We came back after a late-in-the-day walk to find this rugged tomato, just picked from the garden, deposited on our table by our farmer landlord, Silvia, who often brings us whatever is on the vine; squash blossoms, string beans, zucchini, eggplant, new potatoes, onions, figs, grapes, plums, and so on, but this creature sat there looking ugly/beautiful, and that always gets to me. Ugly/beautiful is one of those qualities that the world throws our way in unexpected moments, and when I see it I am reminded of how great the variety of what we call beauty really is.
It suggests a reconsideration of what we think we know about beauty, and our own values. It’s not that this tomato is any kind of paragon of beauty, but simply that it made me pause for just a moment to look at it, and once I paused I saw the light making lines like the tomato’s lines, and then I felt the sweet sentiment of Silvia’s generosity, add to that the lateness of the hour and its color, and what came over me was the plain song of the evening and the goodness of life.
There are 2 kinds of light; natural and man made, and often we find ourselves in the presence of both but fail to consider the photographic possibilities that their dissonance presents. I’ve been looking at this phenomenon for 40 years now, ever since I started using the large format camera in 1976, and I am always pleased to take a few moments to look hard and see the ways in which the color temperatures of the light play against each other. There always seems to be a photograph out there.
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.
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.
Some years ago I began a series called “The Elements,” in which I was trying to see if I could photograph the phenomena of the 4 elements without resorting to the conventions of traditional renaissance perspective where there was a horizon line and diminishing markers of distance. I asked myself, ‘can I photograph the simple fact of each of our 4 phenomena; Air, Water, Earth, Fire, in such a way as to make them the pure statement of the thing itself?’
I began looking at sky, sea, earth, etc and realized that this could be close to being the most familiar and boring photographs one could make. Dumb images of dirt? Still photographs of water in a pool or lake? But my thought was to make them BIG, really large scale, say 10 feet high by 12 or more feet long; and I did make some like that for a show in Germany, where they were well received and collected.
I continue to add to that body of work whenever something speaks to me. Here was a moment when the light was going, and a stream of buttermilk clouds slowly drifted into view, and I found myself in that frame of mind where studying the sky for a while was a purely pleasurable experience, and what could be a better stimulant than pleasure for making photographs?
This is the old barn we live in Tuscany. I saw it every day during that first year and no matter what angle, or what time of day it was, the place kept on surprising me. It’s so interesting how many aspects any place can have. All you have to do is keep looking and the seeing of it quickens the blood.
This Quercia, or what the Italians call an Oak, seems fairly nondescript by day, but that evening it sang to me under the moon.
Who knows why any one stops any time, anywhere? Why this trough, which is probably a truck tire track, filled with rain water in a gravel-bedded parking area. But there it is, the puzzle that all photographers deal with all the time. Something catches the eye, with no rational reason for it. Maybe it was the color of the light as the day waned, which, when seen against the new green of the hills at that hour set off the slightly warmer feel of the gravel, or perhaps it was the piece of sky that made its poem in the trough, falling to earth in a way that made me pause. These are the mysteries of this remarkable medium that so many of us are in dialogue with, and that makes it is so compelling.