How many times do we see something while driving, then pull over, leap out of the car, and race into the picture space to capture what it was that called out to us? Here, while opening the door and reaching for the camera, I saw the frame within the frame and the way the mist seemed to have slightly different densities between the two. I made the photograph and then stepped out to be in the space more fully.
And although it was lovely being out there with the rolling mist and the small scale of the buildings on the far hill, it was the odd presence of the door’s shape that made the frame,e more playful and interesting.
I remember setting out that morning to drive an hour south so we could look at a fireplace that might be built in the house we were renting. The day was, as it often is at this time of year, mist filled in every dip and hollow and even heavier fog down on the flatlands of this one time sea bottom of a valley. And yet, just 20 minutes from here, when entering the next valley, the sun was out and the micro climate of that place made it into another day entirely.
I was shooting from the car as I often do and realized how frequently the single tree in the landscape appeals to me.
You know the expression; ‘I went to see a man about a dog.‘ Well on this day, we did. Gianni’s sheep dog had a litter of 10 and one of them was promised to a man who was for many years the man behind the Armani brand, now retired to a grand country estate nearby. As you can see from this dovecote, if a birdhouse can look this good imagine the rest.
He’s a kind and generous man who walked us all around his place with evident pride and pleasure. We went through woodland and pasture and vineyards and rolling hills and then through an amazing house. There was so much to see that I wanted to come back with my view camera and make some pictures that the place deserves. But for the moment these few notes are just the tip of the many places I responded to while with him.
But the mud/boot room takes the cake. What a holy ‘chamber,’ and for boots!
Oh, those mornings! The spectacle of seeing through the watered sky. All that suspended moisture acting as prism, or screen, or veil, hiding things while revealing another dimension of seeing. And then that gift of silence that falls over the land as does the mist itself. It’s an offering of contemplation that makes every morning an invitation to go out into it.
Even though the beauty of it seems to be everywhere it still takes a kind of discrimination to see, not the superficial beauties, but those other characteristics that speak to one’s own sense of necessity.
I love being out early in the morning, especially on days when the change in seasons makes for atmospheric effects which are in play for about an hour until the heat of the sun dissolves their airy beauty. I walked toward the road I have photographed many times already (see it just 2 days ago) and it always offers new takes on itself, which is part of what I love about photography; the possibility to reconsider something in a new light.
I went down into the valley to see what being deep in the mist looked like, and made some photographs that had graphic markers as their starting point. Funny how that is sometimes; graphics or symbols don’t often interest me any more – having had a lot of them in my early years – but in this veiled space of fog and atmosphere, things near to me jumped out in a way that made them seem interesting again. I like being re-educated by what’s right there in front of me.
Right out my front door! The sheep often come by, bells jingling, dogs herding, and the shepherd, a strong, silent presence who merely needs to move his shoulders, or body, a certain way and all the sheep move where the silent message sends them. Sometimes it’s a whistle, or a precise grunt on his part, and the sheep come to a standstill.
Magical. Like the stuff of fables. But to see it still alive in our world today is to connect immediately to what the past must have been like, with flocks of sheep moving over the fields everywhere, and shepherds, their silent guardians, living on the land with them as a large integrated unit.
The year before, when I encountered him way out in the fields, I made a portrait of him, and when he passed by today I brought it out for him. He looked at it, and I believe he couldn’t quite believe it was him, so unused to a mirror is he.
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.
Ordinary things still surprise me. A hay bale for instance, rolled up in the fashion of today’s farming methods, is often just pitched into the stall for the cows to chomp it down in their own sweet time. But here it unspooled itself when the wrapper was cut, and mimicked the wave that was already set in motion by the winds while the grain was growing in the fields earlier that summer.
While standing in front of it, the ‘object’ it became was satisfying to look at in unexpected ways, and led me to both see it for what it was, and to reconsider it for the other non-objective properties it held. I saw the color it became in it’s season of drying, I looked at the light it appeared in in the darkness of the stall, I thought about the flatness it presented while at the same time being enriched with curves, swirls, and eruptions of forms that splintered out along its edges. All these small thoughts made me stand there staring at a hay bale!
At times I wonder how these simple things have taken hold of me; a city boy whose love of the messy mix of speed and life on the streets has been overtaken by the study of stillness in the form of natural or man made things. It must be a certain time of life I’ve entered. I am taking ‘long looks’ at things that earlier slipped by and now call out for consideration.