so that at times I was above the clouds and then down under them. It felt a little like flying. And it was dreamy too, in that same way that flight can make you feel when passing through the clouds at 30,000 feet.
Up ahead the mist spooled across the road, and the moment felt timeless. The thing that separated me from the old world, it seemed, were the little pings of reflected light to mark the borders of the road. Out there was timelessness, inside the modern machine, with a camera in my hands, I could make a photograph at 50 mph and still get good quality, and a degree of sharpness that tells me how good our technology really is. It is important to be able to count on it that way and thus not have any fear about what the outcome will be.
I’ve basically used the same equipment for 50+ years. I don’t keep changing cameras, or go into the equipment mind set searching for the latest toys. For me the Leica and a good 35mm lens, and that’s all I need to say what I see, and to stay open to the act of seeing the world freshly.
Looks are Deceiving
Coming back from a late walk on our country road we heard the rasp of a motorcycle bearing down on us fast, I whirled, camera blazing, and gunned him down. Well, it wasn’t as wild west as all that, more like; I turned, guessed at the aperture and speed at that hour, something the Leica is great for and allows intuition and memory to serve in the moment, and made 3 frames of him coming past us, and the lovely hour, and the sweet space of the road curving away into the hills.
It was one of those magical moments when the quiet of the past is settling over the land, and then the intruder – mechanization – comes bursting into the silence, but is gone in a moment leaving behind a slowly returning quiet. I felt that this photograph meant all that to me, even though it looks like a road at dusk, with a headlamp on a motorcycle blazing into our eyes.
Looks are deceiving.
At a roadside rest stop I saw this cop walking over to make an inquiry of the driver of the Michelin truck and was amused momentarily by the symmetry of the scene; the colors of their uniforms, the dual cellphones, the pair of comic book images. It was just a moment in passing, but something about it was potentially interesting.
Meanwhile a friend has been involved with a project that involves crude, hand made Michelin men figures, photographed in an African nation where Michelin doesn’t support their distributors with any kind of advertising iconography, so the garage guys make their own. This work is currently on its way into a book. Here’s a peek at a few wild images of Michelin men.
People do the craziest things! And I’m glad of it! Where would photography be without the daily dose of little lunacies? Running mothers, in marathon training, pushing baby strollers in front, with dogs trailing behind, people slurping enormous ice-cream cones, or carrying far too many things while reaching for their car keys, or the many multitasking visual moments that are indescribable until you actually see it happening. All minor events, yet with great visual potential. Like this guy hitching a soon to be uphill ride beside a little 3 wheeled Api in Tuscany.
Only the camera can tear a thousandth of a second out of the flow of reality.