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
Michael A. Smith, born in Philadelphia in 1942, has been working in photography since 1966. Less than a year later, in 1967, he began photographing exclusively with an 8×10-inch view camera, committing himself to the contact print. Later he added both an 8×20 and an 18×22-inch view camera.
During his second year as a photographer, he began teaching his own seminars and workshops, but after seven and a half years, he stopped teaching to dedicate himself solely to the making of his photographs.
His photographic journeys during the past five decades have taken him to every state in the continental United States, western Canada, Mexico, and Europe. The results of these remarkable odysseys are included in the permanent collections of over 125 museums in the United States, Europe, and Asia, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Art Institute of Chicago, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
His commitment to the medium has resulted in over 200 exhibitions. In addition, he has twice received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and he has been the recipient of major commissions to photograph five American cities. In 1981, Smith’s first book, the two-volume monograph, Landscapes 1975–1979, was awarded Le Grand Prix du Livre at the Rencontres Internationale de la Photographie in Arles, France. At that time, the Swiss publication Print Letter commented, “For the first time in the 11 years of the Rencontres, a deserving book has won the book prize.”
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.