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.    

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

John Richardson, raconteur

John Richardson, friend and biographer of Picasso, died recently at the age of 95. I took this photograph of him at his house in New Milford, Connecticut in 2008. As we drove up, he was there to greet us, dressed in an over large white undershirt. He showed us the house and library and I found several places I wanted to photograph him. "I'd better go in and change." he said.

After we finished with the photography he produced excellent Argentinian chardonnay and tinned guacamole, also very good. We sat in his lovely garden enjoying one of his many and great gifts, that of a raconteur.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Ian Kingsley and his crew arrived precisely at the appointed hour one frosty morning to cut down a Norway spruce which, as legend has it, was planted 50 or so years ago as a six foot Christmas tree which grew to a 75 foot giant whose roots destroyed the clay drainage pipes of the house.

First they fixed ropes that would guide the tree in the direction they wanted it to fall. I was nervous to ask if I could take some pictures as distracting a man half way up a 75 foot tree could lead to a serious accident, I thought.

When they were all safely on the ground and Ian, on the right in the photograph, had his saw out and was beginning his cut. I was standing on the drive, 180° from the intended direction of the fall.

"Am I all right standing here?" I asked

"Something very serious will have gone wrong if you're not."

He continued with his cut, gave the tree a little shove and down it crashed, exactly where they planned it.


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

 Happy New Year to all. A Japanese anemone with rue, lady's mantle, Artemisia and bronze fennel.
Betsy and Marshall took us to dinner at the Riverview in Cold Spring, a place that has been unfailingly good for the almost 30 years we have known it. Betsy's son Aden and his friend Jordan were also there. I was immediately struck by their looks and a few days later photographed them. They took seriously my interest in them as a subject. They were patient, phone-less and tireless.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Close friends on Liberty Sytreet

What drew me to Newburgh in the first place was the beauty of the people and the remnants of the fine architectural heritage.


Caroline came home one day having seen a photograph of an unusual 13 year-old. She also had an unusual name—Lilith. Not long after, we traveled north and I photographed her. Her mother wanted to cut her hair but her daughter would not hear of it.

Lilith's aunt made her skirt and I took the picture against the window of a barn that they are going to renovate for a studio. Lilith is a pianist. She recently played at her cousin's wedding. She draws and paints and loves to read books. "Books equal life," she told her mother. And on a visit to a local university it was the library she wanted to see most.

              Portrait by Lilith of her mother. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

"Newburgh: Beauty and Tragedy" screening at Atlas Studios in Newburgh

Twenty-two years ago I crossed the Hudson River from my home in Garrison, NY and drove into Newburgh for the first time.All around me were very young, very beautiful men and women. I asked a shirtless youth if I might take his picture.”No,” he said, “and I should get back into your car and go home.

I tried again a few days later and never had another serious rebuff. I had everything going for me, I thought, I speak funny and I am too old to be a cop.”

Newburgh is the once prosperous city, renowned for its industrial output and resplendent Victorian architecture. Beginning in the early 1960 the markets fell away, urban renewal came and 1,300 buidings were destroyed but never rebuilt. Newburgh has had many false starts to rebuild and restore the city.

Today, sixty-five years on, the city is still a place of crumbling buildings, crime and violence. Will this present city government succeed where all the others have failed? In 2012 a book of my portraits was published, together with an exhibition of mural size prints on the wall of the Ritz theater. (It is still up.)

Then came the film. After listening to stories of imprisonment, teenage parenthood, drug addiction, unemployment, poverty, violence and corruption I began on my own to record encounters with citizens in the street.

The film is an essay. It is a one sided account of the life of the residents of downtown Newburgh. The film offers no conclusions, no tales of redemption or magic solutions to unemployment, and Newburgh's future is left hanging. No one in authority, either in the police or government, is given a speaking part in this film. This was deliberate, I wanted to hear and see only the people I was drawn to.

There is Toni Rose, a single mother with three children. Now 33, she tells us how Newburgh is becoming a place only for those with money. All that is being done to reshape Newburgh, she believes, is to benefit newcomers who can afford the rapidly rising rents.
“Nobody cares about us. We’re nothing to them,” she says, referring to the city councilors and landlords.

I came across subjects and opinions in unexpected and obscure places.  I was assisted by a crew of three local, young people, whom I took on as paid apprentices and instructed them in camera and sound techniques. No professional crew was employed.

Some of my original portraits are blended into the film. Many unstated events and feelings come out through these portraits. There is an underlying sadness in the film but also great beauty, warmth, grace and hope.

Newburgh: Beauty and Tragedy                                        
A film directed by Dmitri Kasterine
Produced by Caroline Kasterine

Website which includes trailer:

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Firm friends

A loving couple I met by chance one day when I was visiting my friend Purvis at his store
Hip Hop Heaven on Liberty Street in Newburgh, NY. They spoke so gently about having known each other for a long time.

Newburgh: Beauty and Tragedy screening

The screening of my film Newburgh: Beauty and Tragedy will be held on November 3rd in
Atlas Studios, 11 Spring Street, Newburgh, NY 12550 at 6:00 p.m. Admission free.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Jean Anouilh

As I am stuck over whom or what to photograph at the moment I have been looking through my old pictures and posting anything that catches my eye. Depending on your age and interest in the theater you may know who this man is. Others will assume that he is a homeless man sitting on a wall. This is not likely when I tell you it was taken in Lausanne, Switzerland in the mid 1970 when, as now, I believe, the homelessness in Lausanne is negligible.

I do remember though being driven mad by the woman journalist I was with for babbling non stop all day. I could stand it no longer at dinner after the shoot and told her so. She was quite put out and complained about me to a close mutual friend when we got back to England. He asked her how we got on. She said I was no fun at all and, "Why wouldn't he go to a night club with me?"   

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Martin and Kingsley Amis, writers

I arrived, I took the photograph, and I left. So often that happened. Taking somebody's picture seldom constitutes an introduction or meeting them. When a friend asks, "Oh, did you meet them?" I understand what they mean and reply, "No, I went there and I photographed them."

If you are asked to stay for a drink I guess you can then say you met them.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Ballet Student, Newburgh, NY

No need to make this into black and white. Took a little yellow out and... no this blog is not going to become a technical bore. Sometimes I don't know what to say about a picture so I am tempted to write something technical. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

An armful at Botanica, Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY

A waitress at Botanica, Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY, our favourite bar. We haven't been there for ages only because it is a trek from Garrison, NY. Is it still as wonderful? With the owner (still?), Daniel Preston involved with manufacturing drones for commercial use, and distilling chocolate and cacao-laced rum and liqueurs, does he find time to see that it runs like it did when he was there every night? We must visit again although I know we shall miss his shining mind if he is not there.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Couple on Liberty St , Newburgh, NY

There are times when I can't look at another color photograph. We are at this moment drowning in color photography. Here was another and I thought God save us from it. God did—via the Photoshop life jacket. I feel like converting everything to B&W, even corny old sepia would be alright. This lovely couple deserve not to be the center of a rant about the horrors of present day color photography but gorgeous color is stifling us and we have forgotten the importance of the subject. Look at Lewis Hine, look at Clifford Coffin.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Cathy and Ari, NYC, 1987

This is a Polaroid I did of my daughter Cathy and Ari Marcopoulos in 1988 at our studio on Lafayette Street, NYC. Ari was briefly my assistant. He came to me after he was fired by Irving Penn for talking too much. I found the same trouble but he was very good company. I think he just left me one day to start being a photographer himself but we remained close friends. Around this time he did me a very good turn. He'd dropped by one day and I asked if he would like to stay for dinner, but he said that he couldn't, he was meeting someone. Caroline, now my wife, was also there and Ari said, "Why don't you ask her? If I were you I wouldn't turn down a meal cooked by Dmitri."

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Goats on Broadway

Lydia DesRoche trains dogs, rabbits, rats and now goats. The goats will appear in a new Broadway production opening in mid-November.

Here she is with Peapod and Sparky. Peapod is an Oberhasli goat and Sparkey is an Oberhasli/Toggenburg cross. Lydia is training them to walk on stage on cue and to behave themselves in front of lights and an audience. In order for them to get used to crowds she asks her friends to visit her during the daily training sessions in Putnam Valley, NY. and plays the music from the show on her iPhone during the session. They will travel daily to and fro from their home in Putnam Valley to the theater in a comfortably fitted out truck that suits their star status.