By Train From Paris to the South of France
You know the expression; ‘I went to see a man about a dog.‘ Well on this day, we did. Gianni’s sheep dog had a litter of 10 and one of them was promised to a man who was for many years the man behind the Armani brand, now retired to a grand country estate nearby. As you can see from this dovecote, if a birdhouse can look this good imagine the rest.
He’s a kind and generous man who walked us all around his place with evident pride and pleasure. We went through woodland and pasture and vineyards and rolling hills and then through an amazing house. There was so much to see that I wanted to come back with my view camera and make some pictures that the place deserves. But for the moment these few notes are just the tip of the many places I responded to while with him.
But the mud/boot room takes the cake. What a holy ‘chamber,’ and for boots!
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.
This road is one we have walked on almost every day for the last few years. The land rolls and dips and changes color with the seasons and the light. Some days it has a piercing blue sky and on others it is rain soaked and leaden, or rain bowed and glorious, and it never fails to lift my spirits. I salute it by raising the camera in acknowledgement, and saying thank you.
I’m leaving tomorrow for Vienna for the rest of this week to open my Retrospective exhibition at Kunst Haus Vienna. I’m fully scheduled for talks, interviews, tours, openings, and general PR and Press. I thought I should put up a few days worth of the blog so that I wouldn’t fall behind.
07-13 The Director of Galleria San Fedele in Milan had come down to the farm to discuss an exhibition that would be centered on the spiritual qualities in my work. San Fedele is a Jesuit organization. It was a lot of fun discussing it with him as he was a knowledgeable man and had a great eye for the spiritual quality of my imagery. He selected about 50 photographs and I knew he would find the right balance – and he did. He made a remarkable show from his point of view. It was a cut I would never have considered making with my work. It pays to let other people in – at times – to take a fresh look at what one knows so well.
07-14 Late in the day, Gianni, Luana and Maggie and I hiked over the nearby hills, and as always we lost ourselves in conversation and time. Walking this land is a privilege that I continually feel grateful for. The curves and rolling roads, the colors and textures, the ever surprising, yet now familiar places, always fill me up with the sense of spaciousness.
07-15 Portraits of Maggie are becoming a larger part of this summer’s work. When she is out in the garden and lost in her own thoughts and tasks, I see her looking like a big kid at play.
07-16 We went to Bologna to have a look at Morandi’s studio in preparation for a future project I would like to do there. He was known for keeping hundreds of his objects stuffed into corners of the studio, lined up under his tables and easel, piled on shelves, and gathering the dust of the 60 years since he died. (To give you an idea of how long some projects take it was only a month ago, now, in 2015, that I was able to have 2 full days alone in his studio, and they were awe filled days. This is his day bed in the tiny studio where he made all of his paintings.
07-17 Maggie on a chilly afternoon in July.
Seeds and Sunshine
Silvia, the farmer on whose property we live, has been coming by with whatever is in season in her orta ever since we started living here. On that day in this photograph she brought zucchini and melanzana, and as I often do I make a portrait of her and the gift, which seems an appropriate way of thanking her while keeping a record of what a farmer’s wife can look like in the 21st century. Silvia is gentle and sweet, yet strong enough to handle big animals, carry heavy equipment, and bear up under the stresses of gardening, raising sheep, cows, pigs, chickens, dogs, and children, and weathering all the unexpected events that nature hurls at farmers everywhere.
Those zucchini wound up in this omelet about 30 minutes later. So it is in life on the farm; garden to table in no time, with informal still lives and portraits as memories. Then, when the evening cooled and the call to walk in it came, we took to the road that is always suggestive of adventure even when it is just along our familiar old road heading into town. It never ceases to please us and tell us exactly what time of the season it is.
On this date the Queen Anne’s Lace is lacily trimming the borders of the roadsides. In some way these offhand photographic notes on the seasons show me the constancy of time, the year after year perfection of seeds and sunshine, which results in a measurable and quantifiable experience of time’s passing.
Here’s a little story. We had gone to a nearby town for dinner and on the way back, as we passed through a burgo, a small collection of about 5 houses, we saw that 3 people were sitting on the bench right there on the edge of the road that passed through the place. Gianni, ever the connection between all things Tuscan, called out to them as we passed by and they waved to us to stop.
As soon as we did, the Italian Opera began, as always, with gestures, and a half hour of stories and laughter. One of the men had broken his arm and was holding a hand carved stick which helped him do whatever he needed to do with his one good arm. By the end of the exchange Gianni walked away with his stick. How he managed to get the guy to give it to him I cannot say, but it offered me a wonderful few minutes of watching the whole drama play out.
Even the nights in Tuscany are rich with possibility.
To stand in the shadows, looking out into the light, is like a child’s game of thinking that the treasure is down there, just past the sunlight, around that bend. But the treasure is to be standing still, in the quiet cool at the end of a June day, and drinking in the sweetness of it, the silence, the timelessness that it suggests. And then raising the camera to affirm the sensation of contentment that overcame me.