Smoke, following the slightest draft of air, trailed behind the guy with the hose. All I could smell was the Tuscan roasting going on; wild boar, pheasant, pigeons, and sausages, but that was only my olfactory sense, while my optical side, as always, was watching for something that could be made from nothing.
Sonnets and Lifeboats
I never expect every day to provide a photograph of real consequence. The truth is; many days are often spent doing other tasks, working on books and exhibitions, doing chores and ordinary life basics, attending to the business of making a living and staying afloat, and so sometimes the day seems to fly by without an opportunity to really be somewhere where things are supposedly happening.
Perhaps that’s why so many images of Maggie going about her life here, making the garden that now, two years later, is something that was developing in her consciousness and in real time, and required the patience of many seasons to reach this stage of being. Part of my discipline, as you can see, is to try and make the most out of what I am given, which has always been my way as I work in the, “trust the world to show you interesting moments,” method that has been my approach all these 50+ years. So in that regard Maggie has become my local muse on the days when I have been unable to venture far beyond of the space we live in.
But there is something else at work here that needs considering; by choosing to live in Europe we have thrown ourselves into the life raft together and are each others sole companion (soul, too) most of the time, and that fact has shown me that Maggie is someone I continue to observe every day, and so for the first time in our 25 years together I was able to concentrate on the ordinary reality of watching her live. We have probably all seen the great work Harry Callahan did with his wife, and Weston with Charis, and of course there are other examples.
I have no idea what I have amassed as yet, and what the overall quality and meaning of it will be, but for now, it is like an ongoing love sonnet made with images,. These things take time and trust to build, just like Maggie’s garden.
NB: After I wrote this post I took another look at the photograph for this day and thought, what is it about This image that made me want first to make it, and now to post it? I can tell you that none of these photographs of Maggie are set up as photographs. They are the instant observations I make when I discover her doing something and I get the call. Here, I turned the corner of the house to find Maggie standing there spraying an arc onto the bushes, but then I saw the cloud and the spray in relation to each other, and then the whiteness of her shirt came into play with the cloud, and then the shirt’s slipping off her lovely shoulder in that perfect way, and then the ‘bite’ of that black strap into her soft skin was duly noted, and made me see all of her, her posture, the way her head sits on her neck, and turned slightly, so that no face is seen, but a profile of the very edge, which tells me a lot, as I can ‘know’ what her face looks like from that edge without seeing it. And then the drapery of her shirt; sculptors in ancient Greece carved those lines in marble 3000 years ago, and they were able to look in the marble drape for the curve of a hip, just slightly carrying the weight of the supporting leg so that the swell of her body beneath the cloth gets the attention it deserves. All of that is what appeared to me as i caught this glimpse of her.
Time is measured in many ways; seconds, minutes, hours, days, seasons, years. There is camera time, sports time, heartbeat time, music tempo, it goes on and on. But in our new life in Tuscany we can see time’s progress through the accumulated, incremental changes that have taken place in the garden that Maggie has made on the stoney and sterile soil.
This picture, made 2 years ago while I was working on the photograph a day project, shows the granola-like rocky surface of the area, in which Maggie used pots of plantings to simulate a garden feeling in what was just a summer rental place to us then.
In the two images below you can see what time; garden time, growing time, pondering what will grow here time, looks like in real time. The photographs themselves are merely records, the original one made on a day when I was caught up in other things and probably made the photograph just to say I made something that day, and yet now, 2 years later, the ‘record’ is, for us anyway, invaluable as a way of seeing where the passage of time, and all our considerations, have brought us.
Then and Now
Two years ago our place, which was then just a summer rental, looked like this, a gravel covered acre with not much else . Now that we have a long term lease on it we have made some improvements. Maggie is the giardiniera and treats the whole space as a work in progress. But it is really more like an ‘earthwork,’ given how she conceives of all the elements and spaces that the garden consists of, almost as if they were ‘rooms’ outside, where one can go when a different experience is needed.
Part of my daily shooting has been to document the changes that have come over the place as Maggie makes it come into focus. Documenting everyday life has its joys as much as being out in the world at large and watching the crazy goings on out there. I like the mix of the two.