When I began making photographs in 1962, John Szarkowski was the head of Photography at MoMA, where he wrote his first book called, “The Photographer’s Eye,” and in it were many ideas about what happens when you use all the wonderful visual assets that photography offers, and to consider the challenge each posed.
One of the ideas was Vantage Point. The following is part of what he had to say about that way of looking at things.“If the photographer could not move his subject, he could move his camera. To see the subject clearly — often to see it at all — he had to abandon a normal vantage point, and shoot his picture from above, or below, or from too close, or too far away, or from the back side, inverting the order of things’ importance, …….”
Here, I was lying on a beach lounge, and when I looked up the combed cloud was gliding across the space between the 2 half seen umbrellas. Had I not been lying down exactly where I was my point of view would not have contained this thought.
Night time, and the variety of color temperatures of street lighting, often make ordinary places into theatrical spaces. This back street in a tiny town took on a richness of color that made me go back after I walked past it, and take a real look. And we are all fortunate today in what the digital capacities of our cameras allow us to see and to render. But it’s the going back that counts.
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.
Just sitting at a friend’s dinner table watching the oncoming dusk slowly draining the light of the day. A long meditation on change. Light, gliding from the fullness of white clouds to the saturated last licks of color at their tops, and then, right before my eyes, it’s gone, like a magician showing his trick and we not being able to see it – that’s magic! Not seeing the change while looking at it.
Nature is the magician beyond measure, and every day the phenomena of light shows us such variety and delicacy as to fill our hearts with wonder or joy.
I have never been one who makes night sky images. Film was not so responsive for doing that, and more often than not it made pictures of streaks of starlight left behind by the rotation of the globe and the time it took to make the shot. But digital is different, and although this is no brilliant photograph it is a reminder of how easy it is to consider the new subjects that might come from looking at things freshly and seeing how they might relate to the heavens above.
Reminders like that are important to thinking photographically.
I have only seen this kind of cloud formation 3 or 4 times in my life. Each time I am filled with a kind of awe about the mystery and potential it portrays, and I find I am drawn to standing out in whatever the weather will be that accompanies it. I try to imagine what the tops of the clouds look like, up there in the bright sun above them, while down below the menace and roiling, bulbous forms suggest a fierce climatic doom may be upon us.
And then it passes. Blown away like all moments, no matter if they are angry or benign, they just go on about their endlessly dissolving – one can’t say merry – way into becoming something else. For me this is a reminder that photography, like nature, is made of continuously unfolding moments that are rich with the rare and unexpected gatherings of energy, all of which are individually addressed to each of us.