It has been a while since I’ve posted. I think it was a combination of having the Kickstarter campaign wrap up and feeling a bit of “Kharma Congestion” as my friend Alex would call it.
Last week Cris and I drove to Toronto. She was presenting at the annual CIES Conference and I was tagging along for fun.
We went out to an amazing South Indian restaurant called Udupi Palace and it was the best. Cristine’s favorite food in the world is a paper masala dosa, and Udupi has the best ones she has ever found outside of India. After we ate, we were waiting for a streetcar to take us back downtown and I saw this window display. Love the hands.
I was very excited to get back to Toronto to be able to see the Thompson Collection of Cornelius Krieghoff paintings at The Art Gallery of Ontario. Here is a previous post about my relation to him. The museum has a ton of his work. I was really jazzed to see so many in one place.
This is a detail from one of his paintings that is a sort of self-portrait of his family (in the sleigh).
I especially liked reading the bottom paragraph here. It helps to explain where I might get my own disregard for authority.
After Toronto, we drove to Pittsburgh for another of Cris’ conferences. On the way we had to stop at Niagara Falls. I hadn’t been on the Canadian side for years, and it was a beautiful day. (Unlike many, I also really like the American side.)
In Toronto we scored some of these great Roots mittens. And I bought this hat in the Soviet Union in 1982, a very long time ago.
Next stop was Eddie’s Footlong Hot Dogs on the Lake Road just outside of Meadville. I grew up eating these and was thrilled to see that they had opened for the season just a few days earlier. I rarely post pictures of food, but oh man are these good. Too cold to eat at the picnic tables, but two with the works hit the spot.
We got to Pittsburgh in time for a nice walk along the River. It is a fantastic city that somehow remains largely intact. The downtown is full of beautiful buildings that are mostly in good shape, and it seems, just waiting for a revival of sorts. It is hard to imagine why young artists aren’t flocking here and making it home. It is such a cheap place to live, with amazing loft spaces right in town, and tons of culture. And the rivers!
So many beautiful steel bridges. This one leads to PNC Park, just across the river from downtown.
Here’s a view looking back across the water.
Our hotel was very near to Penn Station and on Sunday morning I took a walk over to check it out. As a kid I had traveled through it on the train, and the upper floors are now converted to “luxury” apartments. This is a section of the dome which used to be the main entryway from the street.
It was sad to see the “modern” waiting room like this.
With only two trains a day, and nothing running North/South there isn’t much activity. And the times aren’t particularly convenient.
Thanks for checking in. I’ll try to get on a more regular schedule of posting. Tomorrow Peggy Ross is coming over and we are meeting with my friends at Small Batch Books to start work on the Suitcases book reward. I’ll keep updating progress on the project, and plan to be back shooting next week.
It has seemed that for the past three weeks, my life has been consumed by the Kickstarter appeal. It has been a great, if not intense, experience. What I like most is that I am meeting such interesting people who are drawn to the project. Paul Mullins is a professor of anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, and he just posted a great piece on his wordpress site. Here is the link. I like how serious academics have taken to thinking and writing about the suitcases.
Last Wednesday I drove to Exeter, NH to photograph the poet Willie Perdomo for Poets & Writers Magazine. He is an amazing guy, and we had a tremendous dialogue about art, creativity, and life in general. The story will run in the May/June issue. I’ll post a link when it is online. He generously gave me a copy of his new book and I had fun reading it on the train back from New York on Saturday evening.
I was in the city for a memorial service for the husband of a good friend who I met through the suitcases project. I am reminded again and again how way beyond photography the cases are for me. The service was very moving, and as these events often do, it reinforced the idea that friendship, love and a simple appreciation of being alive and healthy are what it is all about. So thanks to all of you who are reaching out. The connections mean so much to me.
Whenever I photograph artists, I always like to get a few shots of the mixture of paints on their palettes.
Today as part of the Tilghman Waterman’s Museum work, Peter Carroll and I went to Chestertown, MD and videotaped and photographed the artist Marc Castelli. His main focus is working with, and learning about the lives of the watermen. He spends a few days a week out on the bay with them, then goes back to his studio and produces beautiful paintings of life on the water.
Tomorrow, I go back to shooting Tilghman artifacts, which is always fascinating.
My Kickstarter suitcases appeal had a good day today with 2 different $500 backers as well as some great other supporters . We are down to 12 days to go and I am really working hard to spread the word. Thanks to all of you followers of this blog who have helped out so far.
Peter and I had a great visit to the Museum of Natural History this afternoon. I wanted to show him the Hope Diamond and some of the other gems.
The big diamond was ok, but we were drawn more to the emeralds and rubies. This necklace was pretty cool.
These two pieces of chalcedony (quartz) were so cool; especially the green one. Amazing that this stuff appears in nature only to be found, polished, and put on display.
Cool elephant in the main foyer.
Not being much in the way of scientists, we didn’t understand a lot of what was going on in the genome exhibit.
When we told Cris we were going to the Natural History Museum, she said “Ooooh, dioramas!”
The guy here looks like he is hailing a cab in New York City. I have actually seen guys who look pretty much like him doing just that. When I was taking this photograph, a dad beside me was photographing his two kids and one of them said, “Daddy, I want to be a caveman.”
We kept coming back to the elephant.
We had an early dinner reservation at Mon Ami Gabi to celebrate Peter’s birthday. It was great. The escalator at the Bethesda station is enormous.
Back home tomorrow.
I was at Yale today talking about the suitcases to Jessica Helfand’s freshman seminar class on visual biography. She was one of the first people to connect with the project and has been a huge supporter from the get-go. This is the third year I have spoken to the class and it always helpful to get feedback from the students on my work with the cases. / After the class I usually head over to the School of Medicine Library and visit The Cushing Center. It is one of the most amazing displays of someone’s life one can ever see. I have posted about it here and here, and if any of you are in New Haven, it is absolutely not to be missed. / Thanks to Jessica and her students for a great day.
Last Saturday I posted pictures from the Amherst Farmers’ Market. On Thursday I got an email from Casey at Old Friends Farm asking if he could use some of the photos in the farm’s weekly newsletter. I was more than happy to oblige and went into heavy negotiation mode. Pictures for flowers; quite a good deal for us both.
Earlier in the week I went to watch Cris teach an undergrad class in one of the UMASS School of Ed. buildings. The class meets in a now-closed elementary school auditorium. Down a hallway and behind a set of doors with a “NO ENTRY” sign was this school gymnasium. I can remember being a kid at the East End School in Meadville and being in a similar gym (they all look pretty much alike). I especially like the climbing ropes and the cargo net.
Today we drove to Williamstown to meet up with Peggy Ross, her husband Peter, and their friend Pierette who is visiting from France. We met at the Williams College Museum of Art and then walked into town for a beer. It is a lovely small New England town with 2 great museums (the other being the Clark, which is a gem).
Driving back along Route 2, I was compelled to stop and grab a few shots of the Deerfield River.
I hope to have the willardsuitcases.com site up and running tomorrow. I am so excited and will post an update as soon as it is online.
I have been getting a lot of great assignments from Poets & Writers lately. This past Friday I drove out to Eastern Massachusetts to meet and photograph Andre Dubus III. I had read quite a few reviews of his memoir “Townie” and was aware of his earlier novel “House of Sand and Fog”. I had a wonderful time with him and got some really nice photographs. While I can’t put up any of the shots of him here until the story runs in the magazine, I can show these. / I always ask writers about how they physically create their work. I have lots of photographs of fingers tapping away at keyboards (both typewriter and computer),and shots of hands holding pens over paper. Andre is the first writer I have photographed who writes with pencil, and he was most happy to talk about his favorite. It is a Palomino Blackwing 602. I usually do an internet search for things about which I know little, and I found an interesting wikipedia entry about this particular pencil. Here is the link.
As you can see, he writes in lined composition notebooks. It is so interesting how entire books come out of this process. / In all ways was he was a most generous subject. He inscribed a copy of “Townie” for me and gave me a collection of his father’s short stories. I have just about finished the memoir and it is both harrowing and completely engaging. I’ll start on his dad’s stories next. / Huge thanks to P&W for the assignment and to Andre for an amazing experience. The story is scheduled to run in the November/December issue, and I will put up a link and some of my photographs when it is out.
I have never given much thought to whether or not I am an artist. And the whole idea of whether or not photography is an art is a whole ball of wax that I try to avoid. So when Pam Winfrey (whose idea it was to have the Exploratorium host the “Normal” exhibit) invited me to be part of an artist’s night, I said yes without giving it much thought. So it was a bit weird for me to be introduced to people as one of the artists whose work was on display. I’ll accept it for the time being but I doubt it will go to my head. The event was pretty cool. Since I was basically alone, I wandered around looking lost for a while before I ran into my refound friend Katie Hahren and her daughter Annie. That loosened things up a bit. Eventually Karen Miller and I ended up signing catalogues and chatting with guests. / One thing about San Francisco that I really like is that dogs seem to be accepted in most public places. When I was at the Exploratorium in February I met a 4 month old black lab who was on his way to work for only the second day. I can not imagine bringing the Pearl to an office job even now when she is 12 and mostly calm.
This is the new Exploratorium on the Embarcadero at Pier 15. It is amazing. Go check it out if you ever get the chance.
I have been fortunate as a photographer to get into a number amazing buildings. Not many quite as incredible as the Stahl House in LA. Cristine’s sister Lynne and her husband John are docents there, and on Sunday evening we had the privilege to be in one of the most iconic mid-century homes in the world.
The story of the house is well documented so I will not go into it, but it is well worth reading about. Click on the Stahl House link above and you can read a bit more about it here.
The most amazing aspect of the house now is that it is still family owned, and they have graciously made it open to the public. For what is a very reasonable fee, small groups can have guided tours (possibly by Lynne and John) that allow visitors to experience something so rare that it is almost inconceivable. (Cristine looks quite at home in this shot.)
This is a stitched photograph (2 images) that is not perfect (one funky area that I noticed right away), but it shows the house pretty well at twilight. / Big thanks to the Stahl family, and especially to Lynne and John who have become experts in mid-century architecture and artifacts. They also docent at the Eames House, which is open to the public on a limited basis. / Go to the Stahl House website to poke around and set up a tour. If you are in LA it is easily one of the top 5 things to do.
My friend Charlotte X.C. Sullivan produced this lovely piece called “Paper Wins”
It is based on the idea of the “emotional complexity of choice” with the game Rock, Paper, Scissors in mind. She molded the papers over “river-smoothed” rocks and placed them on the floor of a large barn/artist’s space at Bramble Hill Farm in Amherst.
It became somewhat of a performance piece when she was de-installing it and the giant fan needed some help in blowing the papers away.