The Duomo in Milan is one of the largest churches in the world, and like so many cathedrals of this scale it took a long time to be completed, close to 800 years. The sculptures on the facade came last, probably sometime in the early 1800’s.
When I was there I saw an amazing pair of figures, which although I have seen the building before I had never noticed the detail in the drapery covering – or not – the figure on the right. It is an astonishing image for the front of a church.
Sometimes a crazy, meaningless collection of objects, spaces, colors, light, and actions all come into play at once, and from it might come the call to pay attention to this hodge podge of stuff in front of us. I think hodge podge comes from an old Dutch or French word meaning a soup made from whatever was left lying around, probably meaning a hot pot, or something like that. In Amsterdam I once saw a Dutch historical painting where there was a hot pot made for the masses who were celebrating the Spanish defeat, or something like that. Anyway, as we know, sometimes a mess of a stew can be delicious!
And although this frame isn’t exactly delicious, it is interesting to me just how much it continues to hold its own and make me want to look at it again. A little uncertainty is useful sometimes as it presses the argument. First, there’s the sculpted figure on a marble block about the same size as that car, (not to mention that the figure seems to be an early prototype of the model draped over the car hood to show its curves, just look at that head and chest) and then around her head is the corona of the tree’s limbs which, when seen in relation to the crane’s beam and the lines to the light poles, both fill and fracture the space in provocative ways. And there is an interesting ‘read’ to the overall space through the way the figures – statue/car/couple – diminish on an angle all their own. I would bet that were I to print this at 60 inches the image would invite us to look harder and pay us back with interest.
It’s open-ended pictures like this that I believe help refine our sensibilities and enable us, in fact, urge us, to look more thoughtfully at all the spaces and moments we pass through. Let’s accept that there is nothing much going on here of note, but that it still has some kind of pull in spite of that shortcoming. I would rather make a flawed, but interesting to consider photograph, than a more successful image that uses conventional forms to tell its tale.