This was a day of generosity. In a nearby small town I came across this beautiful bunting wrapped, church doorway. No doubt ready for a procession for a saint’s day, or a wedding, or who knows what festive event the town was making, but it made me happy just looking at the way the space was redefined by some simple fabric hanging on the facade.
Then, returning home, a bounty of offerings appeared; Silvia came by with a cake she just baked, then her mother-in-law stopped by with some fresh ricotta she had made from the new sheep they recently bought, then a man from Buonconvento, on the way to his sister’s place, stopped by to bring us a box of figs from his amazingly productive tree. All that, and some eggplants from the garden, which I roasted and turned into baba ganouj became a summer dinner. And a still life, and a portrait of a building. You work with what you have.
A blistering hot summer day at the Tuscan shore. After a swim and a short nap I opened my eyes and saw the light coming through the umbrella, and then the pure blue of the sky. My first impression was of being under a sundial and that it was around noon, and sure enough, it was.
I love the amazing amount of information, even in such a simple image as this. The difference in tone and color between one side of the white nylon and the other, the subtle density difference between one end of the shadow and the other, the way the sliver of blue hovers above the black frame of the umbrella and then continues beyond. It is this kind of ‘describing’ things to myself that enlivens my attention and keeps me interested in the things that might easily go unnoticed. It’s this ‘paying attention’ that makes photography such a vital form for me.
I have long believed that our closest of kin are subjects for our observations just as the outside world is. Whether it is a portrait, a slice of life, or an unguarded moment, or all of them at once, it is essential to being a photographer to pay attention to life close to the bone.
Summertime means simple meals. We were lucky that summer to be eating out of the farmer’s garden nearly every day. A broth of vegetables and lentils, some steamed zucchini, fresh tomatoes, edible flowers to embellish the tops of anything we wished, some locally baked crackers. This kind of eating makes me want to photograph every meal, and sometimes I do. More of a record than art, but simplicity is what it demands.
The small, ordinary moments that life continually presents, in which I hope to find just a little moment of concentrated observation that would keep the idea of daily imagery going. These are the tough lessons of a project like this one; how to keep interest alive while many other things: books, shows, presentations, all crowd in and eat up precious time. So, as I have said before, “I’ll make the most of what I have.”
I had seen Maggie doing a homey piece of handwork – sewing weights into the bottom of a fly curtain over the front door – and was moved to see such a simple task being done with so much pleasure. She is a real contadini in that way. She loves old methods and the life people led in the past.
When I stepped outside a whole other image presented itself, one a bit more comical, and probably one I might have made on any street, anywhere in the world. That kind of disembodied image that gives off a tremor of surprise that is accompanied by pleasure.
No matter how many times I passed this field the ‘call’ from the space zinged me. And yet there is nothing there that has any remarkable element that defines the space as special. It’s just a low lying field with a scraggly border of mixed trees. No eloquent stand of poplars bending in the breeze, no spreading oaks or cypresses marking the space, no ‘features’ that gave me reason to look again. But I always did.
Perhaps it is this innocent quality that we need to be attentive to in the world at large. The minor note that resonates deep within us and calls us to attention for reasons that remain somewhat undefined or illusive. That way the call is purely from something native within each of us, which is vulnerable to being awakened by simplicity rather than by more formal or intellectual values.
From these lessons a secret may be learned about what it is that constitutes our inner voice when we hear it call out to us from unexpected external sources.