After a long day of rain the break came around dusk. The air was saturated with moisture but it almost felt like color was part of the moistness, as if I was breathing in pinkness! There was even a fragrance on the air as if the ground was exhaling it’s perfumes after a long dry summer, and at that moment it was water, bourne up from the ground as droplets of the exchange between ground and air. All the elements were at play.
Earth, air, water, and the light was the last fire of the sun, and it kindled every thing together into a bloom of evening beauty. I always try and choose to put myself in the way of beauty.
Behind the Dentist’s office where I parked my car, I saw this simple space, with the pole set against the rolling landscape, glowing in late, low light, and it made me once again look at where I was. This is Tuscany! This is where a Dentist’s office is! Deep, rural country and a state of the art office. How do the two go together?
It reminds me that carrying the camera always pays off even if it is as simple as a pole in the sky.
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.
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.
Maybe it’s the season changing, but something from the landscape kept coming over me. The summer had been a brutally hot one, and the land baked day after day, and seemed to be unyielding even though wheat and sunflowers grew abundantly. Perhaps it’s the first few cool days and the light’s new, revealing power that made me conscious again of the space I live in.
I walked in the freshly turned land and could sense my small scale relative to the land’s vastness, and tried to make a photograph from that gut feeling. I ask myself, and have for many years now, ‘can I photograph from the gut with the eye being less of a primary force?’
The light in the house has changed too, and turned the tall space of what was once the hayloft into a camera obscura, projecting the arched shape of the window on the wall for a 20 minute exposure, in which the form of the acacia tree outside drew itself across the wall like a silent movie screen playing a slow motion fade out.
It’s lovely to see how natural and simple the principles of photography, before it was photography, continue to make their presence felt. I can easily imagine how in earlier times, say the 15th century (probably well before that too), people had these same ‘momentary visions’ come and go inside their homes, but were unable to hold on to them until Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot figured out how to fix the image for later study.
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.
The little saw-toothed fringe along the tops of Tuscan hills has always pleased my eye. This particular passage is one that I drive by several times a week and it gets me every time in every season. Why? Why do some places have that power, even when it is a far away and slender note of attraction? Perhaps it is just that, the minor tone in the major space, and yet…it pulls at me, not just my eye, but all of me, with that gasp of recognition that this place, right now, right here, adds something to my life.
At this season the land offers up the harvest, and after the cutting it often looks flag-like with its stumps and stalks now revealed in ordered rows and burnished colors. All the florid heads of sunflowers, wheat or corn have been carried off and the land waits for the turning under and then rest.
These wide views are deceptively simple and seem not to amount to much, but I like that spaciousness with the panel of the land below and the top of sky, and the narrow, glowing strip in between. As a small print it seems to be just like it looks, distant and familiar, but in a large print the space comes alive as every stalk is clearly rendered, and the march from the frame edge to the field of color is a visual journey. It’s not for everyone I know, but having made simple images with the view camera I know how the image expands and converts itself into a surprisingly tangible experience.
In our time Earth Art and Process Art have become important formal ways of looking at things, but when I see something practical, like this pine tree being held up by two poles a local farmer used to support the tree, I think – this is real art,not just that it looks like art, in that it can be seen as beautiful, and it has a real function. Of course it becomes even more beautiful with the red shutters and lovely light and shadow, and the shape of the house, and the feel of the day, and finally, that sweep of the pine tree into the heavens.
This road is one we have walked on almost every day for the last few years. The land rolls and dips and changes color with the seasons and the light. Some days it has a piercing blue sky and on others it is rain soaked and leaden, or rain bowed and glorious, and it never fails to lift my spirits. I salute it by raising the camera in acknowledgement, and saying thank you.