In the summer of 1996 I spent 3 days driving around the Spanish Pyrenees. It was my first trip back to Spain after starting my photography studies at Oakland Community College in Farmington Hills, Michigan. I borrowed my father’s station wagon and got lost in the beauty of the stone villages in the deep mountain valleys. There was no schedule in those three days, no plan, just driving, stopping here and there, studying light and textures, walking the stone paved streets of the narrow villages looking for treasures. I remember the silence, the fresh air, the smell of firewood, the bakery, sheep on their way to the stable. Like a stranger, I walked those streets under the cool shade observing the clock of time that stopped a long time ago on these villages. I was fascinated by the textures of the walls, the light through the half opened doors, the details of the simplicity of life in these remote villages.
On one of the many turns I came across an old church, distant from any town. It sits in a valley near Torla, close to the Ordesa National Park in Huesca. I pulled over and took my time examining the texture of the stone walls, the composition of lines and values of light. I laid down the tripod and tried to combine into one single frame the simplicity of its geometry, the vertical lines of the rod iron fence, the arch creating a semicircle over the sun lighted wall, the volume created by the multiple imaginary lines that makes this image.
When I observe this image, many things come to my mind: history, time, old, solitude, architecture, Spain, home, growing up, photography. Many hours in the darkroom looking at a blank piece of photographic paper become a dream come true. The day I printed this image for first time I knew that photography would be a key part of my life forever.
Have you asked yourself why some images become much more attractive than others? Why am I drawn to an image? The subject is obviously one of the keys; color can be another; contrast and composition no doubt, but if there is one that you keep finding in some of history’s best images is geometry. Is not easy to see the geometry while you are shooting a photograph. It takes some training to start breaking apart composition into geometry. My teachers in college used this image as a clear example of the use of geometry into an image. Simplicity has a lot to do with it. If I can draw a sketch of one of my photographs in a few simple lines I feel that I have a strong composition for a workable image. I was finalist best college photographer in the US with this image, and it was all about strong geometry into the composition by using different values of light. Every time I go back to Spain, to the mountains of my youth, I stop by this church and try to remember the moment I took this picture.
An extreme example of geometry is this image from Florence. In this image geometry is actually the subject.