Category Archives: Provence

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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MARCH 17, 2015

A Shadow of the Light

A young friend from Paris came for a visit. We decided to show him a mysterious old settlement called ‘the Bories,’ up in the woods above Bonnieux,  Ancient nomadic people, perhaps Celtic shepherds, or so the legend suggests, built stone bee-hive and igloo- like structures, in groups of 30 or more dwellings and animal pens.

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This place, long abandoned, has an air of spirituality and power that is still undeniably present. Each time we visit it courses through us with the same intensity. Over time, other visitors, some artistically inclined, have added things to the structures; woven branch roofs, stone circles, odd objects that set off the modern against the ancient, and other strangely affecting gestures.

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On the day we were there I saw, nestled in a stone wall, this rock on which Nature, in its effortlessly creative way, dissolved a leaf over time and left this negative image. It reminded me of how, at the dawn of photography, the early inventors also made a shadow of the light to mark their moment. If photography is about anything it is about that; light over time.

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MARCH 5, 2015

Brands and symbols

The Mayor’s office is in this building. Why all the arrows? What did it mean, back whenever they built this place, to fill the void’s arc with arrows flying toward a sun? Why is it called God’s House? I know some of our French readers will let me in on the story, but while I walked the streets of Bonnieux I always found myself discovering these vestiges of the past that play differently in today’s world of symbols. And what will the future readers of our municipal leavings make of our logos and brands and symbols?

I don’t often collect this kind of imagery, it seems too static and perhaps too easy to pluck it out of the surround and stick it in the file, and then what? But on the other hand, sometimes these odd musings on time’s leftovers can lead the way to a fresh thought about something that may be there in a corner of our minds and we don’t yet know it. So I carried this away with me – it’s so light – and I remembered that once before, for Maggie, who’s a writer, I found a doorway arch just like this, and it had a lovely and elegant metal hand holding a pen!

I did add it to the file.

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MARCH 2, 2015

IT

Every once in a while I find myself stopped by some indefinable sensation, as if a have just passed though a ‘locus point’, a zone of visual force that tingles in such a way that I look around to get my bearings. “What is here that is holding me”?  Usually we respond to things that can be defined easily, a space, a tree, some figures doing something, a whole range of sensations that we know how to organize. But when there is nothing as concrete as that how does one make a photograph?

I have learned to trust those ‘calls’. Learned way back when I was first using the 8×10 view camera and working on my St. Louis commission. It happened to me one day right in the heart of downtown St. Louis. Nothing specific, just a feeling that something in the zone in front of me was whispering my name, stopping me from moving on. I remember yielding to the instinct and setting up the 8×10 and waiting to see where the call was coming from.

The image here was pretty much the same thing. Nothing going on but the voluptuous mess of nature. No beautiful arrangement, or scaled relationships, or counterpoint between near and far. Just chaos. Just the indefinite, overall, layered, complexity of nature, as if it had a mind of its own which presented a thought that was purely natural, not within the bounds of the esthetics we have applied to it for centuries of landscape painting and photography, nothing but the rawness of IT.

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I would like to apologize to some of my readers for a confusion I may have let creep in when writing this blog about the year’s worth of photographs I have made. Sometimes my tense slips between past and present as it did the other day. So let me reiterate again that I finished this work a year ago and then let it sit while I worked on the accumulated days, and then decided to reflect on that passage of time, so perhaps my enthusiasm gets the better of my grammar.

FEBRUARY 23, 2015

Hodge Podge

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Sometimes a crazy, meaningless collection of objects, spaces, colors, light, and actions all come into play at once, and from it might come the call to pay attention to this hodge podge of stuff in front of us. I think hodge podge comes from an old Dutch or French word meaning a soup made from whatever was left lying around, probably meaning a hot pot, or something like that. In Amsterdam I once saw a Dutch historical painting where there was a hot pot made for the masses who were celebrating the Spanish defeat, or something like that. Anyway, as we know, sometimes a mess of a stew can be delicious!

And although this frame isn’t exactly delicious, it is interesting to me just how much it continues to hold its own and make me want to look at it again. A little uncertainty is useful sometimes as it presses the argument. First, there’s the sculpted figure on a marble block about the same size as that car, (not to mention that the figure seems to be an early prototype of the model draped over the car hood to show its curves, just look at that head and chest) and then around her head is the corona of the tree’s limbs which, when seen in relation to the crane’s beam and the lines to the light poles, both fill and fracture the space in provocative ways. And there is an interesting ‘read’ to the overall space through the way the figures – statue/car/couple – diminish on an angle all their own. I would bet that were I to print this at 60 inches the image would invite us to look harder and pay us back with interest.

It’s open-ended pictures like this that I believe help refine our sensibilities and enable us, in fact, urge us, to look more thoughtfully at all the spaces and moments we pass through. Let’s accept that there is nothing much going on here of note, but that it still has some kind of pull in spite of that shortcoming. I would rather make a flawed, but interesting to consider photograph, than a more successful image that uses conventional forms to tell its tale.