Thursday, August 07, 2008

Paul Caponigro: Hearing Through the Eyes

"Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art."
- Frederic Chopin

Paul Caponigro is my favorite photographer. I know little about the analysis and technical aspects by which great photos are judged but I am always compelled to linger over his images. There is a stillness and mystery simply portrayed in his photos, which are largely black and white (silver tones) and devoted to landscapes, arrangements of natural objects, or ancient remnants of man now subsumed into landscape.

Caponigro was born in Boston and was strongly affected by jaunts with his family to the woods and shores of New England. He later traveled and absorbed the particular
landscapes of California, Arizona, Ireland, Britain and Japan. In the 40's and 50's he received formative, personal instruction from Ansel Adams and, especially, Minor White; retaining aspects of their approach in his own work but forging a different style.

He was also a musician; well-trained as a classical pianist since early youth who chose not to follow the rigors of classical performance and training which were not aligned to the intuitive and mystical bent of chance-taking that photography provided him with. However, music remains a parallel love that would seem to permeate his work.
The musical thread surfaces in many of his own thoughts regarding his work: for example, "At the root of creativity is an impulse to understand, to make sense of random and often unrelated details. For me, photography provides an intersection of time, space, light, and emotional stance. One needs to be still enough, observant enough, and aware enough to recognize the life of the materials, to be able to 'hear through the eyes'."

Caponigro cites a lesson from his piano teacher that guided him in his art, "...that the effort, diligence, and care required in practicing must be quickly suspended when pressure coming from anxiety or a desire for fast results causes them to degenerate."

Paul Caponigro describes photos as "dreams locked in silver.", that grant us admission "if only for brief moments, to sense the thread which holds all things together."

To enclose the circle and exit the proceedings with gentle flourish, I offer up (courtesy of myspace) a recital of Chopin's Grande Polonaise Opus 22 A

*I am much indebted to the fine photography site, Soul Catcher Studio for quotes and a wonderful selection of his pictures.
* Please note that Paul Caponigro is not to be confused with his son John Paul Caponigro, who is also a talented photographer working in digital-based color imagery.