“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”
“There was no idling-time for a pony-rider on duty. He rode fifty miles without stopping, by daylight, moonlight, starlight, or through the blackness of darkness–just as it happened. He rode a splendid horse that was born for racer and fed and lodged like a gentleman; kept him at his utmost speed for ten miles, and then, as he came crashing up to the station where stood two men holding a fresh, impatient steed, the transfer of rider and mail-bag was made in the twinkling of an eye, and away flew the eager pair and were out of sight before the spectator could get hardly the ghost of a look.” -Mark Twain
Cruising West on I-80 I saw a little sign brown sign marking an upcoming historical landmark. I always love these on any road trip and try to stop often, but this one in particular caught my attention. It advertised the home of Robert Henri. I’d just seen several of his gorgeous works at the Museum of Nebraska Art, but the chance to see his home and where he painted seemed like a worthy adventure. I quickly exited and began the search for his house.
When I pulled up just outside Robert Henri’s home, I realized I’d just missed their business hours. It didn’t matter to me. I got out and snapped a few photos, admiring the home and trying to visualize Robert working there, years ago.
A man standing on the sidewalk saw me and asked if he could help me. I explained why I was there and that I’d hoped to see inside the home, but it was good enough to just be there and snap a few photographic memories. I mentioned that I’d made art my life. I’d graduated from Sotheby’s with a Master’s in Art Business and I was now a professional photographer. My Mother and Grandparent’s have collected art their whole lives and I make it my mission to bring back at least one piece, no matter how expensive…just meaningful to me…from each trip I take in my life.
This strange man simply smiled at me, wiped some of the paint coated on his hand onto his shirt, reached out his hand and introduced himself as the contractor for the updates to Robert Henri’s home. He then casually mentioned that he was a board member of the museum and would I like a private tour even though they were closed?
It always pays to take a chance. 🙂
So he grabbed his keys and walked me through Robert Henri’s home. I was able to see where he lived, worked, and envisioned his works of art. They even had many of his personal sketches and of course some of his beautiful art. There are definitely some great people in this world. I’m so glad I found one so early on in my trip.
“The object isn’t to make art, it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.”
– Robert Henri
No matter where I’ve travelled in my life, I’ve always made sure to seek out art along the way.
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso
While heading West on this 2014 road trip, I made sure to visit the Museum of Nebraska Art and was not disappointed. Surrounded by beautiful works created by Albert Bierstadt, Robert Henri, and Thomas Moran, I took a moment to remember what I’ve learned about art in my life and to appreciate the Nebraskan landscape.
Art simplifies life for me. It allows me always a moment of calm to recenter.
I recently read a Financial Times story about Gianni Berengo Gardin. Apparently he (millions of other people) and I share a hero of photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Henri’s advice was to “photograph a moment so decisive that is catches the breath.” However much Gardin respected Cartier-Bresson, he did not heed his hero’s advice. Gardin shied away from the obvious. He doesn’t, “take photographs that are eclatante”.
He first picked up a camera in the mid-1940s. By then, the family had moved to Rome. When the German occupiers ordered the citizens to hand in their cameras, recalls Berengo Gardin, “I went out to take photographs just because I liked to disobey!” When the war ended, the family moved to Venice. “At first I was a dilettante photographer, taking shots of sunsets and old ladies.” Revelation occurred with a parcel of books from an uncle in America that included work by the great documentary photographers Walker Evans and Dorthea Lange. As he gazed at farmers reduced to gaunt despair by the Great Depression, Berengo Gardin found his calling. “It was the first time I realised that photography could tell stories that mattered.”
Later, Gardin spent time in Venice with Peggy Guggenheim, but today sadly calls Venice a, “violated woman” due to the tourism and massive cruise ships powering through the fragile and historical city. A sentiment I share having lived and worked in Venice at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection myself.
Gardin captures “the way in which his subjects see themselves” which might be a little unconventional in today’s photography market. Most subjects only think they want the truth in photographs, when in reality, they want your lens to make up a completely different story for them. Perhaps that is why he is a world renowned photo journalist and I’m shooting fashion and cultural events. Gardin has spent half a century telling the whole, true story. The gritty story, no matter how simple it may be. I’ll get there, someday. However, he claims and I agree that, “even the poorest people have dignity.” That “social justice” comes from his Italian father and Swiss mother who he says, “She was a feminist before anyone knew what feminism was.”
Gianni Berengo Gardin’s advice for photographers today? Stay away from academic photography institutions. Instead, study the greats who came before. “You need to understand why Cartier-Bresson took photographs in a different way to Klein or Lang.” Advice I have done and intend to follow.
Revelation occurred with a parcel of books from an uncle in America that included work by the great documentary photographers Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange. As he gazed at farmers reduced to gaunt despair by the Great Depression, Berengo Gardin found his calling. ‘It was the first time I realised that photography could tell stories that mattered.
That line is word for word why I am a photographer today. To tell stories that matter. An intense promise, but one I intend to keep.
You can read the entire Financial Times article by Rachel Spence, here.
30 Days of Thankfulness, Day 27: The World Needs More Love Letters.
I’ve written about Hannah before. I’ve written about her organization before. I love them both so much that I wanted to include both Hannah and The World Needs More Love Letters in my 30 Days of Thankfulness.
Hannah Brencher started the World Needs More Love Letters herself by leaving handwritten love letters around for strangers to find in order to ease suffering, help lift their spirits, or just make them smile. If you emailed her a snail mail address, she would send you a hand written love letter. One year and 400 love letters later, she created her organization. Their mission is about, “lifting, empowering, and mobilizing individuals through tangible acts of love.” 20,000 strong and over 49 countries later, Hannah and her phenomenal friends leave love letters across their communities and mail them to others in need.
Definitely a gal I’d like to have on my side.
30 Days of Thankfulness, Day 25: 1 month until Christmas and I am definitely thankful for Australians who go the extra (31) miles for Holiday decorations! 🙂
According to NPR:
“Janean and David Richards’ display uses 502,165 LED lights that, laid end to end, would stretch for more than 31 miles. The family is reclaiming a record it grabbed in 2011, with 331,038 lights…The Richards’ 2011 light show was also part of a charity drive, as they reportedly raised more than $70,000 in donations.”
According to the Financial Times, Arts section, Simon Heijdens is an artist to watch.
“The imagery is created by capturing the surrounding weather – wind, rain, heat – with outdoor sensors and translating this information, via software that Heijdens has developed, into the flowers and trees. The purpose is to bring the randomness of nature back into our lives.”
30 Days of Thankfulness, Day 19: My childhood memories of my sister, Kathryn reading me books when I was a toddler. Even after I was older and had learned to read, I still preferred to listen to her read to me, instead. My favorite was the Trixie Belden series because she had different voices for each character in the Bob-Whites of the Glen. Even Trixie’s kid brother, Bobby. I’ll never forget my childhood pony, Sumi, but years later, I named my first horse after the black gelding, Jupiter in the Trixie Belden books.