In The Moment
The wind came, a sirocco, an African wind that crosses the Mediterranean and blows sometimes for days, driving people a little crazy with its relentless howling. It starts innocently enough and then just keeps coming until you can’t stand it anymore. Here at the beginning of the blow it darkened the skies and carried a smell on the air that might have been some of the desert’s dust still bearing the arid scent of ancient sea bottom.
Photographing the elements is something I have been trying to do for a while, but in another form, simpler, purer, without the horizon to make it familiar, just the phenomena of each of the elements. It’s not been easy to make them interesting, but I still work on it whenever the potential image appears. Yet, when the wind blows and the sky goes heavy I respond wherever I am, because that is all we can do; to try to be in the moment, in the place where we find ourselves.
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?