Praiano Through the Eyes of a Camera
In October and November of 2012, I was fortunate to spend six weeks working in Praiano as a Yale University Art Gallery, Bob and Happy Doran Artist in Residence, a program made possible by the Dorans, and by Carol LeWitt, who loans her house, with its incredible views of the sea and beautiful wall drawings by her late husband, Sol LeWitt.
Inherent to my photographic practice is an examination of my daily environment, wherever that happens to be. The thing about Praiano is the beautiful Tyrrhenian Sea. The sea, ever astonishing, captivated me. I am in practice a walk-around photographer, but I photographed the sea every morning from a tripod on the balcony.
I also photographed the sea in its variations before and after the many storms in November. Walking around, I photographed everything – small boats tethered off of la Praia, the nets drying on shore; a lone orange umbrella in October at la Gavitella;
a boarded-up door on via Duomo, the plywood carefully notched to accommodate an outcropping of rock that was part of the wall; a glass door of a hotel at night, closed for November, with an etching of a margherita floating above an urn shown inside the entrance to the hotel; a flower pot above the bench at the top of the hill, where via Umberto turns toward Praiano from Vettica.
I photographed the shadows of the laundry drying on the line on the roof. The sharper, more intense light of October cast almost monumental shadows of the laundry floating in the breeze. The less intense light of November, while still strong, created an interplay of shadows that was more ethereal. Pasquale the barber generously allowed me to photograph him at work.
I even photographed a street sign alerting motorists to children playing - the stick figures of children dancing against the background of the incredible wash of beautiful blue sky blending into the mirroring blue of the sea. I was looking for paintings. In addition to making photographs, I am also an abstract painter, and I discovered that I was looking for paintings, not to make, but to find, in the light, color, and materials around me.
One incredible day I hiked up to San Domenico, where Baldino and his friends were harvesting olives. They invited me to stay for lunch. Many photographs that day of San Domenico, the olive harvest, the table during and after lunch, and Baldino’s casale. So high up in the cliffs, a delicate sheet of aluminum lathe, reflecting the daylight from a window, lay horizontally on a trunk - a building material waiting to be used. Glimpsed through the back of a wire chair that held the notes of a musical staff between its rails, it reminded one yet again of the sea.
Jan Cunningham is a photographer and abstract painter who lives in New Haven, Connecticut. In 2012 she was one of the Yale University Art Gallery’s Artists in Residence in Praiano. She has also a fellow of the MacDowell Colony, and the Corporation of Yaddo. Jan has an MFA in Painting from the Yale University School of Art, and a BFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design.