all together

As a season often marked by gatherings around a table - to eat, drink, laugh, share, remember, it's here that our memories are often born and shaped. So when I received an inquiry for holiday portraits for an extended family of four siblings with one in-law sibling & child + two cousins along with their grandparents, I had an idea to literally begin around a table with them sharing stories of holidays past.

As I try to consider ways to cultivate natural connections, this felt like a format that would help ease any awkward tension (particularly at the very beginning of a session) and allow me to slip into the background. As it was, I found myself asking questions and listening along to their stories, looking for angles which showed the details in their grandparents home and offered insights into the larger story - particularly given grandparents in their early 90s. So my belief is that this family will remember this day as one of laughter and sharing stories along with family photographs... from the youngest with tangible views of his little self and his great grandparents & their faces filled with the love and pride and gratitude that lives in their hearts to the grandchildren who can perhaps think back to other years and other times along with this fine day.

I will end by saying that I look for ways to offer an experience that extends into and beyond the photographs. While I seek the emotion that naturally surfaces when we are comfortable, I strive to offer clients an experience that is meaningful and memorable AND enjoyable. And as the idea I used here was visualized for a book - photograph on one side, a memory story on the other - it is one I'm going to offer more frequently for extended gatherings.

the lake house

"The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
― W.B. Yeats

Where do i begin with this experience for what began as a gift card from one lovely sister to another turned into a bit of a journey.

In an initial discussion, I was left with an impression of family, of love and togetherness. And while we couldn't really make the entire family gathering possible, we opted to focus in on those more immediate. Which sounds in theory easy enough, until you try to find time in three different schedules (four counting mine!), particularly as I advocated for gather everyone together than at the lake house in new hampshire.

Though a bit of a drive for me, I couldn't resist - the location sounded dreamy, and as I'd never driven out through the winding roads that way I was eager for the scenery to be seen along the back roads and by roads that wound to an enchanting (yes, I used that word) drive up that led to a house on a lake that I struggle to find the words for. While yes, the actual house was brilliant  - the craftsmanship of wood and and light and space -  but it was much more than that. I could see cousins splashing and running ... I could hear laughter, sense the story, feel the love shared among family which on this day revolved around a certain red haired blue eyed boy who dazzled and delighted with his many expressions and silly sounds (and non stop motion).

The adoration of two sets of grandparents, remy the dog, his aunt and his own parents are evident throughout. The documentary inside was what I'd hoped for, and the portraits were exactly what I knew they'd be. And I feel the entire collection speaks to this family and their clan rather well - the lightness of spirit, the fullness of heart. I can only hope they'll have me again  - preferably in a warmer season with more of them there ... I see their story and the richness of their connections with each other.

columbia county fair - the portraits

Henri Cartier-Bresson once said, ""The most difficult thing for me is a portrait. You have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt."  And so it is a tricky matter - for a successful portrait for me is all about trust, openness and a reverent connection.

Girl Spinning Wool | 2014 Columbia County Fair

it's an indescribable give and take of exchange and when i say i'm moved, i'm not exaggerating - i'm shaken to the core in a good way, in a grateful way; a heart swollen with tears that find their way to the surface. as i'm sensitive, i feel what's given and each experience changes me. so at the fair, what i looked for more than anything else were portraits of people that interested me. here's a sampling of those i found compelling.

the fair

i had the opportunity to photograph at a county fair in upstate new york a few weeks ago and the experience is one that remains in my heart. the warmth, the openness, the trust, the gentle reciprocation. photography is not a one way street - particularly with portraits.

Boy with Spiderman Inflatable | 2014 Columbia County Fair

a portrait takes a certain kind of exchange - sometimes it's a lingering exchange, at other times like the one above, it occurs in a flash. i liked the connection here and the clean simple background of the tent fabric along with the little ruffle bits off to the right. here are three others i felt were successful.

be happy

i've been spending a lot of time going through my portfolio...and came across this little lineup of tiny dancers taken last year at the beginning of summer. all the little girls lined up for a bit of light makeup. i'd always liked the arrangement - the rhythm of all those little faces in various poses, the mom on the right anchoring things by looking across to the other side, the dancer on the far left gazing back over the scene of girls.

dancers | june, 2013

yes, all the little legs, and feet and hands and faces and stories going on here and only one looking right at me. but what i didn't see until the other day was the irony of that t shirt - be happy - within a row of slightly bored, anxiously patient faces.

wishing you all a "be happy" second to last week of summer.


of late, life's felt like one big punch in the face - another in the gut - then a whallop over the head for good measure. what most people might experience over a longer stretch of time has landed all at once: a reduced income, a home situation nearing the finality of clarification, and a car totaled by a driver who was on their phone and of course, it was the five year old car with less than 20,000 miles on it, not the car that's in the shop again with 90,000 miles on it. all this in the middle of summer - the time of year i long for. a time when i'm usually out and about -  not inside hiding my eyes and crying finally opening them for a few days of blessed ocean peace only to crash into the next wave.

morgan | 2014

morgan | 2014

about a month ago, the day of the freakish tornado, one of the larger branches on a tree next to our house sort of cascaded off and remained nestled/stuck inside the other wild branches. this was a tree that was full and bushy and filled with little birds. it offered a sense of privacy and enclosure and felt enchanted - like a little part of the woods in our back yard. that was until the branch was stuck and the city came out to cut the branches out. 

what i was not prepared for, was the hack job that ensued  - one that left a beauty of a tree looking ravaged and scarred and dangerously lopsided. so when it rained heavily a few days ago and the leaves got wet, the tree had not choice but to let go of the other half of it's branches ....which also took out the entire fence line on our yard. no more privacy or shelter or woods in back yard. the hold left behind in the tree now only means more than likely the city will now cut it down.

at first i laughed. actually had a rather good laugh - and then that familiar feeling of despair descended; particularly when i looked at the tree realizing i felt how it looked - torn apart, opened up, severed. it hasn't helped that all the little birds that used to live inside the tree have been gathering on the tilted fence looking up - like wtf happened here? where's our little place to play. more than anything else, i feel really exposed; an emotion that can quickly descend to shame if permitted access.

this time around though, instead of hiding, i'm seeing there's a different route one can take which is the point:

life isn't so much what happens to me, to you or to any of us. it's what we do with it.

right now, at this moment, i'm considering options and alternatives - a different head space that feels a little more peaceful. while i believe that tears are there for a reason (and sometimes i need to cry them all out), while i may not always like the lemons life throws my way, i do have a choice with what to do with them. and today, i can add a little sugar to sweeten and a little water to lighten.

twelve portraits ~ june

sometimes i just see a face and i know there's a story and i was right with this portrait of one who's spiritual wanderlust has taken her across the globe and back again. as one of the most stylishly elegant and poised women i've ever met, i chose to take her portrait on the sofa with a teddy bear that she had fashioned out of her mother's mink coat. as she reveres animals, she could think of no finer way of paying tribute to the spirit that gave its life and the person who wore it in warmth. for this month, i give you cassandra.

cassandra | salem, 2014

cassandra | salem, 2014

next is the color filled lightness of Linsey Stuckey, Houston, TX.

ignite ~ may

sometimes i am so drawn into what's in front of me...that i miss the a tiny yet profound detail.

here, on my way to the train, i noticed a car idling near the platform, which isn't a common sight these days as the station is closed to all vehicles except those with HP place-cards, so it was surprising to see a car let alone what i found.

as i got closer, the music got louder and there was a couple presumably enjoying the last moments before a goodbye together. i decided to get close and take a few images; then when they turned around, i asked if i could take their portrait. as i did, i checked everything inside the view but...i was so focused on light, lines and the surrounding elements, that i overlooked a tiny face peeking up from inside the car, so when i pulled the image and viewed to edit, my jaw dropped.

veda & christopher + child | salem, 2014

this friends is that wonderful kind of surprise i couldn't stage or even conceive of & one i view as a gift that draws me back in again & again, and it's this aspect of photography i find most rewarding.

next in our little group of talent is one i always look forward to seeing - particularly her Rockwell-ish vignette type of photographs: Katie, Kate Suzanne Photography, Asheville, NC photographer.

a salute to you

 "A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. " Joseph Campbell 

on my way into the neighborhood market, i turned the corner and there, sitting in a lawn chair selling buddy poppy flowers was a scene i'd seen more than a few times as a kid - one that felt nostalgic. while there's more to this portrait that i can't speak to quite yet, it felt fitting to share a little bit on this day when we honor the heroes who serve - for what you give and sacrifice and stand for, we are grateful.

Douglas Saibin | Korean War Vet

Douglas Saibin | Korean War Vet

the double portrait

while listening to a panel at the flash forward festival a few years ago, i heard a gallery owner and collector talk at length about the "double portrait." while the first image that came to mind was that of Twins by Diane Arbus, when i searched the term, i was surprised to see a famous work by 15th c painter Jan van Eyck -  the Arnolfini Wedding.

i came into art and photography through art history and actually specialized in northern renaissance painting. as such, i'm well familiar with the work of Flemish & Dutch painters from 15th to 17th century.

danny & mike | revere beach, 2013

when i looked through my portfolio, i found more than a few double portraits and over the years, i've kept this in mind.  last year on the train back to salem, i found myself in one of the older cars - the ones where two rows of seats actually face each other - and met Danny, and knew immediately i wanted to photograph him. we talked the way back and i learned about him and his boyfriend mike.

we met a month later and spent a little time on revere beach parkway which is where i took this portrait: positioned on the wall of the causeway with the grasslands and the ocean behind them, and a ledge on the right leading back to their home. the light, the soft smiles, the openness, mike's hands in his pockets while danny's hands are out and loose, the touching knees. this to me is one of the finest examples i have of the double portrait.

a particular portrait

i took this photo a few years ago and it's still in my portfolio as one of the best portraits i've ever taken. while the composition is a study of shapes (the rectangle of the whiteboard, the square of the stool, the oval of her posture), the story runs a little deeper. at this age, two defining aspects of this little one's life are present; first, the hands on the hips and second, those "h" letters on the board. i liked that she was looking off to the side, as if she's trying to catch a though (tho at this age, that's anyone guess) and i also liked the pattern of lines on her shirt ...sort of like rays that point to her face.  then there's the wisps of curls makes me want to touch her hair and the lines of the floor tiles that take you to the markings on the board.

sasha, age 2 | 2011

now - did i think of all THAT when i photographed? no. not all. i knew sasha was into "h" letters and that she liked to stand with her hands on her hips. so at this moment, when she turned around, i saw the story in a good composition.