Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Winter in Garrison

Discovered new parts of Garrison this weekend thanks to David Dasch who knows every corner of the place, its history and who lives in every house. For eighteen years he has been exploring and knocking on doors. A few years ago one door he saw was piled high with snow and cries for help coming from behind it. He dug it out with the shovel he always carries in his car. The cries came from an eighty-five year-old woman who wanted to give him money for his kindness. He refused and instead asked for permission to walk her fields any time he wanted during his lifetime. She agreed. This is a corner of one of her fields. She is now ninety-seven.


Slippers bequeathed to the puppy. They were old but would have gone on a little longer. L. L. Bean are out of stock as most retailers at this time of year are out of stock of anything you might want.

Keith Haring

He had a spring in his step and wanted to move around his studio. The bike, a hansome bike, anchored him for a moment. But not for long - he soon began riding it. And then he was gone.

Muriel Spark

I had to find a way of distracting her from looking at me with her pretty smile. I said that I needed a minute or two to adjust the settings on the camera. I fiddled with the Rolleiflex, and kept half an eye open to see what she was doing. Then something must have entered her mind and she looked down and forgot I was there. I clicked the shutter.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Bushwick Diva

Every three or four minutes the light from the window that lit my subject faded to twilight as a subway past on the overhead track of the J train on Broadway. Teresa lives with her husband and shares the apartment with two other musicians. They were still asleep in their room because of working late. I crept around the main room taking care not to tread on or trip over guitars, cymbals, tom-toms, wires and microphones that littered the floor.

I whispered instruction, looked at her paintings that she kept in a cardboard box on a high shelf and listened to her telling me that she liked London and disliked America because there was no National Health Service here and it was difficult getting a Green Card. She grew up in Bari, Italy. Her English was flawless.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Spalding Grey

He arrived with a canvas shopping bag and told us of his addiction to
caffeine. He talked for ten or fifteen minutes sitting and slouching at a table leaning on his elbows. I asked him if I could photograph him sitting up straight. I adjusted the light so that it put half his face in shadow leaving only his eye lit on the shadow side.

When he left the studio I had the feeling I would like to see him again which, by chance, we did, on a beach in Sagaponack with his wife, one beautiful late summer day
. They were both a great pleasure to talk to. They had their small child with them.

Strong Jaws

It was a cold morning, too cold to think of asking anybody to stop and have their picture taken, so we headed straight for the warmth of Robin Des Bois Sherwood Café. Well, not quite straight as we now have Nicholas's puppy to look after and he needed a walk. During the hour that we were in the café it got much warmer so I took the two friends above outside.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Father and daughter

Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. It was a cold morning and we were glad to be immediately shown to a table by the window at the Robin Des Bois Sherwood Café. As I sat down I was at once struck by the man sitting at the next door table. He was with another woman who could have been his wife, but I never did find out. Also at the table, a young woman who certainly could have been his daughter. Here they are.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A young writer outside Café Orwell

He was standing outside Café Orwell smoking a fat yellow cigarette. Was Orwell a vegan? Because the café offers only Soy milk. It's a dark place, five or six writers tapping away at their illuminated keyboards. There was nobody talking to anybody. This man liked to talk. He lived in a hostel round the corner. They would find him a job if they had any jobs, but they didn't have any.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Friends at Boulevard Café

They were pouring over their laptops. I wondered if they were too much though. Just how well matched can you be? But then I thought, no, they really are wonderful. I got up and said "May I photograph you, you look wonderful together." They said, "Why, of course."

Because the light and the background were better at our table, I asked them to move.
They wanted to bring their laptops but I liked the cup and saucer and the pepper and salt better. They are performance artist. They were writing the material for their next collaboration.

Friday, December 4, 2009

3rd Street, Carroll Gardens

A Saturday morning. Imagine this street early Monday morning. As I set up this shot I kept worrying that somebody would come and park their vehicle here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ballet dancer

One of four sisters who love to dance. This is the youngest, twelve-years-old, her mother told us. Photographed at the Newburgh Performing Arts Academy.

Roald Dahl

I don't remember if Roald Dahl was much interested in film (although he was married to Patricia Neal), but several of his books have been made into movies - very recently: "Fantastic Mr. Fox". I remember him more for his love of wine and food, gardens and talk. He wrote to me when I sent him this picture: "You will notice that this person is leaning at about 30 degrees off the true vertical line. This is a fairly accurate reflection of his attitude to life."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Off duty waitress

I was lucky. In a normally busy place there was nobody except her, the proprietor and one customer. She sat on the stool, tucked her leg under her and looked at the lens. My Rolleiflex, God how I miss it! But I'm addicted now, foully addicted to the damn digital life.


She was coming straight at me with what looked like an impossible load. It was the angle of her body and the level tray that got me. I said please stop just there. She did - without a waver.

Beryl Bainbridge

Actress, novelist, critic, biographer and generally loved person for her forthright comments on radio and television in the U.K. She arrived at the sitting perfectly styled for a portrait of actress turned writer. I photographed her another time, I think, because her house was full of things, stuffed animals and junk. Perhaps I found this wall there, outside her house, but... can't remember.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Picked from the group, Newburgh, NY

Circling and laughing on a street corner with five or six friends, I spotted this girl amongst the group. I photographed them all together, knowing that they would not allow me to single out one from the group unless they had all been included in a shot. I then asked this girl if I could photograph her alone. I asked the others to leave us for just two minutes and I would be through, and their friend would join them.

Man in blue scarve, Newburgh, NY

A yell from the other side of the street. "I never got my picture." the man said. I crossed the road and apologised. I remembered I had never made a print of it and had hoped I wouldn't bump into him, but here he was. I took another picture of him and gave him my card. This is his friend. I knew I would like him from the start.

Girl in the drizzle, Newburgh, NY

Gloom and drizzle descended over Newburgh on Saturday last week. This woman was holding her child's hand, but I liked her alone. I did not tell her I was not including the child in the picture. Her cell phone rang. "I'm here, on the corner of Broadway and DuBois," she said. I had finished and was able to make a dignified exit. I was once interrupted during the taking of a picture by the arrival of a boy friend, and seen off.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Paul Auster, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY

The New York Review of Books published this photograph in their December 23, 2010 issue. The article is a review by Joyce Carol Oates of Sunset Park by Paul Auster.

This was the first photograph I took in Brooklyn. It was 1986 and taken for The Times in London. Little did I know that nearly twenty-five years later I would spend so much time in Brooklyn photographing. Twenty years went by before I set foot in the place again and then only for a day. It is also the only photograph I have taken of a well-known person in Brooklyn.

Paul Auster lived in one of those brownstone streets in Park Slope that lead up to Prospect Park, where the houses have
steep steps up to mahogany doors ten feet high and thick enough to stop a bullet. He worked in a tiny apartment in a block right on the park - too dull and too small for photographs, but I knew we just had time to do something in the park before it got dark.

Salon on Liberty Street, Newburgh, NY

I thought this is too good to miss as I looked at the scene through the window of the salon. I went inside and asked if I could take the picture, at the same time fumbling in my bag. My heart sank... I had left my exposure meter behind and I would have to guess. The gods were with me and I guessed right. What a thrill it was when I unrolled the wet film from the reel, just out of the fixer, and saw the correctly exposed negative. You don't get that thrill now, with digital.

Wrought iron balustrade, Newburgh, NY

Newburgh, NY has many houses without stoops, houses with both stoops and balustrades missing, but in some cases the house, stoop and balustrade are still in place - not many. How this beauty survived on Liberty Street, along with the stoop and the house, goodness only knows. The house was boarded up but still standing. Wouldn't this piece last just five minutes in an Antique shop on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn?

Taken wide open on the trusted Rollei, to get the narrow depth of field.

More on Newburgh, go to http://www.kasterine.com/newburgh

November 2009

A corner of our living room needed something. The table top on which the branches and vase stand had rusted through and I had a new one welded on. I'd always liked the table and this is now its new home and a subject for the camera; as long I continue to find things or foliage to put on it. I photographed it soon after I placed the branches there, but a few days later it was much more interesting with the fallen leaves.

Ten-year-old with her Spitzhauben

The chicken's name is Gravy, a German Spitzhauben, and it was the calmest and most obedient subject - very much due, I felt, to the handling skills of its owner who has ten chickens in all. She designed, and with the help of her father, built a house for them entirely out of recycled materials collected from friends' dumpsters and old materials from their own home improvements. See www.kidsonchicks.blogspot.com

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Breaking in a thoroughbred

At the time I photographed this young thoroughbred being broken in (probably 1955), I was flying cargo planes to Australia for Freddie Laker. We used to have a stop-over in Karachi on the way. In London I exercised polo ponies in Richmond Park three mornings a week and I missed my rides when I was away on the two week round trip to Australia.

I asked at the hotel if there were any stables nearby and they said I should try the racing stables. I was not at all sure I could handle a race horse but they gave me one of their nice gentle retired animals. I still scared myself galloping across the desert.

I was lucky enough to be there one morning when this young horse was of being broken in. He had not yet had a saddle put on him. It was one of the first photographs I took with my Rolleiflex 2.8E

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Two Gentlemen of Williamsburg

Only ten days ago I wrote that soon I will not want to stand around street corners in the biting wind looking for subjects. Yesterday we sat in the warmth of Diner in Williamsburg, staring only at back views lining the bar. So, fortified with ham and cheese I decided to brave it and wait on a nice open piece of ground away from clutter and not crowded, where Broadway and South 6th Street intersect, shivering a bit but feeling that someone would turn up. And they did. First Danny, top, wearing his father's jacket, bought in the 1960s on Carnaby Street in London. He said,"You're lucky, I was thinking of putting on my down, then you never would have stopped me and asked to take my picture."

Levi, below Danny, is a guitarist and seventeen-years-old. He was on his way to a recording session. His friend has a large empty loft, well away from the BQE, Williamsburg Bridge and the overhead subway. He is from Bozeman, Montana. He found his guitar somewhere (he says it sounds a bit like a banjo but he likes that). He also found his bicycle, a classic English Raleigh. I saw him whiz by on South 4th Street and shouted. He turned in his saddle but continued peddling. I shouted again and he started back towards us. He said later that he thought we were lost.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Waitress with armful of glasses

Botanica has a new manager, an Englishman, originally from the Islands. Along with him, two new waitresses of great skill and courtesy. Braced with a shared Hemingway (that as yet, unbeatable cocktail, the daiquiri), we drove home to Garrison listening to "A Most Wanted Man" by John le Carré. The journey has never gone quicker. The book is a perfectly aimed swipe at the complicity of all the governments fighting the war on terror; riveting characters and suspense.

Opposites attract

Together in Red Hook for four years, since she was fifteen and he twenty, this devoted couple live in harmony despite their appearance of being worlds apart. He talks admiringly about the forty and fifty-year-old rockers you can see in Greenwich Village who really know how to turn themselves out. But waiving his left hand in the air he said proudly, "I never go out without this."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Off to Brunch

Was it last night that made this couple so happy, or the anticipation of brunch? They were laughing when I first saw them, stepping off the sidewalk the other side of the intersection, and they were still laughing as they passed me. In their state of mind I could have waived a red flag at them and they would not have noticed my standing almost in their path with my camera.

The last of summer.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two straight knees - one bent knee

They didn't seem to know where they were going. She wears her bag as armor. He travels light, perfectly trimmed hair and side whiskers are enough. All I had to do was to hold my camera more or less vertical at my waist and technology did the rest: accurate focus and exposure.

A picture of indecision. A Saturday of
unenjoyment on Bedford Avenue.

Solemn moment

More that Nikon shutters are as smooth as silk than my hand rock steady, but I believe that this photograph was taken at 1/5th of a second. Diner is a marvelous place where the waitress sits or crouches at your table and reels off the menu from memory and writes it at the same time on the paper tablecloth. Wine, (Julianénas out of a ten litre box, yes box, decanted into litre bottles) pasta and chocolate cake, out of this world. And a couple, heads together, her hand holding his ear. Why? Maybe just trying to concentrate on who owes what for the dinner.

Envious moment

I dug this out of the files: the bar at the Bolshoi, Moscow, 1980. The place much more brightly lit than Diner so no camera shake troubles, this time with a Leica. In this picture I want to know what the passing man is thinking as he watches the couple about to gobble up their glasses of champagne. Or is it the girl he's looking at?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Roberta's best

There is as much to say about Roberta's where this girl works as there is to say about her. Roberta's, for me, has the best pizza in Brooklyn (crisp crust and simple fillings), the best prices, the most pleasant staff and the atmosphere of a place where you feel you will be missing something if you did not go there regularly. The people who run it grow food for the restaurant in greenhouses on their roof. They also have a radio station.

This girl is Bushwick exotic: tattoos, beads, short skirts, lots of color and friendliness,
plus much knowledge of where good food can be found in Brooklyn. We missed her the other night when we went. She liked the doorway and lent against it in this languid way without any prompting from me.

Woman sitting with one shoe off

As I walked by I said "Don't move you look wonderful like that." Immediately she moved - people almost invariably do. You have to say it very quietly and slowly, if possible accompanied by a gentle gesture that implies: "Stop". She put the can of beer down farther enough away, she thought, not to be in the picture. She returned to her pose and forgot, possibly, about her only wearing one shoe.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lion and gazelle

They walked past us on Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg. I leaped on them, and a few yards from where we were I saw a possible background. They followed me and it was done.

Hungry girl with chipped fingernails

It was hot, dusty and noisy. Three friends were sheltering in the shade of the overhead tracks of the F and G train on 9th Street near the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. They were waiting for the shuttle bus to take them to Ikea. At first the girl wanted to get rid of the cake and drink, but I said no, they were essential to the picture and told her how terrific she looked holding them.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman had become well known around this time for her film still series. I asked her what she was doing now and she said that she had spent the last six months watching television. Just anything, soap operas, anything. But she was going to get down to some work soon.

Barbara Kruger

Ms. Kruger showed us into her studio, and asked us to sit down. She sat in a place round the table which was in shadow. I could see a spot a few feet from where we sat where the light was good. I asked her if we could do the picture there but she wouldn't budge. I explained that her face was in shadow. "That's alright," she said. I tried to explain that really it wasn't alright, and that the light was very good in the spot that I had pointed out. I would then take three frames and be gone. No, she would not stand there. I then asked Cathy, my daughter, to stand there and said, "Please look, doesn't she look good?" "Yes, she does." I took my three frames and we departed.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Outside Fairway

If I find a subject as we arrive at Fairway, it gets me out of helping with the shopping. Here is a young woman on her break from Fairway checkout with her friend's arm.

Baker at Bakeri

I did him standing, sitting, straight on, and in profile, full length and close up. This was the one though, sitting, behind the fence, finishing his cigarette.

We were looking for bread, but Con Ed had not yet put in enough electricity for the ovens. Caroline was not , however, going to leave without a brownie. Delicious, she said.

Leopard hug

We're talking to Carly (see July 5th and June 9th posting) in Goodbye Blue Monday and this lovely girl with a glowing complexion and tattooed forearm, plonks herself down on a stool and beams at us out of the gloom. She's followed soon by her friend who beams at us too. (Most of the beaming directed at Nicholas who was with us last weekend.)

I think they are both there to help keep the place running smoothly, a bit of waitressing and clearing up etc. Although the whole atmosphere of the place during the day seems more like home to the people there, with Carly doing the work of coffee making and keeping in touch with Matthew,
the manager, by cellphone, as to the comings and goings. (See posting June 9th.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Caroline filling a gap

I had been filling gaps in the garden due to the excessive rainfall. Certain plants had rotted in their pots, notably borage. Caroline agreed to fill this gap. She said she did not want to be a permanent stop gap, so I found some lovely pink phlox last weekend at Gowanus Nursery in Carroll Gardens, and although they do look nice, I thought Caroline did the best job.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jim Galloway, woodworker

We walked into his woodworking shop and he lifted his earphones from his head and said, "Good afternoon." We said, "Good afternoon," and I said, "What a wonderful place this is." He thanked me and asked if I came from England, and when I said yes, he said "but not all of you." "No," I said, "that is quite right because I am half Russian." "White Russian?" he asked and I said, "Yes."

Now, how does a man who works in Brooklyn, lives in Queens, (his family have been there for two hundred years) and who has never left the United States, recognize an English accent that is archaic enough to be in a museum, and then detect something about me that suggests that I am not entirely English. I did not ask, and he did not tell me. He did, however, tell me of a girl who worked at the bakery next door, who had a double headed eagle tattooed on her shoulder and said she was a Romanov (have to follow that up). He was also able to relate accurately the battle that took place between the American and British forces around Brooklyn and Fort Washington, as described by James Fenimore Cooper in "The Spy." I had introduced the subject and described the action inaccurately. Later I reread the passage in the book and he was right down to the last detail.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Claire in the garden

Claire is in charge of the Summit Street Community Garden in Carroll Gardens, a job she inherited from the founder, who now is away quite a lot after she built a house in Santa Fe. This hot Saturday afternoon Claire was there with her friend tidying up and planning next year's changes. An exceptionally large rosemary bush, probably eight feet wide and five and a half feet high is one of the garden's features. As we admired it, she drew her secateurs from her pocket and clipped off half a dozen twigs for us.

I took a photograph with her friend by the rosemary but when she started talking about her life I got this one. Her hands, as we can easily see are never gloved. It is not only the dirt in her finger nails, but the way she has arranged her hands that drew me to this particular shot - one of many where her hands were in the picture.

After Barnard, trying to figure out what to do before graduate school, at the suggestion of an aunt she and her friend started Beastly Bites Animal Supplies. Later, after it became a success, they sold it. Now Claire describes herself as a community activist.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

George F. Hamel, III

George F. Hamel, III, financial adviser, his card read. They both had the gentlest way about them. When I asked them to move a little this way or that, they did so without fuss. I asked them where they both lived and they told us. I wanted to ask them more questions but I was afraid to. Something about them made me not want to worry them. We offered each one of our cards. He picked one with a picture of Samuel Beckett on it and Caroline gave her the picture of the couple outside Botanica, because it was another couple. They said thank you and goodbye and continued on their stroll.

After posting this photograph it began to haunt me. The young man has conventional good looks and a serious disposition. He carries a well made looking umbrella. The girl is as unusual as he is traditional. Her looks are rare, her features are imperfect but she is perfectly unusual. Then her clothes: the tattered strap of her bag that matches the frayed neck line of her dress which also has a hole in it; the elaborate but unkept hair, fastened, it appears, by a single hairpin; her nails are polished and well kept in contrast to this untidiness.

I probably could not have asked about these things out of politeness to strangers. What she did or where else they were going that afternoon were more likely questions.

Prince Rupert Loewenstein

Photographing a financial adviser yesterday, (see post above of "George F. Hamel, III and friend") reminded me of Prince Rupert Loewenstein who was was the Rolling Stones' financial adviser from 1970 to 2007. I took this picture at a party at Greenwich Palace, London, probably in the mid 1970s. I remember the room lit only by candles, but thanks to Ilford's wonderful film, HPS, rated at 800 ASA and a steady hand, not to mention the total lack of shutter vibration from the Leica at 1/15th second, the pictures are fairly sharp.

Botanica, early evening

I was watching the tangled limbs and slumped bodies in the foreground. I did not notice the waitress in the middle distance until I downloaded the picture. Here was the "happy accident". We see the poise and balance needed to be quick but un-rushed, never spilling a cocktail filled to the brim, never banging a plate down on the table or bumping into somebody's chair. Always having time to answer a customer but knowing that another customer is waiting for their food or drink. Knowing on a busy night you can't dally. At the same time, you must be unfailingly pleasant and polite. And to complete the "happy accident", I had, by mistake, set the camera to automatically focus in the middle of the frame, thereby having the waitress in focus.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Grandmother at McDonald's

This week I am posting three pictures of women. Two were taken in Fishkill, New York and one in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Because we were asked to dinner with some friends in Connecticut on Saturday night, we did not go to Brooklyn this weekend. It would have been too far and we wanted to enjoy our dinner.

We did, however, do a bit of shopping at Sam's Club and Walmart where we found two of the photographs: the grandmother with her charge at McDonald's in Walmart, and the sales person at Sam's Club. The young woman in the window was taken in Williamsburg, the weekend before last, from the sidewalk of Bedford Avenue, outside one of the many cafés with windows open to the street. I'm surprised when people sit in the window seats and read books or text their friends. You would think they would like to look out at what is going on.