Tag Archives: Wall

JUNE 15, 2015

Ordinary Moments

Some days not much happens.

We went for a walk.

I stopped to look at my own shadow.

The small, ordinary moments that life continually presents, in which I hope to find just a little moment of concentrated observation that would keep the idea of daily imagery going. These are the tough lessons of a project like this one; how to keep interest alive while many other things: books, shows, presentations, all crowd in and eat up precious time. So, as I have said before, “I’ll make the most of what I have.”

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MAY 27, 2015

Cinecittá

I was asked to shoot something on the set of old New York, and when I arrived I saw that all of Cinecittá seemed to be a crumbling, dilapidated, lifeless place. Film production was gone, a few sound stages were used for TV shows, and the rest of the place had become a tour bus attraction, without much attraction going for it. I scouted the place for locations and everywhere I said I wanted to shoot they said “no, off limits for now.” If not now, when, I wondered?

I finally settled for this street of old New York brownstones and other tenement like buildings. It was seedy and sad, and I told the company that hired me that it wasn’t a good choice for what they wanted. But they insisted, and since I was partly doing it as a favor for a friend, I went ahead, hoping to make the most of the hand I was dealt.

The best thing about it for me was that this was where Fellini shot his films, and more than anything else his presence, even in absence, was the strongest sensation I felt while working there. That out of this limited place he made magic. And that is part of what photography does for me; the limits of ordinary life give rise to magical moments, or unexpected flashes of insight, or quiet moments of reflection on what is right in front of me that fills me with pleasure

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MAY 19, 2015

3 Contadini

Marino, Marino, Maria.

Maria is married to Marino, and her brother, Marino, lives with them. They are in their 80’s and older, and have been together on their farm for more than 60 years. They are the last of a dying generation of people who live on and work the land. They are entirely self sufficient. They are wise and warm, and wily, and funny too, and have generous hearts that have remained open in spite of the hardships they’ve endured by living in a manner that belongs to the early part of the 20th century, or maybe even earlier.

The things they know about the land, the animals, the seasons, the very meaning of the winds, could fill a book. And Marino (with the stick) was a prisoner of war in WW2, and managed to walk all the way back home from up near the Russian border. Each time we visit with them we come away with a feeling that we traveled back in time to a part of Tuscan life that every day is slipping further away.

To make a portrait of these people – as you might imagine they are not aware of the ways in which we moderns make photographs all the time – so to make a portrait that holds their innocence as a value, requires a delicate method of being very present and yet as direct as they are, but also by maintaining a space that doesn’t take anything away from them, nor make them skittish. So genuine Interest in their lives and stories provides a basis for being in and observant of their rhythm. It supports the making of informal portraits.

There is a touch of anthropology in working like this, not that I know anything about that science, but over all these years I’ve learned how to be with people, and to become slightly invisible while being very present. This is part of the ‘way of being’ that photographers develop in order to slip into the lives of others.

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MAY 14, 2015

Simple Forms

There are moments and places that speak to me out of their simplest, most elemental nature. It could be the light – as it often is for me – or their form; mysterious, pure, layered, intricate, organic, ancient… This sunny space between two dark buildings announced itself, as places often do, by making me gasp when I turned into the lane, and when I gasp I know I am in the right place, or the right moment. I trust that gasp to be something from my source speaking without words. Words come later, but in the moment there is only the intake of breath that means, Now!

These simple forms; the house fronts in the light, the pair of quintessential Tuscan trees, the cypress and the pine, the face full of ivy on the building on the left, that flawless blue sky, the blush of pale color on the sunlit facade, all of these ordinary facts combined to make something ineffable, yet felt with the precision and economy of a Haiku.

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MAY 8, 2015

What We Know

The stairs up to the studio were almost always in a shadowed space, but in the spring of the year, for only a few weeks at most, a lozenge of light, or some days a tentacle, or a band, or fan, or spray, depending on the cloud cover or angle, slides down the wall and describes a new space in what is a familiar but often overlooked passage.

It points out how we can still be surprised by what we think we know.

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APRIL 30, 2015

Walking Stick

We had packed the house for a May 1 departure back to Tuscany. We were nearly done with the last details when Maggie walked out the door with this little walking stick I had bought a few weeks before. Why I bought it I had no real idea, just that the stick itself seemed to have a kind of ‘character’ that I felt might make its way into a still life; slender, with a small, knobby head, and a lovely flexibility that made me want to do a little dance when I picked it up.

It’s the kind of stick that as soon as one takes it in hand a transformation occurs; turning one into a Chaplin, or Chevalier, or a dandy, a fencer, a hoofer… and Maggie was no different as she strutted out the door and did her little jig and spin for me. At moments like this one can see their intimates in a new light because the playfulness and theatrics are revealing in sudden and fresh ways. Although with Maggie I am fortunate to have a partner who is always ready to play, and so I see different characters quite often. Still, if there is no camera in hand the transformations are lost to time.

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APRIL 6 -11, 2015

Seeing the Light

I look out the window never knowing what I’ll see that may be of interest. Will it be the weather? The landscape? Street activity? Even if we are familiar with our window’s frame, expecting it to show us the same old scene just altered by time or season, we can be surprised. The frame can move our attention just as we move the camera in front of our eye. On this bleak day, with a light rain falling, the delicate tracery of the cypress trees on the water, and the subtle coloration of the pool’s structure, made me feel as if I was seeing lavender in the overall aqua that I wasn’t sure was there. There was no lavender in the grey sky. Yet the grey bands in the pool delicately resonated with color. My feeling was that all that aqua produced a lavender echo in my eye, and on the sensor. And it is that magic of color seeing that has always seduced me.

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Carrying the camera always makes me interested in something along the way, and thus I am always having to catch up to family or friends who are already ahead of me. But sometimes it pays off if even in small ways. Seeing Maggie and our friends ahead of me as we hurried to the cinema made me appreciate the now lengthened hours of the day, and the lovely mix of last light and lamplight in this old town’s narrow alleys. I had that jolt, as I so often do, that, “I am Here, now!” And the recognition of the meaning of being in every moment becomes ringingly clear.                                                                                                                                                           April 7

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Nature takes hold wherever it can, it is, after all, nature’s dominion that we live in. So when I stand in front of something as simple as an ivy covered wall, naked in this season, I see the vivacious complexity of it all, and thrill to the marvel of it once again in yet another form. I imagined a print of it at 8 or 10 feet, and see how something so simple can also convey great power, depending upon its scale.

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I pulled into an empty lot to turn the car around and swung into line with the back wall of a  cemetery filled with crazy topiary bushes and trees. But what really called out to me at this late hour of the day, was the enormous pile of stones banked near the wall. There was something so funereal about the pile and the way it was stacked and ordered, that i got out to walk around it and take it all in. The scene became more mysterious as the light faded and the stones emanated a ghostly radiance. I guess it was just right for a cemetery.

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What a riot of color this restaurant was! Earlier in the week I was taken with the barely discernible lavender tones in a green pool, and was questioning color’s way of working in a subtractive or additive way. But here, the mix and bounce and reflection and blending of colors was a whole lesson in primaries and complementary colors, and the wait for our food to arrive was taken up with the beauty of how light transforms wherever we are and what we see.

April 10

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With all the various kinds of light this week presented, when it comes to feelings of intimacy there is nothing like candlelight. That old touch of primitive fire, flickering and dancing the shadows on the walls, making moods and mystery where electric light would elaborate the harsh details and leave us looking at the repairs we need to make rather than at the beauty of the moment. The cameras of today do very well in low light situations, and in fact have advanced our ability to see into the dark in ways that film struggled with. I am grateful when the technology of our times adds expressive potential to our ideas.

April 11

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MARCH 20, 2015

Gritty

It happens to everybody, I am sure, that you find yourself somewhere and it seems to be blasted, brutal, boring, or ugly, and it’s easy to say, ‘there’s nothing here.’ I think that in those moments it is precisely the time to look harder, to try and see something, even  when your wish is to be somewhere else. And looking harder then may still not pay off, but one never knows.

I walked around this particular town looking for a place that I was told did metalwork, and of course those kinds of places are often in parts of town that are deteriorating, so when I came to this gritty spot with its hacked trees, crumbling steps, and failing masonry, I was ready to move on. But something in the physical space nagged at me momentarily and made me lift the Leica to my eye. Maybe it was just the relative scale of some of the forms, or was it the overall tonal similarity on this grey day. Who can say? But for some reason it called me to spend a few minutes there looking at the parts and absorbing the feelings the place gave off, before moving on.

It is that call to instinct that serves me even when an image fails to be a ‘keeper.’

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Nota Bene: Some readers pointed out to me that the Wunderkabinet image the other day had a Squirrel not a Rabbit and I realize that I saw squirrel and mistakenly typed rabbit. So thank you for being so observant.

MARCH 17, 2015

A Shadow of the Light

A young friend from Paris came for a visit. We decided to show him a mysterious old settlement called ‘the Bories,’ up in the woods above Bonnieux,  Ancient nomadic people, perhaps Celtic shepherds, or so the legend suggests, built stone bee-hive and igloo- like structures, in groups of 30 or more dwellings and animal pens.

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This place, long abandoned, has an air of spirituality and power that is still undeniably present. Each time we visit it courses through us with the same intensity. Over time, other visitors, some artistically inclined, have added things to the structures; woven branch roofs, stone circles, odd objects that set off the modern against the ancient, and other strangely affecting gestures.

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On the day we were there I saw, nestled in a stone wall, this rock on which Nature, in its effortlessly creative way, dissolved a leaf over time and left this negative image. It reminded me of how, at the dawn of photography, the early inventors also made a shadow of the light to mark their moment. If photography is about anything it is about that; light over time.

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MARCH 10, 2015

Time Machine

The camera is a time machine. It measures time in fractions of a second. It shows us the time of day. It describes the seasons. It reflects what kind of time we are having, if you look hard enough you might be able to see something of what the photographer was feeling, but that is open to discussion I am sure.

A photograph of a wall like this one tells me a lot. It’s not just about the colors – which are delicious – or the time of day it was made, but when I stood there what I saw was the passage of time etched into the life of the wall. The layers of color applied over different times of the building’s life. The wearing down of the colors and the walls themselves. The addition of a window, or a doorway, the closing up again, and other, invisible forces, too. For example; those arcs on the wall, how did they get there? They must have been from vines that grew over the wall and were strong enough to score the surface as the wind tossed them around, and like a protractor they left their geometry scraped into the wall.

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Time is told in this image by the sense of the freshening of the light. A spring urgency is just becoming visible in the newness of the grasses and in the silver glitter of the olive trees. Time is present to me in the way I feel on a day like this, when I wonder, ‘how many more Springs will I see?’

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