The land of Tuscany has nurtured and inspired artists for centuries. In Tuscany: Wandering the Back Roads, Volume I, by Paula Chamlee, and Volume II, by Michael A. Smith, the glorious tradition not only continues, but is enhanced in their deeply personal and beautiful photographs of one of the most alluring and romantic places in the world.
In the spring of 1999 and 2000, and in the fall of 2001, the photographers Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee shipped their old Land Rover to Europe, a vehicle they configured to accommodate their large-format camera equipment and camping gear. They then drove to Italy, where they traveled together, yet worked separately while exploring the landscape and the small towns and villages of Tuscany—each recording their own visual responses to a land they had come to love.
During their travels and adventures, Chamlee and Smith photographed from the quarries in the Carrara region in the north to the old Etruscan towns in the south, and from the Val di Chiana and Cortona in the east to the Island of Elba off the coast to the west.
Their photographs, full of warmth and life, yet demanding in their complex visual elements, are the culmination of those three extensive trips. Selections from each of the photographers are here collected in this extraordinary two-volume set of books.
Chamlee’s 8 x 10, 5 x 7, and 4 x 5-inch contact prints are presented in Volume I, along with an Essay by the noted Curator of Photography Robert Sobieszek, a Foreword by the well-known writer, Ferenc Máté, and a Preface by the photographers. Volume II is a long-format book and contains Smith’s 8 x 20-inch photographs.
To insure the exacting standards that are a hallmark of Lodima Press, every detail in the production of these exquisite books was supervised by the photographers. The reproductions of the photographs, in 600-line screen quadtone and printed by Salto2 in Belgium, achieve unmatched fidelity to the original prints. Sturdy and elegant French-fold dust jackets protect and complement these fine books.
Robert Sobieszek, from the essay, “Matters of Choice and Discovery”
Look carefully at their photographs. Surprising things occur, amazing relationships reveal hidden associations, modest epiphanies announce themselves gracefully. . . . Technically masterful and visually sophisticated, their photographs are, simply, exquisite.
Chamlee sets up poetic resonances . . . visual sonnets of felt sensations comprised of shapes and their repetitions, textures and their echoes, and all artfully considered and balanced. . . . Each image is a doorway, a portal through which one enters a very personally seen set of relationships. It is not about entering the Tuscan landscape; it is about entering Chamlee’s images.
What Smith captures so majestically throughout his book is a symphony made up of subtle, nuanced tones, textures, flows, and rhythms carefully framed within the scenic panoramas. [His] vast horizontal views suggest many narratives, journeys through the subjective terrains depicted, meanderings and wanderings of mind and eye. His scenes are like musical scores—arrangements of pictorial notes across the view.
“These coffee table books from Lodima Press contain an amazing collection of photographs. Whenever we visited Tuscany, we were always in awe of the countryside, and finally began to understand why this most beautiful region of Italy has nurtured and inspired artists for centuries.
In our many travels to Europe for business and pleasure, we have always had a penchant to return to the beautiful Italian area of Tuscany. Now, with Volume I by Paula Chamlee and Volume II by Michael A. Smith, the glories of Tuscany have been brought to startling life with the black and white photographs of a few hundred square miles of rolling hills shaped by the currents of the sea that “developed” this beautiful one-of-a-kind area.
Volume II is so spectacular, we could not put it down until we had looked at and absorbed every photograph through the naked eye and a magnifying glass for close up views of the details. This was done two or three times in a three week period and we were more in awe of the talent of Chamlee and Smith each time. We will probably look at it many times over the years ahead, especially when we next visit Tuscany and find some of the panoramas which intrigued Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee. Now, through the beauty of their photographs, we can enjoy Tuscany in our living room before our next visit later this year.
Accompanying this great collection of startlingly beautiful photographs are a Foreword by Ferenc Máté and a long preface by Paula Chamlee and Michael A. Smith. There is also a beautifully written appreciation of Chamlee and Smith, husband and wife, and their work in an essay by LACMA curator Robert Sobieszek” — Books of the Month
Paula Chamlee returned to college in the 1980s majoring in the visual arts to finish a degree she had begun in the 1960s in the performing arts. She earned a B.F.A. in painting in 1988. During that year, she discovered photography and quickly found direct involvement with the world outside the studio to be irresistible. Since 1988 she has traveled extensively, making photographs both in the United States and abroad. Chamlee has been the recipient of several grants, including a major grant from the Leeway Foundation for “Excellence in Photography.” Her photographs are in numerous collections, both public and private in the United States and abroad. She is collected in nearly forty museums in the United States, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Cleveland Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, and Library of Congress. She has taught workshops in photography in the United States, Austria, Germany, Tuscany, England, France, Iceland, and Australia. Her seventh monograph was published in the fall of 2015.
Robert A. Sobieszek (1943–2005), Curator of Photography and Deputy Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Before joining LACMA in 1990, he served in various curatorial positions and as Director of Photographic Collections at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. He has graduate degrees in art history from Stanford and Columbia universities. He has published more than ten books and more than fifty essays on the history and art of photography. His most recent book is Ghost in the Shell: Photography and the Human Soul (MIT Press, 1999).
Ferenc Máté is the author of The Hills of Tuscany as well as ten other titles. He lives with his wife and son in an old farmhouse in Tuscany.