Not long ago, I visited a small lake-side town in northern Italy called Bellagio. On an early morning stroll, I took a photograph of the rising sun washing over a stone pathway that weaved upward from the main promenade. As I took the picture, I was struck by how this small road had surely remained essentially unchanged for years, decades, even centuries, and I was inspired by the wonder and romance of this notion.
Not long after returning to the States, I came across a relatively obscure collection of photographs taken by one of the most influential pioneers of photography from the early 20th Century, Alfred Stieglitz. I already knew a fair amount about Stieglitz’ life and work as an early champion of photography as a legitimate medium of creative expression; however, these particular pictures had somehow escaped my experience up until now, perhaps because they were taken before he ever opened his first gallery, even before he moved to New York.
As I was enjoying the discovery of these remarkable early photographs, I ran across a particular image that caught my eye. It was a picture that Stieglitz took of a small cobblestone pathway in a tiny lake-side town in northern Italy. The photograph was titled, “A Road in Bellagio, 1894.” I was amazed. Here, over a hundred years before my having explored this small village and having taken a photograph expressing my awe at its beauty and timelessness, Stieglitz himself had walked along this very same cobblestone promenade and felt the very same creative impulse to capture an image of a small road weaving upward from its edge. It is wonderful how art has the ability to connect us with other spirits, even over the centuries.
Here, then, are both of the images. The image on the left is the photograph taken by me. The image on the right is Alfred Stieglitz’ photograph, taken in 1894.