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

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