Category Archives: Provence

DECEMBER 29, 2015

Amazing Grace

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.

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DECEMBER 26, 2015

Trick of the Light

The quiet that exists in European towns the day after Christmas is both eerie and peaceful, alternating between them both in ways that made us feel as if everyone had disappeared from the planet, and then grateful to be experiencing the town as the solitary travelers.

In the somewhat grim, darkened streets, the cold and damp was even more penetratingly chill and then, suddenly, a beam of light slipped out from under the cloud bank and struck home, and then was gone in barely the blink of an eye.

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DECEMBER 14, 2015

Unknown

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.

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APRIL 25, 2015

Gasp Reflex

A gloomy, early in the morning walk to the bakery, gave me one of many goodbye images of Bonnieux. I loved the little slivers of warm light pulsing out into the misty matin. Sometimes color is so barely there, yet it exerts all its slender force in the visualizing of the moment. It’s the thing that makes me gasp, and the gasp is what wakes me up. I say to myself, “isn’t that beautiful?” Or I stop, and dwell in the realization that so small a note can make me come to a halt and breathe it in and take something small but special away with me.

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Later in the day our friends Gianni and Giorgio, and a strange friend of Giorgio’s, who you’ll meet in another post I am sure, arrived to pack a truck full of our studio stuff, and our belongings. Their great good humor was as uplifting as the Tuscan spirit always is, and on a day that started so moodily, it was like beams of sunlight. They came for a few days to see our part of what was once Roman territory, a place that bears some special kind of harmony with our beloved part of Tuscany.

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APRIL 6 -11, 2015

Seeing the Light

I look out the window never knowing what I’ll see that may be of interest. Will it be the weather? The landscape? Street activity? Even if we are familiar with our window’s frame, expecting it to show us the same old scene just altered by time or season, we can be surprised. The frame can move our attention just as we move the camera in front of our eye. On this bleak day, with a light rain falling, the delicate tracery of the cypress trees on the water, and the subtle coloration of the pool’s structure, made me feel as if I was seeing lavender in the overall aqua that I wasn’t sure was there. There was no lavender in the grey sky. Yet the grey bands in the pool delicately resonated with color. My feeling was that all that aqua produced a lavender echo in my eye, and on the sensor. And it is that magic of color seeing that has always seduced me.

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Carrying the camera always makes me interested in something along the way, and thus I am always having to catch up to family or friends who are already ahead of me. But sometimes it pays off if even in small ways. Seeing Maggie and our friends ahead of me as we hurried to the cinema made me appreciate the now lengthened hours of the day, and the lovely mix of last light and lamplight in this old town’s narrow alleys. I had that jolt, as I so often do, that, “I am Here, now!” And the recognition of the meaning of being in every moment becomes ringingly clear.                                                                                                                                                           April 7

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Nature takes hold wherever it can, it is, after all, nature’s dominion that we live in. So when I stand in front of something as simple as an ivy covered wall, naked in this season, I see the vivacious complexity of it all, and thrill to the marvel of it once again in yet another form. I imagined a print of it at 8 or 10 feet, and see how something so simple can also convey great power, depending upon its scale.

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I pulled into an empty lot to turn the car around and swung into line with the back wall of a  cemetery filled with crazy topiary bushes and trees. But what really called out to me at this late hour of the day, was the enormous pile of stones banked near the wall. There was something so funereal about the pile and the way it was stacked and ordered, that i got out to walk around it and take it all in. The scene became more mysterious as the light faded and the stones emanated a ghostly radiance. I guess it was just right for a cemetery.

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What a riot of color this restaurant was! Earlier in the week I was taken with the barely discernible lavender tones in a green pool, and was questioning color’s way of working in a subtractive or additive way. But here, the mix and bounce and reflection and blending of colors was a whole lesson in primaries and complementary colors, and the wait for our food to arrive was taken up with the beauty of how light transforms wherever we are and what we see.

April 10

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With all the various kinds of light this week presented, when it comes to feelings of intimacy there is nothing like candlelight. That old touch of primitive fire, flickering and dancing the shadows on the walls, making moods and mystery where electric light would elaborate the harsh details and leave us looking at the repairs we need to make rather than at the beauty of the moment. The cameras of today do very well in low light situations, and in fact have advanced our ability to see into the dark in ways that film struggled with. I am grateful when the technology of our times adds expressive potential to our ideas.

April 11

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March 29 – April 4, 20125

Say Yes!

Speeding south from Paris on a rain slashed day, the fields monotone, the light heavy, with occasional flashes of brilliance compared to the overall density. These glimmers seemed to be   of possible interest, since at 100 plus miles an hour they are visible and gone in a fraction of a second. And the camera can handle that, just barely under these condition, so I was watchful for these tinkling moments, and the way the power lines rise and fall in the window, and then, there it is!

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Back in Bonnieux Maggie visits a friend, an antique dealer, to pick something up, and while I’m waiting I watch the little theater that presents itself. It always pays to stay open to the chance that ordinary moments offer. First I saw the lovely quality of the light inside, and then how animated he was, so French, I thought, and then, a step to the left and the mirror added another dimension, and all the while I’m feeling myself smiling at the pure, simple pleasures any day can bring.

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For some reason when I saw this head in a local library it reminded me of the Gallic quality of the antique dealer in the image above. Not that it really looks like him, but that it played on my eye that way, and caused me to respond. In that way images accrue over time and have their own strange linkages later on in the editing process. It also made me aware of certain facial characteristics in that part of Provence. It’s not stereotypes that I see but heredity, and the  feeling that at one time the tribes of that part of southern France blended in a way that produced the look one sees there.

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After dinner we ventured out to be in the stillness of twilight. The fading of the day brings out tones and colors that the eye works hard to discern, but there are advantages to today’s technologies. The Leica has such a delicate system that the most subtle luminance can be described even at times when one might think, ‘I won’t be able to get this.’ But it’s not the case any longer and I find real pleasure in seeing into the oncoming darkness.

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I used to be critical of the kind of ‘design in mother nature’ images that popped us so easily, as if it was without merit to see something that was simply beautiful in and of itself. But I don’t feel that way after all these years of seeing. Sometimes the ‘thing itself’ is just there; complete and generous in the way nature and time have woven their strands and left remarks of simple beauty.

April 2

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Inside a church crypt, in a tiny roadside hamlet, we stumble into this subterranean thriller. Even without a sound in the space we heard the music

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When things get put together like this chance combo of car and bin, who can resist? Odd couples abound in life, and when a day brings me into this kind of encounter I always say Yes!

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