Part 1 – Inspiration
This picture seems to merit two weeks’ worth of my time. So today, for part one, I will focus on location and light–the sources of my inspiration.
The first thing that strikes me about this picture is a small anecdote from a shoot that took place long ago at an estate on Long Island. I asked the owner of the house if it would be possible to shoot the interior of the house as well as the exterior gardens. She reacted by saying, “Oh, you want to be able to come inside if it’s raining?” My response, however, was, “No, I’d like to come inside in case it’s sunny.”
This explains a lot about how I work. I have chosen over the years to never shoot in studios. They feel sterile and artificial, and I became a photographer to find a way to be a part of the world. I have no interest in turning my back on it, isolating myself in an artificial environment, and seeking total control. I’m already isolated enough.
Light—with all its glorious variation from day to day, city to city, latitude to latitude—is my source of inspiration. In biblical times, knowledge, truth and insight were exposed by how they were illuminated. Without light there was only darkness. Revelations came through light. Likewise, with me, natural light is what best exposes and illuminates beauty. As a result, for the majority of my 40 years in photography, I have worked with available light. And this location is an example of how natural light is able to illuminate beauty.
America, which is a modern country, has for the past 75 years done its best to abandon that which is most sacred—light. Most modern commercial construction is created with tinted or closed off windows, so that temperature and climate are easily controlled. They are mimicking what photographers do in studios. They are turning their backs, closing their eyes to the outside.
This is one of the few locations I’ve ever found in New York that has all the things I love. It has age, character, and large southerly windows that open. It allows me to feel I am in some glorious space, as many must have felt as they first walked into Chartres Cathedral centuries ago.