Thursday, February 26, 2015

Miami: our hosts, George and Emily Lansbury

George and Emily at the Raleigh Hotel — the only place, unless you count next door. It was a cold day (75 degrees F). The guard at the pool was falling asleep from lack of business. Brunch and service were perfect. I wondered who the people around us were and what they did. Next door at the Delano, one glance and you know what they did.

En route to Miami

By JetBlue to Miami, the low cost American airline. Like EasyJet in Europe but without the fights in the isles, and much more expensive. 

Proper photographers do not take sunsets. I offer no excuse.

Miami: one foot in the air

Skateboarding father. I stood behind a bench in the shade, focused on the middle of the path, set a slow shutter-speed and waited.

Miami: elegant rollerbladder

Rollerbladers: some are elegant, some awkward, some steady, others are acrobatic.

Miami: not illegal (or is it?)

 This street is not one way...

Miami: beach loving couple

He is Polish, she is German. They live in Key Largo, where he runs a scuba diving school and she owns a management consulting business based in Germany. "I go there every few months, otherwise I can run it very well from Key Largo." Caroline and I were invited to Key Largo. If we had not been going to London surely we would have accepted.  

Young women with name and number

When I asked if I could take her picture, her friend said she was famous. After I took the picture she said she was returning to Boston the next day and hoped we could work together in the future. Some work—two clicks and done. We too were heading back north to the Hudson Valley and wondered who they were. Perhaps her tattoo reveals that.    

Miami: A South Beach smile

It was a Tuesday, mid-afternoon on Ocean Drive. Time on her hands. 

Miami tassels

A peaceful day on South Beach. Two friends with their phones. They were not sure they knew what we meant when we said we would send them a print of the photograph. "You mean... like a polaroid?"

Miami: faded beauty

Faded but not yet done. I'd liked to think the proprietors were taking a day off. When they returned, I'd imagined the waiting customers spilling into the street. 

I had been turned loose in the warehouse district by Emily (our host) and Caroline. They had gone to the beach. Many artists and galleries have found spaces to live and work in this North West district.  

Friday, January 23, 2015

Valentine from Newburgh, NY

This is a Valentine from Newburgh to all those who love the place. It features the guitarist Ralph Atkins who has lived there since the 1970s. As he plays, and describes the importance of love and freedom, we catch glimpses of people who illustrate his way of life.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Finest: Martha and The Wherehouse

This is Alysia, friend of David Ludwig, proprietor of Martha, the coffee shop and café in Newburgh, NY. I do not why, but the two best eating places in our part of the Hudson Valley are in Newburgh, the overlooked and ignored city on the wrong side of the river. Besides helping at the café, Alysia is a film maker, ink and water colorist and photographer.

Simple and perfectly cooked food at the right price, quickly made and served in soothing surroundings, Martha serves such rarities as coffee in large plain white cups and saucers, carrot butter, kimchi and curried tuna.

It is named after you know who, who's husband's headquarters stands across the street. 

Almost next door is The Wherehouse, the second of the two finest of the Hudson Valley.  It is scarcely soothing ― being a pub with TV and music (often live) ― but Dan Brown, the owner, can make you laugh however you are feeling.  His wife Michele double checks everything—including Dan and the place runs as smoothly as silk.

Burgers etc., cooked how you expected them, are served in a room lined with vintage LP record covers. The Wherehouse also offers a selection of vegan and vegetarian fare: onion soup and vegan chili.  The vinyl records from the covers are stuck to the ceiling. Lighted beer ads facing outwards are placed in the large windows and give the room a soft glow. 

Below is Dan and his wife Michele with some of their staff at the Wherehouse. Between them they have a gift for finding people who are friendly and efficient but never familiar. Dan gives benefit nights to artists, writers and local businesses when he sees they need some help with a project. Often the evenings are supported by Newburgh Brewing Company.


Monday, April 14, 2014


Thirteen years ago I was playing tennis without my eye on the ball in Stowe, Vermont. I shouted to my opponent's wife as I saw this face walk by, "Quick, ask her if I may photograph her."

The next day I took this picture. Last week I had an e-mail from a collector in Reading, Pennsylvania saying he wanted to buy a print of it. He will hang it above his desk, he told me. He had seen it several years ago on my website, always liked it and was now in a position to buy it.

Kinga is Polish. At the time I photographed her she was a housekeeper at the hotel where we were staying and was studying drama at the University of Warsaw. A few years ago her husband ask me if I would send him a print of the picture.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Exuberant teacher, Newburgh Preparatory Charter School, Newburgh NY

A teacher at NPCS waits for the right answer to her question. She teaches Ancient History at the Newburgh Preparatory Charter School. Students in her class do not fall asleep.

The school accepts anybody between the ages of 16 and 21 who wants to obtain a High School Diploma. The requirements are: turn up on time and regularly. You will find small classes, dedicated teachers, fair treatment, humor and worldly advice.

Monday, March 3, 2014

James Patterson, writer, film producer, philanthropist

Two weeks ago the telephone rang and Leopoldo Gout introduced himself as the executive in charge of production of a project. He told me they were making a documentary about Belle Glade in Florida, written, produced and with commentary spoken by a well known writer. The writer, he said, had seen my photographs of Newburgh and wanted to use them in his film. He was born and brought up in Newburgh and Newburgh is not unlike Belle Glade in many respects. They would also like me to photograph the writer.

"May I ask who the writer is?"

"James Patterson."

The shoot took place in Newburgh where Mr. Patterson was filming some street scenes to intercut with the main narrative in Belle Glade.  The weather on the day of the shoot had began fine, but by eleven, when they wanted me to take Mr. Patterson's picture, it was raining and snowing. 

I had already decided on a foul weather location. I had called Dan Brown, the proprietor of The Wherehouse, the popular pub on Liberty Street. In his back room he has a window facing north of the size that gives exactly the crisp light I like. I knew it of old, having done some pictures of Newburgh citizens there last summer.

                                                                               Photograph by Leopoldo Gout

Lunch on the river—mist and ice covered—at Cena 2000. James, his wife Susan and six film crew. Three very smartly dressed forty-year-old women were the only other guests. James asked me about my career. 

"Mostly magazines doing portraits of artist and writers. Now I sell the prints to collectors." I replied.  

I told him that many photographers I knew did advertising work also, and that I had tried but had not got on well. "You know what it was—you were in it once." 

He said, "I've been clean for twenty years." 


Friday, February 21, 2014

Stoppard and Sappho

“Meet me at my dentist, he's a friend, we can do it there,” Tom Stoppard told me on the telephone.

I found myself a week later in a dimly lit waiting room in Harley Street wondering if I was really supposed to shoot Tom Stoppard together with the two or three other patients waiting for their appointments. I probably should have, but we went into Regent's Park.

Ann Margaret Daniel recently wrote an essay entitled Stoppard and Sappho in her blog for The Huffington Post using this photograph, and the Roman fresco from RegioVI (insula occidentalis) in Pompeii of Sappho.

Best Marmalade

I mostly take pictures of people, but from time to time I see an object I like or I help out with something Caroline has been asked to do in the still life realm. Recently it was a jar of marmalade.
I put the jar on our marble dining room table, clamped a spoon to a light stand and filled the spoon with marmalade. The shot was lit by four windows, two behind the jar and two in front of it. The marmalade was the best I had ever tasted, made by Jennifer Mercurio here in Garrison.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Meursault and its woes

For a special occasion I bought a bottle of Chassagne-Montrachet, Les Chenevotttes, 2006, Domaine Jean-Marc Moret. I got it at a local wine shop here in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York, whose owners are more than unusually knowledgeable about wine. We discussed Secrets of Meursault by the inestimable Jay McInerney. These secrets are no longer secrets and the matter to which they refer extends beyond Meursault to Chassagne-Montrachet. 

The wine was unrecognizable as Chassagne-Montrachet but was not poison and made good gravy for our roast chicken. It tasted, as Mr. McInerney said it might, like Sherry, due to premature oxidation as Burgundy lovers now know all too well.

I have had only excellent wine from Chambers Street Wine. Now I am going to put them to the test: Can they recommend a Meursault or Chassagne-Montrachet. If they can't, I shall probably never buy wine anywhere else—they must be honest people. If they can recommend one, and it tastes like Meursault, I shall certainly never buy wine from anyone else. At least that is what I shall feel like for a while. (But no, how could one give up Yannitelli's purring descriptions of a Bandol, or Viscount's $8 Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, $11 anywhere else, and the always warm greeting at Artisan who recommended an $11 Soave after I asked for something to go with the last pesto of the season and it was exactly right for the dish?)

When I have found this bottle that tastes like white Burgandy I shall photograph it.

Meanwhile here are two people having a good time over a glass of something, taken in the 1970s in England at a wedding.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Stanley Kubrick on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey

 A couple of months ago we went to a party and I met a young man who told me he was a photographer and film maker. We discussed the merits of Kodak TriX and Ilford Multigrade bromide printing paper and so on. He had not much to say about digital photography because he loved the darkroom.

I told him one or two stories about Stanley Kubrick. (I worked for him on three of his films as a stills photographer.) I was not able to answer his questions about Stanley's work ethic or his creative process because Stanley never talked about such things. He worked nine to five on the set, or for how ever many hours the union would allow, but come five or six o'clock, we said good night. Except for the times I went to dinner with him at his house, where we played ping pong, talked about life amongst the demi-monde in London, his children's pets, how much he loved stationary stores, and the perils of buying second hand cars, I did not see him till the next morning.

But I expect he did a lot of work on scripts. Just good old plain work. I do know, though, that if the word got out that Warner Brothers executives were planning to visit the set the following morning, Stanley would not come in. Because of the lost days, after several attempts they gave up trying to see what he was doing.

Another question was: "What was so and so like." What the question should be is: "What was so and so like in front of the camera." Because that is where your sitter is—in a very particular place, a place which elicits a different reaction from people than if you had brought them a bottle of expensive Burgundy and two glasses. Under the latter circumstances you're likely to find out more what a person, in general, is like than plonking them down in front of a camera.

My young acquaintance then e-mailed me asking for more Kubrick stories and what he called old war stories. He also asked what it is like to practice photography professionally. I was touched, but I thought, no, this is not the way to help people. I wrote back: "I am not sure that I can give you any insight into what a professional photographer needs to know or do. I have never really been one. From time to time I have earned money taking pictures but it has almost always been outside the usual places that photographers find their work. I have only had success or satisfaction when I have done what I want. This can lead to poverty by the way." I should have added that the only way was to go on taking photographs and see what happens.

He replied, but he did not take the hint. I abandoned him.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

American Cool

American Cool is the name of the current exhibition at Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. My photograph of Jean-Michel Basquiat is included in the exhibition. The photograph was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery for their permanent collection in 2010.

I first saw Jean-Michel Basquiat one summer's day in 1986 sitting on the iron steps of Dean and DeLuca on Prince Street in Soho. He was sitting in way not unlike the pose he adopted in this photograph. He was eating Devonshire Cream with a spoon straight from the bottle.

I took this photograph some months later in his studio on Great Jones Street. When I arrived his assistant said, "He's upstairs getting ready; if you wouldn't mind waiting?” Murmuring voices and laughter, male and female, drifted down the stairs and I welcomed the time to look for a background.

It only took me five or ten minutes to decide on one. I prepared my camera and sat down. After half-an-hour I heard footsteps on the stairs and my spirits rose. It was his assistant. “Oh good, you are still here,” he said, “He won't keep you a moment.” I thanked him and he went back upstairs. I resumed listening to the chatter. Five minutes turned into ten, then twenty and then thirty. An hour past. I was getting hungry. Then I heard footsteps again, different ones this time. Jean-Michel appeared, smiled and asked, “Where would you like me?”

See CBS review