Category Archives: Tuscany

August 10, 2015

Crazy Things

People do the craziest things! And I’m glad of it! Where would photography be without the daily dose of little lunacies? Running mothers, in marathon training, pushing baby strollers in front, with dogs trailing behind, people slurping enormous ice-cream cones, or carrying far too many things while reaching for their car keys, or the many multitasking visual moments that are indescribable until you actually see it happening. All minor events, yet with great visual potential. Like this guy hitching a soon to be uphill ride beside a little 3 wheeled Api in Tuscany.

Only the camera can tear a thousandth of a second out of the flow of reality.

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AUGUST 2, 2015

The Hat

We had just stepped outside so Maggie could read another chapter to me when Luana, our close friend, stopped by. She saw Maggie’s hat, and since it’s not her usual style, she wanted to try it on, and so I was witness to the give and take between two beautiful women as they played with the hat.

It was nice to be the ‘fly on the wall’ for a few moments and see the kind of fun women can have with something as goofy as a hat, and it allowed me to make a couple of portraits that had simple spontaneity and genuine expression, rather than those more reserved moments when people put on their camera face.

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08-2 Luana L1032099

JULY 24, 2015

Surprise

We had gone to the seaside for a couple of days of play, and while we were waiting for dinner on the first evening I decided to make a photograph of Maggie. We walked out to a little patch of ground surrounded by pine trees, and while Maggie was standing there a loud CRAACKK sounded, and this huge branch came tumbling down right near where Maggie was standing.

As soon as she recovered from the surprise she began to do her old mime stuff with it, and began rolling it offstage like some huge elephant dung ball. She’s funny that girl.

07-24 Maggie tree L1031822.

07-24 Maggie L1031831

JULY 22, 2015

Penmanship

On the streets of Cortona with students in the workshop, I saw a few of those balletic moments of no great significance, but which keep the eye sharp and the appetite hungry. When I was a kid we were taught penmanship with a real old fashioned pen that was dipped into an inkwell. We had to make slinky-like spirals and other gestural swirls and swishes so that we would develop a ‘good hand’ and be ready at any instant to create beautiful letters.

Like penmanship, the attuned eye, following the rhythm of life on the streets, keeps one sharp and ready for when the moment arrives. These little toe pointings, and head tiltings are nuanced gestures that lead to a more watchful readiness and also to enjoying the rich, unexpected incidents that can happen when you pay attention.

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This image of 2 sisters, one already filled out and worldly, and for a moment taking charge of her younger sibling, filled me with the sense of what sexual development, or the lack of it, may offer in the way of power between people. Who knows what the hidden text of this picture really is? For all I know she was saying, ‘gosh, that’s hot, don’t you have a lighter top?’ But it also could be about the difference between being a teenager and not.

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JULY 21, 2015

Jewel Box

I was asked to give a talk at the Cortona, On The Move Festival, and then teach a workshop the next day. I arrived at the jewel box of an opera house and was amazed to see this small but grand old theater which was full of students and visitors by the time I was ready to speak.

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Out on the street afterwards I was attracted to this couple, mainly the electric blue of her dress and the great pair of legs, and there was certainly a charge they both gave off.

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Later in the day, after walking around the whole town for hours, I made my way out to the piazza which offered a grand view of the valley, and there I saw the couple again, she wedged into him so close that it justified my response in the morning. It’s always a delicate situation to get close to people who are in an intimate and private moment. It requires a kind of determined boldness, but also delicate footwork, and body feints and deceptions, something I have learned how to do by being on the streets for so many years. It’s exciting too, to see just how close I can come and still not be considered breeching the space they need for their own sense of freedom.

Whenever I see this kind of intimacy in public, the way she has fit herself into him and the way it looks! I find it tells me, or at least suggests to me, something of their, hidden from the public life, and that kind of eros, it projects makes me pay close attention.

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Later I met up with the whole staff of the festival for dinner. We were twice as many as in this frame, but at some point I looked at that Renoir poster on the wall and felt that life continues as always and only the costumes change. Youth and energy, yearnings and life’s mysteries, spin us all through time so one day we can remember these moments of joy and freedom.

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Leaving the restaurant I saw this old woman out in the night, and immediately felt the sense of time as so fleeting; that from youth and love and wonder, we come to age, and it seems but a blink.

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JULY 13,14,15,16,17, 2015

Vienna Bound

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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07-17   Maggie on a chilly afternoon in July.

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JULY 12, 2015

Sonnets and Lifeboats

I never expect every day to provide a photograph of real consequence. The truth is; many days are often spent doing other tasks, working on books and exhibitions, doing chores and ordinary life basics, attending to the business of making a living and staying afloat, and so sometimes the day seems to fly by without an opportunity to really be somewhere where things are supposedly happening.

Perhaps that’s why so many images of Maggie going about her life here, making the garden that now, two years later, is something that was developing in her consciousness and in real time, and required the patience of many seasons to reach this stage of being. Part of my discipline, as you can see, is to try and make the most out of what I am given, which has always been my way as I work in the, “trust the world to show you interesting moments,” method that has been my approach all these 50+ years. So in that regard Maggie has become my local muse on the days when I have been unable to venture far beyond of the space we live in.

But there is something else at work here that needs considering; by choosing to live in Europe we have thrown ourselves into the life raft together and are each others sole companion (soul, too) most of the time, and that fact has shown me that Maggie is someone I continue to observe every day, and so for the first time in our 25 years together I was able to concentrate on the ordinary reality of watching her live. We have probably all seen the great work Harry Callahan did with his wife, and Weston with Charis, and of course there are other examples.

I have no idea what I have amassed as yet, and what the overall quality and meaning of it will be, but for now, it is like an ongoing love sonnet made with images,. These things take time and trust to build, just like Maggie’s garden.

NB: After I wrote this post I took another look at the photograph for this day and thought, what is it about This image that made me want first to make it, and now to post it? I can tell you that none of these photographs of Maggie are set up as photographs. They are the instant observations I make when I discover her doing something and I get the call. Here, I turned the corner of the house to find Maggie standing there spraying an arc onto the bushes, but then I saw the cloud and the spray in relation to each other, and then the whiteness of her shirt came into play with the cloud, and then the shirt’s slipping off her lovely shoulder in that perfect way, and then the ‘bite’ of that black strap into her soft skin was duly noted, and made me see all of her, her posture, the way her head sits on her neck, and turned slightly, so that no face is seen, but a profile of the very edge, which tells me a lot, as I can ‘know’ what her face looks like from that edge without seeing it. And then the drapery of her shirt; sculptors in ancient Greece carved those lines in marble 3000 years ago, and they were able to look in the marble drape for the curve of a hip, just slightly carrying the weight of the supporting leg so that the swell of her body beneath the cloth gets the attention it deserves. All of that is what appeared to me as i caught this glimpse of her. 

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JULY 10, 2015

Berm and Schnoz

On the way back from Lucca, shooting from the car as I often still do, this earthen berm with a.. …..what is that thing anyway… sticking over the top of the berm like a droopy schnoz, called out to me and made me laugh. The reason I think some photographs have a surreal feeling is that the world is surreal more often than we might think it is. Is this someone’s idea of art? Is it an industrial site with work going on behind the berm and the schnoz lets the gases out?  Is it a lost wind sock from a nearby airport come to earth right there? Whatever it was, it made for a moment of visual excitement, a humorous few minutes of speculation, and the feeling that the world is always giving off unexpected pleasures. If you are willing to see it that way.

07-10 FTC L1031278 copyBy the time we got home the day was producing its own set of miracles, besides arriving home safely. The Tuscan skies, almost as often as the skies over Ireland, produce rainbows of long duration which fall to earth in their own pot-o’-gold, wheat field landscapes. Maggie seems to me to be my very own pot-o’-gold, my good fortune at the end of the rainbow.

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JULY 9, 2015

Extravagance

Whenever I see architecture of extravagance; cathedrals, palaces, monuments, etc., particularly from 4 or 500 years ago, I give myself over to the experience of wonder that they produce in me. I love the birthday cake-like fantasía that architects in those days offered their wealthy clients, and that those clients, often the Church, would accept that kind over-the-top decoration, probably as a way to bring the paying multitudes in, grandeur being a seductive call or advertisement for the pageants produced therein.

Looked at today these places still hold up their end of the bargain, as one can see by the tourists regularly visiting these sites. For me though, it’s part of a continuing record I keep of the craziness of a past time, and I wonder what of our structures today might still be here 500 years from now.

We went to Lucca to hear a Leonard Cohen concert and the day started off sunny and bright, then dark and stormy, then back to sunny again, and on and off for most to the day. I always like being out in the weather, watching the way it clears the streets as everyone runs for cover. Sometimes it produces a photograph or two.

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