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.

Salesperson with purple nails

Nobody likes to be greeted by sales people on store floors, when, as I had done, you come to buy one particular thing and want to get home and play with it. In this case, it was a dehumidifier for my new office and storage space for my prints. She greeted me as I came in, but when she greeted me on my way out again, I said, "Let me take your picture, you are the best dressed sales person I have ever seen." It was not far from the truth and it apparently pleased her as she stood quite still and said, "Only if I can have a copy."

Girl with a purple handbag

Whores in Amsterdam and other cities sit in the windows on busy streets. As far as I know this is not the case on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg: just nice girls with lovely profiles sit in cafés.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Niko and Alex

I was in the wine shop and caught site of Caroline outside waiving and pointing to this couple standing in line in the street for a burrito. "It's all right, you remind me of my parents", Alex said, when Caroline was offering our names and e-mail and showing them cards of my work to reassure them they weren't going to be kidnapped.

I always worry a bit when it is plainly hopeless doing the shot where the subject is standing and have to ask them to come round the corner with me because I have found a good background there. But in this case the first shots around the corner were not too good. They were done in a hurry because I thought they wanted to eat their lunch. But glancing to the other side of the street I saw these steps and liked it much more, and they said they were happy to take as long as I needed and wait for their food.

A summer's day

Caroline wished she had had her Flip with her to record my moving surreptitiously (I thought), amongst the prone and mostly bikini clad bodies sunbathing in McCarren Park. I was dressed in a long sleeved shirt, pressed khakis and polished boots, which Caroline thought made me look conspicuous. I think most people were either asleep, photographing each other or fully occupied to worry about me.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Outside Fairways

It was the athletic vest that caught my attention, then the hair and then the face, all outstanding. Just as I was about to ask if I might photograph her, the man she was waiting for turns up with the shopping. I ask her, but in case he has any objection, bring him into the conversation. Well, you only have to look at her to see that she decides things for herself, and most charmingly at that. What a peach!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Roebling Tea Room

It started almost as soon as the four of them sat down. Her telephone rang and she answered it. After five minutes of conversation (mostly from the caller), she got up and left the restaurant. Her companions paid no attention and continued to talk amongst themselves. We left soon after and found her, head bowed, leaning on the railings of the iron staircase at the entrance to the restaurant, muttering and looking as anguished as before.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Girl with pony and bad finger

At the Kensington Stables, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY: a devoted groom. We watched her digging out the dirt from her pony's hooves, without flinching. A horse had bitten her the day before.