A Special Day, a Day Like Any Other Day
When I go over my contact sheets (yes, even on screen) I often see connections between things that make me wonder what I was thinking about at that moment. Why did my eye go from something as earthy as hay bales, to something as lofty as the sky? We are like that, aren’t we? But is there a connection that tells us anything? About us? About why our interests range like that?
I’m interested, and always have been, in trying to understand my momentary inclinations to move one way or another, look up or down or askance, because these are basic to our elemental understanding of our visceral selves, and knowing something about that part of our ourselves can guide us further into our own mystery. And from that core may come our best work, our truest image of who we are in our most idiosyncratic manner.
Our fingerprint defines us as different from everyone else on earth. No one has the same lines on their fingers as we do. That difference is deep in our psyche too, and from that place emerges the artist we each can be, we just need to trust that and open up to it.
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.
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.
When I began making photographs in 1962, John Szarkowski was the head of Photography at MoMA, where he wrote his first book called, “The Photographer’s Eye,” and in it were many ideas about what happens when you use all the wonderful visual assets that photography offers, and to consider the challenge each posed.
One of the ideas was Vantage Point. The following is part of what he had to say about that way of looking at things.“If the photographer could not move his subject, he could move his camera. To see the subject clearly — often to see it at all — he had to abandon a normal vantage point, and shoot his picture from above, or below, or from too close, or too far away, or from the back side, inverting the order of things’ importance, …….”
Here, I was lying on a beach lounge, and when I looked up the combed cloud was gliding across the space between the 2 half seen umbrellas. Had I not been lying down exactly where I was my point of view would not have contained this thought.
Just sitting at a friend’s dinner table watching the oncoming dusk slowly draining the light of the day. A long meditation on change. Light, gliding from the fullness of white clouds to the saturated last licks of color at their tops, and then, right before my eyes, it’s gone, like a magician showing his trick and we not being able to see it – that’s magic! Not seeing the change while looking at it.
Nature is the magician beyond measure, and every day the phenomena of light shows us such variety and delicacy as to fill our hearts with wonder or joy.
I have never been one who makes night sky images. Film was not so responsive for doing that, and more often than not it made pictures of streaks of starlight left behind by the rotation of the globe and the time it took to make the shot. But digital is different, and although this is no brilliant photograph it is a reminder of how easy it is to consider the new subjects that might come from looking at things freshly and seeing how they might relate to the heavens above.
Reminders like that are important to thinking photographically.
I have only seen this kind of cloud formation 3 or 4 times in my life. Each time I am filled with a kind of awe about the mystery and potential it portrays, and I find I am drawn to standing out in whatever the weather will be that accompanies it. I try to imagine what the tops of the clouds look like, up there in the bright sun above them, while down below the menace and roiling, bulbous forms suggest a fierce climatic doom may be upon us.
And then it passes. Blown away like all moments, no matter if they are angry or benign, they just go on about their endlessly dissolving – one can’t say merry – way into becoming something else. For me this is a reminder that photography, like nature, is made of continuously unfolding moments that are rich with the rare and unexpected gatherings of energy, all of which are individually addressed to each of us.