Notes in Passing:
Some days strange things come my way. A large boot made out of wax, oversized apples on a roundabout, a strange tree, and a woman looking at the passing scene. All notes in passing. And there were more, but one picture a day was my method and I have overdone it today.
From the car
From the car
Never Say No
There are roads in Provence that can break your heart. This road near the town of St. Remy is one I have traveled almost every time I come to the region, and in fact it is so moving to me that I published two pictures made along its course in our book,”Provence: Lasting Impressions”. In those images the trees are leafed out in the fulness of summer, and again when fall burnished their leaves a rusty gold.
Now, on a wintry day, with flawless sunlight etching every detail into my eye, the white bones of the trees are singing against the blue dome of the sky. I’m not stopping – as I have done before, to dance in the middle of the road and play in the oncoming traffic – but I’m driving straight through and letting the windshield be my frame while the miles of trees fill and empty it as I pass.
I love this road and how I feel whenever I am on it. It always feels new to me, and yet it touches an ancient nerve where the definition of ‘road beauty’ lies in wait to be awakened once again. I remain susceptible to these quirks of mine and never fail to respond even if it seems as if I have had enough of them to last a lifetime. And I may have. But I believe in letting loose the arrows in my quiver whenever the impulse arises. That gesture, that Yes!, is my tipping of the hat to the spirits that have guided me to respond to the world for more than 50 years, and I never say no.
The Thing Itself
Every once in a while I see some pure organic form; a tree, a rocky outcrop, a body of water, a hillside, which makes me pause to regard it just for its own sake. I read the history it suggests, look at the scale it has achieved, or lost, over time, and during this consideration I sometimes get the sense that I am witnessing, “the thing itself”.
‘The thing itself’ is a wonderful photographic idea, one I learned about from John Szarkowski when he was director of the photo department at MoMA, where it came up a number of times in conversation and in his writings. It is the distilled essence of something, whatever it may be, that shows itself to us as yet again another version of the magnitude that objects may possess. This tree did that for me!
When I wandered into this ancient Roman church’s grounds I first was stopped by the sheer size of the trunk of this Plane tree. Maggie and I linked arms to see how far around it we could reach – yes, two tree huggers – and calculated that it would take five of us to encircle it. Now that’s a tree! And how long had it stood near that old pile of stone, probably just a fraction of the time the building has been there.
I felt again, as I often seem to experience, a sense of awe in the company of whatever it is that calls my attention, and maybe that is the deepest part of my photographic behavior; the willingness to give myself over to simple awe. Finally, as I turned from the tree I saw the figure of the tree not in the photograph; the arching limbs casting their shadows over the old wall. Again, a moment to really look hard at simple things; those dusty, burgundy buds promising a springtime of flowers while winter light warms up old stone.