Leica

Sarah & Ryan, married

When Ryan contacted me a couple years ago, he mentioned that he had originally seen my documentary work about Catholic hospitals in NH in Dappled Things. Certainly a pleasant surprise! Fast forward to last month, when I photographed he and Sarah marry in a Catholic ceremony at Saint Stanislaus Basilica—but not before beginning the festivities at the Hotel Northampton’s pub for the rehearsal dinner. We returned there after the ceremony for the reception, as well.

Sarah and Ryan are wonderful, loving couple with welcoming friends and family. I was so glad to have ended 2018 with their joyful wedding.

celebrating documentary photography

I’ve worked with Glenn Ruga of SocialDocumentary.net for years and in a number of capacities: editing email newletters, hanging art exhibitions, photographing events and lectures. This time, in celebration of their 10th anniversary, I was honored to be included in their exhibition at the Bronx Documentary Center in NYC. In addition, Glenn asked me to photograph the opening festivities.

I met some wonderful photographers and supporters of photography. Glenn and his team have built an extraordinary international community around documentary photography. I’m grateful to be counted among them.

The Farmer's Dinner at Generation Farm

Between photographing the culinary results of The Farmer's Dinner; enjoying those same results; and, on this particular day, checking in with three of my children, who were among the dinner guests at Generation Farm (and entertaining them with aplomb); I greatly enjoy observing and photographing the process of making these rather remarkable courses. A professional kitchen is a maelstrom of activity; in the case of an outdoor improvised one, it can be trecherous. But achieving a photograph during those few moments where all of the elements converge is compelling to the point of obsession, comparable to a chef's plating a single course.

a concert in the park

We were already planning to attend The Ballroom Thieves' concert at Prescott Park in Portsmouth, NH, having known the band for almost five years now and seeing them perform at least annually, as well as photographing them. So when I let them know that we were looking forward to attending, they invited me backstage after the soundcheck to hang out and photograph. (I had my small camera kit with me, fortunately.)

The situation became even more exciting when they mentioned that Gentle Temper, the opening band (one of whose members is a sibling to a Thief), needed a photographer for their show. Their manager (whom I also know) and I quickly made logistical arrangements, and we were set.

The evening couldn't have been better, with perfect weather, great seats, wonderful music, and even some artmaking.

(Two galleries below: first, Gentle Temper; second, The Ballroom Thieves.)

Sophia & Andrew, married

I’ve made photographs for Northeast Catholic College for many years now, so I know many of the students (and the grounds) fairly well. Sophia and Andrew, both alumni, asked me to photograph their wedding ceremony, performed by the college chaplain and accompanied by the school choir. They were married in the campus chapel last month on a chilly spring morning.

Kate and Orla: a photo essay about pet therapy

This post is a long overdue: I recently realized that, despite being created and published in 2016, I had never posted the work here. My words here will be minimal, mostly limited to background and logistics, since my brief essay and captions are better read with the photos, as published (link below).

I received this assignment from Parable Magazine to create a photo essay about Kate and her dog, Orla, both of who had been working in pet therapy (via the national organization Pet Partners) for some time. Kate, a practicing Catholic, recognizes this ministry as a way to serve and comfort the sick.

One of the challenges for creating the work was that their schedule only saw them serving once per month: to observe and understand them sufficiently—and to create a body of work broad enough to fill the pages—required planning and working together over four months. Each visit, though, was entirely unique: a private home, a nursing home (in fact, two, but one was visiting individual patients while the other was a group therapy session), and visiting Kate and Orla at home (which is where the final photographs and the cover were made).

These two make an incredibly kind and caring team. I can say easily that I've never met a more gentle and trusting dog than Orla, who knew me and was comfortable with me from our first meeting. That speaks volumes about Kate.

My photographs and words were the cover story for that issue of Parable and can be seen in the magazine's online version. In 2017, the Catholic Press Association gave the work five awards (ranging from the cover and individual photos to the entire published set)—truly a wonderful honor.

I am tremendously grateful to Kate, Orla, and the families and individuals who allowed me to create during these very special moments.

sculptor Emile Birch for New Hampshire Magazine

I have a great love of photographing artists at work, if only to observe their process, which is invariably unique. So when I received an assignment to photograph Emile Birch, who is one of New Hampshire's preeminent sculptors, I was grateful for the opportunity. His public monuments and work in schools had earned him a feature in New Hampshire Magazine exactly six years prior; this time, however, the circumstances were different. Emile had begun suffering from dementia, and this article would confront that issue directly.

Editor Rick Broussard sent me an advance copy of writer Karen Jamrog's article to help me prepare. Rick, creative director Chip Allen, and I decided the photography would require two stages: first, him working in his home studio; second, a portrait at one of his public sculptures. I would coordinate with his wife, Cynthia, whom he relies upon for appointments, transportation, et al.

The studio visit was scheduled first. I traveled west early on a Saturday morning, enjoyed brief introductions and a tour, and watched as he touched up some paint on a few of his new wooden pieces. (He's now limited to small-scale productions, which fill his studio.)

Although I knew another session for the portrait would occur, when I saw Emile step into the doorway to his studio towards the end of my time there, I couldn't help but ask him to pause while I made a series of photographs. As it happens, the magazine chose this portrait as the opening photograph (rather than the location one, as initially planned).

For the location portrait, we decided to use a lesser known work of his but one on prominent display in the capitol: The Eternal Shield, which was commissioned to memorialize the state's fallen firefighters. We met there a few weeks later around dusk to make the portraits. We lingered a bit (and enjoyed a coffee in a local shop) to allow darkness to fall in hopes that the statue's installed lighting (in the "flame") would illuminate; when that didn't happen, we said our goodbyes.

Karen's article about Emile, his legacy, and his current condition are well worth reading. I'm honored and grateful to illustrate a very small part of his life and work.

behind the stage for Ballet Misha's "Nutcracker"

I've been photographing the stage production of Ballet Misha's Nutcracker for a few years. Last year, in addition to the performance, I wanted something different, so I asked their artistic director, Amy Fortier,  whether I could photograph what happens beyond the stage. She agreed and gave me full license to explore and visually document.

Given my other photographic duties (i.e., the performances), this work only shows the moments of backstage life before and in between shows. It ignores the hundreds of hours of planning, preparations, rehearsals, costume fittings, moving and setting props, et al.; as well as the general chaos that occurs everywhere outside those few hundred square feet of stage floor during the performances.

As in any performing art, however, the vast majority of work happens off the stage, and here is a tiny glimpse of that life.

PS: Their 2017 production is December 16 & 17.

Hannah & Jim, married

These two enjoyed a rather perfect summer wedding day. After a traditional Catholic marriage ceremony and Mass at Saint Patrick Church, we returned to Dexter's Inn for the reception and frivolity. The entire grounds were available to guests, so I could wander around freely to create photographic moments in a variety of settings and activities. 

Usually, once the formal reception begins, I remain focused on speeches, reactions, faces, dancing, et al. Imagine my surprise when, after I finished my time for the day, I found a group of guests who couldn't be confined by a tent and decided to enjoy the pool. Brilliant! A visual feast at the end of an already wonderful day.

Deciduous Brewing celebration

I'm always grateful to be hired by friends for photography work, but when the owners of Deciduous Brewing asked me to photograph their second anniversary party, well, that was something else. I've known Frank and Maryann Zagami since elementary school. They've built a wonderful business with a supportive, friendly community in a beautiful space. Of course, their beers are absolutely amazing, full-flavored brews.

They gave me complete freedom to photograph as I wished—a dream! The colors of their beers demand that a few not appear in black & white.

a house concert

I met The Hickory Horned Devils last year when I hosted a performance at Amoskeag Studio; since then, I've also gotten to know most of the band members. So when we were invited to a house concert (hosted by their lead singer, Jen) with other friends and family, we gladly accepted. Located on a hill in Pembroke, their property has a tremendous view and overlooks Concord (we could see the state capitol building miles away).

From the porch, the band performed three sets throughtout the evening before guests with chairs and blankets. The potluck was varied and plentiful, along with the grill and beverages. Dozens of children wandered and played in the yard. Adults strolled in the field past the stone wall. We visited with friends we didn't expect to see there. The band finished at dusk, and we lingered for a couple hours more while our children eeked out as much time in a new house with new friends as they could.

I didn't have a plan for photographing. I relaxed and ate (and drank) first while listening to the music and waiting for the light to improve. The resulting work is an eclectic collection of the day: friends lounging, musicians performing, corn and grass growing, suns setting. They do not convey the high spiritedness of the music, the sounds of conversation and laughter, the smells and tastes of the food, the serenity of a location felt in the midst of dozens of other people. They are moments, scenes worked over (with many failed attempts), and an opportunity to create something different and new.

Fulchino Vineyard for The Farmers Dinner

This dinner was the second for The Farmers Dinner at Fulchino Vineyard (the first being a few years ago), so I knew the chefs would be preparing the courses outdoors. But I (and the chefs, and the owners) were surprised how quickly the darkness came; work lights had to be purchased so the work could finish.

Along with the temperature dropping quickly, the situation was certainly a new one for me. The resulting photographs, made in between courses (I also photographed each dish), were full of contrast and deep shadows.

Megan & Rob, married

Megan and her girls got ready at her soon-to-be-husband Rob's family's centuries-old farmhouse, which offered a tremendous variety of new and unique rooms and backgrounds (a boon for documentary wedding photographers!). She and Rob had a traditional Latin Rite Catholic wedding Mass at Saint John the Evangelist Church with beautiful choral music. (I'm admittedly partial to the latter, having known and sung with the music director for years.)

For the reception, we returned to Rob's family property for a relaxed and informal evening. Family and friends were scattered throughout: from the wide, green lawns to the barn, tucked behind buildings and under ancient trees. Children of all ages wandered the property. Beer flowed freely, cigarette smoke filled the air, and the barbeque portions were generous. Smiles and laughter abounded.

As a photographer, I couldn't ask for much more. Congratulations to the newlyweds.

Élevage de Volailles for The Farmers Dinner

My latest work for The Farmers Dinner brought me to Élevage de Volailles, a small, family-run farm in Loudon Centre, New Hampshire. The event was held entirely outdoors: making the firepits, preparing the food, plating the dishes, and serving the guests. The process, of course, took days, and cooking and smoking the meat over open pits started early that morning. The summer sun was out in full force, with barely any clouds in the sky, so in addition to preparation, the chefs were battling smoke, heat exhaustion, sunstroke, and dehydration—for nearly 12 hours.

Photographing in harsh, late-day sun has its own challenges, but I fully embraced the high-contrast light and deep shadows. I had no doubts that the results would exist only as black-and-white. Seeing the chefs work in these circumstances, tasting (most of) what they served, and hearing the reactions of and appreciation by the guests gave me a further appreciation of the chefs' commitment to their work.

Harmonium Music Festival

I've photographed Harmonium for a couple years. It's a full day of music and fun; of course, I'm working throughout it. The main and community stages themselves are enough to keep me busy; despite this, last year was the first that I decided to work the edges a bit.  Lingering in the musicians' tent, watching load-in and preparations, wandering around the audience--any activity apart from the stage was what I was interested in.

I also decided to camp overnight, which meant I was present for the post-festival jam session. Listening to these musicians--only some of whom knew each other, musically or otherwise--was a real joy. They seemed to have endless amounts of energy.

Openings 2016, an artist residency - part III: photographic impressions

In my two previous posts, I discussed my week at the Openings Collective artist residency, where, among my breaks editing a documentary project, I photographed my fellow artists working and as portrait subjects. I have little more to add to those words (ignoring my primary reason for attending—a project that remains to be finished and will someday receive its own account), except that I had my camera with me at all times. Most of that was habit, but I never knew where I’d find a fellow resident working, so being prepared was essential.

While wandering and visiting, I’d occasionally find a photograph presenting itself. With no human subject, I consider these environmental still lifes as patient subjects. Given all of the other activities occurring throughout the week, I didn’t make much time for this one, and most were discovered by accident. The main guest house—being quite old and large, with unoccupied rooms and even floors—proved most fruitful.

Openings 2016, an artist residency - part II: the artists

In the first part, I wrote about the Openings artist residency on Lake George that I attended last summer. My primary goal for the week was to edit a long-term personal documentary project; making photographs was somewhat incidental (albeit quite necessary) to my stay.

I had known from the beginning that I wanted to create portraits during the week. A number of factors made this desire challenging, however.

First, besides common meals and an evening group discussion, each of us (18, I think) there was entirely self-directed regarding our schedules. Scattered throughout the campus grounds, everyone worked independently. Besides our own artistic work and goals, the area (both the grounds of St Mary’s on the Lake and the surrounding Lake George region) provided many opportunities for recreation: hiking, boating, swimming, and more. Finding someone—let alone at a point in which they were open to a brief sitting—would prove difficult.

Second, while most of the artists knew one another from previous Openings residencies or exhibitions, I came as a stranger. Of course, I’m often commissioned to photograph subjects I’ve just met; but in that case, the goal is mutually known. Here, I had developed friendships over a week via discussions, critiques, shared meals, daily liturgy, walks, and simply living in close proximity; to then ask them to be subjects… It wouldn’t seem to be difficult, and I should be far more comfortable than am I, but I’ve always lacked the boldness to simply do so.

Residents presented their week’s work on Thursday evening, which left Friday for a little work, cleaning, packing, farewells, and departures. The impending deadline—it was now or never to make the portraits—provided sufficient incentive to steel my courage. Similar to my approach in photographing the artists working, I didn’t need to photograph everyone: some weren’t interested, others left early, et al. I divided my day among finishing tasks, visiting, and being on a bit of a hunt. Of those who agreed, some were eager, and others had to be persuaded

The only artistic limit I placed upon myself was finding a different environment for each subject. Given the variety of locales on the campus, this was relatively simple. (Indeed, creating a series of portraits with such variety was a great pleasure.) In many cases, I simply photographed each wherever I found him or her.

Openings 2016, an artist residency - part I: the work

The strange serendipity of discovery—meeting fellow travellers, finding new (to us) artwork and artists, et al—never ceases to amaze. In this case, I remember sometime in spring of 2016 receiving an email from a friend to a blog post about Bill Cunningham (RIP) written by author Heather King. As the documentary about his life and work is on my regular rotation of viewing material, I appreciate any scraps of critical reflection about him. Ms King, who’s based in Los Angeles, had just seen the documentary and wrote a brief piece about it. That was sufficient to begin a new adventure.

As I wandered around her blog, she mentioned in a post that she was heading east for the summer in part to attend a residency in upstate New York. Openings, an artist collective based in NYC, was founded and is run by Fr. Frank Sabatté, a member of the Paulist Fathers. The Paulists are an organization of Roman Catholic priests who serve in a number of capacities around the world. That a group of working artists had formed a collective with these shared goals was intriguing. Their week-long residency at St. Mary’s on the Lake (the Paulists’ summer retreat in Lake George, NY) was open to anyone. I had never attended a residency, and the thought of focusing my attention solely on art for a week was enticing.

My goal wasn’t to create new work. I had been working on a long-term documentary photography project since 2011, and I needed to edit. I decided to apply and pitched this project in my application, and it was accepted. Months later, I traveled a few hours, bringing about 700 proof prints, to begin a long process organizing this body of work.

That task was arduous, and while I made great (if not slow) progress, I needed breaks from staring at prints for hours a day—indoors, no less, during the beautiful summer days in Lake George. Much of my respite was found seeking out my fellow residents and photographing them at work. I didn’t seek to create anything of a catalog: some artists were more accessible, working in the open, usually outdoors. I wanted to create around my editing schedule, and that meant finding people as they were—a haphazard approach.

I truly enjoy observing artistic process, and the residency offered so many opportunities to see artists working in a wide range of media: drawing, painting, sculpture, woodworking, cyanotypes, and more. I was also intrigued by the variety of impromptu “studios”: indoor common areas, dorm rooms, open air, dockside, utility spaces, various sheds—even the house attic (which, incidentally, was full of old treasures and, more importantly, interesting light). These provided a brilliant variety of environments.

raising a barn (for art)

Last week was filled with preparation for—and participation in—ArtFront's inaugural 3-day pop-up art exhibit. I wrote about my involvement and the results, but now it was time to install the work. While a couple of us were hanging my 6-foot prints, Christina had a team to build structures for her chandeliers. I helped when I could, and I wasn't able to observe this process fully, but I made a few photos as they took form. When it was ready, Christina asked someone to document the "barn raising"; I was happy to oblige.

I posted the short set below on my Instagram feed the next day and, as we were at the exhibit every night, didn't think about it again until now. What I found intriguing especially was the process of building a structure to hold her artwork with pallets as the base and top. She and Vivian had a general plan, materials, and tools, but putting it together to make it functional and stable took a team effort with many attempts: how to anchor the 15-foot posts? these screws? no, try those; the palettes don't have enough depth, so add blocks to the middle of the pallets; we need to stabilize the outside further, so add these metal plates; et al.

Observing the process of another artist—even in as mundane an activity as building temporary exhibition staging for the actual artwork—provides nearly endless fascination for me. It's a reminder that the habit of making at any stage of mastery is not pre-determined or even simple; it demands practical intelligence, the ability to judge the particulars of the object and what it needs, and how to achieve it. To make objects well requires time and practice such that a habit forms, so that when new situations present themselves, the ability to solve them is readily (and literally) at hand. Making art is, to a great degree, solving the problem of creating a whole, integral object.

a Romanian Orthodox ordination

My wife initially met the wonderful Geana family a couple years ago through a homeschool group. The children of both families have become close, too. Their father, Mircea, was already a deacon at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church (part of the Romanian Orthodox Church), and we were excited to hear that he was going to become a priest. Being invited to the ordination was an honor, especially among the small and close community that exists within this parish.

The church was small, and the interior was covered in dark wood and icons, illuminated by low but mostly even light. According to Orthodox (and other Eastern church) tradition, standing throughout the liturgy is expected, so pews are hardly existent. (As a photographer, this would have certain benefits.) With the Church hierarchy (including Mircea's father, also a priest), traveling from Romania, in attendance, the event was sufficiently significant that they had hired a photographer (or at least an advanced amateur was working). I wasn’t planning to photograph, but of course I had my camera with me.

I’m unsure how long I lasted until I was compelled to create something, but I began photographing intermittently. I didn’t want to interfere with the other photographer, or move around too much, but I’ve photographed enough liturgies to know how to be subtle while working. Being over two hours long, I had plenty of opportunities to create at a measured pace.

One of the remarkable elements of this event was experiencing the community’s unity and support for Mircea and his family in this moment. Such occasions are rare in the church, and the joy among the parishioners and visiting clergy was palpable. The day was a true celebration.