You wouldn't think winter is a great time to travel, but it's actually a great time to hit the road and reflect on the view. And I'm not talking tropical vacay, no; my latest little walkabout was a late winter/early spring jaunt to the cold climes of Chicago -- one of my favorite places any time of the year. Visiting family there is a joy I look forward to every year, but the sublime pleasures of this city are nestled in the art galleries and museums. (There's a couple great bars there, too, but that's probably a different story.)
While wandering about the magnificent Art Institute, I found myself completely taken by a landscape painted by Camille Pissarro, considered by some the father of French Impressionism. The Chicago Art Institute houses one of the world's finest collections of Impressionism, and photographers -- even those otherwise unfamiliar with art history -- consider it influential. It's easy to see why.
As I sat there gazing at the painting, trying to lose myself within it, I was struck by its immediacy, how it captured a fleeting light, a composition at once worldly and, paradoxically, quite ordinary. It was, in a word, photographic. And this, of course, sent my mind wandering to far off places.
The Impressionists and photography came into this world at roughly the same time, and I think both have had a profound and lasting effect on each other. Art historians and scholars (if you haven't noticed, I am definitely neither) can argue this point, but I can speak for me. My earliest training and influences were all in painting, long pre-dating my entry into the photographic world, and I recognize that consciously or unconsciously I have always tried to somehow incorporate that influence into my work. I don't want my photographs to look like watercolors or oil paintings, no, but as I've gotten older in this field I've begun to recognize that I've walked down their paths too, and carried some of the dust along with me. It's been a fine and beautiful stroll.
Couple of good bars along the way too, by my reckoning.