Tuscany: Wandering the Back Roads, Volume II (2004)

Michael A. Smith

In 1999 we were asked to teach a workshop in Austria. I had only been to Europe once before, in 1984 when I was invited to exhibit and participate in the Enschede Biennial in the Netherlands. On that trip I traveled to a number of European countries, but not to Italy. Paula had been to Tuscany many years before we met. Between her account of what she liked about it and the many photographs I had seen, we determined that after the workshop we would travel to and photograph in Tuscany.
Before we left we were asked many times, "What are you going to photograph in Tuscany?" "We don't know. We haven't been there yet," I always responded. Sometimes we were asked a follow-up question, "Are you going to do a book of your photographs in Tuscany?" I always responded, "We don't know. We haven't made any photographs yet." I have always photographed just to make photographs, not to make photographs for a book. The idea of making a book always came after the photographs were made, never before.
We shipped our old Land Rover, filled with our cameras, tripods, lenses, film holders, and film, and all of our personal goods—clothing, kitchen supplies, and bedding. We lived out of the Land Rover for two months. We slept in a tent on top of the roof of the Rover. We repeated this in 2000, and again in 2001—three trips in all. With our hundreds of pounds of equipment it would be impossible for us to photograph in a foreign country any other way. If we were not living out of our truck, we would need to spend at least two hours every evening carrying our equipment to safety in a hotel room and then another two hours in the morning carrying it back to the truck.
We photographed all over Tuscany, from the marble quarries in the north to the villages in the south, and from the coast near Viareggio to east of Cortona. We were free to wander wherever we liked, although most of the time we ended up photographing in the Chianti region and in the hill country around Pienza, and places in between. I discovered that I responded strongly to the rhythms I perceived in the land, and most, though certainly not all, of the photographs I made were of the land.
When putting a book together, the most important thing is the sequencing of the photographs. A book is not a collection of greatest hits and I am particularly pleased with the way my book begins. Right from the start it is very clear that it is not your normal book of tourist photographs of scenic places.


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