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.
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 over thirty 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 will be published in the fall of 2014.
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.