When it comes right down to it we can only work with what we connect with on any given day. It depends on where we were, what our appetite for seeing was, what the coincidences of the day threw across our path, or finally, what we were alive to at any one moment.
I drove to the local health food store to get a few things for the upcoming New Year’s Eve dinner we were making to celebrate the end of 2013. I had spent a good part of the day inside preparing and doing other year end tasks, and so went to the bio, as they call it in France, late in the day, and as I pulled into the parking slot I saw this gnarly, furry, wild haired, winter naked bush, brittle in the last tincture of rosy light, sitting on a brutal pile of rocks behind a scrabbly chicken wire fence. All in all a tough image, one that might seldom hold my attention, and yet…
As I sat there for a moment thoughts of Dubuffet and Art Brut came to mind, and Philip Guston too, one of my favorite painters who never flinched at hard, ugly realities, and found ways to address them in his paintings, ways that challenged the values of the art world at that time. And so the longer I stayed in that moment’s reverie with this scrawny, bristling and blighted image, the more I realized that it was the most exciting thing I had see all day, and in fact was beautiful in its own demanding and difficult way.
I welcomed it.
Why did this crazy thing excite me so much?
Walking through a warehouse stuffed full of objects and furnishings this horn cried out to heard, so I stopped and waited while it struck up a dialogue in me. These things happen you know? Just pay attention to that tiniest sound of its identity, and how it meets your identity, and you have the basis for making something out of it.
Just a response is all one needs, whatever it is, a fragrance on the breeze that says, ‘hey, stop here a minute and take me in,’ a glancing play of light, a change in the scale of things that suddenly wakes you up to your own human measure. Any of these, and a 1000 more intimate details of our working minds when they are at play, and you have what you need to make something entirely yours.
Out of Nothing.
I don’t know if Aixienne is used as the name of those women who live in Aix-en-Provence, but the old costumes, and those faces, brought to memory some 19th century paintings of women from Arles, L’ Arlesienne, if I remember correctly, maybe it was van Gogh, in any case when I passed by the 2 women in Aix and took in the hair styles, and garments, I had a flash of how it must have looked when everyone wore clothes like this, and how each town or region in the back country must have had their own specific identity.
How different from our contemporary esthetic where ‘branding’ is the force that unites all towns, cities, and even members of a generation. And how in every town today we find the same fashion names on the shopfronts along the streets.
Sometimes I long for the mom and pop stores of the past with all their individuality.
Antique fair, stuff everywhere, and too much to look at, and then out of the corner of my eye I get a sense that something – meaningless maybe – but a slight ambiguity, which came from a sliver of a moment when I wasn’t sure of what I was seeing, the light, the red hair, the coat engulfing, the 2 faced portrait, the gesture non gesture. Everything that was there in just that second, and nothing.
The stuff of Photography.
6 Long Weeks
I have finally finished looking at more than 40,000 prints and signing over 15,000 of them for the sale of my Archive. Yesterday and today were, and are, travel days, and I am deeply tired from the intensity of the effort. So the next few days will still be quiet time for me with pictures only until I recover enough to write about the images.
But I wanted to thank all of you for your support and patience as well as the effort some of you made to keep the observations about life and photographs flowing. I’d like to thank Jose and Ece, and all the rest for the wisdom and feelings your comments contained.
Tin Tin and the Girls