Category Archives: Uncategorized

MAY 11, 2015

Expect Nothing

Remember that line from the old Amex ads; “never leave home without it?” Well you know what I would say, never even go to the bathroom in a restaurant without a camera on your shoulder. On my way upstairs to find the restroom in this Bolognese, countryside restaurant, I was surprised, when turning the corner in what was an unused salon, to be greeted by this assortment of objects. What’s a little Charlie Chaplin doing next to the strange, oversized head, and why the helmet on the table, and the toy car on the left, all of it, etc?

And when I turned around the rest of the space was almost as surreal as the head. Who knows what it all adds up to? Not much really. But the truth is that there is always something to see, even where you least expect it, and it is better to be prepared; as the old Zen warrior motto states, ‘expect nothing, be prepared for anything.’

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MAY 8, 2015

What We Know

The stairs up to the studio were almost always in a shadowed space, but in the spring of the year, for only a few weeks at most, a lozenge of light, or some days a tentacle, or a band, or fan, or spray, depending on the cloud cover or angle, slides down the wall and describes a new space in what is a familiar but often overlooked passage.

It points out how we can still be surprised by what we think we know.

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MAY 2, 2015

On the Road

The road offers so many opportunities to see what the world looks like from a moving car; the roadside, the machines that travel on it, the people that make their way along it, the landscape we pass by, moments that make us wish we could stay and become part of what we see, or not.

On the second part of the trip from France to Italy, the part from Camoglie to Buonconvento, lots of strange and beautiful moments appeared. Here are two that seemed to frame the trip. The one a yellow box on wheels, and the other the last 200 yards before we hit home. I know where I want to be.05-2 L1028522

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APRIL 30, 2015

Walking Stick

We had packed the house for a May 1 departure back to Tuscany. We were nearly done with the last details when Maggie walked out the door with this little walking stick I had bought a few weeks before. Why I bought it I had no real idea, just that the stick itself seemed to have a kind of ‘character’ that I felt might make its way into a still life; slender, with a small, knobby head, and a lovely flexibility that made me want to do a little dance when I picked it up.

It’s the kind of stick that as soon as one takes it in hand a transformation occurs; turning one into a Chaplin, or Chevalier, or a dandy, a fencer, a hoofer… and Maggie was no different as she strutted out the door and did her little jig and spin for me. At moments like this one can see their intimates in a new light because the playfulness and theatrics are revealing in sudden and fresh ways. Although with Maggie I am fortunate to have a partner who is always ready to play, and so I see different characters quite often. Still, if there is no camera in hand the transformations are lost to time.

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04-30 Maggie struts

APRIL 29, 2015

The Doll and the Grape Vine

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The doll and the Grape Vine hung out on the set for a few hours. I hoped to make a flip book-like video to show you the way the figure moved, but couldn’t seem to get it to work today, so a contact sheet of sorts will have to do. I feel it’s important to share the process with you as I am feeling my way around while making these teatrino still lives. I am amazed and amused by the animated energy that comes from this eloquent little figure, and I can see that patience, and really concentrating on gesture, will be something that helps me to understand just what is going on within the still life form.

Doll-Tree

APRIL 28, 2015

Zing

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.

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APRIL 14, 2015

The Wonder of It

The snow bursts of cherry blossoms in the Luberon Valley drove me mad! The scent of the blossoms, their whiteness in the newly warmed spring air, the way they shivered in the faintest breeze, called me in close, as if to stand inside their space was to bring me closer to spring itself.

This search for the essential nature of anything that calls out to me has been my long time practice, and I find that in moments like this I want to be part the experience, not photographing it from the cool distance of the observer, but becoming integrated in it somehow. And this tree – one of many in the long lines of orchard trees – brought me close to that kind of trance state, where I stood, spellbound, and felt as if I could have stayed forever watching the barely discernible flutter of petals, while listening to the steady hum of the bees.

It almost doesn’t matter to me at that point what the photograph looks like in the camera, what matters is keeping the simple wonder of it all alive.

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APRIL 12, 2015

Simile

The world often throws metaphors, similes, analogies, and other language cues out to us in its own effortless manner, all we have to do is be alert to the throw and the camera becomes a great catcher’s mitt. Since baseball season has just begun perhaps that is an apt metaphor.

The simile here, was breathtaking in its simplicity even at 60 miles an hour. I got it in a blink.  The cloud of cherry blossoms and the oncoming layers of mist and cloud rolling down from the cold reaches of the hills beyond, into the warmth of the valley.

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MARCH 22, 2015

7 in 1:

Announcement: I have to try an experiment this week. I am in the middle of preparing a set of 4, 20 foot high, 3 sided, triangular columns for the EXPO 2015 World’s Fair in Milan, which opens in 5 weeks. I have been given a whole Pavilion to install these works in. The theme of the Fair is “Feed the Planet,” and my Pavilion is dedicated to Cereals and Grains which translates, to me, as ‘Bread.’ So I have made 75 portraits of bread from all over Italy. These will be stacked on Totem-like columns. So I must, starting this week, post a weeks worth of my one-a-day images all at once, while I dedicate myself to finishing the work on the pavilion.

The week that I made these images took me to Lourmarin, near Bonnieux, and Bonnieux itself, then Paris, and after Paris on the TGV to Deauville, where Maggie and I were asked to do a commission about the town in Summer, but once we saw the place, we decided that it wasn’t something we were interested in doing, so back to Bonnieux we went.

I had the sense that the dogs in Lourmain (3/22) were ‘getting acquainted,’ and that these rituals are an interesting thing to consider, maybe even as a subject for a body of work. We see this in human beings all the time in the dance we do, the gestures we make, the knowing looks sent back and forth between people are all part of our subtle communication. Sometimes themes and ideas spring from surprising sources.

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The power of the tree in the landscape at this time of year is rich with suggestive force. The small shocks I get from these relationships of trees to the whole space never cease to please me and open me up to considering what makes a landscape photograph. Even with such minimal conditions as these something comes into play. That fountain-like tree in the distance and the groin of the tree in the foreground spoke to me of needs and surges that all nature’s things can express.

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In Paris (3/25-26) it’s always the parks and boulevards for me, where life is at its most Parisian and something always comes along, both the expected and unexpected. And lovers have arguments as well as making up, and an argument in public is an observable intimacy of the unguarded moment. Then, on a visit to the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation, to see a great show of Howard Greenberg’s private collection, I found myself looking out the Foundation’s window at a scene that the master himself might have looked at, although this image certainly isn’t worthy of him. Nonetheless, the activity in the schoolyard below changed every few seconds and was fun to look at when seen with the running figure on the wall above the window. Later, while passing a shop, I saw this amazing 4 fingered glove. Eerie and mysterious, as well as a strong image all on its own, I asked the owner if I could buy it for my still life collection of objects with that kind of power. No deal she said! So, it’s just a memory now.

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(3/27) At 120 miles an hour on the TGV, things come and go in the blink of a second, yet every once in a while something lovely is revealed, plucked by speed itself. Here! and Gone! And all I have is the camera’s 1000th of a second to save it from oblivion.

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(3/28) The beach at Deauville, while wide and clean, had behind it a town that was developed by rich Parisian merchants early in the 20th century. It was a holiday town for the well to do who wanted to get out of Paris, and as such it had no history, and it shows it now. After 30 minutes of walking around Maggie and I were dispirited and longing to get back on the train and head for Bonnieux. Yet the red, white and blue of the beach on that second day of spring, bitter as it was, did bring a moment of longing for those sweet summer days by the sea.

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MARCH 20, 2015

Gritty

It happens to everybody, I am sure, that you find yourself somewhere and it seems to be blasted, brutal, boring, or ugly, and it’s easy to say, ‘there’s nothing here.’ I think that in those moments it is precisely the time to look harder, to try and see something, even  when your wish is to be somewhere else. And looking harder then may still not pay off, but one never knows.

I walked around this particular town looking for a place that I was told did metalwork, and of course those kinds of places are often in parts of town that are deteriorating, so when I came to this gritty spot with its hacked trees, crumbling steps, and failing masonry, I was ready to move on. But something in the physical space nagged at me momentarily and made me lift the Leica to my eye. Maybe it was just the relative scale of some of the forms, or was it the overall tonal similarity on this grey day. Who can say? But for some reason it called me to spend a few minutes there looking at the parts and absorbing the feelings the place gave off, before moving on.

It is that call to instinct that serves me even when an image fails to be a ‘keeper.’

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Nota Bene: Some readers pointed out to me that the Wunderkabinet image the other day had a Squirrel not a Rabbit and I realize that I saw squirrel and mistakenly typed rabbit. So thank you for being so observant.