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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Global Power Drives Train of Thought


“Just take photos of anything,” echo Barbra’s words of assignment from our first day of photography class. How many times do I over-think that statement and question how one goes about taking photos of anything? A photo of a building speaks of architecture, a photo of sunset shows a glow of a painted sky, and a photo of dancers documents grace in motion. But what do the rest of these “photos of anything” say and more importantly – why do I take them? A hedge, empty chairs, a police man (well, a cute policeman), feet, shadows… what does this all mean? Am I subconsciously selecting details from the real world to create my own make-believe world? Today’s mission started innocently enough with me wandering through my photos in search of similarities and answers to the mystery. I pulled some seemingly unrelated shots to explore their relationships in an effort to learn more about what drives my eye to capture one moment in time and not another. Sincere as my intention was, I got sidetracked. The result is a train of thought experience… follow along with the story as I connect the dots or just look at the photos and see if you recognize the connections.

The globe is a powerful shape in that its rounded form suggests movement even when it's still. The trigger photo is of basketball size white globes with a red umbilical cord, a contemporary art installation in a white-walled gallery in the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. The long narrow gallery with door openings on each end, encourages, requires, or merely tempts you to walk into and through the installation. Step over the cord, over the globe, walk against the wall – no matter how you do it, it’s a personalized art experience. That umbilical cord and starkness reminded me of the elongated black globes hanging from a mega-yacht in Portofino. Rather than tempting people to come close, these shapes repel and serve as a cushioned barrier to keep the ship safe from being bumped by another.  The sea water reminded me of seeing piles upon piles of fishing gear all lined up in a row at the dock where we boarded earlier in the day bound for Portofino. One particular pile had red misshapen globe-like shapes that resembled squat heirloom tomatoes with wrinkled skin.  

Of course the red of the tomato floats hanging on the fishing ropes made me think of nature and full plump round red fruit hanging from a tree. And fruit hanging from a tree that grew from the earth made me think of the sky. After the fruit is picked, it is often dried by the sun and sold in the marketplace. On one particular day in the marketplace, dried red cherry tomatoes (yes, the tomato is the fruit of the tomato plant) were displayed in a circular bin – certainly the cousin-shape to the globe. The green lining in the bin against the deep red of the tomatoes mimics the just picked fruit in the fresh produce aisle.    

The colors of growth and the warmth of the sun and thinking of tomatoes takes my mind to salt, an earthly mineral, and the neatly arranged salt shakers with their shiny circular silver lids at a café in Greve in Chianti where you can sit outside and watch the townsfolk ride by. Of course, that made me think of the shiny circular rims on the bikes lined up on the street and one with a red frame standing out in the crowd. And, the street of stone beneath the bikes led me to remember the circular shape of the hewn stone amphitheater in Fiesole, which also wears an accent patch of red carpet on the stage. 

In the blink of any eye, my mind has wandered from the initial visual attraction of the white gallery globes, to shapes extracted from the globe, to an ordinary piece of red carpet in a circular setting. The photos serve as visual examples for this story, but with the exception of the art installation, they are of ordinary fleeting scenes and common objects found most any day in Italy. Although I find the photos interesting, there is really nothing spectacular (oops, the mega-yacht WAS spectacular) about any of the individual topics. The images are no less or no more important than before they caught my attention, but I realized that the “photos of anything” topics are unknowingly elevated to a level permanence by simply having been captured through the lens of my camera... so yes, I am creating my own make-believe world.

It seems only fitting that after dragging you through all this train of thought thinking from things that are round, things connected with cords, things with red, things by water, things that grow, things that are dried, things that shine, and things that are made out of stone… that I stop short of a whirling dervish at today’s final photo selection. As Rod Serling, might have said, “Take note. All is not what it seems to be in this world beneath the waves. Is it real or a freak accident of nature? Look closely at the golden lures linked together, falling over satin river rocks where discarded jewel encrusted starfish pose proudly in the dimension of imagination.” He pauses, tips his head forward, cocks an eyebrow, and knowingly says, “Next stop, The Twilight Zone.”  


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