Topic: Italy (12 posts) Page 1 of 3

Magical

Ever feel you were in a place that was somehow magical? That, for whatever reason, things colluded to make where you were something so very special as to be once in a lifetime? I am sure you have.

Orvieto, Italy 2009

Ever happen to be there with a camera? Were you able to capture that special circumstance? Take advantage of this gift? I am sure you have.

Arsenale, Venice, Italy 2007

I know I have. There is the sense of tread lightly here and speak in whispers as this is so incredible you could shatter it in an instant. That feeling of OMG I just have to get this, all I have to do with this camera in my hands is to bear witness to this beauty, this sublime place, this other worldly quality. This is both a powerful concept, to be able to make something truly sublime out of what is in front of you, and humbling for it is such a transient thing, this picture you are making.

Oakesdale Cemetery, Washington 1997

Isn't it this at least part of what we seek? It is often what we are looking for as artists reliant upon the world around us to make our pictures. To find a circumstance, a unique combination of weather, place, light and use of a creative frame of mind that will combine together something perhaps mundane into something truly extraordinary. Very empowering, this. The feeling that it may be put there for you, arranged and choreographed as a display for you to photograph. Odd, yes?

Bermuda 1982

Two things: one, you can't have this "ah ha" moment, this ultimate reward, without being out there with a camera, a lot. You need to be in the world, seeing, looking, being a photo predator, on the "hunt" for pictures. Two, experience should be your guide, your practically instinctual director of future success. This is where your intellect is effectively useless, perhaps for logisitcs only, for it is your intuition, your heart, that will lead you down that path, over that rise, around that corner to find the sublime, the magical.

Vignole, Italy 2006

I am most fortunate to have had this kind of experience numerous times over my career. I can't assume it or take it for granted but I can be thankful when it comes and accept it for the gift it is.  

Topics: Italy,Black and White,Europe,Analog,Digital

Permalink | Posted October 18, 2018

Another Time Another Life

Italy, 1990 near Duino along the Adriatic

These photographs seem like they are from another time, another life.

You get so old you can't believe that was you 30 or 40 years ago. The reason for this retrospection? 

I've been scanning old negatives. 

It's brought me back to the 80's and 90's when I was a full-time professor and an 8 x 10 photographer.

1986 near Prescott, AZ with the Toyo Filed 8 x 10

8 x 10 photographer? Yes, this was an "identifier", a title to a certain way of photographing. To be an 8 x 10 photographer tended to mean you were someone who was very serious about your pictures, someone disciplined and something of a control freak. You needed to work clean (because of dust), most needed to have things like an 8 x 10 enlarger (often mounted on its own concrete pad to minimize vibration) and huge lenses that were very slow and very expensive, a heavy tripod and a dark cloth that you'd drape over your head when composing your picture.

I've been looking at work from Italy where I would teach most summers near Trieste or north of Rome in Viterbo. Summer after summer, a frantic pace of classes and shooting trips, weekends on my own in a rented car driving all over with the 8 x 10. Hundreds of sheets of black and white film shot each summer, spending months back in my darkroom just processing the film, often finding it would be February or March before I started to print.

Marble Quarry at Cava Romana, 1992

Years of this, not even thinking that this was a massive amount of work, not caring, for I loved it so. I am not sure this way of working would be possible today, with airport security being so tight and x-raying being so pervasive.

Tuba, near Trieste 1991

Tarquinia, 1992

By the early 90's, 8 x 10 was a greased system for me, practically the only thing I shot. Fluid and frequent with it as if it were something handheld or for any kind of photography. I'd just as soon haul it out to shoot a class picture at my daughter's school as I would to make a grand landscape on the edge of a cliff at Les Baux in Southern France. It was just the tool I used to make my pictures.  Ed Ranney from Santa Fe is a friend who was like this with a 5 x 7 or a 4 x 5 and I admired his work, so emulated his approach. He was fast and easy, no fuss, make the picure and move on. Likewise with Emmet Gowin. I liked his Italian garden pictures from the 70's and, yes, pointed down at gardens in Italy when I could, just like he did.

Near Viterbo, 1994

A new road under construction near Muggia, 1993

What was it about this format? The negatives contained so much sheer information that one never had to think about whether it would get that or if it could render that with subtlety and refinement. I never thought twice about making big prints from those negatives, and did. For a while 20 x 24 inches was a common size for me and I made many prints that were 5 feet across. In fact, I was proud of my craft for it was very difficult to be good with this large camera. I worked at my own development as well, researching and trying different films and developers, staining my negatives in Pyro for years, toning my prints in Selenium or more exotic metals, including gold. 

The craft was intertwined with the final print, the imagery integral to the process. 

What I photographed was in full knowledge of what that image could become as a beautiful print.

But, and it is a big but....

This is the truth and the real point of this post: No one but me knows this work, no one but me cares to see them, as prints or here in the blog. Nothing will happen to this work unless I make it happen and no one will choose to scan them when I am gone. They will have existed as physical negatives made in the late 20th century and then they will not. No one will know how to edit them and no one will care to do anything with them.

Near the coast at Tarquinia 1992

In present times, photographs can't exist unless they are digitized. I can't show these pictures to you in this form without scanning the negatives or prints first. I can't submit this work for exhibition or a grant, I can't share them without first making them into O's and 1's using a sensor. 

8 x 10. A few still use one. Bruce Myren locally to the Boston area does good work with one. Mercedes Jelinek and Liz Ellenwood, young photographers that use my old camera. Sally Mann I presume. Don't know if Emmet still uses his. 

Topics: Italy,Black and White

Permalink | Posted May 19, 2018

Italy 3

Let's move up into more recent times. Since I finished teaching in Venice I've been to Italy a few times: 2009, 2012, 2014. The 2009 trip was photo specific and produced some wonderful work.

In 2012 I was able to get back to the area around Latisana not far from Trieste to photograph stands of trees. The trees are grown as a crop and are for making wood pulp.

And in 2014 on a trip to both France for  Paris Photo and to Italy I made pictures in Noli, along the Italian Mediterranean

This ends the series of several posts on my time teaching and photographing in Italy. There is far more than I've represented here. I linked a few series at the bottom of this post. Very often series represented in the gallery page on the site are backed up with blogs about the same series. Easy, just go to the search function in the blog and type in the series and a list of posts will populate on the left side of the page.

Thanks for following along. 

Finally, I feel blessed to have had so many opportunities to photograph in such an incredible country as Italy for so many years. I am the beneficiary of its warmth, its wonderful people, and its beauty.

Topics: Foreign,Italy,black and white and color,Digital,Analog

Permalink | Posted January 31, 2018

Italy

I sometimes feel as though I've spent my whole adult life photographing in Italy.

Of course, that's not true, but over many many trips to photograph and to teach in the summers, Italy has been a base, a foundation of creative output for me since very early days. I don't know the whole country, having never been to the south, but north of Rome, I know well, with many pictures the result. Viterbo, Duino near Trieste, Venice,  Luca, and northern Italy? Feel like home.

These were places I was teaching summer semesters abroad for various schools, until I created a program in Venice with Holly Smith Pedlosky for Northeastern University to teach a Summer 1 photography course in 2007. I stopped after 3 years but the prgram continued for the next 10.

Much of my time photographing in Italy was spent working in black and white with the  8 x 10 camera. This was mostly in the 90's:

Those summers I taught 5 days a week with Friday afternoon crits.That meant  I had the weekends free. I'd load up the 8 x 10 and off I'd go in some tiny Italian rental car, free to roam, to look and to photograph.

Often I'd have a teaching assistant along with me or a student or two, but many times it was just going off on my own. Each evening I would unload the exposed film in a closet or dark room into empty film boxes. These I would bring back to the States with me at the end of my time in Europe and begin to develop the film. 4 sheets at a time in 11 x 14-inch trays in total darkness, day in and day out. There were years where it would take me 4 or 5 months just to develop the film. 

I've written this before but I didn't really think much about how difficult all this was, how labor intensive, expensive and heavy the gear was. It was the way I made my pictures, simple enough. If I wanted to photograph something, well, out came the big camera.

Next up, in Italy 2 we'll take a look at the early 2000's when I started photographing digitally, leaving the 8 x 10 behind.

Topics: Italy,Black and White,Foreign

Permalink | Posted January 16, 2018

Arsenale

In 2003 I went to Venice, Italy to scout it out as a possible location for teaching photography in the summers for Northeastern, where I ran the Photo Program. My idea was to combine forces with Holly Smith Pedlosky to teach photography for a summer semester for the school. Holly had gone to Venice frequently ever since her honeymoon when she was younger so she knew Venice very well. She also had been teaching workshops for many summers in Venice and, on alternating years, in Varenna, a village on the edge of Lake Como. Sadly, Holly died in 2012 of cancer (obituary here). Holly and I spent a week or so that summer traipsing around Venice, speaking to locals about how it all might happen: working on where we would house students, where we would teach, what we would teach, where we would house the faculty, the various logistics involved and so on. Little did I know that upon my return to Boston there would be a nightmare of bureaucracy and obstacles thrown up by Northeastern in the process of trying to make it all happen. Suffice it to say it took two more years of sitting in meetings with amazingly inept people, filling out forms and explaining the concept to pull it off. Argh! It gets my blood boiling just to think about it now. I was successful, though, and ran the course in Venice for three years myself. In fact, it is still running every summer.

That summer in 2003 I wasn't only there to plan a future study abroad program, I wanted to photograph. One of the areas that caught my eye was at the arsenal, (arsenale in Italian). Arsenale is a vaporetto stop (water taxi) and is the walled fortification where the military was housed to defend Venice throughout much of its long history.

But my interest was along the back side outside the walls of the Arsenale where it was, frankly, a mess. To get there I had to get off the vaporetto at an obscure stop on the other side of the island that really led to nowhere. There were some overrun gardens nestled up against the arsenal's walls. I might have had to cross a fence to get access. One of the advantages of increased age is that I can't remember.

What I loved about this place was that it was what the locals created away from the crowds of tourists. Venice is finite, an island in a lagoon with way too many people all the time. It is a sort of bizarre Disneyworld in that it is a place that is in existence to present itself to hordes of tourists from all over the world. And to get their money. But on the outside of the back side of Arsenale locals had a few tables, grew a few vegetables and escaped from the relentlessness of thousands upon thousands of people tromping through their city like in a siege. This place was an escape.

As I began to photograph it seemed odd but I was on familiar ground for I had made a series of pictures in a manner much like this many years before. The project was called Solothurn and was from a small town in Switzerland where the series unfolded in a sort of jigsaw puzzle of sequenced pictures. My series Arsenale is like that.

You can see that here everything is the same but different from frame to frame. I wrote a little about this way of working, referring to the Solothurn portfolio, made in 1983:

Solothurn CH to be precise. Having gone to a European photo festival in the town I set out with the Hasselblad SWC and several rolls of film down the back side of these row houses on a mid afternoon mid week in mid summer. Bang! These things so interconnected and intertwined as I walked down the street, something frame left was showing up in the next one, frame right. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the challenge was to see that, search, find the connection, the thing in its new location, and move on. This was a new way of working, of course. I’d never connected pictures to pictures this way before and this one hit me hard. There are also several frames where I push the lens right into something, more than I’d done before. It was this series that showed me how good the SWC was close in.
Let’s not forget that this is very early series days and this is maybe the third one I’d done (I started making tightly sequenced series work in 1981). It was a big period of learning for me as I was now in the work, so to speak. Not trying to get to the work, not hoping to be in the work, not wishing for anything except another shoot as good as the last shoot. “In the work” means I am in the project and consumed with it. Story of my life, really.

So there I was on the backside of the wall of Arsenale in Venice, Italy, making these pictures, sliding along to place something that had been on the left now in the center and/or perhaps next on the right

with the wall the glue that held the pictures together and made them compre-hensible.

So here, twenty years after I'd made the Solothurn pictures I was  back in this process in front of this wonderful and complex place and knowing I had a way, a method, a strategy by which I could make pictures. You get that, I am sure. That there needs to be a framework around which you hang your pictures, some sort of logic or process by which you work.  At least in this manner, this way of tightly sequencing the work to strive for a whole. 

I can't really go through all of them here as the post will be too long but will place them all on the site on the gallery page soon so you can see the full set.

At any rate, the project moves on in its incremental way and arrives here

to one of those "aha" moments, this rule breaker, this foundation shaking picture which is, all modesty aside, simply gorgeous with its structure, softness, its breaking away from the back wall to establish itself as no longer dependent upon the wall for visual support. It is a core picture in the series, one that many of the other pictures pivot around and one that hits close to home for me emotionally.

And, of course, it goes very well with this:

where things have really gotten a little out of control, growth-wise. The series concludes with a little more logic, a little restoring of things to a sort or normalcy. I am not usually a cynic and this series, made in 2003, came back around to the wall again and also to some of the tools used in keeping a garden.

I will finish soon, I promise, but bear with me for one more point. While I have discussed this way of working, this sliding down something to form a whole through composite parts (not so dissimilar to what what I did with Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz, in the current show at 555 Gallery up until Oct 17 of my Monsters work which I really hope you go see) there is another concept at play in Arsenale. Is the seminal picture of the concrete pyramid made as it was found as I moved along the back wall, in essence there as if come upon as a surprise? Or are the other pictures made to hover around the pyramid because it was known and made first? To bring you into this one core image? Is this one picture made by calculation for perceived effect or by intuition in an emotional response? There are two different motivations as possibilities at work here and there would be two different results, I believe. For the record my process in making the Arsenale photographs was the former, for I didn't know the pyramid existed until after I'd made the earlier images in the series. So, yes, I came upon the pyramid. I love that, that the artist has made discoveries just as you do as you look at the work, picture after picture. That's in there, I believe. The joy or amazement in discovering an exceptional something in front of me and all it takes is the quality of my practice and the smarts to know it is exceptional. Finally, it is a contextual thing. No way would the pyramid photograph have any interest or relevance if the other sequence hadn't preceded it. Igor Stravinsky's melody and harmony make little sense and have little impact unless there is dissonance and stridency before them.

I find it ironic that the series of photographs of Arsenale is about the outside and back of the structure and this blog has been about the inside of the series.

We are done with Arsenale and its meaning and implication. What this is, of course, is explication. The explanation of the meaning of something. In large part it is what this blog is for. In the case of my work, to bring you into it and to help you understand it better and clearer, at least from this one person's perspective. Good work? Bad work? Can't really say, I just can relate it to you as I worked it, saw it then and see it now through the perspective of many years distance.

Care to respond? Feel free. As always, easy. Email me here

Topics: Italy,Foreign,Black and White,Vintage

Permalink | Posted October 2, 2015