The Herald: Blog http://photo.ourherald.com/blog en-us (C) The Herald photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) Thu, 29 Dec 2016 14:11:00 GMT Thu, 29 Dec 2016 14:11:00 GMT http://photo.ourherald.com/img/s2/v4/u894113269-o741008664-50.jpg The Herald: Blog http://photo.ourherald.com/blog 120 120 Considering the Paths We Walk http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/12/considering-the-paths-we-walk Under scorching sun, Lawrence Cassidy walks home after watering Donald Dustin's cows in this Herald photograph from the early 1990s. (Herald / Bob Eddy)

I searched my files this past week for a photograph to consider at year’s end. With this season’s white Christmas, I was determined to find something wintery.

Well, the image we consider here is anything but wintery! Despite my efforts to find something seasonal, this image forced its way onto the page; it would not be denied.

On the face of it, this photograph, taken during a severe summer drought 25 years ago, seems an unlikely choice.

None-the-less, here it is. And I’ve come to see it as a fitting image as we approach a new year.

A Neighbor’s Gift

The summer I took this photograph had been extremely dry. Streams and ponds were low; wells failed throughout the region.

Driving south toward Randolph on Route 12A, I saw old Lawrence Cassidy walking in the opposite direction, about to turn onto Riford Brook Road.

I’d photographed Mr. Cassidy before, gathering sap up on Braintree Hill for Grant Flint. He spoke almost not at all. Stoop-shouldered, at about 4’ 10”, he couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred pounds. When I saw him he always wore faded green work clothes. His milky-white skin, lined with faint blue veins, seemed stretched over bone and joint with very little flesh.

I found him fascinating.

He was waiting to cross the road just at the train tracks as I approached in my car. I stopped to let him pass, and turned onto Riford Brook Road in the direction he was slowly headed.

I parked, climbed out, and asked if he needed a ride.

“No,” he replied, gesturing up the road, “I’m headed home right over here,” adding, “just coming back from watering Mr. Dustin’s cows.”

The drought had taken out the water source at Donald Dustin’s barn. To help out, Cassidy walked over twice a day to fill a watering trough with a hose connected to an artesian well at the farmhouse.

I explained that I’d like to take a photograph for The Herald and quickly grabbed a Nikon FM2 with a 24mm wide-angle lens.

This photograph was culled from perhaps a dozen frames taken as Mr. Cassidy crossed the train tracks on that dry dusty road under blazing sun.

I found the image compelling the day I printed it. Now, decades later, it’s even stronger.

On His Way

The Lawrence Cassidy I photographed here was an exceedingly old man. I was surprised to see him out on such a hot day. I was humbled to learn he was helping with chores at a neighbor’s farm.

The elements in this photograph are few. First, reading the image from the upper left quadrant, as we would a page of script, we see train tracks, thrusting out, away from us. The long view is accentuated by the unwavering straightness of the rails, converging in the distance, flanked by telephone poles, each dramatically smaller as our eye moves away, down the tracks.

Lawrence Cassidy is not on those tracks. He follows a different path; one less precise, almost as old as the hills sweeping across our view in the same direction he is slowly walking.

The tracks will take us to Randolph and even larger communities bustling with commerce, with cacophony of life. The road Mr. Cassidy is on is from another time, an ancient time.

Mr. Cassidy is about to step out of our view. His form takes on the darkened aspect of the deep shadow cast back across the page, doubled by the shadow of the warning lights and crossing sign for the train tracks he leaves behind.

Of what do the lights warn? What are we to make of the sign of crossing toward which this old man leans and determinedly walks?

A Time of Conclusion

This photograph was taken just a short time before Lawrence Cassidy’s death.

Here, then, is a portrait of a man offering himself, as fully as his energies and abilities will allow, as a gift to a neighbor needing help. In a time of drought, Mr. Cassidy picked himself up from a shadowed kitchen chair, or day bed, from interior spaces cooled by the steady hum of a fan. He rose, went out into the heat of that drought, and did what he could to help another.

None of us know the days numbered for us, whether we will disappear from view today or tomorrow, or in another season all together.

This portrait of Lawrence Cassidy begs the question: upon what road do we choose to walk?

It’s a question especially meaningful as we approach the end of a contentious political year. As we stand at the threshold of a new year, Lawrence Cassidy’s walk reminds us of another, quieter way.

I hope your year ahead will be filled with acts of compassion and service. Surely, whether we die soon or late, this is the joyful path. May we, like Lawrence Cassidy, rise and give ourselves to life.

Happy New Year!

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/12/considering-the-paths-we-walk Thu, 29 Dec 2016 14:00:00 GMT
Glimpsing The Greatness of a Commanding Officer http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/11/glimpsing-the-greatness-of-a-commanding-officer Donald Dustin, Commanding OfficerDonald Dustin, Gordon Pettingell, and Ron Schoolcraft serve as the color guard during a Memorial Day ceremony in the 1990s. (Herald File / Bob Eddy) Our national calendar is punctuated by two days for remembering those who have served in the military and died in war, Veterans Day and Memorial Day. This photograph was taken about a quarter century ago. I recalled it last week as, once again, we pinned poppies in remembrance.

A Solemn Day

Memorial Day services are solemn, necessarily so, as veterans remember events they’ve spent a lifetime trying to forget, and we all relive again the loss of loved ones. It is a day when children, blessedly uncomprehending, are hushed, sensing a time to be still, to listen.

We all listen.

Wind whistles softly in trees overhead; a bee works among blossoms. We feel warmth of morning sun, the fleeting pulse of life, the nearness of death.

I’ve photographed Memorial Day observances in Randolph for 30 years. Leafing through a stack of images recently, I was struck by the solemnity, events culminating in a loud report of guns, an eternally quiet pause, the call of trumpet playing out over the park, reaching out to distant hills.

My many Memorial Day images are much the same. There are school bands and a color guard. Speeches and prayers are offered; a wreath is laid.

Among the somewhat predictable photographs of these repeated scenes, I especially recall this one image.

Hallowed Ground

On June 17, 1943, a B-17 bomber developed engine trouble and crashed above Randolph Village on Fish Hill. Of the 10-person crew, seven parachuted to safety; three died in the crash.

In 1991, a memorial plaque was erected near the site. Since that time, following Memorial Day observances in the village, folks have proceeded up the hill for a second early afternoon service.

Sometime in the 1990s, I don’t believe it was the inaugural year; I covered the Fish Hill service for the paper. That day I captured this telling moment. It is unlike any other I’ve photographed on Memorial Day.

Here we encounter members of the military color guard: Lt. Colonel Donald Dustin, backed up by Gordon Pettingell and Ron Schoolcraft.

This is a special group. Dustin, having served in WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam was long retired from 25 years in the army. Pettingell saw the Battle of the Bulge and received numerous medals including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Ron Schoolcraft, while still in Swanton High School in 1957, joined the Army National Guard, serving a total 33 years before retiring in 2000.

Intrusion

Taking photographs at a solemn assembly like a funeral or remembrance service is a delicate affair. It’s difficult to cover events like these without seeming intrusive, insensitive. I try to maintain a respectful demeanor, and move about quietly when necessary.

Even with these precautions, taking any pictures can seem wrong to some. There are times when my use of a camera has been annoying and, perhaps for Donald Dustin, this was such a time.

The service at Fish Hill had just concluded. I was walking away from the scene behind the color guard when, suddenly, Dustin wheeled around, fixing me in his sights. Unbeknownst to me, he had already muttered mischievous intentions to his cohorts. They were quite amused by the brief confrontation that followed.

“Mr. Eddy,” (we knew each other well, and this is the only time he ever addressed me with anything other than “Bob” or “Robert”) “Mr Eddy, we are about to post the colors!” he remarked with all the bearing and authority of a Lt. Colonel. Then, he added, with a glint in his eye, “Just where do you think we should post them?”

Lt. Colonel Donald Dustin was, as they say, all up in my grill, Pettingell and Schoolcraft cracking up behind him.

Without a word, I raised my camera and took this final photograph.

My willingness to not back down apparently won the moment. Donald clapped me on my back and finished our exchange saying, “C’mon, let’s get back to town.”

Loved It

Dustin loved this photograph when it ran in our paper. A short time following his death, I gave a copy to his wife Anna.

“He looks really good there,” she said with a smile this week.

I agree.

This isn’t an image of a 70-something military veteran dressed in a moth-balled uniform two sizes too small. Here, Dustin is every inch the full measure, bearing and rank of commanding officer, Lt. Colonel Donald C. Dustin. The men behind him are as fully under his command and spell as those under him in active service.

Here, before our eyes, the years are peeled away. In this moment, we glimpse again the power, humor, and intelligence of this great man. We feel in this small band the connection, the esprit d’corps, that brought troops through Normandy, Anzio, the Bulge, the Battle of Inchon, and la Drang.

Most of this great generation are gone now. They are not forgotten.

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/11/glimpsing-the-greatness-of-a-commanding-officer Thu, 17 Nov 2016 21:00:00 GMT
When Photography Works, It’s Like Being There http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/9/when-photography-works-it-s-like-being-there This delightful trio of young raccoons bounced out of the underbrush and into the focused telephoto lens of Herald photographer Bob Eddy more than two decades ago. (Herald File / Bob Eddy) “Vermont is a state of strong weeklies and weak dailies,” wryly observed, The Boston Globe’s legendary editor, Tom Winship, before the Vermont Press Association in 1994.

Today, as we receive world, national, and regional news updates by the minute, Winship’s words are still true. I remembered them during the recent difficult transition at the Times Argus and Rutland Herald, two excellent dailies significantly diminished by the media revolution.

A Slower Pace

The photograph we consider here probably wouldn’t exist had I been working for a daily. It’s an image not found by rushing out the door for breaking news, making an appointment, or covering a scheduled event.

One early summer day in the 1990s, I was headed up Braintree Hill on the Flint Road for a late lunch with Kathy. Motoring along with the windows down, I heard an odd disturbance coming from the underbrush at the side of the road.

Pulling over, I grabbed my camera bag and climbed out to see the source of what now seemed like chatter, almost squabbling.

A moment later, these three critters came bumbling out from under the leafy verge, seeming surprised to find a broad graveled swath of country road before them, continuing to chirrup and cluck as they looked about.

They were on an adventure!

Spying me about 20 yards away up the hill, they turned as one and began, in an uncertain, roly-poly way in my direction.

I grabbed a camera with a 300mm lens and dropped to the ground to photograph their approach.

Telephoto lenses are a wildlife photographer’s best friend. The 300 allowed me to fill the image area with these raccoons, while keeping a respectful distance. I had no idea what three baby raccoons might do if they reached the photographer, and had no intention of finding out! Somewhere behind them, too, there lurked at least one more coon of much larger size.

Photographs and Life

For a moment, try to imagine the encountering with these three little creatures yourself. How would you photograph them?

Many times, a person has excitedly approached me, saying, “I just saw a wonderful photograph!” Then, inevitably, they proceed to describe, not a photograph, but something they saw out there in the world.

I know what is being explained in these moments, but truly it isn’t a photograph that is being described; it’s life!

A photograph, however wonderful it may be, is simply a pattern of tone presented on a two dimensional surface. The photographer’s dilemma, the critical task, is to find a way to translate something of the mystery, the profound fulsomeness of a life moment, into a tone pattern. Success depends upon one’s ability to convey, with a camera, something of the experience of the original moment to others.

It’s not as easy as it looks.

The next time you are excited about something you think would make a great photograph, grab a camera and try to create an image for those not there at the time. Snapshots are easy to take; they serve to remind us of moments in our personal past.

A great photograph, by contrast, can bring others into that moment of encounter. Looking at it we feel a connection with the subject, or with experiences of our own evoked by the image.

Now we begin to understand the audaciousness of naming a photographic publication, “LIFE.” Their goal was to create a magazine with images so compelling readers felt they were right there; on the beaches of Normandy, running a 4-minute mile, inside the womb with a child about to be born. The magazine’s success is a credit to the people who created its often startlingly superb photographs.

The Angle

So, how does one photograph three baby raccoons, possibly out on the first wandering adventure in their lives?

Dropping to the road helps this photograph, bringing us down into their world. Lying there flat on our belly, the camera right on the road, we are no longer looking down, but directly toward them, eye to eye.

If this image works, we are not observing these creatures, we are experiencing their approach, as I did twenty-five years ago.

This low angle and direct view reminds me of Gary Cooper standing, his gun ready, in the middle of a dusty western town in “High Noon.” Also, the slow-motion walk of the gang in Quentin Tarantino’s, “Reservoir Dogs,” comes to mind.

In this context, being confronted by this gang, three adorable masked balls of fur, is all the more arresting and memorable, and amusing.

Depth of Field

This image has a very shallow depth of field, perhaps six inches. The focus is right there on the noses of the two in the lead. Notice that the pebbles on the road, sharply defined here, are out of focus to the front and the back.

The fine fur and whiskers around the heads of the matched pair is tack sharp. By contrast, their buddy, head poked around from behind, is blurred.

This shallow, carefully zoned focus leads our eye into the scene and creates the illusion of depth.

In looking upon this photograph, I feel these charming creatures again right here before me. If you feel this, too, that’s wonderful.

When photography works, it’s like being there.

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/9/when-photography-works-it-s-like-being-there Thu, 08 Sep 2016 20:15:00 GMT
Remembering 'Cow Kiss' http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/6/remembering-cow-kiss A young Kylie Daniels gives her heifer a smooch at the 1997 Tunbridge World’s Fair. Daniels, now Kyle Preisinger, helped her family sell off the herd of milking shorthorns at Green Acres Farm this past weekend. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

Each year, for a few glorious days, The Tunbridge World’s Fair rises from morning mists of that marginal time in September when the sun, slipping below the equator, loosens its hold upon these hills and valleys, and begins, once again, its journey into the dark, cold, sleep of winter.

From the dawn of time, we have sensed the shift. Deep in the bone, in the genetic memory of our cellular structure, we know this is the time for laying up stores of food for the long, lean months ahead.

The days of summer, when the clang of horse-shoes and crack of the bat could be heard long into the evening, are gone now. Gone, too, are hot evenings in the field, haying until a late dinner, followed by falling desperately, deliciously, into bed, the fan’s hum keeping the rising heat at bay.

Soon this sun will slip from view at 4 p.m. and children will trudge to school through morning snow before its rising.

The Tunbridge Fair is our final hurrah before the end of another year.

4-H Dairy

Having worked for months with their animals, young members of 4-H clubs come to the fair full of hope. Their charges are repeatedly curried and combed, watered and fed, until the big moment when they have their chance to show. Before the watchful eye of the judge and an appreciative gathering of onlookers, the youngsters circle their calf or heifer in the dairy arena. The look of the animal is important, but so, too, is the ability of the youngster to handle and show.

In 1997, I was photographing proceedings in the dairy ring when a young teen won the grand prize blue ribbon with her milking shorthorn. Kylie Daniels walked from the arena, eyes brimming with joy, with two-year old Green Acres Meghan BT.

As she approached, heading back to the dairy sheds, I congratulated Kylie and asked if I could take a photograph.

For this image, I had her circle Meghan back around to a steep grass-covered embankment, away from the hubbub.

Using a telephoto, perhaps my 180mm Nikon portrait lens set at a very shallow aperture, I isolated Kylie and Meghan against the embankment for this photograph.

Standing there, still in the full flush of pride and joy, Kylie hugged an unblinking Meghan and planted a kiss.

As kisses go, this one was special. There is absolutely no mistaking the deep love this young girl had for her blue-ribbon cow. Eyes closed and lost to the world outside, Kylie Daniels is breathing in the fullness of this incredible moment.

And seeing her, we cannot help but be pulled along into her deep and wonderful joy. Decades later, this moment, held forever in the emulsion of film and print, still catches at my heart.

Keeping It Simple

The elements of the image are few, and this is where its power lies. Everything brings us into the kiss. There is nothing to divert our attention from this.

The background, blurred by the very shallow focal depth of a wide-open telephoto lens, is as diffuse as mist.

Emerging from this, the unfocused flank of the heifer comes from the left of the frame, leading us to the sharply defined halter which, in turn, brings our eye across Meghan’s muzzle to Kylie’s hand, gripping the rope, and Kylie’s face pressed in tight.

The cow’s eye, open, is a perfect counter-point to the girl’s eye, closed. In similar balance, the milky white of Meghan’s back contrasts with the Kylie’s silhouetted ponytail, bound by a cord echoing the halter.

Completing the image is the simple, fitting caption, provided by the sweatshirt manufacturer, “Champion.”

The Long View

This photograph ran in the September 23, 1997 Herald, on a page with many other photographs from the fair. John O’Brien’s film “Vermont Is for Lovers,” was then on the screen, and the page paid homage, entitled, “Tunbridge Is for Lovers.”

Depicted were moments of affection from throughout the fair. There was a boy rubbing the muzzle of a pony as he passed by, old folks walking arm-in-arm on the midway, a gal planting a kiss on the upheld prize from a game of chance, a goldfish in a water-filled baggie.

Of all the pictures on that page, however, this one captured the hearts of our readers, and others as well, for it was selected for display in the newly opened McDonald’s up at Exit 4 on I-89 and stayed there for more than 20 years. It was also featured in Vermont Life magazine, and used in marketing Vermont dairy farming.

Sadly, Meghan died too young, just three years after this picture was taken.

As for Kylie Daniels, she’s got farming deep in her blood. She was raised in dairy by her grandmother, Ruth Shumway, studied animal science at UVM, followed by a master’s in dairy management and science at Perdue. For 12 years this spring, she’s worked in advancing dairy nutrition with Archer Daniels Midland.

Though she now lives far from Vermont in North Carolina with a family of her own, according to her parents, Joan and Craig Wortman, “Kylie is the brains” behind the continued breeding and development of the nationally-recognized milking shorthorn herd at Green Acres Farm in South Randolph.

This portrait taken long ago, shows the dedication, intelligence, tenacity, and love of one who would in time become an acknowledged leader in American dairy science and practice.

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/6/remembering-cow-kiss Thu, 19 May 2016 12:30:00 GMT
A Gosling, A Pair of Chuck Taylors, The Meaning of Life http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/6/a-gosling-a-pair-of-chuck-taylors-the-meaning-of-life A gosling follows around a young boy’s sneakers. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

My earliest memory is from a time when I was alone in a crib in a room of a small house on Sunset Drive in Beverly, Mass. The experience precedes any concept of room, or crib, house, sunset or place; it is, I now know, from the time when I first sensed myself as an entity relating to something other, outside me.

I remember a pattern of light and shadow playing upon the surface of a wall in that room. It was a warm summer’s day. The window was open. A slight breeze gently moved the sheer curtain through which the late afternoon sun flowed. In a time before any sense of sun, breeze, shadow, or wall, I was completely held by that movement playing within the trapezoidal patch of light, articulated by the oblique angle of the sunlight streaming through the window.

My mother tells of how, as soon as I could stand, I shook the crib until it “walked” across the bare hardwood floor, providing a view down the hall to the living room and kitchen where my older brother and parents could be heard.

[A gosling follows around a young boy’s sneakers. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)] A gosling follows around a young boy’s sneakers. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)I don’t remember this, however.

I remember being captivated by the shapes playing upon the wall and, later, by the leaves moving in the trees above me as I lay in the pram and gazed up from the windows of the swiftly moving Ford automobile.

These image memories are very strong within me. They precede the words with which I describe them now. They are “sui generis” with my dawning sense of self.

Do You See What I See?

For as long as I can remember, photographs and all forms of visual art have fascinated me. Early visits with my mother to The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston revealed the visual arts as vital in communicating truth, in understanding ourselves, and each other.

As a graduate student at Yale, I studied art and architecture, as part of my degree work in theological studies. While classmates parsed verbs of Hebrew and Greek, I was drawn instead to languages of line and form, color and texture, to more fully understand the meaning of life.

My camera is a tool with which I come into a deeper understanding of my “raison d’être” and that of the world.

Have you ever played the children’s game of trying to find something hidden and being told you are “warmer” or “colder” as you move about a room?

My camera is like a Geiger counter, or metal detector, with which I record hot spots of meaning. When I’m viewing the world through a lens, I can feel the pulse, the rhythms, within the scene before me. A telling image is a record of a moment when I was getting “warm” or even “hot.”

Seeing Self

I was visiting with friends Ruth and Dick Ellsworth many years ago and learned of a gosling that came from its shell when their young son was present. Tobin was wearing an old pair of Converse sneakers. Perhaps the egg was on the floor at his feet as the gosling peered through the crack and first glimpsed the world. However it came to pass, the baby imprinted on those sneakers as its mother.

Everywhere Tobin went, the gosling followed.

I found the boy and his young charge outside in the driveway. As promised, the gosling was by his side, attention riveted upon the sneakers.

I composed this photograph from that compelling encounter. Here you find four elements; the graveled ground, the gosling, and the two sneakers worn by the boy.

How can anyone looking upon this image not wonder what the gosling is apprehending of its world at this moment?

Viewing this encounter again now, some 20 years after recording it, I am struck by how I, too, have come to see these sneakers, toes worn to reveal mouths not unlike the broad bills of parenting geese, as plausible sources of meaning for this young creature trying to make sense of the wide world into which it takes its first few faltering steps.

I see myself here, as a baby seeking meaning in the shadows playing upon the nursery wall, just as surely as others sought meaning in a cave contemplated by Plato.

I see us all in this moment, like this little bird, seeking to make sense of our world.

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/6/a-gosling-a-pair-of-chuck-taylors-the-meaning-of-life Thu, 14 Apr 2016 12:30:00 GMT
Unfamiliar Angles, Precious Moments http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/3/unfamiliar-angles-precious-moments Young dancers wait backstage for their cue during a spring dance recital at Chandler Music Hall a quarter century ago. Standing quietly apart from the younger children is Chelsea Knight, now an internationally acclaimed performance and video artist. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

I have two sons. As a 10-year-old, the younger loved to tap dance. He made his stage debut dancing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” with a host of little girls and one other boy in a spring recital at Chandler Music Hall. It was an important event for him.

Later, following university study, Isaac became a member of Blue Man Group, performing onstage for 12 years before getting an MFA in theater and becoming a drama professor at Johnson State College.

Perhaps only a few having early stage experience become involved in theater professionally as adults. All, however, are profoundly affected by the experience. Walking out into the bright light of a large stage and performing before hundreds of people is challenging. It can be life changing.

Capturing the Moment

Each spring in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I tried to photograph recitals at Chandler for The Herald. Early attempts were largely unsuccessful.

The images were bland, perhaps acceptable as a record for the family album, but not memorable photographs.

Careful critique revealed some of the shortcomings. First, relying on the very simple frontal lighting of the theater resulted in images with almost no depth or definition in the dancers. The light was similar to that from an on-camera flash. It’s called “pan-caking.” The facial features and form are flattened, made to look, well, like pancakes!

Those first attempts were taken from the most common vantage point, out front in the house.

In the early 20th century, stage paintings, prints, and pastels by the French artists Edgar Degas and Toulouse Lautrec captured performing dancers from more interesting, intimate angles, positions close to the front and side of the stage. From here there is foreshortening of form, overlapping of the dancers, and lighting rakes across the side of the face, creating depth and drama.

Behind the Curtain

I clearly remember the moment I decided to photograph from backstage, rather than from the front of the house. It’s total mayhem behind the curtains for these dance recitals. Tittering little girls and teens are running here and there, offstage and onstage, hushed and herded by instructors as they try to cope with boundless pent-up energy. One step among this throng in the offstage darkness sent me running for the ladder, escaping to scaffolding high above, where I could quietly compose myself, and perhaps a photograph as well.

It was a great decision. I had a clear view of the dancers, the angles were unexpected, interesting. The light, rising from footlights at the front of the stage, was dramatic, just like that so beautifully captured in France a century before.

Stage Whisper

One moment that afternoon, the dancers placed themselves in positions too wonderful for words. I recorded the scene in this photograph.

The space in this image is divided between the open area of the angled stage floor-boards in the lower third and, above, the curtained darkness contrasting with brightly costumed dancers catching the light.

We note the dancers are of different ages. The youngest stand to the right of the frame. From there, they are arrayed in ascending order at the same angle as the glow rising from the footlights off-camera to the right.

The tallest of the dancers stands alone, separated from those younger dancers by a dark vertical swath of curtain.

Her eyes direct our attention to what’s happening onstage. This is for her a quiet, contemplative moment.

From this first dancer, our eye proceeds down to the next girl. Like her older counterpart, she is mesmerized by the spectacle we cannot see. She is younger, but her attitude strongly echoes the quiet of her partner at the back of the drape.

Proceeding further, we come to a girl whose attention is not upon the stage, but given wholly to the smallest girl at the end of the row. She leans down to hear something being whispered from behind the upturned hand.

Up until this point in the scene, this offstage drama has been quiet. Everything has directed our attention away and out to the action on the dance floor. Now, however, our ear as well as our eye is drawn by this animated, private word. Another girl at the back seems to be leaning in, hoping to hear what we, removed from the scene, cannot. We feel excitement, the animation of clandestine sharing by young girls, at this moment more children than dancers.

I titled this photograph “Stage Whisper,” for this is truly the compelling center of the photograph. A true stage whisper is, of course, a whisper uttered onstage loudly enough for the audience to hear. While I doubt anyone but those very close could hear this whisper, I like the way the caption plays with the image.

I love, too, the way the hand and body positions change from girl to girl. The eldest stands back, turned demurely from the light, her arms crossed, mutually held above the elbow. By contrast, the next is fully open to the light, arms slightly crossed, one hand rising, with seeming emotion, to collar bone and throat. Each successive girl stands further out onto the stage.

The third’s hands are cupped, almost in supplication, as she receives the whispered word from the fourth, full of conspiratorial buzzing energy, hands up and away, oblivious to the upcoming cue for entrance to the stage.

The Larger Stage

We all share a wonderful resource in Chandler Center for the Arts. Each year, countless young people are profoundly influenced by early arts experiences through this important regional center.

Consider these young people I photographed backstage at Chandler years ago. How were their lives positively changed by early arts experiences like this dance recital?

I know one person pictured here, the girl standing alone at the back, quietly watching, anticipating her entrance.

Chelsea Knight is now an internationally regarded video and performance artist. After Randolph, she pursued a B.A. in English at Oberlin College, followed by study at Glasgow School of Art, Scotland, an M.F.A. at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a Fulbright Fellowship in the Arts at Michelangelo Pistoletto Foundation, Biella, Italy.

In 2015, Knight was New Museum Artist in Residence in New York City, creating “Fall To Earth,” a series of live events and video productions. Collaborating with Autumn Knight, she created “Knight & Knight, Latencies,” at the Center for Experimental Lectures. At Storm King Sculpture Park, New Windsor, NY, she premiered “Chelsea Knight: What is Document?”

These are just a few facets in the life of Chelsea Knight, and she is only one of many pictured here!

Infinitely more is anticipated in this instant, this telling moment in the lives of young dancers photographed backstage at Chandler over a quarter century ago.

With the Bard we affirm, “All the world’s a stage.” These children are about to make the entrance of a lifetime.

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) Vermont and angles arts ballet black dancers theater white youth http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/3/unfamiliar-angles-precious-moments Thu, 17 Mar 2016 12:30:00 GMT
In Search of Art: The Inevitability of Creation http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/6/in-search-of-art-the-inevitability-of-creation A photographer takes an intimate portrait of Michelangelo's sculpture, "The Slave," in this photograph from a visit to the Louvre in Paris in 1993. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

The act of creation is profoundly mysterious. The ancient book of Genesis imagines the world before anything was brought into being. This state is described as “tohu va bohu,”meaning, “without form and void.” Then, upon the scene comes the creative impulse of the divine, moving like a bird over the face of the deep, bringing worlds into being.

In “Timaeus” Plato speaks of the “Demiurge,” the benevolent source of all that is, keeper of the eternal and perfect world of “forms,” the essential pattern from which existence (the material realm) is birthed or created.

An artist’s creation is not unlike this. In the beginning it’s seeming chaos; a multitude of scraps, colors and textures, unfocussed ideas, notes unsounded and rhythms as yet not coalesced, un-chiseled stone, various bits and pieces of this and that, unexpressed words, nooks and crannies all about littered by this untidy soup of “tohu va bohu.” Then, through the alchemy of the artist’s mind and hand, various elements are lifted up, shaped, fused, transformed into a work that seems, in the end, somehow inevitable.

Great art seems as inevitable as a daisy, a wren, the sound of rain or a wave. Beholding it, we cannot imagine the world without it.

There is a certain inevitability to Yo Yo Ma’s playing of a Bach cello suite. We are enthralled, brought to a still point, a place of familiar yet absolute rightness; it seems this sound is not so much created as discovered. It is not simply here, now, but was sounding at the very dawn of creation.

We have a word for this experience. It is a “revelation” when something of deep, eternal truth is disclosed in the time and space of our everyday here and now.

Seeing “Samothrace” rising above the stairs in the Louvre, we feel, “So this is what I’ve sensed all these many years ... here it is, just as I have known it was and would be, waiting in welcome and embrace.”

Process of Discovery

Michelangelo, the fabled Italian sculptor, painter, poet, architect, and engineer of the High Renaissance, was possessed by this sense that deep truth was being revealed to him throughout his life. His observations about the process of sculpting make this clear.

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

Asked how he created a work of incomparable beauty, he replied, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

Writing this essay, I am in the sixth week of healing from foot surgery. Tomorrow, finally, I will have two pins pulled from my toes and soon thereafter, the awkward boot will be removed as well. These have served as splints, to keep my toes from moving. They’ve also restrained me, making photography more difficult.

Convalescing, I’ve had time to contemplate the process of photography. It’s remarkable how taking a still image requires so much motion!

First, there is the movement of the body. Unless you’re working in a studio, photography begins with the physical process of gathering equipment and going out into the world. Then, there is the movement or scanning of the eye. Finally, we have throughout this questing the movement in the mind, especially as the photographer senses and takes the image.

What I have just described, this journey of discovery in search of an image, is analogous to Michelangelo’s movement through the marble to reveal the form within the block. The photographic moment isn’t created by the photographer. It is already there waiting to be discovered. The photographer’s task is to see it, to discover it, and make a record of the moment with the camera.

From a sequence of infinite possibilities, the photographer is in search of the “telling moment”— that instant, angle, and view which discloses something of importance.

Of course, this is a very high bar! Many times I’ve gone out in search of an image and come back with nothing. Sometimes, I must admit, I’ve returned with many latent exposures on my film, only to find upon developing and contact printing that nothing “makes the cut.” (A term from film editing where unnecessary footage is literally “cut” from the movie.) Like Dustin Hoffman’s character in “Little Big Man,” we are forced to acknowledge, “sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

A Telling Moment

The photograph we consider here was taken in the Louvre in 1993. Touring the endless collections, I came upon a Michelangelo sculpture entitled simply, “Slave.”

Generally when in a museum, I’ll carry a camera to record what I’ve seen for reference later. These images are notations of others’ art; I don’t consider them my photographs in an artistic sense.

While everyone seems to have their phone camera or something larger out for pictures at museums in this present digital age, it was less common in the analogue era when photography was both more expensive and involved.

While I was visiting with this amazing work, a young woman armed with a camera came into the space before me and started to frame Michelangelo’s work in her lens. There are times when I’m quite put out by people charging in front of me, obscuring my view of a piece of art. Not this day, however.

I was immediately intrigued by this photographer’s movement around the marble form. She was dancing about the larger than life sculpture above her, moving in and out, up and down, taking images as she went.

The nakedness of Michelangelo’s “Slave,” standing there, eyes closed, in languorous display before the woman’s careful and very thorough imaging was mesmerizing.

I lifted my camera, seeking an image of my own.

I was very aware that this was an opportunity for a wonderful photograph; not a notation from my museum visit but the capturing on film of a telling moment of encounter between this young woman photographer and her superb model.

As in an ellipse, there are two points at the center of this image; the sculpture and the woman.

I love the interplay between them. The woman it seemed was very likely a dancer. Her movements were almost balletic, her steps choreographed, her foot positions technically precise.

The nakedness of the model contrasts with the fashionable smartness of the artist. Both have faces upturned, arms cocked at the elbow. They stand fully frontally exposed to each other in postures of openness; both seem lost in this moment, in bliss.

Finally, we are brought to the tension and truth within this scene.

In our rational mind we realize that this is an ancient sculpture, an inert piece of stone being photographed by a living, breathing human being.

At the same time, however, we find it impossible to believe the model isn’t actually posing for this photographer!

Now the art of this image begins to disclose itself. This is a photograph of an encounter that took place a quarter century ago. How is the photographer in this image any more “alive” than the sculpture?

Both, now stand motionless before us in this moment, a telling moment revealed during an encounter in a museum in Paris a lifetime ago.

Are not both equally, eternally, alive?

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/6/in-search-of-art-the-inevitability-of-creation Thu, 18 Feb 2016 13:15:00 GMT
Vermont: A Flatlander's Appreciation http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/1/vermont-a-flatlanders-appreciation Paul Webster, nearing 80, wields a peavey to adjust a pile of logs at his Randolph farm in the 1990s. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

I confess. I’m a flatlander. It’s difficult to admit, because, from before I can remember, I was fed Vermont food, lore and family stories. My dad grew up in Burlington. He proposed to mom on the Ticonderoga as it steamed Lake Champlain. But they moved to Massachusetts to raise their family.

Closing my eyes, I can still conjure the delicious feeling of drifting to and from sleep, the ’55 Plymouth wagon trundling for seven hours endlessly north, wipers beating back snowflakes as big as saucers, cheering as we crossed the Connecticut River to gas up in White River, cheering as WDEV first came through on the radio, and cheering again to see the flashing light atop the UVM water tower, high above downtown Burlington and the lake. We were home.

Growing up, I ate, drank, and dreamed Vermont. We came up in every season of the year: to Aunt Kit’s farm in New Haven, to Uncle Win and Aunt Jean’s “schoolhouse” on the dump road in Lincoln, for family camping at Button Bay, Branbury, Silver Lake and Waterbury Center State Parks, to Uncle Merrill’s gun shop on Shelburne Road, for Aunt Bo’s cooking in Milton, to Shelburne Museum with Aunt Lou, to climb Abraham, Camel’s Hump, and Mansfield again and again. I came to college here, as did my three siblings, my father and his three brothers before us.

Nope

It wasn’t a day before I heard the word, “flatlander.” It was generally said with a smile, but the message was clear.

“Try as you might, a Vermonter you’ll never be, for there’s a world of difference between tryin’ and bein’.”

At first I found that sentiment hard. I’ve come to realize it isn’t a sentiment, however: it’s a fact. Vermonters are different from “flatlanders.” It’s a difference I’ve come to treasure. And when I see it, I’m sure to reach for my camera.

In His Element

Whenever visiting Paul Webster, I was prepared to take photographs. As he lived on my daily commute to The Herald, I stopped many times over the years. In a Vermont lexicon his name would be printed bold face; the index would cite him on half the pages.

Born in 1913, Webster farmed the sloping terrain of Braintree Hill from its crest down to the third branch of the White River as it oxbows through the bottomland below his house and barns on Route 12A north of Randolph village. He was a big man and, unlike many big men, he lived well into his 90s, dying in 2008.

One morning in early spring about 20 years ago, I spied Webster atop a load of logs along the edge of the road opposite his home. He was wielding a large peavey, repositioning massive logs to make a better stack.

Several aspects of the scene captured my eye.

Moist clouds hung low in the valley that morning, scrubbing fields, river and distant hills completely away. They simplify the scene, strengthen the composition. Against this background of white, Webster stands in stark silhouette above the huge stack, the circular ends of logs facing the lens.

Here, in beautiful design, is a Vermont farmer, astride his work. Nothing is extraneous; just Webster, peavey, and logs with mud and snow to ground the shot securely in early spring.

The strength of the image intensifies as we realize the man in command of these massive logs is almost 80!

Perhaps on the streets of Boston Webster would seem a simple farmer, but this isn’t flatland. Here, in his element, he is ennobled, powerful.

Catching the Train

Lifelong Vermont farmer, Webster was the subject of numerous Herald photographs over three decades from 1987 until his death in 2008. (Herald File / Bob Eddy) A second photograph of Webster we consider here was from another visit. It was taken in the lower level of the dairy barn, where he still kept calves, years after he sold the herd.

As in the previous image, this scene is simplified. Before, the high key element of cloud helped remove information. Now, deep shadow provides a similar service.

The scene is illumined by grey light pouring through windows and a doorway to the right. It falls on Webster and window frames, but little more. Links of chain descend into complete darkness, just as Webster’s form disappears into shadow below.

He stands open to the lens, gazing benignly out at the viewer. The lighting both reveals and conceals. This portrait is as much about what is hidden as what is shown.

As I took this photograph, Web- ster told me a story about his early courtship of Lucille Warner, his wife of 65 years.

“When I was a young man working this farm, Lucille was enrolled at Lyndon State College. I wrote a letter to her each night before I turned the lights down for bed. It was addressed, stamped and in my pocket the following morning as I did my chores.

“You can hear the train from far off as it comes down the valley from Roxbury each morning. At the first sound of its approach, I’d be up onto my horse like a shot. We’d gallop bareback into town, over the hill, across the bridge and down Main Street to the station, getting my letter into the mailbag before the train arrived. From there, it went south to White River Junction, and north to Lyndonville, getting to Lucille that same day!”

Then, as I moved in for a closer portrait, Webster became very still. I imagine his mind ranging back over the decades to the far off rumble and sound of train whistle, thrilling again to the adrenalinepumping ride, feeling that rag paper envelope, its address carefully inked, as he handed it off.

Breaking the silence, he quietly marveled, “She got it within hours! I never missed a train.”

I never met a flatlander who courted like this.

Some Things Change

Justin Poulin, a young farmer, bought the Webster place a few years back and has been making improvements. Just this month, he was tearing down the old farmhouse and I stopped for photographs. Like Webster, he easily performs tasks which would baffle and possibly kill me.

Again on the farm with my cameras, I remembered my time with Webster adjusting those logs with a peavey 20 years before. He impressed me then.

Today, at 65, still 15 years shy of Webster astride that pile, I am in awe.

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/1/vermont-a-flatlanders-appreciation Thu, 21 Jan 2016 16:18:13 GMT
Winter Means Different Things to Kids than to Adults http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/1/winter-means-different-things-to-kids-than-to-adults Kids stand for a photo on the edge of the Randolph skating rink. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

Christina Rossetti’s 19th century carol, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” pretty much explains why many older Vermonters head south for a few months this time of year:

In the bleak midwinter,
Frosty winds made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago.

Ice and snow, hallmarks of a Vermont winter, may seem bleak to those of us seeking warmth at home and safe passage on the road, but not to children.

Adults may contemplate shoveling and plowing (and, possibly, falling), but children are reaching for sleds and skis and ice skates!

In communities all across the north country, ponds are cleared, and rinks are flooded, providing ice for budding Michelle Kwans and Wayne Gretskys.

Looking down upon the cacophonous scene of skating activity at the Randolph Village rink never fails to remind me of Pieter Breugel’s paintings of Flemish village life. Parents gingerly lead the very young, or kneel a few feet away, encouraging first faltering steps with arms outstretched and ready to catch. Clutches of young girls with bright white Christmas skates, looking like young foals learning to walk, test their toe picks, and raise their arms in short faltering glides. Then there are always the smiling, gifted few, stitching the disparate elements together, arm in arm and singly, circling with graceful turns and leaps.

Kids stand for a photo on the edge of the Randolph skating rink. (Herald File / Bob Eddy) Off to the side, a group of young boys lace up hockey skates and grab their sticks. Spilling onto the ice as though released from the penalty box, they rumble around the far end, testing their laces, getting their legs and feet acclimated to the tight, unyielding boots and blades and the feel of the ice. Some seem to use their sticks as a third leg, dragging it along, grabbing it when needed to prevent the ignomy of falling. Others dip and weave fluidly backward, now forward, with self-satisfied assurance, eyeing the puck as it’s passed from stick to stick to stick.

The photograph we consider here was taken at the Randolph rink many years ago. This bunch was engaged in a battle for the puck when I arrived and started shooting with a telephoto. After a bit, I called out to one of the boys I knew by name, Riley Harness, at the far left. Like a gang of crows they all flew over, positioning themselves along the boards just as you see them here. I hadn’t intended to take a group portrait, but their arrangement and appearance compelled me to grab a second camera with a 50 mm lens and take this image for The Herald.

What Works Here?

A number of factors make this image a personal favorite. I played pond hockey as a kid and these boys look pretty much as we did 30 years earlier. There is something almost timeless about this simple grouping of youngsters, each unique.

I take no credit for the composition, which is simply beautiful. Note the strong horizontal sectioning of the frame with (from bottom to top of the frame) the boards in the foreground, the boys highlighted against the white expanse of ice, the boards at the back and, finally, trees, bracken, and greying snow on the embankment to the back.

Against these horizontals, the scene is punctuated by the interesting vertical shapes of hockey sticks, echoed by the vertical bracing in the foreground. The swooshing curve of the board below them unifies the group. The rise and fall of the line from left to right provides rhythm and a sense of completeness. See how the composition is strengthened by the biggest boy standing head and shoulders above, his stick breaking into the top horizontal layer. Then, the line descends, ending beautifully with the shortest lad, his head poking above the boards like a groundhog popped up from a burrow.

I see this image and can still sense the ice gliding beneath when I played as a boy. I feel my flick of wrist to the stick and hear the slap of the puck, skittering out now, and away toward the distant goal.

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) black & white children hockey kids winter http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/1/winter-means-different-things-to-kids-than-to-adults Thu, 31 Dec 2015 05:00:00 GMT
December at The Herald http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/1/december-at-the-herald Composing supervisor Nancy Cassidy paints Christmas scenes on the windows of the Herald offices. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

For as long as anyone here at The Herald can remember, each December, Nancy Cassidy has taken out her paint box to decorate the office’s large front windows for the season.

Nancy is head of composition and layout at The Herald. While most of her work is accomplished with computers today, she honed her craft in the paste-up era. Her deft hand and eye finished each page every Wednesday before it was shot on the stat camera and plated for the presses on Weston Street.

Painting our windows each year for the holidays, Nancy Cassidy works free hand. While we’re certain she’s carefully composed the scenes at home, it seems the fanciful images flow with spontaneous ease onto the glass! Christmas trees and presents; Santa climbing into a chimney or opening his sack; elves at work and at play; Rudolph, hitched-up and ready to fly; children, wide-eyed with excitement of the season: all these and more have filled our windows with cheer.

Season of Light

On a Thursday in December over 20 years ago, I photographed Nancy working on one of her seasonal creations.

Here is a portrait of the artist at work. Special circumstances of the painting provided unique lighting for my photograph. As Nancy is working on glass, illumination is provided by natural light coming through the window behind her. Back-lighting can be used to great photographic effect. It also presents exposure difficulties for the uninitiated.

George Eastman’s counsel for correct exposures with his first Kodak cameras was to take the photograph with the sun at your back, falling upon the subject in front of you. This simple rule was still in use when, as a boy in the 1950s, I used my first camera, a Kodak Brownie 127.

Eastman’s advice made perfect sense for the beginning photographer with a point and shoot camera. In reality, however, many photographs must be taken, as in this instance, with the camera aimed toward the light source. What are the problems raised, and how can they be surmounted?

In a backlit situation, if you are determining your exposure with a through-the-lens meter, the camera will likely specify an exposure one to two stops darker than what is needed. The meter is, in a sense, misled by the lighting and gives a false reading. In this photograph, the result would be a very darkened silhouette of our subject.

The rule of thumb is to open your lens two stops to compensate, providing more light in that part of the image where it’s needed most—the subject.

The Complete Frame

We have three elements in this photograph, and only three. First, we see the artist painting. It helps the photograph greatly that Nancy is both beautiful and simply dressed in a pink sweater. Her features, her hand and brush are all in sharp focus. The diffused backlight falling all about her, adds luster and softness to her hair, upturned face, and the sweater. Everything in her form leads our eye to her hand holding the brush, articulating her vision.

That vision, becoming a painting on glass is our second element. We see elves: Nancy is surrounded by four of them as she works. There is music in the air; notes merrily dance across the top of the photograph. We sense rather than see the glass, for there is no edge to this window. The musical notes provide the only frame.

The third and final element is background; out-of-focus brick and snow and lights on Pleasant Street on a cold grey December day many years ago.

With this simple scene from Christmas past, we wish for you and all those you love, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) Cassidy Christmas Herald Nancy artists black & white drawings holidays http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/1/december-at-the-herald Thu, 24 Dec 2015 05:00:00 GMT
Seeing the Light http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/1/seeing-the-light This candle cradled in the hands of a young child and and an adult was photographed about 20 years ago for a seasonal card encouraging support of local charities through the Herald's "Giving Good Gifts Holiday Appeal." Cameron Pattison of Brookfield and Herald editor/publisher M.D. Drysdale posed for the image at First Light Studios next door to the newspaper's Pleasant Street offices in Randolph. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

The 1940s movie classic “Citizen Kane” depicts a titan of newspaper publishing, fulfilling and destroying the aspirations of thousands, wielding influence around the world.

My reflections in the next few paragraphs will spoil the movie for those who have not yet watched it. To avoid this, simply skip this next bit entitled, “Citizen Kane.”

Citizen Kane

The movie begins at the very end of Kane’s life. Living in isolation, surrounded by unparalleled yet decaying opulence, Kane drops a small snow globe, breaking it on the floor, as he dies. One word, “rosebud,” is whispered as the camera pans to the globe, slipping from his grasp. Snow swirling in a Currier and Ives depiction of a small village at Christmastime seems to swirl, too, about the dying man.

The movie is a gloriously complex flashback from that death scene, exploring Kane’s life-long accumulation of wealth and power.

What, the movie asks, is the meaning of Kane’s dying utterance, “rosebud?”

At the end, forced to conclude the world will never know the answer to this question, we are led through the mansion as countless treasures are packed and crated for museums and auction. Descending to the basement we see things of negligible value being tossed into a furnace. A small sled is cast onto the fire. The flames rise around a hand-painted decoration on the sled’s surface; a rosebud.

Only then do we remember Kane as a very young boy sledding in solitary reverie outside his childhood home. As snow gently falls, that boy is led, uncomprehendingly, away from that place, to be raised amidst unimaginable wealth and splendor.

 

At the end, in the heart of this great man, is still the pulse and memory of the young boy sledding a lifetime ago. Of all possible contemplations at his time of passing, he remembers this moment, this child deep within. This memory is, at the last, more precious than gold. 

A Dark Time

This dark side of the year, the sweep of days between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a time like no other. Here in Vermont, we find ourselves eating breakfast and dinner with night sky at the window. The lowering sun seems to be setting as we finish a late lunch! Lights from street poles and front porches punctuate the darkness as we navigate icy roads in freezing cars to make our way home.

Five months ago, we were mowing the lawn after 8; now we’re thinking about turning in for a good book and bed by 7!

One wintry day 20 years ago, I was tasked with creating an image to evoke the preciousness of this season. I could find no better subject for my camera than the simple light from one candle.

Joseph Campbell once reflected that the great myths are true, “not because they tell of that which happened at one point in time, but because they tell of that which happens again and again.” And so, in many cultures about the world, in varied ways, we find celebration of the light in the midst of winter’s darkness.

Some celebrate this darkest time of the year, with bonfires and the burning of a Yule logs that turn thoughts from the year past to the one that is coming. Others light sacred candles of Hanukkah, rejoicing in the miracle of a small cruise of oil, sustaining God’s hope in the darkness. Many prepare in these darkening days for a star shining in the night that will lead us in ways of Peace.

One Candle, One Life

Here in this image we find a candle held by a young child, whose hands are, in turn, cradled by an adult’s hands. The scene is deceptively simple. The source of all the light is visible at the heart of the image. Deep darkness surrounds at the edge of the scene.

What do you behold here? Perhaps you see the hands of an elder, caring for a child as, together, they experience the quiet beauty of a candle.

Or, is it possible, that here we find a symbolic representation of one older person cradling the flame? The younger being is there, deep within each of us as we age. Our reflection, is not simply, then, upon the candle flame, but upon the light within, embodied by a child.

In this season, as we light candles in the darkness and consider their meaning, I hope you will remember this child within. May this contemplation, this encounter, be a blessing.

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) black & white candles children hands lighting http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/1/seeing-the-light Thu, 03 Dec 2015 16:45:00 GMT
Revisiting Paris: Memories of a City http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/1/revisiting-paris-memories-of-a-city A mother finds a "teachable moment" with her two young daughters while on a stroll in Paris's Luxembourg Gardens in 1993. (Herald / Bob Eddy)

On news-feeds and social media, crushing news of this past week’s terrorist attacks has hurtled from Beirut and Paris like a tsunami of images, reports, and opinion.

Paris, in particular, has captured hearts and hashtags here in the United States. In an interview with Caitlin Dickson of Yahoo News, Pamela Rutledge, professor of media psychology at Fielding Graduate Center in Santa Barbara, argues the disparity in reactions to the events in Paris and Beirut from Americans is more an issue of understanding than prejudice.

“People in the U.S. are much more familiar with Paris than Beirut. We have this image of Paris as the place where Hemingway wrote or the place where you learn to paint or cook… There’s this long history—they gave us the Statue of Liberty for heaven’s sake—and an understanding of Paris in each of our brains.”

Paris Is Personal

Rutledge’s observations touched a chord in me. Beirut is, for me, largely a place on a map, while I have countless memories of Paris, a vast yet intimate city.

In 1983, while living on sabbatical in the U.K., Kathy and I decided to cross the Channel and take our old Peugeot to visit our AFS daughter and her family in Switzerland for Easter. Disembarking at Calais at 2 a.m., I drove through the darkened countryside toward Paris, terrain so familiar to American soldiers of my parents generation.

On the map. Paris looks like a great wheel, major arteries converging at the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. I hoped to see the tower from a distance, drive to it and take a walk around with our young sons before continuing south to Zurich. This is a colossus of a city, however, and, after passing through a “gate” on the outskirts, as minutes gave way to over an hour, I began to despair of finding any recognizable landmark.

Then, quite amazingly, there it was! Skirting around the Luxor Obelisk on the Place de la Concorde, we crossed the Seine, and pulled the car to a stop directly in front of Eiffel’s creation. A few steps and we were headed by elevator up to the observation deck for coffees, hot chocolate, and warm croissants.

I will especially cherish two parts of that brief visit. The first is the astonished look on our boys’ faces, hearing, for the first time, their mother fluently speak French. They thought they knew everything about their mom. Dumbstruck, this was their first inkling there is more to their mother than they will ever know.

The second, was Kathy’s desire to provide me an hour alone with Monet’s paintings in the Musée de l’Orangerie, while she took the boys to the park for a ride on a carrousel. It was the most loving of gifts.

Photographing the City Bob Eddy returned from an anniversary trip to Paris with 15 rolls of film, from which many photographs were published on May 20, 1993. Here, at a bouquiniste stall along the Seine, a game of chess is played beneath the rocket from "The Adventures of Tintin; Destination Moon." (Herald / Bob Eddy)

In 1993, we returned to Paris for our 20th anniversary. With cameras in tow, we walked the streets for hour upon hour, stopping at museums, cafes—everywhere our hearts led us. I photographed the city waking up—maids emptying waste-baskets into dustbins, workers polishing brass, shop keepers washing the corner sidewalks, just as Ned Rorem describes in his art-song, “Early in the Morning.” Parks were filled with young lovers picnicking and embracing; old men playing boule, reading papers, sleeping in the sun; children launching sailboats in the fountain, discreetly watched by nannies perched on nearby benches.

I photographed this family in Luxembourg Garden, a park created in the city by Marie d’ Medici in 1611. Here, under a vast canopy of trees, Parisians can visit the countryside at the heart of this world metropolis.

A mother is out for a stroll with her daughters. Arrayed behind them, out of focus, are trees, benches, and others enjoying the afternoon. Like Seurat’s “La Grande Jatte,” the scene is dappled in sunshine and shade. Like a properly placed spotlight, a patch of sun illuminates the heart of our story.

At first glance, we see three at center-stage. The mother stands between her girls. To the left, gazing quietly at us is the daughter with the frizzy hair. Perhaps she takes after her papa in this regard. Her open, mute stance reminds me of the impression Monet painted of his own child standing at the foot of garden stairs with mother, Camille, descending from behind.

I especially like this little girl for, while the others in this story have no time for us, she is tentatively engaging us, inviting us into a small drama (to which she seems oblivious) unfolding at the center.

The second daughter, to the right, is dressed identically to her sister. Well, not quite. For, while the first child we considered has all the pieces in place, nothing fits smartly. Like her unruly hair, her clothing is slightly awry.

Not so with daughter number two. Her hair, like her mother’s, is smartly brushed. Her dress may be the same, but, as can be seen more clearly in other frames from this take, it hangs smartly. Unlike her sister’s lace-up shoes, she sports neatly buckled “Mary Janes.”

These are not twins; the child with the stroller is older. No longer the compliant age of her sister, she is here fully engaged in a discussion with her mama. They look a bit alike, I think. Even now, over 20 years later, I can hear them. The discourse is reasoned, but unyielding on both sides. Mother has met her match.

The small dolly, held protectively by mama, and the shadow of the girl’s hand on the seat of the stroller explain all. This young girl wants her dolly back. Mom is trying to explain that she has to be more gentle with dolly, who has just been jettisoned from the stroller, picked up and gently dusted off by mom.

Though this was all sorted out in a matter of moments, in my photograph this mother and her child have been in perpetual heartfelt negotiation for over two decades.

Hope

This, then, is the vision of Paris, and the Beirut too, I hold prayerfully in my heart this week. I see young people being raised by loving parents in caring communities. I see them, as in this scene I photographed 22 years ago, learning to treat others with kindness, respect and love.

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) France Paris black & white children film mothers parents http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2016/1/revisiting-paris-memories-of-a-city Thu, 19 Nov 2015 16:30:00 GMT
The Time Change http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2015/11/the-time-change In the October, 1989, Herald publisher and editor M.D. Drysdale walked across Randolph Village to Bethany Church with photographer Bob Eddy. Together they ascended ladders to the large clock inside the lower part of the steeple. Climbing out onto the roof, Eddy photographed the clock face with Drysdale's arm poked through a small trap door, gripping the hour hand. In the Oct. 26 issue, it ran on the front page with this caption, "FOREARMED IS FOREWARNED - The end of Daylight Savings Time comes Sunday morning at 2 a.m., and everyone will set their clocks back one hour. For some it's a bigger job than for others." (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

Forgetting Daylight Savings Time can have dire consequences. Many years, I’ve used photography to remind Herald readers to reset their clocks. One image, featuring two pocket watches amidst a loose assortment of coins, was titled, “Time Change.” “Spring Forward,” was the message accompanying a round office clock sitting atop a coiled spring from a truck’s suspension.

Perhaps my most ambitious image announced the coming loss of an hour with the caption, “Time Flies!” I affixed large raven-like wings to an old school clock, and suspended it with fishing line amidst bracken on the banks of the White River. Blurring of the wings resulted from the stiff breeze blowing the paper about. This wing movement was enhanced with some darkroom double-exposure chicanery.

Not For The Newsroom

In news departments, such photographic staging and darkroom manipulation are grounds for dismissal. These were more photo-illustrations, however, and I found them a welcome change from the disciplines of the newsroom.

Herald editor and publisher, Dickey Drysdale, delighted in the light-hearted nature of the time-change images as much as I did. In the late 1980’s, he helped me create this memorable image.

At a glance, we know this is a massive clock. The scale is defined by Drysdale’s arm, curiously poking out from the clock face, grappling with the hour hand in a Charlie Chaplin kind of way.

Close cropping pares this scene down to essential elements. A wooden clock face is surrounded by a round frame, some old New England cut-shingle filigree, and a bit of Greek revival cornice at the top. Add to this a very robust arm, gripping the hour hand for all it’s worth.

An Absurd Image

There are all kinds of timepieces in the world. We have pocket and wristwatches, desk clocks and wall clocks. This Bethany Church steeple clock dwarfs all of these, not simply “telling,” but “proclaiming” the time. With formal Roman numerals, contrasting black and white paintwork, and a large bell sounding the hours, it has done so high above Randolph Village for almost two centuries. Hearing or seeing it from afar, one feels the inexorable sweep of history.

This clock summoned workers to the Sargent, Osgood, and Roundy Foundry, bankers and shopkeepers to their posts. This bell has called folks to worship, marked the beginnings and endings of wars, and tolled the passing of generations.

To this weighty symbol of tradition and power, we add a whimsical human element, an arm. It’s perfectly scaled to the hands of the clock, but couldn’t be more different. While the clock is endlessly meting out minutes and hours, this arm reaches out, apparently to stop everything. Even more than that, this arm is attempting to turn back time!

This photograph illustrates the absurdity of the task at hand. We are reminded here that time will be altered by a full hour in the weekend ahead, and that we fail to change our personal time pieces at our own peril.

Power of Perspective

This is a dynamic image. We feel like we are right in the midst of the scene, and this feeling adds to the drama. What creates this sensation?

The image was shot with a 24mm wideangle lens. Look at the Roman numerals. We can almost touch the ”V” on the face nearest us; it’s twice the size of the “XI” on the upper side. We are not viewing this scene from a distance. Unconsciously sensing this dramatic perspective, we know we are right next to the clock. We also feel this clock is high in the air, and we are up there with it. But where are we standing? The photograph doesn’t give us any clues. We are left hanging!

The drama of the arm wrestling with time catches our eye, then our uncertain vantage point creates unconscious tension.

Time will be turned backward in a day or two! As we contemplate this curious practice; this absurd image begins to make perfect sense.

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2015/11/the-time-change Thu, 29 Oct 2015 14:30:00 GMT
Photographing the Thrill of the Tunbridge World’s Fair! http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2015/11/photographing-the-thrill-of-the-tunbridge-world-s-fair Harness Racing at The Tunbridge World's Fair. (Herald file / Bob Eddy)

There are many iconic elements of the Tunbridge World’s Fair, but none more central than the track. Here, before the grandstand, for generations, farmers have paraded their prized livestock. Here tractors roar pulling the unyielding transfer sled and, until recently, cars were mashed into heaps of scrap metal before gasping demolition derby audiences.

From the very first, however, the reigning track event at New England’s agricultural fairs, however, was harness racing. The gait used in the sport is trotting, which can sound rather genteel to those who haven’t thrilled at the rail for these races.

This event is just a memory at most fairs, but not in Tunbridge, where the thunder of racing horses still fills the air in September.

For the photographer, harness racing presents great opportunity, and difficulty. The PA system crackles with introduction of horses and drivers; there is the crack of the starter’s pistol, and they’re off! You have the advantage of knowing, without question, an event of excitement and visual interest is about to unfold – and then it does!

Hay tedder photographed on the way home from the fair. (Herald file / Bob Eddy) Hay tedder photographed on the way home from the fair. (Herald File / Bob Eddy) Where to best capture that excitement, however? The shot from the stands is too far removed from the action.

The Corner’s the Key

In 1990, I put my 300mm Nikon lens on an F body and made my way out to the far side of the track, over where the horses are stabled. I positioned myself low on the outside rail. Getting the best angle took some time; fortunately, there are many heats. Finally I found a sweet spot where the race could be framed in the broad sweep of track with the inside rail on the far right. The great Ferris wheel rises at the top, echoing the circular track and wheels of the sulkies. Add to these elements the strong lateral line of the outer rail, ringed by spectators, and, above it, a panoply of food concessions, crowned by the “Fried Dough Boys” signage. I’ve eaten those fried treats only once or twice in many decades, but always delight in seeing the signs, which have spiced many a fair photograph with visual interest. Here, I love the visual contrast of “Dough Boys” with the exploding sinuous energy of the race.

This photograph was taken with a manual lens. It was impossible to adjust the rapidly changing focus once the race was in view, so the shot was carefully zone-focused before the action arrived. The exposure was quick to stop the action of the horses’ hooves, probably 500th of a second.

With ASA 400 film, this still allowed sufficient depth of field to keep the background discernible.

Thank the Gods

All my preparation would have come to naught had the racers sped past in a different arrangement. Exploding in the lead, we find a horse straining under the full pull of the turn. Everything works here! The horse’s magnificent head pops against a white tarp far behind; the body and darkest hooves articulate beautifully from the speckled surface of the track; the high key of the lead leg flashes from the dark shadow at the bottom of the scene. I love, too, the framing of the sulky, rider, and horse by the contrasting white and black wheels.

It takes more than one horse to make a race, however, and we see, wonderfully, the competition strung out behind. Unlike the lead, separate from the pack, these two overlap in competitive struggle.

We can see all this detail in the print. In the moment when the photograph was taken, however, none of this beautiful artistry was apparent. It all happened too quickly! I take credit for good framing, correct exposure, sharp focus, and a steady tripod. I thank the gods, however, for that wonderful lead horse! I set the stage, but forces far beyond me, with seeming magic, arranged the players.

The Trip Home

The ride home from the Tunbridge Fair is always special. There’s a calm in the sweet fall air; my heart and mind are filled with wonderful moments and memories. This fair I have just departed is just one in a rich tapestry of fairs going back decades, that flood my thoughts. I find myself remembering neighbors and loved ones now grown and gone, many now forever departed from these precious days and seasons we have here for such a brief time.

Making my way home one evening, I spied a hay tedder by the side of the road. On another day, perhaps, it would have simply been a piece of farm machinery at rest. On this evening, however, with the sounds and sights of many fairs echoing within, I saw that tedder in new light.

I thought of all the farmers I’ve known, and countless others before them, who’ve quieted their equipment for a few days each September to head over the hill to Tunbridge for the World’s Fair. I could see them with their families, perhaps a few prized vegetables for Floral Hall, a goat, some chickens in tow.

That tedder suddenly seemed to come to life. It became a fair ride, a tilt-a-whirl in my mind, spinning all that rich history.

Perhaps, you will sense here some of the movement, the distant echo, and remembered faces from the Tunbridge World’s Fair. This time of year, within me, they rise and fall and turn again.

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2015/11/photographing-the-thrill-of-the-tunbridge-world-s-fair Thu, 17 Sep 2015 14:30:00 GMT
A Wild Ride Seen Through a Lens http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2015/11/a-wild-ride-seen-through-a-lens A man takes an incredible spill during the 1995 Great Cycle in Randolph. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

In the 1990s, Randolph was home to several annual mountain bike races. These were extremely popular and attracted enthusiasts from all over. For two or three years the Green Mountain Stock Farm hosted the event.

A long summer weekend was given over to field camping, evenings of rock music, and rigorous biking on woodland trails throughout the day.

In July 1995, we ran this photograph as the key image in a fullpage layout on the first page of The Herald’s second section.

What’s Going On

How does this image read for you? I find it initially confusing. What is really going on here? It is such a dark scene; save for a couple splashes of white, a study in grays and black.

Then we see the bike and the rider, but everything is mixed up. In bright white we see wheel spokes, a shirt, and a band across the helmet. One foot and hand are planted on the ground. There is the blur of a hand and arm. A leg rises in the back.

The front wheel looks a mess. The bike seat is aimed like an arrow down into the mud, while the rear wheel rises straight up, its verticality emphasized by the tree trunk at the back.

The Great Cycle

A bicycle’s progress is comprised of many hundreds and thousands of revolutions. As the legs pump, the crank turns repeatedly, and the wheels, in turn, spin and spin, laying their circumference repeatedly to the ground as the entire enterprise, bike and rider, surges forward.

Here, we witness the greatest and most spectacular cycle of all. Wheels stilled from turning, the crankshaft too, we find the whole kit and caboodle cycling! Rider and bike are arcing now, airborne in one great revolution.

This is a spectacular moment, and an alarming shot, for we cannot help but imagine the next moment, and then the next, as this fellow continues to spin out of control toward an inevitable end. We anticipate that end as we come to understand what is happening here. And it isn’t pretty.

“Look out! Tuck your chin,” we want to shout, as this poor soul tumbles toward us.

In The End

Covered in mud, Beth Whalen flashes a smile. (Herald File / Bob Eddy) I wish I could tell you this fellow’s name, but it’s probably best that I can’t, for he was up and off, back into the race an instant after this image was taken. At the end of the day he was lost in the crush of the crowd.

So, as difficult as this image is to view, it all turned out fine.

In the layout for the paper, this was by far the largest photograph. It provided the adrenalin— the visual kick to put the reader in the moment.

The happy ending was found in another series of four images which ended in the spectacular smile on Beth Whalen’s face you see here.

She, who taught French at RUHS, also took a spectacular header, which I captured in a quick burst of three shots. Her smile was the perfect coda to the layout.

Is It Luck?

I am often asked how I was able to get a particular photograph. This is one of those images.

On the day before the race, I rode the course, scouting locations. At this spot I came over the brow of a hill to find a quick drop to a rain-soaked, boggy trail. I almost went over myself. Perfect.

On race day I placed myself at the bottom of the gully, a bit further down the trail, and waited. Quite frankly, I was amazed by the agility with which most riders finessed this pitfall. No one was hurt. I did get some spectacular images, however!

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2015/11/a-wild-ride-seen-through-a-lens Thu, 20 Aug 2015 14:15:00 GMT
Sanders Is Running http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2015/5/sanders-is-running Then-Congressman Bernie Sanders writes a speech under the shade of a tree at the Randolph Rest Area during a brief stop on the campaign trail in the early 1990s. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

Announcing his candidacy for the Presidency this week, Bernie Sanders has entered a contest few think he has a chance of winning.

This isn’t the first time.

His 1981 Burlington mayoral victory, by just 10 votes, was dubbed “a fluke” by local press. The Board of Aldermen, in meetings described as “a circus,” refused to seat his appointees.

By the following year, however, the obstructionists were gone, and Pulitzer prize-winning Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau was popularizing socialist Sanders as head of the “People’s Republic of Burlington.”

Four terms later, Bernie directed his attention to Vermont’s House seat in Washington. Running as an independent, he lost to Peter Smith in his first bid, but bested him by 15% in 1990.

In Washington, Sanders served eight terms as Representative before election to the Senate in 2006. In 2012, he won reëlection with 71% of the vote. He is the longest serving independent in U.S. congressional history.

A Chance Encounter

One pleasant afternoon in late August, 1992, I was headed to Burlington and stopped at the rest area just north of Randolph on Interstate 89. For many years this facility has been closed, but it was still in use at that time.

Climbing from my car, I spied Bernie Sanders lying on the grass under an apple tree, engrossed in writing. There were only two cars in the lot. We were alone there.

He was in the midst of his first campaign for reëlection to the House. Taking my cameras from the car, I approached him, introduced myself as a member of the press, and asked if I might take some photographs.

“Be my guest,” he said, pausing briefly from his work to explain that he was on his way to deliver a speech at the Labor Hall in Barre.

“I’m taking advantage of this wonderful day to put my thoughts to paper before I head up the road.”

For the next five or six minutes I moved around Sanders, taking photographs. I shot twelve frames, composing the scene as I proceeded. In the contacts of the shoot, you can see how the image developed throughout the session.

Big Feet

I began by shooting eight frames with horizontal, or landscape orientation of the camera. There is a simple explanation for this. Bernie Sanders is a big man. I wanted to get his entire body in the shot, and initially this seemed the best way to do it.

Folks meeting Sanders are often struck by his large size. I know I was that day. Working a crowd, he moves stoop-shouldered through the room, making himself smaller, down to the level of those he’s engaging. Uncoiled that afternoon on the grass, however, his legs seemed to stretch out forever. Added to this, he has big feet! I’d guess they may even be size 14. I know it sounds odd to be thinking about shoe size while photographing a U.S. congressman, but even now, almost a quarter century later, I remember having this internal conversation as I worked out the geometry of this Sanders portrait.

The first two frames are taken from near where I would finish the take. Bernie is there, the angle’s good, but the other elements in the frame, a piece of tree and fragment of building across the top, are confusing.

Moving to my right, I placed Sanders beneath the open sky in frames three and four. The tree in back helps the composition, but the trunk and picnic table to the right clutter the scene. I shoot here from a lower perspective, and will return to that vantage with success a bit later.

In frames five and six I come a bit closer. Still, the elements in the frame detract rather than add. It’s all rather a jumble.

In the following two shots, I return to my original composition. I intuitively know this is the angle I want, but it’s still not working.

Sanders is isolated against the mown grass in frames nine and ten. The breakthrough here is the switch from horizontal to vertical framing. Yes, I can fit him into the vertical view; no, this is not the photograph I’m seeking.

The Image Takes Shape

The composition really begins to coalesce in the next frame. Here, I’ve gone back to the landscape view. Additionally, however, I’ve taken that lowered perspective I mentioned earlier. This places Sanders’ recumbent torso along the horizon of the land. The view elevates him. As low as he is to the ground, I am still lower, shooting across and up to the congressman. Now we can feel the power and presence of this man. He lies not simply on the grass, but atop the earth.

Additionally, the building at the back is now adding to the image. The roofline echoes the angle of Sanders’ form, reinforcing and strengthening it. Bernie’s trade-mark dress shirt, open at the collar, and unruly mop of white hair pop against the dark tones of the wall behind. His frame lies proportionally well against the segmented spaces of the architecture. Note how his upper body is framed by the two vertical white stripes, while his legs have plenty of room to unfold against the lengthened side of the building.

The photograph is completed in the final frame. Here, by turning the camera back to vertical orientation, we retain the positive features of the previous frame, and add one critical element. The tree now arches above the entire scene.

This tree completes the portrait, leading our eye down and into the scene, to this lone individual gathering his thoughts in his quest to speak truth to power, to advance the hopes and dreams of all Americans, not just a privileged few.

Tell The People

Before parting that day, I thanked the congressman for his service and wished him well. Looking up from his notes he said, “Tell the people I write my own speeches. . . these thoughts are my own.”

From time immemorial the view of a person seated under the out-stretched branches of a tree has symbolized wisdom. Under this tree, artists have depicted sages and philosophers and saints for centuries.

Bernie Sanders is no saint; but then, there was a time when most thought he was no mayor, no congressman, and no senator. Now Bernie Sanders is running for president.

Oh, and he asked me to tell you, he writes his own speeches.

Here, in sequence from left to right, are the twelve frames taken of Bernie Sanders writing a speech in Randolph during his 1992 campaign for reëlection to the U.S. House of Representatives.

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) Bernie Sanders Vermont chance politicians portraits http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2015/5/sanders-is-running Thu, 28 May 2015 12:37:27 GMT
Yikes! Kids at Play http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2015/5/yikes-kids-at-play Frozen in time, a constellation of water drops is suspended in mid air as young Jason Benjamin splashes his sister while the two play in a mud puddle. This photo was published in The Herald in 1992. (Herald File / Bob Eddy) The year was 1992. Harriet Lavender called out to me from the front office at The Herald, saying two very cute children were playing in a puddle in front of the building. I grabbed a Nikon F with a motor drive and a 180mm lens and rushed outside.

The kids saw me coming and, thinking I was going to put a stop to the reverie, momentarily paused.

“I see you’re playing in the puddle,” I smiled.

They were twin sister and brother, Julie and Jason Benjamin, returning from school. My smile was all the encouragement they needed to back a few yards up the street and take a flying run at the now quite muddy puddle.

Julie came first. Having jumped in the water, she took a step forward and looked to me for approval.

I had no time to give it, for her brother, just behind her, had taken a mighty leap and was about to land. The camera, with motor drive pulling five frames a second through the magazine, whirred away as Jason spectacularly hit the muddy puddle.

This frame, chosen for publication on the front page, shows a very surprised Julie, dancing as best she can from the rising tide.

The Aftermath

Once the waters subsided, I became concerned for what the children’s foster mother, Roberta Soule, would say when they arrived home a few minutes later. I called ahead, explaining the situation as best I could. She wasn’t happy, but accepted my apology for allowing one last jump. Somewhat assured that the kids, who were after all just being kids, wouldn’t be severely punished, I went immediately into the darkroom to see what the film revealed.

An event like this transpires too quickly for the naked eye to discern detail. The camera, however, is able to freeze everything in time, exposing the film for just a fraction of a second. Harold Edgerton famously pioneered highspeed photography at MIT in the 20th century, in one memorable image capturing the impact of a milk drop in a pool of milk, a miniature crownlike shape rising beautifully from the surface. His work was accomplished with bursts of strobe lighting much faster than a mechanical shutter.

This image was taken without a strobe, but fast film and a bright sunny day will provide enough light to stop very quick movement, if the lens is opened wide and the shutter speed is set on a 500th of a second or faster. I think this image was shot at a 1000th of a second.

The finished photograph reveals what couldn’t possibly be seen as the event took place. Thousands of water droplets, some as fine as mist, are suspended in the air all around a surprised young girl and her enthusiastic brother.

What Works Here?

This image’s dynamism derives from its content and composition.

I couldn’t have arranged the scene better. The puddle fills the bottom half of the frame, pebbles in crisp focus surrounding the edge of the water. Street pavement stretches out above and to the back of the view. The shallow depth of field blurs this background.

The stage is set. To this puddle and background add a boy and a girl. Afternoon light falls upon their shoulders, coming toward the lens from above and behind, to the left.

To these elements add thousands of water droplets, all in crisp focus, flying from the crazy cacophony of the rising splash of muddy water, around the downward plunging boy and his upward springing sister.

The elliptical curves of tire tracks swing into the frame behind the children, leading our eye from the puddle up to their faces, his determinedly looking down into the chaos he is creating, hers up and away, filled with surprise, disbelief.

One Final Ingredient

To all this, add the book bag hanging from the young girl’s arm. Amazingly, it echoes the whole story of the photograph. We see a boy and a girl who look remarkably like the twins. In the space above them hangs a thought bubble. They are smiling and thinking of something together. Perhaps they are thinking about jumping in a puddle on the way home from school. The school element is found in the ABC lettering on the bottom of the bag. That lettering is placed atop the fine spray of black dots, uncannily like the puddle spray flying everywhere in the image.

Finally, the loose strap of the book bag visually connects with the puddle, and the curved top of the bag reinforces, in the foreground, those arcs of wet tire track swinging around at the back.

While this is my photograph, I can’t take credit for the presence of that book bag at the heart of the image. Here, at the center, it completes this photograph of two children in one brief spectacular moment of play.

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) fast film kids shutter speed splash splish telephoto http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2015/5/yikes-kids-at-play Thu, 30 Apr 2015 14:15:00 GMT
Stumbling Upon Roadside Art in Braintree http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2015/3/stumbling-upon-roadside-art-in-braintree The hulking metal of the Braintree road crew’s snowplows made for a ready-made work of art inside the photographer’s lens. (Herald File / Bob Eddy) Driving about Vermont, we have all seen large pieces of agricultural or road working equipment sitting by the side of the road or in the corner of a field. Usually, in passing we unconsciously associate and name these machines at rest by their working function. We see a tedder, a tractor, a combine, a plow, a grader, a truck.

Have you ever seen a piece of old machinery parked or mothballed at the edge of a field and thought it beautiful? Perhaps it was an old hay rake, its many curved and rusting tines casting sharp shadows upon snow.

I’ve seen pieces of ancient machinery placed in gardens; large wooden-spoked wagon wheels, their rusting iron rims, an old horse-pulled plow. Are these pieces still machinery when they’ve been repurposed as sculpture? Has a scythe ceased to be a scythe, when its blade is removed and welded to wrenches and coal chisels to fabricate the form of a bird?

This is playful philosophical inquiry as old as Plato’s contemplation of a chair. Is there an ideal form of “chair” from which all chairs are derived? If a chair is too fragile to be sat upon, is it still a chair? If, instead of being used at the dining table, it is painted funky colors and placed in the garden as a makeshift artsy trellis for cucumber vines, has it ceased being a chair? What constitutes “chairness?” Is it form or function, or perhaps both? Marcel Duchamp revolutionized art at the beginning of the last century by taking common utilitarian objects, separating them from their function, placing them on pedestals and proclaiming them art. Some of his “ready-mades,” as he called them, were a repurposed bottle rack, a bicycle wheel, and a urinal.

Is It Art?

One summer day many years ago, traveling north on Route 12A, my attention was grabbed by the scene photographed here. Three large plows had been lined up next to a light blue metal building.

I doubt the Braintree town crew was thinking about an “artistic arrangement” as they dropped these plows from their trucks around Town Meeting Day, storing them until needed for the next snowstorm, two weeks or seven months away. Passing by in July, however, they seemed less like plows than massive sculptural forms, and my intent was to convey that sense of them in this image.

Perhaps, when you first look at this photograph you immediately see three plows. If, however, you see only plows, then the image falls short of my hope for it.

Like Duchamp, with this image I have embraced these not simply as plows stored for summer, but as a “ready-made” sculpture.

My photograph seeks to separate the forms from recognizable background elements. There are no trucks, no workmen. The metal siding disappears into whiteness behind, and I have dodged the foreground to keep the graveled drive from becoming too dominant.

Separated now from their surrounding environment, we see the repeated shape of a plow. A wideangle lens dramatizes the increase in size as the plows get nearer. Do you sense movement from left to right? Likely this is because we have experienced plows passing in the street. Our memory is of them coming closer, increasing in size and sound, and then they are gone. The artist, Arthur Dove, painted large round abstract shapes to convey the sense of a foghorn sounding in the night. These shapes describe, abstractly, the increasing sound of an approaching plow. Are these three plows, or one plow breaking into the space three times as it moves, much like Duchamp’s overlapping cubist forms in “Nude Descending a Staircase?”

Have I succeeded in conveying the sense of these plows as sculpture? Well, that is for you to decide. Art, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder.

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) Braintree Vermont readymade sculpture snow plows http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2015/3/stumbling-upon-roadside-art-in-braintree Thu, 05 Mar 2015 16:00:00 GMT
In the Truck’s Jaws: Two Angles, One Shot http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2015/1/in-the-truck-s-jaws-two-angles-one-shot Bruce Cameron works on his old International Harvester truck at the corner of Pleasant Street and Randolph Avenue. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

Some scenes can be photographed well from a variety of locations; others demand a particular angle and lens.

In the early 1990s I chanced upon Bruce Cameron working on his truck in the driveway of the garage that used to stand next to the old Patch’s Photography Studio at the corner of Randolph Avenue and Merchants Row.

Probably a commercial garage as late as the 1950s, the building was owned by Laura Wedgwood, who kept her vintage car in one bay. Cameron stored equipment for his tree surgery business in the other.

It was a gray, rainy day; I remember this now as I see evidence of blurring from a raindrop on the camera’s lens in examining the prints. Bruce Cameron was up under the hood of his International alongside the large clapboarded exterior wall of Patch’s studio.

I judged the situation interesting as soon as I spied the mechanic under the hood. It seemed he was being devoured! Adding to the composition of the view was its pared-down, set-like appearance, the backdrop limited to grey wall.

The Angles Matter The same photo as a vertical image is convincing in its own right, but lacks the power of the horizontal. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

In deciding to record a moment like this with my camera, I very often begin shooting from a slight distance, with a normal or moderate telephoto lens.

When the subject is occupied, as Cameron is here, I don’t ask permission or announce my presence, I just begin quietly gathering preliminary shots.

Here I began on the outside, viewing the scene from various angles, slowly moving closer as I worked. Having the truck in three-quarter perspective seemed right as it gave the International more physical presence. The grill and headlamps possess a pronounced facial quality, animating the truck, reinforcing my sense of it as a creature seeking to make Bruce Cameron its next meal!

Previewing the Image

With digital photography, it’s common to see shooters checking their work on the back of the camera as they work with a subject. This constant visual previewing is frowned upon by many who began photography with film. It’s called “chimping,” suggesting that even a monkey could get a decent image this way.

I use “all the tools in the box,” however, and also chimp from time to time; it’s one way digital technology has made good imaging much easier.

In the time before such previewing was possible, we did much the same thing by carefully analyzing the scene in the view finder. By “stopping down” the lens during this process it’s possible to view the scene as it will appear in print form.

The finished photograph will transform the three dimensional reality before you into a two dimensional artifact of the event. Whether you do it in the viewfinder, or actually examine your material on the camera back, this pre-visualization is essential.

Two Takes on One Reality

I knew at the outset this photograph’s impact would depend upon limiting the non-essential information. Accordingly, I was determined to have nothing but that barren clapboard surface filling the background. Beginning at some distance, it was necessary to frame the image vertically to isolate the truck in this way; a horizontal framing included unwanted information.

There is some merit in the vertical framing of this scene. The vast expanse of clapboard, parallel lines sloping down in the same direction as Cameron’s body and the truck’s hood is almost surreal. The truck’s immense size dwarfs Cameron, his body scarcely bigger than a single wheel.

The visual interest of this scene increases exponentially as we move in closer, however. There is no question the horizontal, wide-angle framing is the preferred perspective. This is the photograph we published in the Herald.

This proximity allows us to push Cameron further to the extreme right of the frame, emphasizing the sense I had of his moving down into “the belly of the beast.” His arms, pulled back under his torso in the first shot, are now fully extended down into the bowels of the engine compartment, further emphasizing the drama. Gone are the truck’s wheels and the clear glass of the windshield. We’re left with only the dark shadowed mass into which Cameron is disappearing.

Movement

The new perspective also dramatically increases the movement of the clapboards. In the vertical view they’re horizontal at the ground, tilting slightly to the right at the top of the frame. The edges are almost parallel throughout.

What a difference the wide-angle perspective brings! Now they radiate up from the bottom and sharply down from the top of the scene, moving toward a disappearing point somewhere to the right of our field of view. All the movement, through changing angles and diminishing size is down and to the right, down into the open maw of the truck.

I began by photographing an intriguing scene on the back streets of Randolph on a rainy day in the 1990s. In the end, we have an image that could easily be a studio still from a film adaptation of a Stephen King novel.

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) Vermont film mechanics trucks http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2015/1/in-the-truck-s-jaws-two-angles-one-shot Thu, 08 Jan 2015 14:37:39 GMT
Paper Candles and The Spirit of Christmas http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2014/12/paper-candles-and-the-spirit-of-christmas ‘GOD JUL!’ This St. Lucia procession was photographed twenty years ago, on December 13, 1994. For second and third grade students of Jane Terry the celebration was the culmination of several weeks’ study with help from RUHS student, Justin Gregg, who spent the previous year as an exchange student in Sweden. From her home in Delaware, Jane Terry remembered this week, “We learned the song children always sing on that morning, while it is still dark, as they take coffee and cookies to their parents.” Pictured (from left) are Brooke Locke, Tasha Olmstead, Eden Sutherin, Emma Zavez, Kristina Richburg, and Tom Pinello. Justin Gregg, now makes his home with his wife and daughter in Helmond, The Netherlands. “God Jul!” is Swedish for “Merry Christmas!” Happy Holidays to one and all! (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

Imagine you are attending a spring recital for a dance studio. The curtain lifts, and there on the stage among 20 improbable ballerinas trying to remember foot positions, one child moves with unmistakable grace. She’s not the one you’re holding the rose in your lap for, but you cannot take your eyes off her.

Or, perhaps community singers are presenting their annual holiday concert. Sixty people fill the scene, but one stands out. Perhaps it’s the exuberant lad with a clear high voice, or maybe it’s that gracefully aging alto, graying hair perfectly framing her bright, intelligent face.

Someone stands out, making the moment memorable.

The Assignment

This was the experience I had decades ago, when sent to the East Randolph School to photograph a celebration of Christmas from around the world. One class, representing a Scandinavian Christmas, processed through the halls dressed in white, with crowns of candles fashioned from construction paper upon their heads.

I had a telephoto lens on my camera as they approached, dropped to one knee, and took this photograph.

Lucia, an immensely popular saint in Nordic European countries, is celebrated yearly with a festival of lights during the deep darkness of winter. There is something beatific about a young maiden, dressed in simple white, a ribbon or two, Advent candles rising from an evergreen wreath atop her head.

The Garden Club of Randolph used to have a festive tea each year with a young teen dressed as St. Lucia amid the floral bouquets and plates of festive cookies and cakes. Many years I photographed the young “Lucia.” It was a beautiful event. Battery-operated candles in the wreath were a distraction, however; a technology out of keeping with the rustic simplicity of the traditional celebration.

I wouldn’t have thought Lucia could fare any better in an elementary school pageant. If someone said to me, “You’re going to a school to photograph children dressed up like Saint Lucia, with cardboard candles in their hair,” I can’t imagine being filled with anticipation. Who would expect an image like this from such an assignment?

Whence the Magic?

At the very first, I found this scene compelling because the children were singing a Swedish folk song as they walked along. Bless Jane Terry, their teacher! They were prepared in magical ways.

Every child is caught up in the simple majesty of the celebration; for this blessed moment they have forgotten they are students in East Randolph. Here we behold a procession right out of time immemorial! Each face is touched by the sweet perfection of this collective endeavor.

My telephoto lens pulls the children together. We feel not their individuality, but unity of purpose. The scene wouldn’t have been better if I had carefully arranged it in a studio.

The composition is unusual. Dividing the frame into two parts horizontally, we find the bottom half predominately shades of white, save a few buttons, a paper St. Lucia, a ribbon, and the subtle shading of some tatting on a frock collar. The arms of the children fall gracefully to their sides or, in the case of the girl to center right, open slightly, in a posture almost welcoming, to hold a beautiful tray of cookies.

Faces of children fill the upper half of the composition. Their hair and candle crowns are so wonderfully arranged! All their mouths are open together in song.

There is no way for us to hear them now—their voices have long since lowered to adult timbre, and even the hallway they walk in has not been a school for years! Yet, take another look. . . Listen. Can’t you hear sweet voices rising in song above the shuffling of feet?

The last bit of compositional note are the candles, scores of them rising from the heads of the children, rising up and out of the frame. Their light color, mixing with diffused winter light from windows at the back, echoes the whiteness of the clothing below. There is a lifting here, a movement up and away, like the winged rush of doves. Mystery and wonder, fashioned from bits of paper and glue by the young children greeting us.

Face Of Christmas

As Christmas approaches each year, I remember ths morning when I fell to one knee before a procession of children in East Randolph. I lowered myself to get a better camera angle but, once there, I felt the presence of improbable majesty. This simple pageant invoked something infinite and holy in that school hallway.

In the end, we are left with the face of that one girl to the right of center. Her head slightly tipped, eyes gazing into our own, she offers simple gifts, and seems to be asking, eternally asking, “Will you join us for Christmas?”

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photo@ourherald.com (The Herald) Christmas Lucia Saint Vermont holidays kids parades telephoto http://photo.ourherald.com/blog/2014/12/paper-candles-and-the-spirit-of-christmas Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:43:36 GMT