Thursday, January 29, 2009

In the Blackbird Parlour

The contrast in appearance between these two friends: the one with straight dark hair and soft round features, the other, curly auburn hair and chiseled looks. They were sitting, chatting and writing at the next table to us in the Blackbird Parlour, Williamsburg, NY. Look how differently they dress too. I would have loved to have spoken to them more. They said they were regulars so we must go back.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Heather St. Clair and Socks

This is the right way to hold a ferret, by the scruff of the neck. My mother kept ferrets during World War II in England and used them to catch rabbits. We carried the ferrets in a sack to the rabbit warren and the ferrets never failed to return with our dinner. I was fond of these wriggly, thin beasts, but nobody had them as pets then. Nowadays they tuck themselves up into handmade sleeping bags and are as adored by their owners as cats and dogs.

Heather St. Clair, artist

Here is Heather with one of her paintings. The light for this picture comes from a window that her friend Ralph helped me cover with a sheet to diffused the sunlight. Having helpful people around when photographing is fine. Ralph fell into this category, but people who stand there, too close to you, and just stare, can be a nuisance. "Do you think you could give us five minutes and we will be done," usually works. I don't think I have ever had anybody time me and then return to interrupt things again.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

David Dasch

As soon as I saw this man I was struck by the depth and symetry of the lines bracketing his mouth. David Dasch runs a one man advertising business from his house in Beacon, NY. He is also a musicologist who plays transcribed Schubert and Beethoven on the guitar. A Morgan guitar made in 1954. "That was before the rush, before everybody wanted one." In order that I had a clear view of the blue walls, David and I moved a settle out of the way. He thought I had levelled it and I thought he had, but it fell, hitting a postcard stand which in turn hit a picture on the wall, miraculously not breaking the glass in spite of it falling to the ground. Such are the hazards of shooting in people's houses. We picked everything up and began again. He couldn't have been nicer about it.

I'm impressed with Nikon. This is the first picture I have taken on the D40 at 800 ISO, needed in this shot as it was a dullish day, and I did not want to supplement the window light.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Two Rhode Island Reds

I saw a photograph of Helmut on his wife's Facebook page. (Until now I had seen no value in the time-wasting activity of Facebooking, but I shall now use it as a source of possible subjects.) His wife told us that Helmut kept chickens and we were up their slippery dirt road the next day to take his picture. He said, gathering up two Rhode Island Reds, "Chickens are like dogs, if you are nice to them they will love you." As much as I would have liked to have used as a background the hand made wooden coops inside the brick gazebo, there was really no room for us all.

Anyway, we now have a regular supply of fresh eggs, which reminds me of a passage from Elizabeth David. "To produce neat plump, well shaped and comely poached eggs it is essential to start off with fresh eggs." Then she begins to make life difficult. "Not too fresh though. A really new laid egg is not good for poaching. Three-day-old eggs are ideal, although how, unless one keeps hens, one is ever to know the exact age of an egg is not a problem I can solve."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Zio Antonio

Zio Antonio, Caroline's great uncle, taken in an abandoned stable in Malvito, Calabria, Italy. My favourite light, a four foot square of window, and my favourite color transparancy film, Kodachrome 64. Above all, a subject that the camera likes: a lean face, a steady gaze, open eyed, and the self confidence to say, this is how I am.


One late summer afternoon I was playing tennis at a hotel in Stowe, Vermont. Between a point I noticed this girl strolling by. Not wanting to interrupt the game I asked the wife of the man I was playing if she would run after her and ask if I could photograph her. She was Polish and she studied drama at the University of Warsaw. During the summer she had worked as a housekeeper at the hotel and earned enough money to pay for her tuition for a year.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Harold Pinter

The death of Harold Pinter: You probably know as much as or more about this man than I do; although I took his picture, it was the first and last time we met. I read an account of his funeral in The Guardian and I was very moved. I am English (half Russian) living in the United States and really miss only one thing about England and that is cricket. Harold Pinter adored the game, knew a very great deal about it and, of course, wrote and talked about it brilliantly. He was like David Forster Wallace on tennis, my other love, who could thrill you with his knowledge and commentary.