I’m flying today from Buonconvento to Florence-Paris-Boston, then to Plymouth, so by the time I’m ready to post this it will be 20 hours of travel time.
I guess what got to me here was the choke-hold of a grip the father had on his son. Maybe it felt like love but it looks like something else. I like to read all over the frame so that sometimes what the main point is gets pushed to the side to be discovered almost as an afterthought.
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.
This is Beppo (Giuseppe), he built this farm we were living on when I made this image, and it’s where we live now. It was 7:15 in the morning and this 80 year old is out there doing what he has done for 45 years. Talking to the cows, looking at the land and reminding me of the Italian immigrants of my youth in the Bronx. All those country people from Puglia and Napoli who came to the big city and became a part of it.
Gianni had brought me some leaves he saw in a friend’s garden. One of them, this bronzed and beautiful one of trillions on the planet, is a type of Italian Magnolia leaf, and it managed to convince me to put it in the mix with these other objects to see what would happen.
I like this dark setting, it seems to have suited where I was heading with these still lives when I began making them. After all the years of ‘light’ being my subject, darkness descended when I began working inside, and I like it! It continues even now a couple of years later with a whole new series. But these strange personaggi seem to have real personalities when I spend time with them. They show a stronger side now and then, but I have to turn them slowly and watch carefully, just like a moment on the street, the essential quality of their being can be missed in a heartbeat, so close attention must be paid.
Some moments are rich with meaning and yet so simple as to be ordinary. Gianni was walking down the road with his son Giovanni, a 24 year old who, like many young adults, has been in revolt against all the values of his parents. It’s normal. And Giovanni has a tough act to follow with his father, who is rooted to the Tuscan earth like few people I have ever met. Often they are capable of a give and take that is complicated.
But this year something has changed, and as I watched them go down the road, in the glow of the last light of evening, I saw what could on the one hand be just a cliché, but in reality is the softening of differences that maturity brings. It was beautiful to me on all counts.
I Take It In
After Rome we came home. What a relief to stand in the open countryside and simply look. That to me is one of the joys of being out of a city where the activity is all over the city’s surfaces, and the layered densities of the movement and constant life on the street build a fevered concentration in me. I love it when I am there, whatever city I am in, because I am truly a city creature, but, oh, the surprise of the spacious and quiet Tuscan countryside, brings out another side of who I am. And that is my meditative nature.
I stand still and let my heartbeat find the rhythm of what I see and smell and hear, and often, then, I see something small and maybe even familiar, but with a freshness that opens me to accepting just the pleasure of seeing it, and slowly, it seems so slow after the city , I take it in.
It was a sudden light show. I moved from tree space to tree space watching it play out; where was the strongest sensation, what made me gasp? A few steps into the next pairing I saw the shadow of a man who was nearby, fall on the trunk of the cypress, and it was a sudden jolt of a new possibility.
There were others too, of the trees alone, and some are strong on their own, but this one made its way into the considerations for this blog. maybe on another day I would feel differently. Photography is like that.
I assume that someone put this bike in the pool for a PR event, but no matter, it’s there as a reality for the day. But at first sight it was a mysterious shocker. I can still feel the visual pleasure of the image as I rounded the corner and saw it.
I take these gifts as they come and don’t discount them just because someone else’s setup collides with reality. It is a reality, even though put there by commercial needs. This reminds me of the time, over 30 years ago, when I made a living shooting advertising campaigns, back in the days when photography as a gallery art form couldn’t support me and my young family. So I did the work necessary to stay alive and keep my own work going.
My speciality then was to make photos for ads that seemed as if they really happened, and I was lucky enough to be there at the right time to make the picture. It was a great game, and many times I used things I actually had seen happen in daily life; small non-events that had a surprise to them. And when they worked I got great pleasure from seeing the event unfold in real time, come to a peak and fall, and maybe even continue on into real life, when the actors thought that the moment was over, and often it was then that the merging of the staged and the real became believable.
A wisp of fog rising from a stream hidden deep in the woods signals to me to look at where I am. The silence of the Tuscan evening, the last light, and the fragile note of the vapor’s trail. Sometimes it is astonishing to see what calls me to attention. The smallest thing can be the lever that lifts the significant moment from the broad generalizations of reality.
Nota Bene: The hotel in Milan where I was going to post this from yesterday had an internet failure, so this is late.
The fast trip to Washington brought me to the Philipp’s Collection to meet an interesting group of photography collectors who were thinking of donating works of mine to the museum in the Treasury Building. We then all went over to the Treasury where we hung out in the conference room where much of the nation’s financial decisions were made, and then met with Ben Bernanke who was gracious and appreciative of the positive spirit of all these collectors and their future gift to the museum.
After lunch there I was back on a plane to Tuscany. A fast 24 hours that left me slightly ‘out of body’ but happy to be back in dear old worn and lovely Italy.