Tag Archives: stones

FEBRUARY 22, 2015


Who did this? Why are they sitting in this open field? Was there any intention behind it? Is it Art? Or is it what it looks like? A pile of dirt and a pile of stones. Why is it so satisfying? The transformation of ordinary things onto objects we call art usually comes from the mind of someone who is pushing the boundaries of whatever materials they are working with.

This push has been greatly aided by photography over the history of the medium, and certainly it has taken a huge leap forward since conceptual art has become part of our culture. Think about how many artists have used photography as their ‘record of effort’, like Andy Goldsworthy for example, who leaves his marks in nature by assembling forms out of ice, or stones, or leaves, then photographs the work and leaves it to decay, the only record of the effort is the photograph which allows us to believe he did that!

All of us have been so cultivated by these examples that we now can see for ourselves surprising incidents, gestures, accidents, coincidences, or any of the numerous ways that chance leaves vestiges of effort lying about for us to claim as our own. This is no different, we might say, than Duchamp taking the toilet bowl as a ‘readymade’ and calling it his art.

I caught sight of these piles on a trip to another town and immediately stopped to walk into the field and consider them up close. They reminded me of a photograph I made many years ago in California while on a Guggenheim Fellowship. But what was best of all on this day was that I got out of the car and stood in contemplation of a pile of dirt and a pile of stones, and the pleasure I got from walking around them and standing on what was once a sea bottom countless eons ago, was what is most important.

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Calif 1971

FEBRUARY 10/11, 2015


If there is one thing that 50 years of making photographs has taught me it is that every moment, no matter what it brings; joy, pleasure, sadness, pain, or the endless bounty of everything else we can feel, it passes as quickly as it came, and the continual renewal of every moment is all we can hope to be conscious of. It is the attachment to things, as if they were permanent, that gets us into trouble.

So, first of all, I am grateful beyond words for all the loving, supportive and generous comments that flowed to me and Maggie today after yesterday’s challenging times. Yes! It was shocking to be setup like that by a band of thieves (we later learned that it’s a honey trap, and that many other travelers have lost their belongings at this roadside attraction). And the Police do nothing about it, figuring, we guess, ‘tourists get what’s coming to them, traveling with all their precious possessions, and the cops know insurance companies will cover the loss, so why bother looking, and, it aids the local economy’. What a way to live!

But, back to your kindnesses. So many of you offered your thoughts about attachment, and our moment of loss, that it made us feel that there is hope when so many strangers offer this comfort so warmly. Maggie and I are already filling the space with new moments, new feelings, working through the lost items and memories, letting things go as we must, and painful as it is at moments, it is also becoming lighter to bear.

Maggie even said to me today, and she lost more intimate, meaningful treasures than my replaceable things, “I say a prayer for those who had to live lives that brought them to a place where they treat other humans like this”.

February 10,

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February 11,

A day of retreat from all the aches of yesterday. As I walked past this stone cap at the end of a flight of stairs it took hold of me and made me pay attention. It made me step out of my inwardness and take in the vast, almost cosmic map quality of this humble stone in which mould, and fissures, and weathering, have made the surface dance the universal dance. As if stars exploded and atoms were splitting, and planetary movements were being etched by time on a glass plate negative. And perhaps that is what time has done to this stone. Simply left its marks while the stone aged.

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FEBRUARY 4, 2015

Out the Window

Some days just slip away, and I wonder, ‘where did the time go’? Interior days in the winter are perfect for dealing with the backlog of work that seems to accumulate so quickly now that we’re  in Europe, new exhibitions and projects which are time sensitive, and then all the catching up with the many things that computers were supposed to make easier for us.

So here it is nearly 5:00pm and I am called to the window by the last bit of sunlight doing its rosy golden number in the deep blue background of oncoming night, and once again – no matter how many times I have seen this – it never fails to make me drift into a reverie about time, and how I use it, and in these later years, how can I stretch it out.

Standing at the window I see that Maggie has lit the candles and the fire is dancing in the fireplace, and then I see the spatial illusion of near and far and behind, which has a surreal, Magritte-like quality; the overlap of the twin fires of nature and the hearth played out on the stone wall, and my reverie joins me to them, and the question of time goes out the window.

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FEBRUARY 2, 2015

The Child in the Adult

Maggie was a dancer in New York back in the 70’s. She is a natural mime, and is always open to whatever impulses the world sends her way. Walking with her has been an adventure for the last 25 years, since I never know what unexpected, playful gesture or move she’ll make. This day for example; bitterly cold, a mistral blowing, but out we went for a walk up and down the quiet streets of Bonnieux.

She is just as likely to jump up on a wall and walk it like a tightrope, as she is to spin around when a gust of wind spirals the leaves across the road and around her feet. She was 15 feet ahead of me when I saw her interacting with the tree, and so lost in play was she that I was able to slide up behind her without her knowing I was there and make a series of images which speak to me of the child still living inside the adult.

I am reminded that our loved ones are just as crazy as the rest of the world, and that intimacy is no excuse to not see them as separate and amazing.

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FEBRUARY 1, 2015

The Thing Itself

Every once in a while I see some pure organic form; a tree, a rocky outcrop, a body of water, a hillside, which makes me pause to regard it just for its own sake. I read the history it suggests, look at the scale it has achieved, or lost, over time, and during this consideration I sometimes get the sense that I am witnessing, “the thing itself”.

‘The thing itself’ is a wonderful photographic idea, one I learned about from John Szarkowski when he was director of the photo department at MoMA, where it came up a number of times in conversation and in his writings. It is the distilled essence of something, whatever it may be, that shows itself to us as yet again another version of the magnitude that objects may possess. This tree did that for me!

When I wandered into this ancient Roman church’s grounds I first was stopped by the sheer size of the trunk of this Plane tree. Maggie and I linked arms to see how far around it we could reach – yes, two tree huggers – and calculated that it would take five of us to encircle it. Now that’s a tree! And how long had it stood near that old pile of stone, probably just a fraction of the time the building has been there.

I felt again, as I often seem to experience, a sense of awe in the company of whatever it is that calls my attention, and maybe that is the deepest part of my photographic behavior; the willingness to give myself over to simple awe. Finally, as I turned from the tree I saw the figure of the tree not in the photograph; the arching limbs casting their shadows over the old wall. Again, a moment to really look hard at simple things; those dusty, burgundy buds promising a springtime of flowers while winter light warms up old stone.

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January 2, 2015

Photographs made on the streets of a city like New York, or any dynamic urban place, usually require an immediacy and responsiveness that often leaves one somewhat uncertain of what the whole image might contain, or how it may ‘work.’ Of course this is part of the mystery and risk of making photographs.

So when I found myself in Bonnieux, a small village in the Luberon valley of southern France, a place where not much was happening, I realized that I must adapt to the pace of the locale and ‘feel’ out the temperament that was required to simply be there. I understood that I had to  learn how to see what there was there that stopped me for whatever reason. I guess my first lesson was that ‘awe’ comes in many different, and unexpected forms, and will surprise me if I simply take the time to stand before it and allow myself to be taken in.

On a late afternoon walk around the village on the first day these small gestures; an accumulation of a few stones by someone’s hand, and the peace of an empty street at dusk, said to me, “this is where you are, make the most of what you have.”

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