Wednesday, July 5, 2017

290 Liberty Street — gone

Last week this house on Liberty Street in Newburgh, NY was demolished. Nobody wanted it so the city moved in with bulldozers and wrecking balls. Good dentists save teeth, good city governments save houses and this was a prize nineteenth century town house. For 20 years I have heard talk in the streets of Newburgh, at city council meetings and at meetings of special interest groups, that tourism is Newburgh's future. But all that will be offered for a tourist to look at will be gaping holes or condominiums if things continue like this. And there is no sign that it won't.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Gardening in the shade. Caroline's corner garden

I wanted to make a garden where there is almost no soil and only two hours of sun a day. I remembered Lanning Roper, the American writer and renowned gardener, living in London in the 60s and 70s who made a garden just from plants in pots. I have tried to do the same, keeping the plants to those that thrive in the shade. This is the third year. I have named it Caroline's Garden and as she likes flowers I am trying to find more of them that will thrive in this corner. On the left, below the hosta, is a Japanese anemone that is growing well.

The drawback is that in order to save the pots from cracking in the winter, you have to wrap each pot in two layers of bubble wrap which is a tedious job and then you have to look at the plastic shrouded pots all winter which is an eyesore.  Otherwise you can bring them into a greenhouse and keep them above freezing, but no higher than 40 °F because they must rest. If the financial gods are with us in the autumn that is what we will do.

Bella Pollen, writer


Three things you do not expect at a book party: superb food and drink, speeches lasting less than five minutes, (and only two of them), and plenty of places to sit and talk to people. All this happened at Bella Pollen's book party to celebrate her sixth book, a very entertaining memoir with illustrations called Meet Me in the In-Between. 

Though, perhaps the least likely fact about the evening might be that I had only met the author once before. And that was in 1983, the year I took this photograph of her in London.    

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sir Freddie Laker honored



The photograph on the fin of this aircraft is of Sir Freddie Laker, pioneer of cheap transatlantic airfares in the mid 1970s. Norwegian Air are now trying to do the same thing. I took the picture of Sir Freddie in 1980. Actually, this one below is the one I like best, but Sir Freddie's son Freddie Jr. preferred the smiling one. (My choice would not have fitted the fin either.)

The story goes further. I was a second officer pilot for Sir Freddie's company Air Charter from 1956 to 1960s, before I became a full time photographer in 1961. We flew Avro Tudors, a British piston-engined aircraft, descendant of the famous Lancaster WW 11 bomber, to Woomera, Australia, loaded with parts for the Jindivik target aircraft. The Jindivik is the aboriginal word for 'The Hunted One'. At that time the British were testing their rockets in the desert around Woomera.

Often we had delays on these trips mainly due to engine trouble. For me this was welcome because I found the trips exhausting and the delays also gave me time to take photographs in Instanbul, Aden and Karachi, Cocos Keeling Islands and Singapore. Cruising at an airspeed of 200 knots, we flew un-pressurized at 10,000 feet, (the pressurizing equipment and cabin insulation had been removed to increase payload capacity).

Some of the captains I flew with were ex-RAF WW11 bomber pilots who thought nothing of flying through bad weather, or working hours that were within the law but did not take into account cumulative fatigue as the journey wore on. Neither were they at all concerned about taking off on too short a runway, fully laden, as was the case in Colombo, Ceylon, as it was then called. They enjoyed pulling out the severed tops of palm trees from the wheel bays after we had landed at our next destination. Sir Freddie had a very loyal following from the Captains who did all they could to save him time and money.           




   

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Tribute to a beautifully mannered man



For some reason, in the late 1980s, and for somebody, GQ I believe, I was sent to Atlantic City to photograph Don Rickles in Atlantic City. Oh, Lord! I thought.

I got there and waited in a large empty room. I asked for a small table, a chair and a cushion. After some time in walked a very smartly dressed, smallish man, who politely said good evening to me and my assistant and asked where he should put himself.

I placed the cushion on the floor by the chair and asked him to kneel on the cushion and place his  hands on the chair. With a smile he did exactly as I asked him and I took the photograph. He got up and said that he had not been asked to do that before, shook hands with us both, and disappeared. He left a very favourable impression on me.  

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Things seen in photographs during a second look.


She was with a group of friends who were chatting and fooling about on the corner of First and Dubois in Newburgh, NY, and I wanted to photograph her. It would be no good asking her because they would all want to be done. Instead, I first photographed everybody in the group so that I could then ask Eden if I could photograph her alone. She agreed.

Looking at the picture later, I thought, no, at the time I took the photograph, I did not see how neatly her bag fitted under her arm, or, that the position of her sagging belt buckle is ambiguous, or how the sagging buckle exposes the small ribbon bow tied at her waist — a masterly piece of styling. All I noticed was her face as she stood quietly with her friends.

 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine

Here is a Polaroid of Caroline that I took in 1987 in our studio on Lafayette Street, NYC. It might be the first photograph I took of her and it was probably a test shot to judge the lighting and exposure for a magazine shoot. I had written on the back of it the exposure meter readings on the subject and on the background.

Frequently I found that the test shot was better than the real thing (certainly in this case),  although we cannot remember the shoot that this was made for, but it hardly matters.

Using transparency film, as everybody did then, correct exposures were very important, as there was no Photoshop to save you. Anything more than 1/2 stop over exposed was unusable, but 1/2 stop under could be adjusted nicely in the developing.

This is very much how I remember Caroline looking when I first saw her in the framing department of New York Central on 3rd Avenue.  



Thursday, February 2, 2017

A man who remembers urban renewal




Out in all weathers, our friend, a man we have encountered several times during the filming of Newburgh: Portrait of a City, was eager to talk of Newburgh's troubles, but equally as eager to point out what a beautiful place it is.

"It is also home," he said.

I saw him recently and asked him if he could spare a moment. As always he smiled and said, yes, of course.

First he told us that in spite of the wheelchair he was in good health. He said that this was because when he goes to the store, he always parks his wheel chair outside and walks round the store.

Then he told us that what started Newburgh on the downhill path was that the city was never rebuilt after urban renewal.

"Much of the east end, leading down to the river, was torn down. This was where the factories were and where the blacks lived," he said. "But the rebuilding never took place. The funds were paid to the city but the city manager disappeared soon after — and the funds disappeared at the same time. I know this because I was at school with the city manager's daughter. It was close to graduation but she didn't turn up for the ceremony and we never saw here again."

The injury that put him in a wheel chair was received at work, and not, he said, from an attack which he then described to us:

"The worst thing that ever happened to me was when I moved from downtown Newburgh, in the east end, to uptown, in the west end. My house got broke into and I got beat with a baseball bat. The gentleman told me I need to go back downtown with the rest of the blacks. And he didn't use the word blacks either."