The Horse She Came In On
Maggie found this old, beautifully formed and crafted horse, and simply fell for the ‘presence’ it emanated. The life it had lived for some child, or maybe a number of children down the years. She bought it so it could continue living.
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.
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.
All from stopping to look at an imperfect tomato.
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.
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.
A gloomy, early in the morning walk to the bakery, gave me one of many goodbye images of Bonnieux. I loved the little slivers of warm light pulsing out into the misty matin. Sometimes color is so barely there, yet it exerts all its slender force in the visualizing of the moment. It’s the thing that makes me gasp, and the gasp is what wakes me up. I say to myself, “isn’t that beautiful?” Or I stop, and dwell in the realization that so small a note can make me come to a halt and breathe it in and take something small but special away with me.
Later in the day our friends Gianni and Giorgio, and a strange friend of Giorgio’s, who you’ll meet in another post I am sure, arrived to pack a truck full of our studio stuff, and our belongings. Their great good humor was as uplifting as the Tuscan spirit always is, and on a day that started so moodily, it was like beams of sunlight. They came for a few days to see our part of what was once Roman territory, a place that bears some special kind of harmony with our beloved part of Tuscany.
Under The Rainbow
I was in the car on the way to Barcelona airport, and as always had my camera at the ready. The day became a day of ‘from the car’ photographs because after I landed in Marseilles I was back in a car on my way to Bonnieux.
That part of the trip was a ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ experience because, as I entered the Luberon valley, the weather, moving fast behind a passing storm, exploded with rainbows, which appeared around every bend in the road. Rainbows are a little like shooting ducks in a barrel since you can hardly ever miss, but at 60 miles per hour the rainbow, and what it is seen in relation to, makes for a challenging set of conditions.
I love shooting from the car because there is a purity to the gesture of reaching for the image. The image is what it is, and I accept it with all its shortcomings, flaws, crazy tilts, fragmentary bits and pieces which fall in wherever they do, and in a way they refresh my seeing and remind me to stay open to the suggestive impulsive side of photography.
By the time I arrived home the sky, darkening then, flared up one last time in pure symphonic crescendo, and then went dark.
I was invited by HP to come to Barcelona to be part of a conference. Of course these events always have a big dinner the day before to start things off and bring the participants into some kind of harmony. Usually the venues are what one expects from ‘convention mentality’ planning, but not HP. They always make it interesting, so when I arrived at the event, which was in an old naval works near the port, I saw this vaulted chamber lit and arranged as you see it.
I am always intrigued by public spaces; how they are used now, what they might have been a long time ago, what kind of sensation do they project to me, and so on. Questions that often make me explore them photographically because they look this way only because some event planner has responded to the space and is trying to transform it by light or other interventions. And so it becomes an invitation to consider just where am I, and how do I feel about it.
To me this is part of the great, daily pleasure of making photographs, that I can get lost in the musings about the moment I find myself in. And musing can be both a-musing, and muse, as in being inspired by something. So I let myself be taken over by this kind of whim just to see what comes from this freedom of association. And although the image of the hall is more or less a record, the image below that is somewhat stranger and perhaps the more interesting one. But one produces the other, and that part of the process of follow through is what keeps us inspired.
The lesson is; always carry your camera!
We were having dinner guests and Maggie, realizing we needed a fresh baguette, asked me to trek the 100 yards from our house to the baker. So out I went, and as it’s my habit to always carry a camera, whether it is 100 yards or a hundred miles, it gave me the chance to pause on my walk back to take in the spectacle of this nameless corner in a small town, in the Luberon valley, in the southern part of Provence, just as nightfall brought a rapture to these old walls and hills. And to me.
To stand here and breathe in the colors, because I believe you can breathe them in, how else to account for that surge of knowing something, which comes from standing still some place and simply being, breathing in the all of it in that particular moment. And so what if the moment is illuminated by street lamps and window light, and the colors may seem a little garish. In fact it is the union of the two competing sensations that brings them into their momentary harmony.
Just to look at it all for what it is, is enough to fill me up with wonder about how remarkable, at any given moment, our world is.