Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hood and scarf

They were sitting in the farthest and darkest corner of Park Slope's al di là Trattoria. I had my back to them, but Caroline said I should photograph them. As they rose to leave she was up and asking them. I saw their strikingly pale and unblemished complexions, one in a hood and the other bare-headed, but wrapped several times in a scarf, like an inflatable ring worn by those in the water who cannot swim. They stood outside against the window of the restaurant lit by the veiled winter sun of the late afternoon.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Couple by street light

I'd like to know more about these two. Sometimes I'm only interested in the shape or expression of people I photograph. But with these two, I would like to know more, because she is dressed differently from him, more formally and with a bag and scarf, and he is in just a thin sweater. Also she spoke not a word to me, yet he was warm and forthcoming about having the picture taken, but as it was nearing eleven o'clock and they had not eaten, I could not keep them any longer. I had already dragged them out from their table that they had just settled into.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ryan again

As his café (it will be his in the middle of January) is the best in Cobble Hill for oatmeal, coffee and lightening polite service, we are swept there by a current of past memories. And you only have to glimpse him and something about his appearance causes you to grope for your camera. Last week it was the red and black hat.

Two elbows, one bottle

In order for a digital camera to see to focus in low light it has to be assisted by a spotlight built into the camera that shines without your asking when the subject is too dim for the automatic focus too cope. This is very irritating and can ruin the shot. Here the subjects were so absorbed in each other that if you had shone a search light at them they would not have noticed.

The photograph was taken at Marlow and Sons in Williamsburg, a place where they understand the romance of candlelight (the whole room is more or less lit by candlelight), the right music, making people feel welcome, and service.


You seldom know what people are talking about or feeling when you are observing them. Before I took this picture, I had been watching the couple and I thought from their expressions that they didn't know each other well. They were being polite and careful. After this show of aggressive surprise, I am not sure.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Smoking lovers

In this photograph, taken in London in the buffet of Waterloo station, thirty years before I took the couple at Diner (above), there is more expectancy than surprise in the young lady's expression, and not a scrap of aggression. In fact, even without their shared love of tobacco, they seem made for each other. You could not be sure of that in "Surprise". Those were still the days when it was polite to light your girlfriend's cigarette for her and always before your own. And there is more in her look than the sweet anticipation of that first delicious drag on her cigarette.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Young man with skateboard

I heard the rattle of skateboards as we crossed the road on Lorraine Street in Red Hook and turned to see three teenagers on their boards in the middle of the street. There was one tall, thin rider that caught my eye. I did not see his face but I shouted and waved "Hello." They stopped. I asked one of them, "Do you like dogs, he's friendly." as Caroline and Louis caught up with us. They stopped and they all liked Louis. I went up to the tall thin rider. He agreed to be photographed. He had grown up with dogs. This was their favourite street to skate on. Not very much traffic and a wide long stretch, so you could see it coming, the said.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Carly again

Here is Carly again - no longer working at Goodbye Blue Monday - now devoting her life to her art - portrait painting. Photograph was taken at Goodbye Blue Monday on her nearly last day. The place is looking as inviting as ever and is soon to be serving twenty-seven varieties of toasted cheese sandwich. I suggested to Matthew, a GBM senior manager, a twenty-eighth. Welsh Rarebit, chedder cheese with the addition of Worcestershire sauce or mustard. There is an English colony in Bushwick, who I know are frequenters of GBM, so there will be takers.

Myrtle and Broadway

We climbed the iron steps to the station of the elevated tracks of the J, M and Z line at Broadway and Myrtle Avenue. The couple disappeared through the brown swing doors into the subway entrance. I thought I had lost them in the free-for-all of shoppers returning home with their bags. But they were standing near the turnstile and had noticed Caroline with our dog Louis and I beckoned to them to come and meet him. They carried no bags. She was there to say goodbye to him. He was returning to Manhattan where he studies Criminal Justice at Berkeley College.

We had to wait for the sun to go behind the clouds. We pressed into a corner on the walkway by the entrance to the subway where the light would be good. Louis and Caroline greeted the shoppers as they banged through the swing doors. At last we felt we had found the center of Brooklyn, a place difficult to pinpoint.

At first she did not want to be photographed because she was wearing sweat pants (I explained it was just head and shoulders). After the shoot, he asked to be photographed by Caroline, with me and Louis.

Christmas tree salesman

First day back in Brooklyn for several weeks. The day started badly. Lunching at the friendly and cosy Boulevard Café on Bushwick Avenue, a young woman sat writing in a notebook at the next door table. Yes, writing in a notebook. When she stared out of the window she looked good, lost in thought. But a fuse box stood out prominently behind her head and I could not get myself in the right place without her seeing what I was up to. I abandoned it and we moved on.

Caroline spotted a man selling Christmas trees from a stall on Broadway. He obligingly gave me his time. If you have a section of sidewalk the length of a sizable store front, full of Christmas trees on December 4th, a Saturday, you do not have much time to clear them.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Father and daughter

Having shirked the trip to Brooklyn last weekend because of the shoppers, we went to sedate Rhinebeck, NY and Bread Alone. They serve cupcakes now - this organic paragan of multi-grain. We were sitting two tables down from a father, mother and their three daughters. 'There's a fourth child, our son, but he's away at school," the mother said.

"The likeness between your husband and your youngest daughter caught my eye."

"I am sure they would love to be photographed."

With their strong looks they could be cast in any film about pioneers. I can see them in a covered wagon galloping full tilt across the foothills of Wyoming in 1870 - bullets popping holes in the canvas.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

William Styron

This portrait of William Styron is included in a current show called "Recent Acquisitions" at the Smithsonian, National Portrait Gallery. It was taken at Mr. Styron's house in Roxbury, Connecticut, in 1984.

The photograph was first exhibited on Martha's Vineyard where Mr. Styron's friend Art Buchwald looked at the photograph and said to him, "I didn't know you were a homeless person, Bill."

Mr. Styron's house was dark and crowded with furniture and books so I asked if I could look around outside. The summer house immediately caught my eye and with some coaxing Mr Styron sat on the steps. I said that I thought he looked too scrunched up and suggested he lean back on one elbow. He did so and I was ready with my finger on the shutter release before he had time to think about smiling.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ava and compost

Ava's career as an organic farmer began eight years ago when she was eleven-years-old. She worked the till at a farmer's market stand in Cold Spring on Saturday mornings. Soon she was spending her summers on the farm and last year lived there in a trailer. Next year, she and another intern from the farm are starting their own organic farm in New Hampshire.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ava with scythe

A skill Ava developed on the farm was how to use and sharpen a scythe. She said she learnt a great deal from watching eighty-year-old English farmers demonstrating their skills with a scythe on YouTube. The two scythes she now owns came from her father (not a farmer) who had them in a shed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Meditation can be dangerous

Man turned to stone by staring at Central Hudson power lines. Sculpture by Emil Alzamora in his open air studio in Beacon, NY.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

At Emil Alzamora's

Caroline with her hands full at the Open Studio in Beacon.

Scene in the park

Washington Square Park on a fine, late autumn afternoon. The couple in the foreground are gripped by the subject in hand, a serious subject, it looks like. Along side them is a young man miles away in his own thoughts. Behind them, we have a couple without much to say to each other at all. Next to them, a couple, limbs entwined, helpless with laughter, and then a man on his telephone who looks as though he is making no progress with anything. In the far background, two figures, sitting in a similar fashion, one in the sun and the other in the shade.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Couple in round glasses

They came as we left. I wanted a picture of him and as I looked through the finder she appeared at the side of the frame. You really can't say, "Clear off."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Germaine Greer

It is the 40th Anniversary of the publication of "The Female Eunuch". Loved in London, where she appears regularly on TV shows, now hardly known here. I never meet anybody who has read her books, but after forty years "The Female Eunuch" is still in print. Not bad.

I remember her clearly; quick, funny, friendly, but very serious about her believes. Did not at all mind moving furniture with me to get a clearer view by the window. Never cared much about what she wore.
She wears simple and comfortable clothes, and occasionally, in her youth, removed them for a photographer. She seldom dressed up for them.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Julian Schnabel

This picture was taken at the height of Schnabel's fame as a painter; 1986, I think. Although we spoke on the telephone a couple of times after the sitting, we lost touch. I gave him a print of the photograph and he said that he thought he looked a bit fat.

Four or five years ago, Caroline and I walked into the stage door of Town Hall after a concert given by our friend Richard Butler. On the way in, a large, slightly dishevelled, bearded man, distinguished looking nevertheless, said good evening to me. I did not know who he was and left it at that; and after he said good evening again, this time adding my name, I started to worry that he was somebody I should know. But I could not for one moment think who it was. I asked Annie, Richard's wife at the time, and she said, "That's Julian Schnabel." I went up to him, put my arm around his shoulder and apologized. "It was the beard that fooled me," I said.

He was polite, but I knew he was offended. Like Orson Welles, though, I think he would be good in his own movies. He had matured into a very impressive looking man, far more impressive than the youngish one I had photographed twenty years earlier.

Abandoned tennis court

I was going to call this "The State of British Tennis" until Murray beat Federer in the finals of the Shanghai Masters the other day, so I'd better be careful. We'll see.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Artist in leather

Jason Ross with his vintage machine. He makes jewelry, belts, wallets and bags in leather. He bought the machine for $50 from a shoe maker in Philadelphia who told him that it did not work and why. Jason took it home and found that the shoe maker's diagnosis was wrong. All it needed was a replacement cotter pin. He learnt how to shape, form and hammer leather on YouTube.

Jason lives with
Natasha Chekoudjian in one of Red Hook's converted factory gems. It overlooks Coffey Park where they walk their white American bull dog, Stella. I tried to photograph all three of them earlier this year but it did not work. Got some good shots of Stella and our Louis on another occasion though. August Sander took some good ones of men with dogs.

Leather worker's tools

Jason has recently had a surge in orders for his work and has taken on helpers. From an early age he had experience with production. His father manufactured pushpins and allowed his son to roam the factory. Click here for Jason's website.

Jason Ross and Natasha Chekoudjian

Jason and Natasha in the hallway of their building in Red Hook. Natasha is wearing a dress that she designed and jewelry designed by Jason.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Girl in truck

As I drove through Jonesport, Maine on the way to the ferry that would take us to Norton Island, Caroline spotted this girl standing by a red truck. This shows clearly the value of having help from one with sharp eyes attuned to those of the photographer's. We were not able to stop without the risk of missing the ferry, but as we drove by two days latter there she was, this time sitting in the truck with a male friend. "I think they live in it." Caroline said. I should have asked but was too excited over getting the picture and left smartly handing them my card. Sometimes I have the feeling that subjects have the power to take the picture back.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Witch with her daughter

Writers enjoying the quiet and undisturbed natural surroundings of Norton Island, home of the Norton Island Writers Residency Program, might have seen additional guests there last week in the form of a witch from the nineteenth century and a botanists from today. It was late in the season though, and most writers were back at their desks at home or in their colleges. But next summer, those lucky enough to be chosen for the two weeks of residency, might hear bird songs turning to screams and the locked doors of their cabins opening in the night. NORTON ISLAND RESIDENCY PROGRAM NORTON ISLAND RESIDENCY

Saturday, October 9, 2010


They wanted to show that a shipwreck had happened on the nearby rocks. Driftwood on the beach was tossed into the water by the director and producer and photographed in close-up swirling and bobbing in the foam.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Brianna, volunteer gardener

Brianna and John. She is a volunteer gardener in Coffey Park, Red Hook; he is the full time gardener. They spent the morning with seven students from NYU spreading wood chip mulch round the Plane trees.

Headless woman

A store front on Franklin Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Woman in robe 1

During lunch in Red Hook with our friends Jason and Natasha, Jason mentioned a chapel around the corner where artists had moved in and divided the work space. He had walked by one day and stopped to look at the art on display outside the open doors. Danniel, above, was one of the artists. She asked them in to see the space and invited them to dinner for the following weekend. Danniel and two friends cooked four courses for seventeen people sitting at a long table. The entire chapel was lit by candlelight. Continued below next picture.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Woman in robe 2

Continued. As we left the restaurant and walked towards the chapel, Jason dialed her number, but she did not answer. He kept trying her and also pressed the doorbell... silence. He tried calling her again and this time she answered. She didn't remember him or Natasha at her dinner and told Jason she was not going to let us in. Jason spoke to her some more (I was out of earshot) and finally said to him that she was coming down. By this time I wanted to walk on and look for people to photograph. Then the door opened and this person appeared. She recognized Jason and Natasha and apologized. We stood chatting not quite believing what we saw in front of us. Caroline said to me quietly, "Aren't you going to take a picture of her?" The others dispersed and I took the photograph. "You must all come to my next dinner party." she said as we waved goodbye.

Natasha Chekoudjian, fashion designer

When I first photographed Natasha both Caroline and I were impressed by what she was wearing. Here she is with two more of her designs. She has the grace and elegance to match the flow of these garments. This is the link to her website:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Gardener in large hat

We noticed the mulch used around his bit of the BBG, (herbs mostly, huge swathes of basil, purple sage etc) that looked very like soil. He told us it was Buckwheat hulls. Never seen a garden with fewer holes bored through the leaves of the plants... and they use no insecticides.

Shakespeare's gardener

Anne O'Neill manages and maintains the incomparable Shakespeare Garden at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. It had been a long dry spell when we met her. "How do you get the water here?" I asked. "I carry the hose on me back." she replied.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Soothing moment at MOMA

His friend seems to understand the strain of being a photographer. He had had enough... or was it just the place, the people and the exhibitions that had got him down?

Green with pleasure

The bench is chained down, the dog is tethered to the post, and the owner is clamped by the headset. No escape for anyone or anything.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Nicky Nodjoumi

"I am a painter. I was born in Iran. My work was too political so I came here. I went back for the revolution. It was too political for the new regime so I returned to the United States and stayed."


On the hunt for locations for a commercial for an expensive Scotch whiskey in the not so expensive regions of Greenpoint. He is also an editor, yet in spite of the example of Our Lord, not a disk jockey.

Art Historian in Welder's glasses

"If you don't mind the green, they're great." "Where did you get them?" "Online... welder's equipment." "Actually I borrowed these from a friend and still have them." she said smiling. She told us she had never walked down West Street, Greenpoint before, and nor had we.

Caroline and Louis

It's always the same, you want to go one way and he the other.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A good listener

She sat there enthralled, never interrupting or taking her eyes off him. We were too far away to hear what he was saying, and the lady in pink appeared to be too busy texting.

Best friends

"Are you sisters," I asked,
"No, best friends."

Resting lawyer

He wore large tinted glasses in gold wire frames and a sun burst tattoo on his right shoulder. Yet, for a photograph, I thought his face alone was the force.

Summer bliss

This person was not at all interested in what I was doing. Next to her sat the resting lawyer... picture above. I was putting up my tripod, asking him to move a little, changing lenses and introducing him to Caroline and the dog. She opened her eyes once but closed them again almost immediately. I was glad not to disturb her.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Straw hat and straw hair

The title says what it was that struck me about this couple. Also, they were patient while I fiddled with the settings on the camera and helpful in recommending places to eat in nearby Brooklyn Heights.

Flawless Brooklyn Heights

They'd lived in Brooklyn for 40 years... Where else?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A choice too great

The menu has more than a hundred items on it. The tender touch from the left hand of a friend is calming. Going out means you do not have to shop, cook or wash up. But... you have to decide where to go, drive there, park and choose from a menu that is too large. It can be a strain, worse than eating in. An old school buddy of Caroline's, Scott Kelly, once told me that the best meal he'd ever eaten at a restaurant was at a provincial airport in France. The menu consisted of one hors d'oeuvres, one main course and one desert. The relief was so great that he sank into his chair, downed the house wine and left a happy man.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Café Maya

Café Maya, which lay in a rundown plaza on the edge of Cold Spring, New York was an old diner with eight stools, eight tables, and a television set tuned to soccer from Europe. There was a small staff of devoted workers. Apart from the good cheap food, the reason you went there was Louis, the owner. He was irresistibly charming and his place became the place that made eating out a guaranteed pleasure. You brought your own bottle, but the lemonade always had a kick to it. Then it closed, just like that. We heard rumours, and they proved to be right. He opened a large place 5 miles up the road. A road house for commercial travelers, IBM on-their-way-uppers, and sundry dusty housewives and adulterers. We starved, and he made a fortune.