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.
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.
Coming back from a late walk on our country road we heard the rasp of a motorcycle bearing down on us fast, I whirled, camera blazing, and gunned him down. Well, it wasn’t as wild west as all that, more like; I turned, guessed at the aperture and speed at that hour, something the Leica is great for and allows intuition and memory to serve in the moment, and made 3 frames of him coming past us, and the lovely hour, and the sweet space of the road curving away into the hills.
It was one of those magical moments when the quiet of the past is settling over the land, and then the intruder – mechanization – comes bursting into the silence, but is gone in a moment leaving behind a slowly returning quiet. I felt that this photograph meant all that to me, even though it looks like a road at dusk, with a headlamp on a motorcycle blazing into our eyes.
At a roadside rest stop I saw this cop walking over to make an inquiry of the driver of the Michelin truck and was amused momentarily by the symmetry of the scene; the colors of their uniforms, the dual cellphones, the pair of comic book images. It was just a moment in passing, but something about it was potentially interesting.
Meanwhile a friend has been involved with a project that involves crude, hand made Michelin men figures, photographed in an African nation where Michelin doesn’t support their distributors with any kind of advertising iconography, so the garage guys make their own. This work is currently on its way into a book. Here’s a peek at a few wild images of Michelin men.
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.
Libera, a 70 year old contadina (farm woman of the old school variety from the time of serfs and padrones) is still working the land by hand. We stop by every few days to pick up tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, onions, and whatever else is ready at that moment, not to mention oil and wine when necessary. It is a great pleasure to see her smiling face and experience her generosity, both so easily given.
Here, I was driving past on my way home and stopped to chat for a moment, and just the simplicity of her presence, her earthy stance, the old wall behind her, the ordinariness of it all made me reach for the camera. These simple moments are precious, no attitude, no becoming something she is not. She’s just there, rooted to the earth, part of the spirit of the place.