Thursday, February 20, 2020

Sachi Starbuck, artist

Sachi is the ten-year old daughter of Eliza Starbuck, co-owner of Flowercup Wine in Cold Spring, NY. For three years now Sachi has helped design and execute the chalk murals on one of the walls of the store. The mural is changed every six to eight months. Sachi and her mother do equal parts of the drawing. "After a little pre-drawing concept discussion Sachi directs the subject matter of the murals." her mother said.

Sachi was a good sitter. She allowed me to consider without interruption what I was to do. Her mother stood far off in a corner of the room silently observing. When I took a break and Sachi leaned against a pedestal, I said, “There, that’s the next shot.” Her mother, without hesitating, picked up the pedestal and positioned it where we had been shooting a few minutes earlier.  Help like that and vanishing into a corner during the photography is not always understood by those attending a shoot.

Eliza explained: "My mother was a photographer and I worked as her assistant on her shoots from age 12 through the end of high school. Thus I earned my ability to see where and when a pedestal is needed and when to melt into a corner."

Apart from drawing and painting Sachi loves clothes and has appeared in outstanding outfits on all the occasions I have seen her, ranging from fashion today to one of her grandmother's shawls.

Kat and Stephen Selman

Behind my destination lay a small wooden building where I was told Kat and Stephen Selman would be when I arrived to photograph them. This is their fully equipped recording studio, once a wreck of a place which they recently renovated themselves. It is now the coziest of places heated by a most efficient wood burning stove.

Kat and Stephen are musicians recently arrived from Brooklyn. They offer the studio as a musician's retreat, either to those who want a break or to those who want to record. You may stay nights and they will cook for you. The place is surrounded by woods and fields.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Mia, the baker at the Cold Spring Coffeehouse.

I have not much to say about this photograph. Mai, herself, I do not know except she has a dog and twice a day she leaves her bakery to take the dog for a walk. She works for a warmhearted and friendly man which must account for a good deal of the success of his café the rest 
being Mai's baking.

Young man with advice for those who find a job in Newburgh, NY

Newburgh is much in my mind again—still as bad as ever for the black Americans living 
there. Violence, and unemployment prevail. The city government persists in making it 
difficult for black residents to apply for, train for, or compete for jobs for which they are 
willing and capable of doing. Our friend above said, "If you find a job in Newburgh you 
better keep it." He did not actualy say "it". He used an expression that may not be 
welcome on these pages in some quarters.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Marissa with Moose, Kensi and Honey

Advertising photography is one of the best rackets going for photographers. First of all it is overpaid and then the skills required are more in the area of being able to organize a good lunch for up to 20 people and cope with everybody there wanting the shot done slightly differently from each other, than it is in taking a striking photograph. Some advertising photographs, however, are among the finest pictures ever  taken especially the still life pictures of Irving Penn.

The pictures above are advertising pictures that I was not paid to do, neither did I have to organize lunch or have anybody breathing down my neck. I was happy to do them for the Animal Rescue Foundation of Beacon NY, where Caroline volunteers and it was taken to show how lovely the puppies held by volunteer Marissa are, and with the intention of finding the puppies homes. As these picture have had 15,000 viewers on Facebook, that will probably not be difficult.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Christmas morning in the wilds of Putnam county

The people and animals in this photograph are Betsy, her three children, Vic, Aden and Liv, their dog Bear and  the family cat George. On the left is their friend Marshall. It was taken on Christmas morning. When I arrived, Marshall, an acupuncturist, masseur and Qi Gong ~ Tui Na practitioner, was treating Liv for a painful jaw.

The sun was lighting the sofa that I was going to use in the picture. It was lighting only the lower half so Marshall unrolled paper that he uses to cover the patient’s table and taped it on the window to diffuse the sunlight. I put Aden and Bear into place as a center piece and the others fell into place  around them. The children, aged 22-30, survived well without their phones for the few minutes it took to get the picture done.

One thing I am getting better at: I do not spend time before a shoot worrying about what to do. How can you possibly know what you will have to do? You may well not have  seen the house where the shoot will take place and you possibly will not have even met the subjects. (Not a case in point with Betsy et al. whom I know well.) But my nervous disorder insists that I have a plan. Now, when I ease aside the worry about where the light will come from or will one of the group want to wear a roll neck sweater, (Oh, how I dislike roll necks!), I waltz in and wait to see what I need to do according to what I am presented with. I expect to sleep better now.

This is a photograph I took of Felix Salmon and Michele Vaughan which they to give to Felix’s father as a present. After clambering down the hillside outside their cottage we reached Indian Brook that runs through the valley. I settled them on the rock but saw that as the weak sun was lighting them from behind my shot would probably be better taken from the other side of the rock.

This meant their just swiveling round 180 degrees, but I had to cross leaf covered ditches and streams to reach a good place for my camera. They offered to help me navigate round the rock but if they had wound up with a sprained  ankle or even just wet feet the photograph could have been jeopardized. So I made it on my own but was grateful for their help in getting me back up onto the slope for home, where  we were restored to calm with ten year-old Sercial Madeira, the wine that saw General Washington and his staff through The American Revolutionary War at the rate of three or four bottles per person per day.

I met a British army tank driver once who had gone through the Normandy campaign in Wold War II on Calvados. The French farmers had kept hundreds of bottles hidden from the Germans all through the occupation waiting to hand them out to the relieving allied armies.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Johnathan Miller 1934-2019

I met Jonathan Miller (1) once and photographed him once. I make the distinction because photographing somebody does not always constitute an introduction to them. As a photographer you aim quite an offensive piece of equipment at people, ask them to move in this or that direction that they may not want to do, and then quite abruptly leave them when you have what you want. This is, of course, not always the case. You may be offered a drink or a cup of tea; you may even be offered dinner and to spend the night.

None of these things happened when I photographed Mr Miller. I waited for him on the set from which he was directing a BBC production, sat him down at a table, asked him to move a little this way and that, peered into my Hassleblad, pressed the shutter release and that was that.

Then I actually did meet him although this even was a stolen meeting.
I saw him at a club―not a night club―just a kind of place you heard about and went to see what it was like. It was not crowded and he was just wandering about alone with a drink in his hand. I had listened to him on Desert Island Discs (2) that afternoon. He had been describing how he got to know and love Beethoven’s late quartets ― listening to them on his car radio driving along the Los Angeles freeways. I was much taken by this and there the man was, the same day as I heard him describe this event, standing within a yard of me. I thought to hell with accosting famous people who you do not know, I went straight up to him and told him what a pleasure it had been to hear his unusual story. He said he was delighted that somebody had enjoyed it.

(1) Jonathan Miller, 1934-2019, medical doctor, theater, film and opera director.  

(2) Desert Island Disc, "a (BBC Radio) programme in which a well-known person is asked the question, if you were to be cast away alone on a desert island, which eight gramophone records would you choose to have with you, assuming of course, that you had a gramophone and an inexhaustible supply of needles."

The programme was created by Roy Plomley in 1946. He also presented it until 1985. It is still broadcast every week.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Between autumn and winter

Nature is resting — gathering strength to make a nuisance of itself. Everything now is grey — soon it will be white and then it will be brown and then black. Cold will have taken hold of us and we shall waste our lives looking forward to spring instead of thinking “This is life; to hell with you, nature.”

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Alexis Czapinski

The college champion tennis player Alexis Czapinski was made an All-American doubles player in 2018 and 2019 and All American singles player in 2019. She graduated from Washburn University in May 2019, ending the season ranked third in the nation in division II singles and first in the nation in division II doubles. She is now an assistant coach at the US Military Academy, West Point.

As well as assisting the coaching of the West Point women's team, Alexis has a strong following of civilian players at West Point where she holds clinics and private lessons. This is where I met her.

With firmness, tact, and wit Alexis takes apart your game and puts it back together with the clearest of instructions. As Alexis is only 23 you do not hesitate to use your new found shots to  place the ball to make her run. It is galling, though, that when you angle a shot for a certain winner, she moves across the court at an impossible speed and reaches it ― and it is she who makes the winner.

We also see her here with her dog Bowser whom she rescued in Kansas and brought
north with her.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Will's mother came to my recent Pop-up at 44 Main Street, Cold Spring, looked around at the prints displayed on the walls and asked if I would photograph her son. Her son, she explained, was an archer.

He told me that he had got good enough now to shoot from horseback. (Plans for a video of that.) He does not go after animals. He likes Korean bows but makes his own arrows. One of his bows belonged to his grandfather but he can't use it as his grandfather was left-handed.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

This is Beryl, one of the two assistants to arborist Ian Kingsley. Ian is the brilliant young son of legendary Lew Kingsley who has looked after trees in the Hudson Valley area for sixty years. 

After a year with Ian, Beryl throws and fixes ropes and climbs trees to lop branches.  She is a rock climber in her spare time.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Alessa Kreger, artist and designer

                       Alessa Kreger, artist and designer, Beacon, NY 2019

At first I was not interested in photographing Alessa because I am not drawn to smiling Instagram pictures which is what Caroline showed me when she told me she had met somebody with a very interesting face. "I promise that in repose she does not look like this." she said, so I agreed to do it and a date was set.

Only a glance, as Alessa opened the front door for me and welcomed me into her sitting room, was needed to prove that once again Caroline was right. As Alessa and I stood facing each other she showed me with her unsmiling but warm expressions how very little I would have to do beyond finding some good light.

Alessa has an unusual combination of shyness, politeness and resoluteness. The resoltness was apparent to me by her unstated determination that this photograph was going to work. She did what I asked and joined in the conversations that I initiated. All along I could tell that she was putting herself in my hands, which, she rightly thought, gave us the best chance of getting the picture I wanted.

Alessa's latest graphic book is Breakout.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Jenn Blatty, photographer, writer and documentarian covers the war in Ukraine

    Jenn Blatty, on a recent visit to West Point, where she was a tennis and boxing champion.

Jenn Blatty served six years as an officer in the Unite States Army. She was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. She had for many years been drawn to capturing life with disposable cameras, pen and notebook so she took up photography and writing as a career after completing her service to the military. In early 2018 she began a project that took her back to the front line, this time with a camera and recorder. She went to the Donbas region of Ukraine where she found members, past and present, of the volunteer army fighting the Russians. 

"When we finished our tour of duty in another land we were sent home to address the physical and mental trauma of our experience. But Ukraine’s soldiers and veterans face an inescapable reality, fighting a war on their own land, making a transition to the “peace-life” nearly impossible with the uncertainty of another invasion and no end to the war in sight." 

"What makes you continue going back to Ukraine," I asked. 

"War-fighters around the world share a commonality that transcends the boundaries of nation and conflict, and I’m dedicated not only to archive the faces and stories of these fighters, but also to tell the story about the ongoing war in the Donbas, about those who continue to fight it, and about Ukraine's status as a country fighting for its independence, in the middle of Europe, in the 21st century."

And then she added: "Here is another reason for my returning at frequent intervals—the love of my life is one of the volunteer fighters. We speak neither of each other's language but rely on Google Translate to communicate." 

An exhibition of Jenn's work will be displayed at the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York City in January 2020, in addition to other locations throughout the United States. 

See Jenn's (J.T.) work on 

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Waiting for a table at Ocean House, Croton-on-Hudson

                  Waiting for a table at Ocean House, Croton-on-Hudson.

Yesterday was my 87th birthday and Betsy took us to dinner here last night. Caroline parked the car in a nearby street and by mistake locked the steering. I tried to free it but failed. We told Paula, the co-owner, about it and she said, "Wait a minute, I'll tell Brian, he knows about these things." Brian is her husband and the chef.  It was an extremely busy night and I was not sure what he was going to be able to do to help us, but dropping everything in the kitchen, he asked Caroline for the key and where the car was. Caroline followed him out, and through the window, in roughly the time it takes to select a fish and put it on the grill, we saw them striding back waving and smiling.

Later in the evening the lights went out and a waitress with a single candle in a sorbet made her way to our table together with Paula and the other waitresses. They sang Happy Birthday; the rest of the house joined in. I then got up and asked the guests if I cold tell them what had happened to the car and how Brian, the chef, was not only a wonderful cook. Lots of clapping and people asking how old I was. I was much moved.

While all this was going I noticed the couple at the bar. I did not have my camera with me but these days there is no shortage of cameras to be had at the stretching of an arm. This is the first photograph I have posted using an iphone. I shall be taking all my life going pictures on one in the future.


Sunday, September 1, 2019

This is Romain, whose uncle recently gave him several suits that he'd had made in the 1960s. The one that Romain is wearing in this picture is a Pierre Cardin made in Paris.

However hot it was, his uncle probably never wore any of his suits without a shirt, but Romain has his own style. The miniature on the chain around his neck is a portrait of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. 

Sunday, August 4, 2019

I drove across the Bear Mountain Bridge worrying that Summer will have forgotten I was coming to take her photograph and my wife Caroline would once again be right—always confirm appointments that are made well in advance. I was brought up to make and keep appointments, come what may, but that was in the days before people were busy.

Summer Pierre is the cartoonist, illustrator, writer, and teacher who lives across the river from us and who also runs book clubs at Split Rock Books in Cold Spring.

After hearing the announcement from the Google map navigator that "your destination is on your left," I walked through an iron gate and before I had reached the front door it opened and Summer stood there with a welcoming smile. She introduced me to her husband, a tall, broad shouldered man who teaches philosophy up the road at West Point Military Academy, but who is not in the army.

Summer took me up stairs to her studio at the back of the house. She sat down in her chair and we chatted about 
San Francisco where she is from. She had a calm way about her. I asked her about the drawing on the wall behind her.

"The drawing is based on an old found image of a boy and his guitar from the 1940's that was entitled "Little King." I have no idea who this boy was, or where he performed, but evidently was a musician with the stage name Little King. I am very drawn to the vernacular and in particular, vintage images of unknown musicians."

"They have a beauty and a spirit that seems palpable. Music is very important to me and I like imagining the songs that these musicians played. Little King probably played a handful of upbeat country tunes like Hank Williams or maybe even Bob Willis. You can see it in his face--he's ready to give the folks a good time."

Friday, August 2, 2019

Amor Towles

My wife Caroline heard Amor talk about A Gentleman in Moscow at a book signing; she told me he would make a good subject for a photograph. My father was Russian and he served in the Imperial Army and then in the White Army which made a possible meeting with Amor even more of a lure to me.

The approach to his country house is down a mile long drive lined with trees and mass plantings of pachysandra and ferns that rival the mass plantings of pachysandra, periwinkle and bluebells at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

I hardly gave him a moment to say a word of welcome before I burst forth with my Russian stories, which, I thought later, was rather rude of me. But I have so few chances to talk about the last days of Imperial Russia that they must be grabbed, and Amor's politeness allowed me to press on uninterrupted.

I was also aware that telling my stories about Russia might interfere with the photography. But I plunged in. First about meeting the violinist Viktoria Mullova in Moscow in 1981, then the story of my being tracked down by a student at Sacramento University, who was totally unknown to me. He told me he was doing his theses on my godfather Grand Duke Dmitri. He told me that the Grand Duke's diaries are now at Yale being translated, and that there are several mentions of my father in them.

The prospect of finding anything about my father's life in Russia was exciting because he died when I was four. My mother seldom talked about him and she died when I was 15, an age before I had found the necessary resolve to press her about these things.  

After we had finished photographing by the lake he offered us a cup of Lapsang souchong. We sat in his kitchen and I made sure we talked about anything except Russia.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Louis, 2010-2019

Our beloved dog Louis died at home in Garrison on June 4, 2019 after a short illness. He spent his last days with Caroline watching the fish in lake Celeste and at the waterfall on Indian Brook Road, the two places he liked best since he was a puppy. He gave us nine years of untold love and fun.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Girl in a gray hoodie

Two women in their early forties in Newburgh NY got together after being married to men and having children. This girl is one of the women's daughters. I know nothing more about her which is something I have never minded about photographs I take. Knowing details of the subject's life does not change the quality of the photograph. One's appetite for gossip may be satisfied but that is another thing.