NH Magazine

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.

Alan Chong for New Hampshire Magazine


Last fall, I was commissioned by New Hampshire Magazine to create a portrait of Alan Chong, the new Director and CEO of The Currier Museum of Art. It would be made on location, and the magazine wanted to use the opportunity to promote a major new exhibition at the museum about the White Mountains, which was still being installed. Their idea was to place him in front of a large reproduction of a painting, in order to have a faux mountain-esque background.

Because of the delicacy of photographing in a museum, the magazine’s creative director and I scouted our locations the day before the session. We found the reproduction and planned lighting, and we identified a few other potential spots as alternatives.

This latter planning was worth it: when we entered the space with gear the next day, a five-foot tall crate containing a painting was directly in front of the wall we were going to use. Our PR contact at the museum checked with the curatorial staff, and moving the crate would not be possible.

We shifted to our second location, the Winter Garden Café. This is actually one of my favorite spots in the museum: a very tall ceiling allows diffused light from high windows scatter evenly through the room, which is a light grey. The modern, clean lines are especially strong in the corner of the room.

Alan met us there. We worked quickly and moved to two other spots in the museum to give the editor some options, but I was confident that our first photographs were the strongest. The one below was published.

Alan Chong, executive director of the Currier Museum of Art

Beth Ann O'Hara for New Hampshire Magazine

Beth Ann O'Hara, March 2014.
I was assigned to photograph Beth Ann as part of New Hampshire Magazine's "Remarkable Women 2014: Game Changers" article. While known for her theater work, I was more intrigued by a passing reference to her being McGovern's photographer during the NH component of his presidential run. I asked her about this when I visited her, and she revealed that he had invited her to continue with him throughout his national campaign. Her family obligations, however, led her to decline this offer.

I asked whether she had those photographs at hand, but after a search, she couldn't locate them. We promised each other another visit to explore them and discuss this part of state and national history from one who witnessed it in a way few others did.

The above unpublished photograph from our session shows her intricate needlepoint art hanging on the wall. They depict the four seasons.