Maggie and I made a ‘line’ book during our first year in Europe when we started this new life of ours, now in its third year. That book made it the whole 365 days and was a daily challenge and also fun. The concentration, the materials, the unexpected lines that appeared, all proved that the very simplest gesture – a line – could sustain our interest for a whole year.
Early Silent Night
Looking down on a small town often lets me feel the ‘sense of place’ that gives a locality its identity. Bonnieux has that quality; the butcher, the bakery, the newsstand, the market, the city hall, the church, all these basics set in an almost storybook perfection in a landscape of simple beauty. It is immensely fulfilling.
Silo, Birdhouse, Power station, Pump house? Who knows what its function was or is, but it puzzled me every time I passed it. Sitting there out in the countryside, at a junction in the road, the only landmark of its kind, I finally had to stop the car and give it a moment of my time. I never figured out what it was.
December in Provence is when the farmers and vineyard workers burn the cuttings from the harvest. Smoke signals rise everywhere in solemn flags of grey, wafting wherever breeze or cool air convection draws them, often mingling with other pyres in the valley and laying down a screen of fragrant mist.
These fires are part of the ancient rhythms of agriculture as it bows to the seasons, and it is a reminder that practices such as these are as old as mankind.
I drove half way across Tuscany to visit a printer outside of Florence, and on the way back, this was two years ago, a torrential storm, un diluvio, they say here, swept across the region destroying bridges, sinking towns and farmland, destroying late crops, a real disaster. Of course while I was driving it was only a storm, but it was intense and unlike anything I had seen here before. Even the locals said not since 1966 had there been this kind of weather. And then it had flooded Florence and destroyed artworks, national treasures and landmarks.
Tough driving and shooting too!
Note: we were without internet for 2 days and it held up sending these 2 posts.
Night is a great moment to step outside of where you live to look at where you live. It is different to see it at night. Another layer of mystery might be revealed about why any one of us chooses to live any where. So night time can tell us a lot about ourselves. Well…maybe.
Around the back I came across the two chairs we sometimes sit or lie on. They sat in the last radiance of the day and seemed to glow. Chairs that I would never think of photographing, but how could I not in this light?
And the house itself, when I turned back to it, seemed so inviting that I found myself standing there, saying ‘who lives there?’ I was happy to remember that it was me. It was so simple and innocent and inviting, that I simply raised the camera to acknowledge the ordinary, but welcoming sight it has become.
A lazy mist drifted through and over the valleys that the road rolled through, so that at times I was above the clouds and then down under them. It felt a little like flying. And it was dreamy too, in that same way that flight can make you feel when passing through the clouds at 30,000 feet.
Up ahead the mist spooled across the road, and the moment felt timeless. The thing that separated me from the old world, it seemed, were the little pings of reflected light to mark the borders of the road. Out there was timelessness, inside the modern machine, with a camera in my hands, I could make a photograph at 50 mph and still get good quality, and a degree of sharpness that tells me how good our technology really is. It is important to be able to count on it that way and thus not have any fear about what the outcome will be.
I’ve basically used the same equipment for 50+ years. I don’t keep changing cameras, or go into the equipment mind set searching for the latest toys. For me the Leica and a good 35mm lens, and that’s all I need to say what I see, and to stay open to the act of seeing the world freshly.
The land speaks. I find myself listening as the season enters the next phase. The light’s slant is lower. Its intensity is now colored by the angle of the earth’s tilt and movement, as seen in this hemisphere, now further away from the sun. The temperature of a whole day is different. My perceptions of things around me is refreshed.
That’s what’s so special about the season changing. It’s we who are seasoned along with everything else, and what that does to the way I see things is part of the way photography’s mystery works on each of us.