What Catches the Eye
Who knows why any one stops any time, anywhere? Why this trough, which is probably a truck tire track, filled with rain water in a gravel-bedded parking area. But there it is, the puzzle that all photographers deal with all the time. Something catches the eye, with no rational reason for it. Maybe it was the color of the light as the day waned, which, when seen against the new green of the hills at that hour set off the slightly warmer feel of the gravel, or perhaps it was the piece of sky that made its poem in the trough, falling to earth in a way that made me pause. These are the mysteries of this remarkable medium that so many of us are in dialogue with, and that makes it is so compelling.
So the dialogue continues.
We were driving to Rome for a shoot I was to do at Cinecittá, when along the way we passed this meadow. It was perfect timing, as nature was calling, so what better place to stop and take in while letting out.
The abundance of wild flowers, the heady perfume of the meadow on a warm day, the gentle roll of the land, (they call it dolce, sweet) even the march of trees across the space, produced a peculiar sensation of awe and tenderness in all three of us as we stood on the verge of the meadow and looked in.
How often I have been stopped by something purely visual and yet encouraged to ‘take it in’ by the olfactory message that was being given off by where I was. I have learned to trust this instinct, this dream, or trance state, produced by the union of the whole sensory palette of seeing, hearing, smelling. Sight is not alone in our experience of place.
It was a sudden light show. I moved from tree space to tree space watching it play out; where was the strongest sensation, what made me gasp? A few steps into the next pairing I saw the shadow of a man who was nearby, fall on the trunk of the cypress, and it was a sudden jolt of a new possibility.
There were others too, of the trees alone, and some are strong on their own, but this one made its way into the considerations for this blog. maybe on another day I would feel differently. Photography is like that.
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.
Inside the Light
My eye is dazzled regularly by the Tuscan light. A light that caused us many years ago to name our book on the region; “Tuscany: Inside The Light,” because it so often seemed as if the light was emanating from within the landscape rather than falling on it.
There is something very special in the composition of the soil here which I believe contributes to this light effect, and my reading of it this way. The earth here is not the typical dark earth of many agricultural zones. This earth is known as the Tuscan crete, which is a light toned, clay-like material deposited millions of years ago as sea bottom, and as such it is incredibly nutrient rich, but not dark. I believe that this light toned earth forms a base below the grasses, grains, sunflowers, vineyards, etc, that are part of the landscape here.
This produces a more reflective surface than a dark soil does, and so there is a luminous lift to the light bouncing back from the land, which I believe is what generates the special qualities of Tuscan light. Certainly daily atmospheric conditions emphasize light and color as well, but from my 20 year point of view working here, it is the accumulated resonance of this scattering of the light that accounts for these remarkable and emotional displays.