The Herald: Blog en-us (C) The Herald [email protected] (The Herald) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:11:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:11:00 GMT The Herald: Blog 120 120 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!

[email protected] (The Herald) Thu, 29 Dec 2016 14:00:00 GMT
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.


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.

[email protected] (The Herald) Thu, 17 Nov 2016 21:00:00 GMT
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.

[email protected] (The Herald) Thu, 08 Sep 2016 20:15:00 GMT
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.

[email protected] (The Herald) Thu, 19 May 2016 12:30:00 GMT
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.

[email protected] (The Herald) Thu, 14 Apr 2016 12:30:00 GMT
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.

[email protected] (The Herald) Vermont and angles arts ballet black dancers theater white youth Thu, 17 Mar 2016 12:30:00 GMT
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?

[email protected] (The Herald) Thu, 18 Feb 2016 13:15:00 GMT
Vermont: A Flatlander's 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.


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.

[email protected] (The Herald) Thu, 21 Jan 2016 16:18:13 GMT
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.

[email protected] (The Herald) black & white children hockey kids winter Thu, 31 Dec 2015 05:00:00 GMT
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!

[email protected] (The Herald) Cassidy Christmas Herald Nancy artists black & white drawings holidays Thu, 24 Dec 2015 05:00:00 GMT
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.

[email protected] (The Herald) black & white candles children hands lighting Thu, 03 Dec 2015 16:45:00 GMT
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.


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.

[email protected] (The Herald) France Paris black & white children film mothers parents Thu, 19 Nov 2015 16:30:00 GMT
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.

[email protected] (The Herald) Thu, 29 Oct 2015 14:30:00 GMT
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.

[email protected] (The Herald) Thu, 17 Sep 2015 14:30:00 GMT
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!

[email protected] (The Herald) Thu, 20 Aug 2015 14:15:00 GMT
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.

[email protected] (The Herald) Bernie Sanders Vermont chance politicians portraits Thu, 28 May 2015 12:37:27 GMT
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.

[email protected] (The Herald) fast film kids shutter speed splash splish telephoto Thu, 30 Apr 2015 14:15:00 GMT
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.

[email protected] (The Herald) Braintree Vermont readymade sculpture snow plows Thu, 05 Mar 2015 16:00:00 GMT
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.


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.

[email protected] (The Herald) Vermont film mechanics trucks Thu, 08 Jan 2015 14:37:39 GMT
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?”

[email protected] (The Herald) Christmas Lucia Saint Vermont holidays kids parades telephoto Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:43:36 GMT
Geometry of Grace: The Heart of Victor Barreda This photograph accompanied an article about Victor Barreda in October, 1988. The caption read, "Barreda takes time to chat on the stairs of the school with Chris Shaw, left, and Jamie Laprade." (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

The French photographer, Henri Cartier Bresson, believed enduring images are rooted in strong geometry. Good photography needs no explanation.

In this image, there are three people. On what are they sitting? Imagine, for a moment, the scene with the people removed. We’re left with a series of bright stripes of light coming from above, flaring into the lens from repeating horizontal surfaces.

Ah, now we understand. These are stairs descending toward us. How do we discern this? The stripes thicken slightly and the treads broaden as the stairs approach, disclosing more of their surface to our eye.

Now, let’s consider the people.


They compose a triangle standing on one point and tipping to the right. The person at the top is leaning, twisting, and looking down to the right, reinforcing the dynamic tipping quality. We see both eyes and, following his gaze, are brought down to the next person in the triad: a girl.

She has continued the twisting initiated by the figure above, and is turned fully around. We view her from the side, her body tightly tucked, creating another triangle. Her face is turned upward toward the first figure, but our eye continues down to the left, following the angle of her arm and leg, through the bright splash of light, to the third figure.

A boy? Probably, but we can only assume this, as his body has continued in the rotation of forms and he is turned fully away from us, looking up to the person at the top of our scene. The cycle is completed.

At the end, we are left beholding again the person at the top. He is older than the other two. He is elevated. The children look up to him, into the direction of the light, spilling over him.

From the geometry of the photograph we surmise this man is looked to for counsel, and is prepared to give it. As he speaks the children are rapt in listening. Perhaps he is a teacher.

We know, as yet, none of the story, but perceive all of this, almost in an instant, when we look at this image.

A Remarkable Man

The man in this photograph is Victor Barreda. My assignment was to take his portrait at Randolph Elementary School, where he was the custodian. I didn’t know anything more than this when I was sent out to take his portrait. What kind of custodian, we find ourselves asking in view of this photograph, is this?

Victor Barreda was born in Peru, the youngest child in a family owning an hacienda more than 17,000 acres in size. Before coming to Vermont, he had been the personnel manager for a coppermining company employing 2,200, director of an anthropology field research station, and a professional soccer player.

Louise Sulitan, a North American anthropology student, and Barreda were wed in 1973. Together they raised their family of three boys, Greg, Mark, and David, on the family’s hacienda until 1980, when a new government made a move necessary. The Barredas came to Vermont.

South American university degrees meant little to North American employers and, while Louise was eventually able to find a job teaching in South Royalton, that option and many others were closed to Victor. Undaunted, he found work where he could, beginning as a janitor in South Royalton, advancing to become supervisor of Randolph’s elementary school properties a few years later.

Beth Ingpen tells this story beautifully in her 1988 Herald account. This great man, overcoming difficulties that might have crushed another, had found Vermont a fruitful place to raise his family of sons, piecing together a new farm of 110 acres in Tunbridge and finding honest, meaningful work to supplement his farming income.

The Portrait

As I entered the school that October day, Principal Steve Metcalf took me aside for a quick briefing.

“Victor,” he explained, “is much more than a building supervisor here. His gifts extend far beyond maintenance. He’s an important member of our staff.”

Though Victor could handle a mop, his greatness showed in his relationships with people. He was a wise, compassionate soul; Metcalf wanted me to capture this in my portrait.

Walking through the school, we found Victor speaking with students downstairs outside the old gym and cafeteria. Classes were changing and the hallway was buzzing with activity. Metcalf asked the two children if they would like to be in a Herald photograph, assuring them he’d speak to their teachers.

They were thrilled to be able to continue their talk. Victor was in the middle of a story. The hallway emptied and, knowing they had a bit more time, they moved to the stairs as I busied myself readying a Nikon FM2. Intently involved in the story, they unconsciously and naturally gave me my photograph. Angling the lens to minimize the flaring from the bright morning sun you see in the upper right corner, I began shooting. This was perhaps my third image. Hearing the camera, they turned, as if asking for direction. They didn’t receive any. I had my portrait.

Things Change

Randolph’s Main Street grade school building where I took this photograph was torn down in August 2003. A few months later, Victor Barreda died tragically in an automobile accident. Steve Metcalf, also far too young, has passed away.

I feel the coolness of that lower hallway, remember my conversation with Steve Metcalf, and am struck by Victor Barreda’s extraordinary humanity every time I come across this photograph.

[email protected] (The Herald) Victor Barreda film heart mentors people Thu, 16 Oct 2014 13:45:00 GMT
Whales Tails: Remembering Randolph’s Unlikely Totem A circle of kids run around the famous "whales tails" during a Bethany Church tag sale in this 1991 photo. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

A circle of kids run around the famous "whales tails" during a Bethany Church tag sale in this 1991 photo. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)


In the late 1980s, Jim Sardonis sculpted a pair of whale flukes and placed them on the hillside just below I-89’s Exit 4. Fashioned from fiberglass, they would have been a joke. However, at more than twelve feet in height, they were sculpted from black African granite. Caught in mid-dive, two great whales are about to disappear below the Green Mountains that were rolling like waves out to the distant horizon.

The sculpture is remarkable on several levels. The two flukes in the midst of a graceful “pas de deux” are breathtaking. Approaching on foot, you are enthralled by their mass and weight, soaring above like plinths at Stonehenge. At the same time, you also sense the great leviathans’ bodies below you, sliding into the darkness. We are powerfully reminded of the inland sea that covered Vermont before the last ice age.

Sardonis entitled the work, “Reverence,” though it quickly assumed the popular name, “Whales’ Tails” and caught people’s less-than-reverent imaginations.

A Herald cartoonist playfully lampooned the piece with an imagined sculpture of two cow’s haunches raised into the air on the coast of Maine. On another occasion, a group calling itself, ‘The Holstein Liberation Front,’ erected on the roadside near the sculpture a caution sign with two flukes and the words, “Whale Crossing.”

A Decisive Moment

On a Saturday in 1991, Randolph’s Bethany Church hosted a tag sale in the field next to the Whales’ Tails where the golf range is now located. The atmosphere was festive. It was bedlam, with volunteers, shoppers, and young people everywhere!

As the afternoon lengthened, a clutch of children climbed over the wall and began playing tag in and around the Whales’ Tails. The sky was clouded, the light wonderful. I sensed a possible photograph.

Kids were running this way and that. But then, as if responding to some unseen cue, they formed a circle, dancing around the sculpture, becoming a singular twisting, turning, spinning wheel of celebration. I felt a rush of energy in the air, and took this photograph.

A year or so after we published this image in The Herald, I received a call from developers of the McDonald’s restaurant across the road from the sculpture. Could I provide them with a large color photograph of the Whales Tails for their dining room wall?

Diners’ Treat

I proposed not one photograph, but many. Their McDonald’s could be a gateway to the people and places of central Vermont. I longed for folks stopping here to catch a glimpse of the magical aspect of life in that valley below and over those hills in the distance. We selected more than twenty images.

Here they saw the Larkin dancers at the Tunbridge World’s Fair, Randolph children arriving for the first day of school, young people waiting backstage for a dance recital at Chandler, a snow-frosted sled on a porch in Brookfield, a young boy proudly sitting next to a catfish as big as himself, that he’d just landed. And in the middle of those images and others was a large print of these young people dancing around the Whales’ Tails.

The restaurant has been there more than 20 years now, remodeled twice. Many of the photographs still remain. I wish I could say as much for Jim Sardonis’s sculpture.

The work was originally financed by David Threlkeld, an investor with homes in Brookfield and Manhattan. He owned the land, liked Jim Sardonis’s work and decided “Reverence” would be a wonderful addition to the region. He was right. In just a few years it became a much celebrated part of our local life and lore.

Things change, however, and with a turn in the markets and other circumstances, Threlkeld divested himself of local properties and moved away.

Buyers of the acreage at Exit 4 weren’t interested in Sardonis’ work. The Whales’ Tails were sold and moved to a sculpture park next to the Interstate 60 miles north in Chittenden County. Moved! I was as dumbfounded as everyone else.

The new location pales by comparison to their site in Randolph. Here, they dove into miles of mountain waves. They soared against the sky on the crest of the hill. Now they’re corralled by Interstate fencing in a small field with corporate offices a few hundred yards behind. Most glimpse them as they speed by. Walking to them is possible, but the view is all highway to the north and south.


Have you ever seen great whales breach the cold waters of the North Atlantic?

It is awe-inspiring.

The title, “Reverence” was indeed appropriate; it’s just what one felt when approaching Sardonis’s work in Randolph.

Passing by in Burlington is more like watching the 2 o’clock show at Sea World. It might be fun, “Reverence” it is not.

With this photograph, we remember and celebrate a few splendid years when those leviathans breathtakingly dove into the heart of the Green Mountains.

[email protected] (The Herald) Vermont Whales Tails art black & White sculptures totems Thu, 04 Sep 2014 13:04:14 GMT
Considering Cows and Ourselves in the Vermont Landscape A trio of Holsteins graze in a Randolph pasture in this 1991 photo. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

Vermont’s love affair with cows is long lived. European settlers establishing our state in the 1700’s chose mountains, a large pine, some sheaves of grain, and a cow for the state seal.

The bovine’s firm place at the center of Vermont identity received an Andy Warholesque update by my Middlebury classmate Woody Jackson in the 1970s. Before “going viral” was possible, Ben and Jerry’s marketing took Jackson’s Holsteins global, reasserting the dairy cow as Vermont icon.

I have thousands of cow images in my archives. Not only have I covered most of the farms in the Herald readership area, through work with the Vermont Land Trust and the Cabot Cooperative Creamery, I have photographed scores of dairy farms in every Vermont county from Massachusetts to Canada.

Even with this extensive farm coverage, however, only a few images stand apart from “the herd.” The photograph we consider today is one.

The Quieted Eye

I absolutely love early morning for photography. The entire landscape seems to be awakening. The sun has yet to burn through the fine cloud of mist covering the valley like a shawl. You can sense this moist atmosphere in the lens. There is no breeze. All the world is hushed.

These three cows were photographed at Warren Davoll’s Randolph farm just before the first day of summer in 1991.

Take a few moments to look at this scene before reading further. Is this image pleasing to your eye? If so, what factors might contribute to this?

Some images shout, assaulting the viewer, but his photograph quiets my eye. For more than a decade it has hung above my desk at The Herald. It whispers, it beckons. As I consider it, remembering my walk in that field over two decades ago, I am calmed.

Compositional Balance

This is a balanced image. Dividing it into thirds, vertically, you’ll find one cow in each section. The scene is also divided by the landscape into thirds horizontally. The cows stand at the top of the bottom third, defined by the darkened foreground rising to the left, and the field, lightened by dandelions, arching off to the right behind them.

The middle third is comprised of that lush lacy-edged line of dark forest above that slice of field. Notice how its tone matches the foreground where they come to meet to the left of the cows, framing the lighter field and giving the animals a way down and out of the photograph to the right, the direction in which two are already headed.

The final horizontal third is comprised of two more layers of forest rising up and out of the frame. There is no horizon line here between earth and sky, only the successive horizons of vegetation layered upon vegetation receding up and out of view.

Tone and Focus

There is no mistaking it; this photograph is all about the cows. Standing amidst waves of landscape, they posses the greatest tonal contrast of the entire scene. In a sea of muted grays, their trademark black and white markings draw the eye’s attention.

Additionally, the telephoto lens is focused upon the trio, articulating them from the more diffuse background and foreground elements.

The Overall View

Perhaps the most stunning element of this image is one that is easy to overlook. Save the field, there are no signs of human presence here. In my twenty-five years I can’t remember another farm shot where elements of farming are so completely absent! Gone are the fences and stone walls; gone are the telephone poles in the distance, the tractor, the hay bales, the farmer.

It’s really quite remarkable that not so much as a furrow marks this sylvan landscape. There is no silo or rooftop to be seen!

In The Beginning

Here we see cows in a setting remarkably similar to that dramatic first vista of the dinosaurs in the movie “Jurassic Park.” These are cows as we might have glimpsed them in their natural setting, centuries before domestication began.

These are oddly beautiful creatures. One feeds, oblivious of the camera; one strides languidly through the lush morning air; and one, quite dispassionately views us viewing her.

Here we begin to sense how these magnificent animals might have appeared before we farmed them. Now, perhaps we dimly behold their genetic forebears ranging the primeval savannah, gazing over at us sitting in trees, wondering what the future might hold.

[email protected] (The Herald) Holsteins Vermont cows farms pastures Thu, 07 Aug 2014 13:57:14 GMT
Wet White Paint—2 Different Applications In photography, sometimes the shift from 'ordinary' to 'visually compelling' is achieved by finding a fresh view of the subject. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

Summer is the season for exterior painting in Vermont. Several photographs of painters at work have graced ‘The Herald’ over the years, but two of mine bear such graphic similarity, they beg to be given a second look together.

Perhaps because these images were taken under wildly different circumstances, I never thought them similar. Seeing them together as I considered images for this column, however, I was struck by their remarkable likeness.

Fresh paint is not a news event. No one has ever come to me saying, “We need you to photograph a painter over on Main Street for this week’s paper.”

That said, there is something very appealing about seeing something get a new coat of paint. It’s a positive image; things are getting spiffed up, put to rights. A good photograph of a fresh coat of paint being applied; well, it’s not a brass band or a state championship, but it’s something to catch the eye and remind us the weather’s been pleasant on at least one day this past week.

Perhaps this is why I’ve taken many images of people painting over the years. Possibly, too, it explains why several of these images have ended up on the paper’s front page.

A Compelling View

A good photograph needs compelling graphic quality, especially if it’s black and white. Sometimes all that’s necessary is to view the subject from a fresh perspective.

In June, 1988, I spied a town worker applying paint to crosswalks in Depot Square. He was working at the head of Merchants Row. I knew if I was quick, I’d have a truly unique image. I couldn’t get out of my car fast enough.

This photograph was taken back when the entrance to the Rexall Drugstore was at the corner of the massive Dubois and Gay block, destroyed by fire in 1991. To the side of the Rexall entrance, facing the square, a wide concrete stairway permitted access to the upper stories of the block. There, between the store entrance and stairs, a tree had improbably grown through a crack in the pavement.

I’d always appreciated that delightful splash of bright green leaf in such unlikely surroundings. Hurrying by it and on up the stairs, I hoped I’d have an opportunity to incorporate it in my shot.

The barbershop and thrift store stood at the top of those stairs on the second level, but I was headed higher still, on up inside the building.

On the third floor was the old town gymnasium. It had fallen into disuse decades before and had come to be home of a racquetball court, implausibly erected right in the middle of the old basketball floor. Fortunately, I was a key carrying member for that court; that’s how I was able to get into the building so quickly.

I didn’t stop on the third floor, but pressed on and up to the top level, where mansard windows led out to a ledge running around the circumference of the building. Opening a window, I leaned out onto that ledge, and looked down on the town employee some forty feet below. There he was, beautifully framed by the leaves of the tree! I pulled out my Nikon F with a 180mm lens and trained it on the scene. Shooting almost straight down with this telephoto lens kept the grid-work of the fresh paint squared-up in my frame. As if on cue, but completely unaware of my presence high above, perhaps wondering how soon he could let traffic through, the workman stepped forward into the scene and reached out to see if the paint was dry.

Several aspects contribute to the success of this photograph. First and foremost is the perspective. Seeing this image on the page, the viewer is quickly brought up those stairs with me to this unusual vantage point. How often might one have the opportunity to view from this angle, a sidewalk being painted?

At first, the image is confusing. Then, however, the viewer is rewarded as the image discloses itself to the eye. This process of “decoding” a scene is something we have done since birth; we do it unconsciously. It’s the shift from simply ‘seeing’ to ‘understanding’ what is seen.

I take no credit for the fellow’s uniformly dark clothing, but it adds substantially to the bold graphic quality of the image.

Finally, the leaves of the tree cradle the whole scene, reminding us that we are gazing down on this worker from several stories up. They merge with the deep blacks of the shadow on dark pavement, and provide an excellent visual counterpoint to the measured precision of the white paint.

Uncanny Similarities

For many decades, Fred Streeter was a legendary RUHS ladies basketball coach. When school wasn’t in session, this teacher/coach would hire students from his squad and pay them handsomely as painters over the summer. He was a great coach and a phenomenal painter.

In August 1988, I spied Fred painting the building which houses the Randolph’s police station and historical society. He was standing high up on a ladder painting the broad white trim of the second floor windows.

This image has so much in common with that of the sidewalk painter we just considered. It’s shot with a long lens with the worker facing away from us, unaware of our presence. The elements of both scenes are squared-up in the lens. As in the first image, here, the worker is applying white paint, and in both scenes the white paint frames the painter as he works. Finally, both images are shot through the darkened leaves of a tree, creating an element of depth in the resulting photograph. The amorphous shapes of the dark leaf masses are very similar, providing strong tonal and design contrast with the linear white paint.

Painter Extraordinaire!

There is one huge difference between these two images. The town employee is standing on solid ground, unlike Fred Streeter, perched high on the penultimate rung of a ladder. We can be forgiven for not noting this obvious contrast, for Streeter looks quite comfortable. He looks so relaxed we almost forget he’s up in the air!

In fact, as I look at Fred painting in this photograph, now, nearly a quarter century later, I’m dumbfounded by the ease with which he is working up there, his lithe form arcing up across the photograph to the large brush loaded with fresh paint.

Like Fred in this image, I’m now in my sixties, and I make it a habit to avoid ladders altogether!

Take another look at him working there. Pressed up against the window, he can’t even turn his head up to see where the paint will be applied. Now, imagine him reloading the brush as he continues to paint ‘blind’ above his head.

Can you see him dipping that brush into the can down around his ankles? I think he did just that! I couldn’t have pulled that maneuver off when I was twenty, let alone today.

Fred died a few years back. Those who didn’t know him, can’t possibly see here that his left forearm and hand were withered from birth. This never seemed a handicap, however. He was a basketball star, growing up in Woodstock, Vermont, and married the prettiest gal in the class. He was a phenomenal coach.

And to this day I still can’t believe the ease with which he ascended the top of a ladder with a full bucket and a brush and worked without breaking a sweat laying down stroke after stroke of perfectly applied paint at an age when most of his friends were reading books from the comfort of an oversized armchair.

Though taken years later, this image shares remarkable similarities with the photograph to its left. Take a moment to see how many you can identify before reading the column. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

[email protected] (The Herald) Black and white Fred Streeter Tri-X comparisons film nikon paint painting telephoto white Fri, 18 Jul 2014 02:29:53 GMT
Seeing the Fourth in Randolph This photo of Randolph’s 1988 Independence Day Parade was the product of planning ahead and finding just the right perspective for the 300mm lens to do its magic. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

In the life of a small town some annual events require newspaper coverage every year. In Randolph, the Fourth of July parade is always on the photographer’s calendar.

After a decade, or certainly two, one would think there’d be nothing fresh to photograph on the Fourth, but this is far from true.

Each year I’m surprised by exuberant anticipation as I hear and feel the cadence of drums rumbling up the street with the approach of the RUHS marching band. The color guard passing by, riders high atop well-groomed horses, the grand marshal in the back of a huge convertible; it’s a panoply of sights and sounds that never tires for me.

I close my eyes and see the scouts, the ball teams riding on hay wagons, the kids from the Chandler musical, long lines of tractors and Corvettes, fire engines from every town, Dick Ellis with the South Royalton Town Band, Sam Sammis and the Three Stallion crew pitching tennis balls into the crowd as the Star Spangled Banner proudly sounds from the final float.

Then there are the spectators, very often the main event: little ones clutching prized balloons, seniors in lawn chairs pulled tight to the curb, teens running about like spring heifers just freed to the pasture after a long winter, generations of families spilling from porches out onto front lawns, all gathered to celebrate American Independence Day and the official beginning of Vermont’s shortest season.

The Vantage Point

Each year the question arises, where will I photograph the parade this time around? With rare exception, I’m drawn either to the stately promenade of Highland Avenue, where maples crown the procession, or the more open, wildly chaotic, gathering in Depot Square where the parade spills down from Hospital Hill like a river flowing onto an expansive delta, gathering energy from the crowd, rising in fevered pitch until the turn to the finish on School Street.

Some years I move between both locations, and more than once I’ve climbed up onto a float or fire truck, riding down into the square photographing onlookers as flags and music and shouts of joy filled the air.

In 1988 I had just purchased a Nikon 300mm lens and was anxious to make good use of it on the Fourth. The Chamber of Commerce had lifted a particularly fine banner above Main Street that year and from the right angle I hoped to include it at the top of my image.

Two days before the parade I visited apartments on the second floor above the old Union Block, which stood where Pleasant Street diverges from Main until it was destroyed by fire just three years later. There, above the Union Market, George Rye’s Barbershop, and the Sears Catalogue Store, several apartments were afforded an excellent view up toward the square.

As prearranged, on the morning of the parade I placed a Nikon camera firmly mounted on a tripod in an open apartment window focused on the then empty Depot Square. Wanting to have as much of the scene in focus as possible, I trained the lens pretty far up the street, taking care to slow the exposure speed and close down the aperture to maximize the depth of field.

This done, the stage was quite literally set. Now, all that was needed was for the actors to take their positions. I left the apartment and headed up the street to photograph the parade from the ground until that moment arrived.

Why This Image Works

About an hour later, when the parade was in full swing, I found my way back to the apartment and photographed the scene below. Depot Square was wild! Especially when viewed with the telescoping properties of the 300mm lens, the square seemed bursting with people. Indeed, I can’t think of another photograph of Main Street in Randolph as full of humanity as this.

I am astonished at the number of balloons which add immeasurably to the festive spirit. Close examination reveals they were provided by a vendor, a carpet store and an insurance company. We thank them all!

Also, on this weekend (when Vermont Castings would celebrate its remarkable success as co-founder Duncan Syme assembled the very last Defiant stove) the antique Yellowstone Park touring bus owned by Vermont Castings made an appearance in the parade. Here, with an unnamed passenger assuming the pose of figurehead, or explorer looking into the distance, that touring bus sweeps down the street, parting the crowd and providing a crucial anchoring element for the scene.

Apart from all the balloons and framing by the banner and the bus, there is another key reason for this image’s success. Stopping down the aperture, using only the heart of the lens, kept everything in sharp focus. We can read the license plate on the touring bus as well as the Stage Coach signs 300 yards in the distance.

Like a Bruegel painting of a village scene, this photograph is focused on no one thing, but upon the entire parade. In fact, the distinction between those parading and those watching is almost completely obscured.

This, then, is the Fourth of July. Here, as in the democracy we celebrate on this day, everyone, not just a selected few, is fully a participant in the experience.

[email protected] (The Herald) Black and white Fourth of July Independence Day Randolph Tri-X Vermont Yellowstone Yellowstone tour bus community film nikon parades telephoto tour bus Thu, 03 Jul 2014 17:44:00 GMT
No Longer Black & White; Still Read All Over Black & White…with a touch of red. Randolph Center artist Rachi Farrow takes her palette to the newly greening fields. She finds herself and her painting the object of curiosity among David Silloway’s Holsteins. This was the cutline as it read 20 years ago. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

The Herald’s March 14, 1994, issue was a landmark publication. For well over a century, the paper had been printed in Randolph. Twenty years ago this month that changed; we began printing on the much larger web press at The Valley News.

There were consequences. Dick Huggard and Bruce Dickinson, our two excellent pressmen were laid off, our printing press went to South America, and the Weston Street press building was sold to the White River Craft Center.

The shift was necessary because our press was just too small to compete with larger operations.

That March issue was the first printed on the Valley News presses. The Herald’s look changed overnight. The pages were a column narrower, but that shift was small compared to the first use of a full-color photograph in the publication’s history.

Color offset printing requires the use of a separate press unit for each of the three colors (magenta, yellow, and cyan) and a fourth for the black plate, all printing on the same sheet. The Herald’s press was too small to print full color.

A Long Time Coming

This was a historic moment. I wanted the image to be worthy of the occasion.

Contemplating this image, an old riddle came to mind, “What’s black and white and read all over?” The answer is, of course, “a newspaper.” The humor depends, of course, on the speaking of it.

For The Herald’s first color photograph, I elected to create a visual parody of that classic riddle.

In Vermont, the expression “black and white” commonly references the herds of Holstein cows dotting the landscape. I could think of no better visual color pun than to have an artist painting a black and white cow red!

Finding a Holstein was easy, but who would be free-spirited enough to be pictured applying red paint to a cow?

Fortunately, Rachi Farrow, a Randolph Center artist with a great sense of humor, came immediately to mind. For decades she has been drawn to the incorporation of vibrant color in her work.

I was confident she would carry the day.

The Image

All of this is a preamble to the experience Rachi and I had that early spring day twenty years ago with David Silloway’s Holsteins in a Randolph Center field. My requisite ingredients for the shot were few: Farrow wielding a paintbrush with red paint, one of her hyper-colored abstracts on an easel, and an unmistakable Vermont farm field with rock and maple and spring grass.

Now, cue the cows.

And it really was just about that simple. Once Farrow had set up her “studio in the field,” the ladies came over to take a look. The image was fully composed, the afternoon light metered, my camera mounted on a tripod, before the first cow walked into view. Brilliantly playing the role of a landscape artist interrupted in her work, Farrow turned to the inquisitive first-comer with her brush, and we were done.

Visual References

This photograph works on several levels. The pun is a clever opening, but the image takes us further. First, while I’d helped choose the painting for the easel, I was stunned upon seeing Farrow’s Johnson Woolen Mill jacket. The black and red checkerboard pattern overlaps and resonates perfectly with the pattern in the art and underscores the “red” on the brush against the black of the cow at the back.

Vermont is a beautiful state, and it’s not unusual to see painters set-up and working by the roadside. This photograph takes a playful poke at that bucolic scene, placing a riotously colorful abstract where one might expect to see a landscape painting. The massive scale of the piece also adds to the farce; a work of this size and complexity would never be executed far away from the studio in the middle of a cow pasture.

Finally, this image parodies an earlier landmark Vermont photograph. The inaugural issue of Vermont Life magazine in 1947 also featured a cover image of a woman artist with palette and brush in a natural Vermont setting. Both cover shots are also highly metaphorical. Similarities to my Herald image end there, however.

The Vermont Life image drew upon classical mythological themes. The woman, wearing a diaphanous gown, portrays the sylvan goddess of nature gracefully applying colors to Vermont’s autumn landscape.

In sharp contrast, my photograph smacks of Norman Rockwell in its composition. There is no refinement or subtlety here; Rachi Farrow brandishes her brush like a house painter!

For The Herald’s inaugural color issue, Farrow embodies the vibrant and playful personality of Shakespeare’s Puck. Her comic interaction and her amazing art are an invocation of spring and a new era at The Herald. This, the first color photograph in our paper’s long history, heralded many colorful times to come.

[email protected] (The Herald) Black and white Holsteins Rachi Farrow Tri-X Vermont artists black color cows film nikon read red white Thu, 22 May 2014 12:26:54 GMT
A Dress' Spring Dance This prom dress danced onto The Herald’s front page in April 1992 just as the last bit of snow melted into spring. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)


On Friday April 18, 1992, I was riding about Randolph Village looking for possible images. I love this kind of scouting; it’s very different from heading out with a specific objective. You never know what you’ll find! In a similar way, I enjoy visiting tag sales and antique shops just to see if anything catches my eye; it’s so different from shopping with a list.

I remember the weather being very grey and cold that day. It had been a long winter; snow was still in the woods, on north sloping fields, and behind barns. I was ready for spring; everyone was ready for spring.

On School Street that day I spied a prom dress hanging all by itself from the porch of a large aging Victorian home. The dress, a light lacey frock, called out, “photograph me!” as I saw it from the street. I’m speaking metaphorically, of course, but the dress really did cry out to me. This very often happens to me when a vital photographic subject comes into view. Driving or walking past undistinguished scenery, suddenly, something presents itself seemingly out of nowhere.


If you, too, occasionally experience things in the landscape crying out for your attention, be sure to view them from many perspectives. A danger in these moments is assuming your first view is the best view. It rarely is. Walk around the scene. More often than not the telling image is very far from the first viewpoint.

I began my imaging of this scene from the road using a telephoto lens. I will very often establish the shot with these first few frames, knowing that the photograph is yet to unfold.

Fortunately, Lisa Adams was home. The dress, she explained had just been washed and, once dry, would be taken to The Thomas Store where a rack of used prom dresses awaited enthusiastic teens, primping on a budget for the big spring dance.

Given permission to photograph from the porch, I switched my telephoto for a 24mm lens and slowly moved around the scene seeking an angle where everything came together compositionally.

Framing the Image

In this resulting image, the dress is framed by the aging but very proud white porch posts and cornice detailing, contrasted by the darker Victorian windows to the back. Several details in this photograph add significantly to the composition. Note the lace curtains in the lower window, echoing the dress.

The small square of sky showing through the upper window is compositionally important. It gives us a real sense of the interior space, and energizes the image in the same way a moon over a ridge imparts life and interest to the landscape. Put your finger over that small square of white in the black interior; energy falls away from the scene.

Note the last small patch of snow at the bottom of the frame. This says “winter,” but the dress sings “spring!” Soon this barren landscape will burst with color. Right now, though, we are left with straw and wintered grass reaching all the way back to the train embankment at the left.

This view evokes memories for me of several Edward Hopper paintings. Perhaps you, too, will be reminded of Andrew Wyeth’s, “Christina’s World.” The house and dress pull us into our vast collective memory of art, and, of course, into our personal memories of events long past.

An Amazing Moment

Everything up to this point was a prelude to the most incredible part of this photographic experience. I was positioned and photographing from what I’d determined was the very best angle when, suddenly, the dress was animated by an almost indiscernible puff of breeze. There, in my lens, it briefly came to life, lifting, dancing on the wind.

Then, just as suddenly, the moment passed, and the dress hung lifeless and limp.

From the street this beautiful dress called out to me. From the porch, once it had my full attention, it took one brief wondrous turn in my lens.

[email protected] (The Herald) Black and white Tri-X Vermont dresses film moments nikon prom spring dance telephoto wind Thu, 15 May 2014 13:14:05 GMT
Sugaring in the Last Century Dana Howard stands before 40 cords of firewood outside of the family sugarhouse on Thayer Brook Road in this 1994 photograph. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

When the broad back of winter begins to break during the February thaw, my thoughts invariably turn toward sugaring.

In my mind’s eye, I see a Johnson Woolen Mill clad fellow hunched in snow up against a tree, the brace with the quarter-inch bit turning sap-moist maple pulp out of the bark, spout driven, buckets hung, tops affixed. There is conversation and laughter back in the warmth of the sugarhouse as sap, gathered now into a large storage tank, siphons slowly into the first trough of the pan. All along the labyrinthine channels, the sweet smell ferociously boils until, at the end, it suspends the glass bulb at the magical height.

Then, it’s all whoosh into the felted cone, down through to the pail, and off to the barrel where it will cool until the day of decanting into pints and quarts and half’s and gallons.

Throughout it all, the fire is minded; fresh fuel culled from the diminishing pile, pitched through iron doors opened gingerly with a stick of kindling or leather gloves the size of catchers’ mitts.

At the back, a cat stretches, children play around a rope descended from a rafter, someone fiddles with the radio, and mother unpacks a basket with stew, rolls, apple butter, three quarts of milk, apple pie, and cheese.

Much Has Changed

Over the past two decades, technological advances have changed the face of sugaring. Buckets have given way to piping, fire tending is gone, as great stacks of cordwood are replaced by oil. The bubble and steam of the evaporator pans have disappeared beneath stainless steel hoods, with fans carrying moisture up and out without so much as a hint of the cloud that used to billow above the arch.

It’s not uncommon to find reverse osmosis machines, computerized sugar analysis and automated drawing off of the syrup.

While we know that such modernization is necessary and good, there remains nostalgia for Vermont as it was. It seems this affection for simpler times is almost universal! While we respect and admire our neighbor who brings his operation into the 21st century with tens of thousands of dollars in upgrades, at the same time we treasure the memories of eggs cracked in the boiling sap, and of two or three friends in an ancient shack with a deck of cards, a Coleman lantern, and maybe a bottle of applejack to see them through a long night of boiling.

Sugaring Remembered

In early March 1994, I headed up Thayer Brook Road to the Howard’s to see how things were shaping up for their season. Dale and Brian were busy up at the mill just above the farmhouse, but Dana, the proud head of a family that knew uncommonly well how to care for the land, happily pulled on his boots and walked up to the sugarhouse to show me around.

Everything was readied for the first run. Four hundred taps on pipeline were already in place, and the sons, quiet, broad-shouldered, and hard-working, like their dad, were about to hang another 200 buckets the following day. I made arrangements to swing by when things warmed up that week, but before walking back to my car, asked Mr. Howard if I might take his portrait.

This photograph is one of several from that day. Flanked by the sugarhouse and 40 cords of pine, Mr. Howard surveys the valley below and out of the camera’s view with the bearing of a general. At the time, I was struck by the great physical presence of this man, in his 80s standing as proud and sure as a giant maple, rooted securely in that unforgiving Braintree soil.

Now, 20 years later, I see something more in this image. I follow his gaze out and away from the camera’s view, the angle and direction defined by the massive stack of wood at his back, and I wonder what it is that he is thinking about, as he stands before this young photographer in this time of changing season, as winter gives way to the rush of spring.

Perhaps because I’m now older myself, I imagine him remembering his parents and grandparents before him. In his quiet reflection here, I see them gathered in an earlier time, in a small sugarhouse. Warmed by the arch and the conversation, I see parents smiling as children carry wood in from the pile, making, as children do, a game of every action. Soon the pickles and donuts will be set on the table alongside bowls of snow awaiting the sweet drizzle of maple.

In this photograph, I see Dana Howard remembering such things and, with him, I remember as well.

[email protected] (The Herald) maple sugarhouses sugaring Thu, 17 Apr 2014 18:37:34 GMT
Snow Storms Are Rough Business A windy snow storm blows flakes all about in this photo of the Randolph coal sheds along the railroad tracks. (Herald File / Bob Eddy) Twenty-one years ago, on March 13, 1993, Central Vermont suffered a huge snowstorm I’d forgotten until it was mentioned on Facebook last week.

Anna Sease of Randolph related the story of my gallant but failed attempt to plow her driveway after that snowfall.

I had just purchased my first plow truck, very well used, naming her, ‘Bottom Feeder,’ referencing her plowing abilities and imminent salvage status.

Out riding the roads for snow shots, I spied Lee and Anna Sease struggling to free cars from deep drifts about their home below the road in a small hollow next to the river. Possessing the enthusiasm and confidence of a rookie, I took Bottom Feeder down into that pit of a driveway to save the day.

I managed to get quite stuck. Another truck and several hours of work were required to free me.

Tough on the Lens

In a tip of my hat to the anniversary, I looked through photographs of winter storms past for this week’s Second Look. In the search, I found that snowstorms are as difficult to photograph as they are to plow out from!

Over almost three decades with The Herald, I have taken over half a million photographs. Most of these, mercifully, were never enlarged. Still, there are thousands upon thousands of prints, many taken during the winter. Very few, however, depict snowstorms as they are happening. Hundreds of photographs show deep snow after the storm has passed. Many rolls of film record our digging out. There are shots aplenty of snowy scenes and winter sport. Images taken during storms, however, are few.

Why is this?

We tend to hunker down as snow is falling, and having few people out and about diminishes opportunities for good imaging. Also, taking precious equipment into the elements is risky.

A deeper truth, however, is snowstorms are tough to photograph well. Snow obscures the scene, and good subjects are hard to find. How many images of street plows can one publish?

This photograph, taken in the midst of a big storm in the nineties, is one of few storm shots in my files. It shows snow swirling about the ancient bulking shapes of the Randolph coal sheds, beside the railroad north of Main Street, the massive architecture receding away from us along the tracks.

Consider, for a moment, how you scan this photograph to comprehend its content, and how that process differs from being in the storm at the same scene. Out in the snow, all our senses are engaged; our eyes follow the sounds and movements of snow, darting about the landscape. Viewing this photograph of that scene on the printed page is a wholly different.

From the time we first read words, we have learned to begin at the upper left of the printed page. We do this to read the words in their intended order. Unconscious-ly, we tend to read photographs the same way.

When we look to the upper left of this photograph, we encounter nothing but white! Confusion reigns until we come across to the right side of the scene. Now we understand. This is a large building. Snow is falling; cascading down the slope of roof, being whipped up and away from us by great winds. As we move through the view again, now from right to left, the building shapes dissemble, as the gathering snow obscures more and more detail.

To understand what is going on here, we have to work our way across the page from left to right and back again. In this small journey of the eye, perhaps we begin to feel the snow, the bitter cold, the wind beating upon our back.

[email protected] (The Herald) Vermont coal sheds snow storms weather Thu, 20 Mar 2014 17:45:00 GMT
Barnscape: One Photograph with Many Views This simple, yet enigmatic study of a barn and silo leaves much to imagination. (Herald File / Bob Eddy) This simple, yet enigmatic  study of a barn and silo leaves much to imagination. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)


This image, more than many I have taken for The Herald, seems something of a puzzle. At first glance, we may be a bit confused. Then, once we understand what we are looking at, there is a sense of accomplishment.

“Aha,” we think to ourselves, “that’s a barn! There to the left is an old wooden silo, and that’s a small window in the midst of a huge clap-boarded wall.”

Once this sense has been made of things, perhaps we remember a farm we know. We see cows, a tractor, field, a dog or cat, some chickens, a person or two working. In this way photographs evoke memories. Live with this picture for a longer period and you may discover smells of silage or hay, sounds of cows, the rush of pigeons’ wings beating the air. These are just a few things this image can conjure by inner association and reflection.

Then, however, we realize this is none of these things, really. The photographer has limited our field of vision to just this: a bit of silo, a portion of wall, and a small window. Why? Why bother taking this image, and what business does it have being printed in a newspaper?

This is a fair question, for it appears more a piece of abstract art than anything conveying news.

Weather Shot

The week this ran in The Herald some twenty years ago, however, the weather was particularly clear and very cold. Following a long period of overcast skies, the sun had burst forth for several days.

Here, then, we have not so much an image of barn elements as of the play of sunlight upon surfaces. Though there is no snow, our readers would have felt its presence just outside the frame.

Over a morning cup of coffee then, this could have been a comment on the weather. But is it more than this?

Passing of Time

What does this image mean two decades later?

In a time when wooden silos have disappeared from Vermont, this image may raise questions about changes over time in farming and our landscape.

The passing years are sensed here by those newer clapboards, now also very old, covering over a former opening to the left of the small window.

Now let’s consider that shadow in the lower right of the scene, the only element breaking from the strong vertical/horizontal grid. It seems to be falling from the page. This sense of movement is important, for it animates the photograph. Of course, the shadow is actually moving as the sun sweeps across the sky.

Time’s passing, then, is evoked: across decades, but also within the span of a single day.


Notice the light playing across the surface of those vertical boards to the left of the photograph. The grading of tone from grey to black tells us this is a curved element; there is volume here. We sense the round shape of the silo arcing away, back to the barn.

The horizontal lines on the silo are created by great metal bands binding the boards together. These strong horizontal elements disappear into the growing shadow on the curved surface, echoed and multiplied by the shadows lining the clapboards across the remaining portion of the scene.

The small window draws our attention. There are many reasons for this. First and foremost, here we find the greatest tonal contrast in the print. The bright white of the lead paint is edged by shadow as dark as any on the page.

Our eye rests here, in part, because the window’s proportions echo others in the photograph. The overall window shape is close to that of the entire photograph. Also, the darkened vertical shapes (two panes of glass) within the white frame are close in shape to the silo mass on the left.

It’s interesting that the window panes’ darkness feels different than in the surface shadow areas of the scene. Here is window glass, where our eye might pass through to a more distant view. The lack of light obscures, however, keeping us out on the flat surface of the wall.

Varieties of View

This photograph can be viewed many ways: as a metaphor for everyday life on a Vermont farm; a comment on the weather; a consideration of changes, subtle and swift, over time; a study of composition and tone..

All these perspectives and more are found in this simple scene from many years ago. Turning our gaze from this page, we might consider the complexity and varieties of view in the world about us. We live within a changing kaleidoscope of vistas, infinite and wonderful to behold.

[email protected] (The Herald) barns barnscape farms silo Thu, 30 Jan 2014 19:00:00 GMT
The Piano Lesson: A Moment in the Flow of Music In this 1988 photograph, Randolph’s legendary piano teacher Florence Scholl Cushman instructs 12 year old Nathan Eddy the proper interpretation of Bach. (Herald File / Bob Eddy) In this 1988 photograph, Randolph’s legendary piano teacher Florence Scholl Cushman instructs 12-year-old Nathan Eddy the proper interpretation of Bach. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)


Florence Scholl Cushman had a celebrated career as a concert pianist. When this image was photographed, she remembered, “The last time I played the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto with the Chicago Symphony, I was recalled eight times. They finally turned out the stage lights to quiet the house.” As a young woman, she studied music with greats of the early 20th century, and was quite proud of close association through her teachers with a pantheon of musical giants.

Retiring from her own performance career, Mrs. Cushman, as all her students called her, settled in Randolph in the early 1950s, prepared to lead new generations in piano performance. This she did for more than four decades from her Main Street studio and home in Randolph Village.

In imagining Mrs. Cushman’s teaching, the reader should dispel any thoughts of a kind old woman gently leading students into the simple joy and wonder of musical appreciation. She was a formidable force! One approached study with her on tiptoe, hoping to be worthy of the endeavor, up to the task.

When in 1988, our sons were studying with Mrs. Cushman, I broached the idea of a photographic study and, without hesitation, she agreed. I visited three or four times, as she taught various students, as she took her customary afternoon nap between lessons, and made preparations one evening shortly before a recital. From these sessions several photographs were used to make a fitting portrait of this amazing woman, by then 95.

The Lesson

In this image, we find my son, Nathan, at the far right, almost swallowed up by the massive Mason and Hamlin concert grand piano before him in the frame. Mrs. Cushman had two grand pianos in her studio, Nathan is actually seated with his back to the second, a Steinway, hidden from view. Let’s back up, however, for we’re getting ahead of the story this scene tells.

My photographic series of Mrs. Cushman for The Herald incorporated this as the featured image. Trained by the convention of reading from left to right and down the page, our eye first rests upon the upper left quadrant of this scene. Here we find Mrs. Cushman, her lips shaped in the framing of instruction.

Look carefully at her mouth. You can almost see her words firing across the room toward her young charge. I say, “firing,” because the message is animated by the unmistakable force of her left hand, flashing forward in the air. In marked contrast, her right hand is poised in absolute stillness.

Our eye is drawn to the sharpened point of pencil, a visual metaphor for the precision of her instructions. This is not a “feel good” moment over a shared musical experience! Here we find that music is serious business, a terrain not to be entered lightly, a discipline worthy of our full passion and intellect.

Following in the direction of Mrs. Cushman’s energy, we are brought across the page to the upturned face of a young boy, wide-eyed and slack-mouthed in amazement.

In fact, numerous elements in the composition direct our attention toward the student. From the left, strong lateral lines of the chair are swept forward and up by Mrs. Cushman’s right arm and the movement of her hand. The piano keyboard pulls our eye from the foreground up to the boy, as do all the strong verticals of the piano front and empty music stand. Even the vivid reflections of the musical scores on the far edge of the stand flash toward the boy, as he absorbs everything he possibly can in this moment.

Though the movement is toward student in every respect, this is also a very balanced portrait. Observe the axis on which the image pivots. At the heart of the scene we find the boy’s and teacher’s hands almost touching, emphasizing the intimacy of the learning relationship. At the front we see Mrs. Cushman’s open notebook, accounting the boy’s progress, and her plan of battle for the weeks to come.

Just beyond her pencil, the boy’s young hand appears, the shadows of knuckle and finger echoing the march of white and black keys leading up from below. In contrast to her aged fingers, his smooth hand holds a musical score. The “H” in the composer’s brief name tells us this young boy is studying Bach.

The Ages Pass

Mrs. Cushman was extremely aware of musical influence passed down from the ages through her. Following his first year of study, she gave our son a handwritten genealogy of musical influence: “Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Czerny, Liszt, Rosenthal, FSC.” Studying with Florence Scholl Cushman, one entered and became part of the great river of Western musical tradition.

The positioning and pose of teacher and student in this photograph vividly portray the passing of wisdom and the passage of time. Mrs. Cushman, 95 here, is slumped low in her chair; she would be gone within a few years, dying at the age of 102. (The genealogy quoted above is engraved on her headstone.) By contrast, her young student sits tall, above her in the frame. That boy is a father now with children of his own. His daughter Mahalia, age 7, plays the recorder, flute, and violin. She hopes to begin piano next year.

[email protected] (The Herald) Cushman Florence Scholl history music pianos Thu, 09 Jan 2014 14:38:02 GMT
Photography as a Gift Steeplejack Jay Southgate clings to a weathervane as it is lifted by crane onto the steeple of the East Braintree church. (Herald File / Bob Eddy) Steeplejack Jay Southgate clings to a weathervane as it is lifted by crane onto the steeple of the East Braintree church. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)


Christmas is a time of giving and of receiving.

The photographer Minor White said, “When gifts are given to me through my camera, I accept them graciously.” White beautifully expresses the sense that training and careful attention to detail are no guarantee of photographic success. In the end, a powerful photograph is a gift.

At times, when I’m shooting, the sense that something profound is about to be disclosed builds inside me. Pulse quickens, pupils dilate, breathing deepens, and time slows as the telling moment approaches. Sensing this, and opening the lens to it is to receive a wonderful gift.

Today we’ll consider an image that was just such a gift.

The Assignment

From summer through fall and into the winter of 2000, Jay Southgate was refurbishing the spire of the church in East Braintree. For months, the steeple, removed from the meetinghouse by a large crane, was rebuilt on the ground just off the shoulder of Route 12 north of the Snowsville Store.

Snow was falling fast on the day I received word that the steeple, which had been reattached, was about to receive its crown in the form of a very large hand-wrought weathervane.

Grabbing my gear, I sped up Route 12 to Snowsville for the event.

The Scene

There were several elements to be considered for inclusion in my imaging that day. Obvious is the historic church itself, nestled in the Route 12 valley. There is a wonderfully unimpeded vantage point to the north from where I could see not only the church, but also the crane with snow swirling all about. The magnificent weathervane, standing more than six feet in height, and the steeplejack would undoubtedly be included—or so I thought as I surveyed the scene.

But steeplejacks, who brave great heights in the service of historic architecture, are a rare and colorful breed, and Jay Southgate was no exception.

Greeting me as I climbed from my car, Southgate was a study in contrasts. He spoke articulately about the overall project, his profession as preservation of important cultural heritage, the unique features of this particular restoration, the difficulty of obtaining necessary local funding and regional grants. Matching this cerebral and very charismatic persona was a fearless physical presence, a swashbuckling Southgate, master of every challenge.

The Shot

The image “gifted” me that day is rather confusing at first viewing, and it’s not what I expected to create. What is going on? There is no crane, no steeple; nothing to connect or ground Southgate to the geography of East Braintree. The scene is scrubbed bare. This is a landscape without direction; even the snow flies about randomly. He could be anywhere.

And yet, there are important visual clues. Somehow, we know Southgate is “way up there.” Note the compass points are even in size, despite the great mass of the weathervane. Had the image been shot in close with a wide-angle lens, there would be massive distortion between near and far elements.

Unconsciously, we know this is shot with a long lens, and this is important. Southgate is removed from us. We feel the weather, all that swirling snow, amplified as we peer through it to him hanging high overhead.

The Human Condition

Sent to take an image of the weathervane being replaced on the Snowsville steeple, I returned with something more.

Here, in the middle of nowhere, we behold a man simply holding on. At the intersection of up and down, of north, south, east and west, buffeted by snow, he hangs on for dear life.

There is the power of myth in this image. Aren’t we all, at times, simply holding on, seeking to find our way?

Our Gift

Southgate successfully refastened the vane to the top of the steeple that day. It greets us with sentinel presence each time we head north through East Braintree.

As we approach a new year, full of uncertainty, may we be comforted by the knowledge that there are others who have braved the landscape before us, marking it for all who follow.


[email protected] (The Herald) Thu, 26 Dec 2013 15:03:05 GMT
When Is a Cat Not a Cat? On Vermont farms, cats can be seen everywhere. Here, in the 1990s , David Bradshaw provides a perch for a cat at Butternut Farm in Chelsea. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

I’m asked from time to time how I came to be a photographer. Though the question seems simple enough, my answer is as philosophical as biographical. By way of beginning, I ask, “When is a cat not a cat?

Learning to Read ‘Cat’

Before I could talk, our Tinkerbell taught me the consistency of cat. A slim tricolor, she held affection for a young boy rubbing her snow colored tummy. On her back, coming, going, from every angle, she was a cat:

Tail arching from right to left, purring softly – cat.

Slinking around to gaze imperiously at that yapping dog (tail up and over, but now left to right)–still cat.

Balled in hissing rejection, tail curled below the haunch—cat again!

Wheeling around to the kitchen, tail tucked low—that would be an exit cat!

Trouble With Letters

My cat Tinkerbell was a more faithful friend than the letters I met in first grade. Take ‘b’ for starters. Teacher wrote ‘b’ on the board. I liked ‘b’ fine; with three in my name, ‘bobby,’ I felt we were old buddies.

Then a few moments later, it came back from the other direction, when teacher wrote ‘d.’ To my mind, this had to be the same letter, rotated in space, just like my cat turning around with her tail in the air. But no, coming one way, it’s a ‘b’; turning around, it’s changed to become ‘d.’ With two of these in my last name I should have been elated. Instead I felt this alphabet was playing tricks on me!

My alarm deepened when, like Tinkerbell hissing at the dog, the ‘b’ dropped its tail. Cat stays cat no matter where the tail goes, but now ‘b’ becomes ‘p’!

This made no sense, and even less when this trio of shape-shifters turned again to become ‘q.’ I’ve come to regard, “mind your ‘p’s’ and ‘q’s,” as a warning to heed to the way that ‘tail’ is pointing if you want to learn to read. Unfortunately, as a child, this advice didn’t help. I could not read until I was in the fourth grade!

With milk, mice, and hay for bedding, this pair of kittens are right at home in the barn. (Herald File / Bob Eddy) The Meaning of Pictures

Confounded by the alphabet, I reached out to the world through colors and shapes. These languages made sense when little else did. I read my first book, “The Wizard of Oz,” because the line drawings were so compelling they “drew” me into the text.

As an adult, I saw the Rosetta Stone in the British National Museum, and was stunned to find it a large chunk of basalt, covered by finely etched pictures! These hieroglyphs proved the key to unlock mysteries of the Egyptian world. In this same way, pictures unlocked life’s mysteries to me.

The visual arts made sense to me long before the written word. Give me a newspaper or a magazine and I will always look at the pictures first. They are still my gateway into the text. And it’s really quite comforting when looking at an image of, say, a cat, to know that no matter which way the tail is turning, it’s still a cat!

[email protected] (The Herald) cats philosophy seeing shapes Thu, 21 Nov 2013 18:45:00 GMT
A Vanishing View—John Brown’s Vermont Some twenty-five years ago. John Brown of East Randolph heads to the post office, keeping an eye out for woodchucks. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)


In the spring of 1987, I chanced upon an extraordinary event at Whitcomb High School in Bethel.

The entire gym floor was covered with animal pelts. Large round stacks of beaver, some of the stiff hides over three feet in diameter, strings of red fox skins and tails, fisher cat, martin, weasel, mink, squirrel, rabbit; hundreds upon hundreds of fresh furs were being scrutinized and purchased by large, loud, barrel-chested buyers from Montreal and New York.

Though I’m the son of a 7th generation Vermonter, I was born and raised in Massachusetts, and I have never been more acutely aware of my “flat-lander” status than on that day among the local sellers and foreign buyers of a trapping culture.

Across the large hall, John Brown of East Randolph was the only person I recognized. He’d brought furs to sell, and I latched onto him like a poor soul down a well reaching for a rope. For the next hour or so, he guided me around the event, introducing me to other trappers and their livelihood.

A Vanishing View

I’m indebted to John Brown for his hospitality that day. He became for me a strong connection to a Vermont vanishing from view. It wouldn’t be the last time he would prove such a link.

As a photographer, I really enjoy going out without a specific goal in mind, to simply “ride the roads” in search of an image.

This “photojournalistic prospecting” is also perhaps a vanishing art, for few newspapers today provide photographers the time to go out into their readership area to simply “see what they can see.” Often the schedule is completely filled by coverage of specific events.

While important, these images fail to include so much of our world! I’ve never received a call that the sun was reflecting in a particularly beautiful way off the White River in Sharon, or that the blue shadows in the snow drifts across Bobby Simpson’s fields were worthy of imaging! Some moments simply won’t be captured unless you are out there, open to that which will surprise, delight, even astonish the eye.

A Classic Scene

Traveling south through East Randolph one morning in the late 1980’s I had such a moment. There, peddling on the side of Route 14 was John Brown. It was a classic scene; John, riding atop a three-wheeled adult bike was decked out in a button down shirt, jeans, cap and suspenders.

Completing the image, and making it truly memorable, was the rifle cradled in a rack directly behind John as he pedaled along.

Not waiting a split second, I turned my car around, and raced back by John to the north, waving to him as I passed. Parking about a hundred yards ahead, I jumped out and trained my Nikon F with a 180mm telephoto lens upon him as he approached.

This photograph resulted from that encounter. Shot with a moderately shallow depth of field, it places John in focus on the boundary between the unfocused areas before and behind. There is nothing “clever” or nuanced about the placement of the subject in this scene; John rides “straight up” in the middle of the image. The road, with its undulating white boundary lines frames him, while the strong dark verticals of telephone poles, suspenders, and bike tires, emphasize the subject’s “uprightness.”

Study in Contrast

The image is a study in contrast. On the one hand we have a fellow who would be at home pictured on the front stoop of any Vermont country store, at Town Meeting, or outside the judging arena at the Tunbridge Fair. Placed upon a large tricycle, he presents a somewhat whimsical side, however. Is he out for exercise; running an errand? The bike gets our attention.

So does the rifle.

On the one hand we have an adult out and about on a vehicle associated with child’s play; on the other, he’s riding through East Randolph like Marshall Dillon in Dodge City!

The tension between these aspects of the scene is echoed by the bike tire “breaking the boundary” of the painted white line on the roadside.

The beauty of this photograph, then, lies in the questions it raises. Many today long for a simpler time; this image evokes that, but also provokes us to wonder about where we are headed.

On that June day when I found John Brown in East Randolph, he was headed to the post office to pick up his mail. A neighbor, having difficulties with a pesky woodchuck, had asked John to “dispatch” the critter if he happened to see it in her garden. This, being a good neighbor and a particularly good shot, John Brown was prepared to do.

[email protected] (The Herald) Vermont nostalgia old past times Thu, 07 Nov 2013 13:47:26 GMT
The Depth of a Rain Puddle, Remembered

Taken from an unusual angle, this photograph of a boy riding his bike to school in the rain was titled "Splish" when it ran on page one of The Herald in 1991. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

Taken from an unusual angle, this photograph of a boy riding his bike to school in the rain was titled "Splish" when it ran on page one of The Herald in 1991. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)


Every now and then I have encountered a picture-taking moment so utterly incredible that I can’t wait to open the newspaper Thursday morning to see the published result.

One very wet school day in the fall of 1991, I had just such a moment. The photograph I took that day, I consider one of the best images of my career.

I was sitting in my car, with my camera, in Randolph village. Rain was falling at the “quick wiper rate;” it was about 7:30 a.m. and I was hoping to find a student braving the weather, walking to school despite the rain.

A young boy came along Central Street riding his bike while clutching an umbrella for shelter. Climbing from the car, I took a few quick images as he approached on my side of the road.

Coming near, he stopped to adjust his grip on the umbrella, which I now could see was pretty tattered. He struck up a conversation, and I learned he was headed to his mom’s apartment above the old Union Block to get his lunch before proceeding to school.

The Union Block used to stand where Gazebo Park now sits at the heart of the village where Pleasant Street branches off from Main. At street level on the front, there were several shops including the Union Market, a barbershop, and a catalogue store, as I recall. At the back of the property, stairs led up to a long second story porch, from which entrances led to a half-dozen apartments or so. That’s where this lad was headed.

I had always wanted to take a photograph from that second story porch, and now I had my chance.

I sped across town and placed myself at the rail above Pleasant Street in anticipation of his arrival.

Gazing through my lens, directly down to the pavement below, I saw the beautiful overlapping circular patterns created by rain falling from the roof above me. It was into this scene that the young boy rode as he left his mother’s a few minutes later, the fat tires of his bike creating a wake behind as he pushed off toward school.

What I beheld is what you see here, except that the moment is stopped in time for your viewing. At first glance the image can be somewhat confusing. But then, perhaps with the help of a cutline, the pieces pop into place. Here is a boy on a bike, riding through a magnificent puddle, shot from directly above. We can glimpse his hands emerging from under a disheveled black umbrella, gripping the handlebars as well as his lunch in a large white plastic sack.

The broken umbrella has the aspect of a boat’s prow, pushing water to each side as it proceeds through the current. Even a bit of trash in the puddle adds to the composition, echoing the whiteness of the lunch sack.

This is a highly abstract image, a study in starkly contrasted tones of black and white. For me it is a thrilling view of an ordinary moment at the beginning of a rainy day.

Life is a luminous miracle. Now and then, a photograph pulls back the curtain and allows us to glimpse the breadth and depth of that wonder. This image does this for me.

The week I took it was special from beginning to end. I couldn’t wait to see it in print. As I looked at The Herald over coffee, I was transported into the mystery of that rain-soaked morning. Viewing the photograph today, I am brought there still.

[email protected] (The Herald) bicycles rain small moments splash splish Thu, 17 Oct 2013 14:52:46 GMT
Turning Seasons at Tunbridge Fair Lindsey Parker waves to her brother Wesley and her grandad Gilbert Parker of Montpelier in this photograph taken with a Widelux panning camera at the 1992 Tunbridge World’s Fair. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)


The Tunbridge World’s Fair, founded in 1867, when photography was in its infancy, had the good grace to be situated in a valley unsullied by the insults of modernism. By comparison, the Essex County and Rutland Fairs have been eclipsed by huge swaths of paved street and highway, telephone poles bristling off into the horizon, and built up electrified landscapes. These venues seem swallowed up by all this development.
I feel a bit sad when I pass their fairgrounds; there is here a great disconnect with the land, with the arts of animal husbandry and food production which are the backbone of any true country fair. What we’re left with is a carnival, where the sense of agricultural festival has been swallowed up just like the streams of my childhood in Massachusetts, which decades ago disappeared under acres of parking lot and suburban street, entombed in concrete.

By contrast, the Tunbridge World’s Fair, still the biggest yearly event in the White River Valley, is cradled by rolling hills, washed by waters which have flowed here from centuries before farmers first led livestock down to the stream for refreshment—as they still do at fair-time.
Folks come to Tunbridge each year when the air is turning toward fall to have one last celebration of the growing season, before everything is buttoned up against winter winds and drifting snow.

The fair seems sweeter with each passing year. Almost 40 years ago, as a young father, I brought my sons here. Vividly I recall the first time they were deemed old enough to run off on their own, pockets and hopes fortified by a few dollars gleaned from redemption of bottles. Now, I see other parents have taken my place, holding the hands of eager children; letting go as these kids become teens eager to roam the cow sheds and the midway unencumbered by mom and dad.

The cycles of passing seasons are never more purely felt than here. I squint my eyes looking for folks I once saw every year. New people are awarding the prizes at Floral Hall; Annie Burke no longer stands at the edge of the oxen ring; that young lad I remember from the schoolhouse is grown and has children of his own.

One fair photograph which holds this fleeting precious quality of life for me was taken with my Widelux panning camera back in 1992. I was standing near the merry-go-round, seeking a way to photograph it which would capture something of the magic it held for young children as they whirled round and the calliope played.

I stepped up close to the turning panoply, so close that my lens looked down at the hooves of the passing horses and up into the inner canopy of the ride. With a typical camera this proximity will remove the wider field of view, but not with a Widelux, which pans the scene, swinging the lens 140 degrees as the film is exposed.

As I moved in for my photograph I became aware of an interaction: in the periphery of my vision, an older man held a young boy excitedly anticipating someone coming around on the ride.

Then on she rode, an enthusiastic young girl flashing a huge smile, seated on the outer edge of the field of horses. Seeing her brother and grandfather as she wheeled into view, Lindsey Parker reached out with her hand, as if to grasp the brass ring on this very pass. In turn, her grandfather raised his hand in salute and her brother lifted his hand as well, dipping one small finger in his sister’s direction.

This photograph is not of a merry-go-round as much as it is of a family at the fair. The joy holding these three together as the young girl wheels past is more evident than the painted pony she is mounted upon!

[email protected] (The Herald) Tunbridge Fair carousels tradition Thu, 12 Sep 2013 16:43:27 GMT
When 'Readers Digest' Comes Calling

Fifteen years ago, in 1998, Ed Koren wrote a marvelous piece about serving with the Brookfield Volunteer Fire Department. It ran in the New York Times, and was subsequently picked up by Reader’s Digest which, at Ed’s request, asked me to provide a photograph to accompany it.

Though Reader’s Digest now publishes over 5 million copies monthly, it’s a shadow of its former self. Back before digital technologies changed the face of communication, RD published over 23 million. I can safely say this photograph is the most widely circulated of my images; it subsequently appeared in The Herald, as well.

To this day I’m grateful to Ed for getting me the assignment. The magazine was set on sending up one of their pros from New York City for the shoot, but Ed would have none of it. He wanted a local photographer, told them I would do a great job, and had the chutzpah to make his voice matter to the suits down in Chappaqua.

For Herald photography I have relied almost exclusively on Nikon 35mm equipment for over 25 years, but for this magazine shoot I elected to use a medium format camera. These shots were taken with slide film, and with my Mamiya RB  I could proof the shots with a Polaroid back, which was replaced with a film back for the final imaging.

Reader’s Digest gave me very little guidance for the shoot, other than to say they wanted a portrait of Ed with other members of the Brookfield department. In a situation like this, it’s important to provide many different looks, as there’s no telling what the art directors will want.

One huge help with this assignment was the fact that the volunteers were thrilled with Koren’s story and were committed to getting a good portrait. I asked them to set aside at least two hours on a Saturday morning, and to be prepared for shooting in a variety of locations.

We began right outside the station with everyone suited up, a pumper and a portion of the firehouse in the shot. It was a bright sunny day. While it’s often thought bright sun is wonderful light for imaging, this isn’t necessarily so. The shadows are deeper and the range between the highlights is so great it’s easy to overexpose portions of the print. Photographers will often use flash in these situations, which puzzles those not familiar with the process. Why would one need to add more light when there is so much bright light to begin with?

The flash is used to  “fill” the shadowed portions of the scene with light. In this case, I used it to insure proper lighting in the shadowed side of the faces.

From the station we headed up the hill to Pond Village, setting the pumper in the center of town with the Green Trails Inn in the background. It was a nice setting, particularly with Jim Sardonis’s sculpted sign at the back, and Brookfield’s signature unpaved main street in the foreground.

It was during this session that I began to realize I wasn’t working with professional models. The fellows were willing to give the project everything they could, but with all the preparations I was making to have the pose seem casual, it was coming out forced, wooden.

Sometimes when taking a portrait, the subject gives you their very best material in the first minutes of the session. On other occasions, the first half hour of the shoot is like a battle of wills, with the subject unconsciously sabotaging imaging every step of the way. I say “unconsciously” because I don’t think anyone tries to make a bad portrait. It’s true, however, that many of us have had negative experiences with picture taking, especially with “pushy” professional photographers. Sometimes you have to work through the initial antipathy until the subject either begins to trust you or, in some circumstances, simply “gives up” and lets you take an honest, unforced image. This latter situation seemed to be the case with the Brookfield crew. They wanted to have a good image, but were at a loss when it came to knowing how best to provide it. Everyone looked stiff and somewhat uncomfortable.

Well, perhaps another location will prove the charm, I thought, and asked the crew to move the truck a hundred yards or so over to the edge of Sunset Pond at the entrance to the floating bridge. One immediate gift of this new site was a shift in the atmosphere. A morning fog seemed to emerge from nowhere, shielding the scene from the sun’s brightest rays. Far down the lake I could see the very first colors of autumn beginning to appear on the shoreline. This was the spot, I thought, as I set my tripod in the bed of a pickup so that I could shoot over the crew to the lake rippling in the background.

Now needing no fill flash I exposed two more rolls of film. This was the shot I was looking for. The men seemed to relax along with me, and we took some images that were quite fine.

After about ten minutes of shooting I proclaimed the project complete. I was confident Reader’s Digest would be happy with at least one of my many offerings from our morning’s work.

But then, just when I’d told the guys they were off the hook, something extraordinary happened. Some took off their jackets, revealing brightly colored suspenders, until now hidden from view. One walked over the picket fence in the back of the scene to look down the lake. Suddenly, almost magically, the entire group relaxed into the look, the pose I had been searching for, but had been unable to find.

Unfortunately, my film backs were empty. “Stop!” I yelled in great excitement, asking all to remain still as I quickly reloaded, explaining that one or two more images were needed. To my great relief, the crew put up with me for just a few moments more and, in a good natured way, lingered for three final images.

I sent 7 rolls of film off to Reader’s Digest from the 10  shot that morning, never once doubting they would pick an image from those last three. That they did, liking it so much it was splashed across two full pages in a marvelous linking of image and text.

Sometimes the image we are looking for is outside our field of view. Sometimes we simply aren’t at the right place at the right time for the image we really want and settle for something less. On one blessed day in Brookfield, however, I was privileged to capture in my lens that wonderful band of brothers in the right time and place.

[email protected] (The Herald) Digest Ed Koren Readers Wed, 21 Aug 2013 16:47:57 GMT
Old Christ Church and Memories of the Berlin Wall
The Manchester Guardian reported July 5 on Bruce Springsteen’s historic 4-hour concert in East Berlin on July 19, 1988. 
Here, 25 years ago tomorrow, before 300,000 people from all over the German Democratic Republic, and millions more watching state television, Springsteen delivered a powerful challenge to the Wall that fell 16 months later. 

This week’s  anniversary of that concert prompted remembrances of the heady time when the Wall fell on November 9, 1989, and, with those musings, memories of a photograph I took just a few weeks later in early December. 

The image of three pigeons descending on a Vermont country steeple on cold winter’s day has been connected in my heart with the flowering of freedom in Germany a continent away.

The Setting

Old Christ Church sits in a small hollow on the northern bank Gilead Brook, where it flows into the third branch of the White River about three miles north of Bethel. From the north on Route 12, there is a wonderful view of the church, as the road crests the hill, dipping down and around the front of the property to Gilead Brook Bridge. Both meetinghouse and bridge are on the National Register of Historic Structures.

This venerable meetinghouse, of Federal style, was built in 1823. Here, many bishops were commissioned for the westward expansion of the Episcopal Church in America. It’s now used for summer worship only. With oil lamps, original plaster walls, wainscoting and box pews, old milk paint and soaring high windows of ancient clear glass panes, possessing all the bubbles and wavy idiosyncrasies of extreme age, this building is a treasure.

I confess I’m something of a nut about church steeples. I’m a student of architectural history anyway, but steeples, particularly here in New England, have long fascinated me. 

They are extremely difficult to build and maintain, yet, despite tremendous time and expense, our forebears placed them above meetinghouses as grand as Boston’s Old North Church and as humble as Old Christ Church in Bethel. These symbols of our highest aspirations are an integral part of the Vermont community landscape. 

On a particularly cold and clear morning in December, 1989, driving south on Route 12, I noticed a flock of pigeons roosting on this steeple. I parked at the head of Gilead Brook Road and spent a few minutes considering angles and lenses for a good photograph. 

What’s the Angle?

Before long I was trudging through snow on the field above the church to the north, seeking a view across, rather than up at the scene. At a distance of perhaps a hundred yards I had an unencumbered sight of the structure, covered by pigeons. With a 300mm lens, I isolated the steeple in bright morning sun against trees in darkened shadow on the hillside beyond. 

Though I could have hand-held the camera for an image, I had plans for this photograph which made a tripod necessary. In a few minutes the mounted camera was trained on the scene, cropped with the steeple filling the horizontal frame, slightly to the left of center.

For this shot, I used a Nikon F body with a motor drive that could shoot about five frames a second. I opened the lens aperture to 5.6, so the steeple would be in sharp focus against a blurred black background. This also allowed for a very quick exposure with 400 ASA Tri-X film. I hoped to stop the birds in mid-flight.

Off They Go

Everything set, I clapped my hands loudly and, right on cue, the pigeons flew from their roost as I shot a three-second film of about 15 frames. Then I waited. In about five minutes, the birds returned, landing together in a visual cacophony of feathers. This I also photographed. Another series of loud claps provoked a repeated exodus, which I filmed. This time, however, the wait was about 10 minutes, and fewer birds returned. This photography of pigeons departing and arriving continued for about an hour. I exposed more than three rolls of film as the numbers dwindled to three birds.

Back in the darkroom, I learned a lot about bird comings and goings that I couldn’t see in with my naked eye. First, unless you want a very funny image, it’s not a good idea to photograph pigeons flying away from their perch. The departing birds looked like sailors falling off a deck, dropping in free fall, their wings wrapped tightly around them until achieving speed sufficient for flight.

The birds returning, however, were beautiful to behold. That is, they were beautiful as long as they were caught with their wings up rather than down. What I could not see as the birds were moving is that, with light under-wing feathers, and dark upper-wing feathers, my pigeons all but disappeared when their wings were down.

Fortunately, in their final approach, the three birds were beating wings in synchrony, and in one frame their wings were all raised!

From over 100 images, only this one frame was successful. 

I’ve failed to mention that a solitary phone wire stretched across the scene. It was indiscernible against the dark woods, but really hurt the composition as it crossed in front of the very white steeple. Can you see it in the photograph? By placing the wire at the point where the corner posts ended, I was able to minimize the wire’s negative effect. In fact, no one has ever asked me, “What are those black lines there for?”

An Important Time

The high point of Springsteen’s Berlin concert was a brief heartfelt speech in broken, but understandable, German, 

“I’m not here for any government,” he said. “I’ve come to play rock’n’roll for you in the hope that one day all the barriers will be torn down.” As the crowd erupted, the band launched into Bob Dylan’s, “The Chimes of Freedom.”

The morning I photographed this image, I found myself thinking about the Wall that had fallen. The descent of three birds to a beautiful steeple on a quiet Vermont winter’s morning will always be inextricably tied to that incredibly hopeful and uplifting time in human history.


Steeple Repairs Are Needed

Contributions are now being sought for the repair of the Old Christ Church steeple. Such repairs are inevitably necessary in Vermont, where our historic structures, most fashioned from painted wood, are exposed to such harsh weather. This particular steeple, one of our most distinctive, is such a treasure!

You are invited to help restore the Old Christ Church steeple.  With a gift of $50 or more, you will receive an 8x10” print of this image, signed and suitable for framing. Send your contribution to Christ Church P.O. Box 383 Bethel, Vermont 05032. For more information, call Nancy Wuttke (763 2807).

[email protected] (The Herald) Church Gilead Vermont doves pigeons steeples Thu, 18 Jul 2013 16:15:02 GMT
Photographing Vermont’s Fifth Season  

MUD MONSTER | Jack Drysdale of San Antonio, Texas, was fit to be tied Tuesday, when his car was swallowed up by Mud Season on Braintree Hill. “I came home for sugaring, but completely forgot about the mud,” Drysdale muttered as Stockwell’s Garage arrived to tow him out. Lennie Stockwell required assistance from his son Kip and employee John Olmstead to dig and tug the car back to solid ground. “Once we located the bumper it was a pretty straight forward procedure,” commented Stockwell, “but we were worried there was a Volkswagon Rabbit under Mr. Drysdale’s car. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)


We all know the old joke about Vermont having two seasons; winter and one week of tough sledding. In fact, Vermont’s beauty lies largely in its changing seasons, and the one I’m in is generally the one I love best. 

The exception to this rule is Vermont’s fifth season, mud season. Many folks from other parts of the country think this addition to the traditional quartet of spring, summer, fall, winter, is another Vermont joke. Living in the “land of pavement,” they don’t experience mud season at all. Braintree, however, like many small Vermont towns, has no paved roads except for the state highways passing through. 

Generally, those of us who live off pavement wouldn’t have it any other way. Nothing, in my estimation, beats a well-maintained gravel road. Maybe I don’t like the way our cars are flocked with dust, but a well crowned and ditched country road is a thing of beauty. 

For four to six weeks a year, however, as winter transitions to spring, our back roads become choked with mud. Some years are worse than others, but even in a good year, there are locations so muddy a four-wheel drive with high clearance is the only vehicle getting through. We like to talk about immense snowfalls here in Vermont; after that, mud season experiences are the stuff of legend.

Back in 1993, events conspired to create a small bit of folkloric history. It was a particularly bad year for mud. 

Added to this, April 1 was a publication day for, The Herald, and we decided to have a little fun. 

The towing crew in this photograph is from Stockwell’s Garage on Braintree Hill. The driver of the buried car is Jack Drysdale, former editor and publisher of The Herald. The car is, in fact, nothing but a roof with glass that we paid to have removed from an aging auto by Kevin Williams up at Especially Imports, a local garage. 

A Tradition Begins

We ran the photograph on the front page along with ten completely fictitious stories, and people believed it. It was our very first “April Fool” front page, and the photograph helped it become a longstanding tradition.

Since that time, the image has become a celebrated icon of Vermont’s legendary mud season, appearing in Vermont life and on the cover of the book, “Fast Lane on a Dirt Road.” I have sold more prints of this image than any other. 

I attribute this photograph’s appeal to the fact that, despite being a fiction, it accurately and humorously portrays the feeling of mud season. Let’s take a second look.

First, it should be acknowledged this is not a news image. The chicanery behind this creation would have gotten me fired on any regular news day. It’s artificiality takes it from the realm of the free press and places it in the realm of art, or perhaps advertising. In some ways, constructing an image like this isn’t so different from photographing a new car model for a national ad campaign. We are telling a story; our success lies in getting the details right and in conveying them clearly.

Location is key. Not only was I able to find a truly massively muddy road, but placing the camera below the level of the car, and shooting uphill, emphasized the mud even more. 

Lens selection is very important. I used a 200mm telephoto for this scene. This pulls the background closer. Waves of mud crowding the foreground are echoed and framed by massive maples in back. A tripod enabled a long exposure with the f-stop at 22, keeping the entire scene in focus. Everything is collapsing here, tumbling down the hill toward the viewer. You can feel the mud flowing.

Jack Drysdale and I had a great time that day. As we traveled to the shot location with the car roof on the back of the pick-up, together we composed the back-story for the scene. Our cutline is reprinted here with the original photograph.

The willingness of Jack Drysdale and the Stockwell crew to enter wholeheartedly into the fiction was essential. I photographed with medium format and 35mm cameras, over 70 frames in all, and Jack was in it from start to finish. His enthusiasm shows here in the way he’s bent into an incredulous parenthesis (echoed by the fellow shoveling mud) with his questioning mouth hanging agape. Wearing his trademark tweed jacket, tie and hat, Mr. Drysdale looks every inch an educated news editor, a trusted scion of society. As such, he’s the perfect foil for our little joke. 

We see the whole scene through his eyes, and because he can’t believe what has happened to his car, we believe the story.

Of course it doesn’t hurt the believability that Stockwell’s wrecker is awash in mud. The fellow with the shovel, Lennie Stockwell, towing hook in hand, his son Kip, up on the truck ready to start the winching. Not one, or two, but three fellows working to free this car; this is a big deal!

One final detail is sells the fiction. Notice that the rear window glass reflects the sky and maples above. Removing the roof, glass intact, was difficult. The reflection, however, reinforces the notion that this really is a whole car lost to the travails of this season of mud.

So here’s a toast to Jack Drysdale, no longer with us, and to Vermont’s venerable mud season, which still is; it is uniquely ours, and for that we love it.  

[email protected] (The Herald) April Fool's Day Jack Drysdale Mud Season Vermont cars spring weather Thu, 18 Apr 2013 13:05:24 GMT
Capturing the Moment: More Powerful than a Locomotive We’ve all been in the situation when we see something happening and wish we had a camera to take a photograph. 

These days, with digital phones, more often than not we do. Back in the analogue era, however, when cameras were not so ubiquitous, and film had to be loaded before shots were taken, there were many instances when we sighed, “if only I had my camera.” 

As a press photographer, you learn, by such moments, to carry a camera with film in your car. Memorable images result from being in the right place at the right time. Luck is a factor, but so too are being prepared, having a good eye, and the willingness to drop everything to attend to the opportunity at hand. 

I wish I had a dollar for every time I said to myself, “I’ll come back and photograph that later.” Too often, later never comes. The shot that seemed so obvious an opportunity will be absent upon returning. The light has changed, a critical element has moved, the opportunity is lost.

What if you knew an event of photographic significance was going to take place and you had time to prepare for it? You’d think this would make everything simpler. But what if the event in question would be happening in just a few seconds and then be over? Sunrises are like this; it’s important to be in place before the light is actually showing. Anticipating the event and being in a good location is vital in achieving the desired result.

I had a similar situation in July, 1989, when The Herald learned that Amtrak passenger service between Montreal and New York was to be restored, daily bringing the Montrealer through the White River Valley. The paper was still named The White River Valley Herald then; it seemed an event too worthy to pass up. 

Adding to the excitement, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy and other dignitaries would be climbing aboard for the White River Junction to Montpelier leg of the journey. I had to get the shot.

In considering the Herald readership towns along the route, I knew that my window of opportunity lay somewhere between Sharon to the south and Braintree to the north. Seeking a memorable image location, I decided upon the truss bridge, spanning the White River at the north edge of Bethel village just across from Bethel Mills.

The day before the train came through, I visited the site to prepare. When the time came I wanted to be ready, for there would be no second chance. My plan was to climb the open iron of a truss at the end of the bridge, photographing with a five-frame-per-second motor-driven Nikon F camera as the train came hurtling below me. I knew it would be moving fast, perhaps fifty miles an hour. At that speed it would approach the bridge at almost 100 feet per second. 

Pacing the tracks, I calculated that less than 10 seconds would elapse between my first glimpse and the train’s passing below me. My subject wouldn’t be sitting still for this portrait; it would be in a good photographic location for less than a second. 

Most folks didn’t have cell phones in 1989, I certainly didn’t. Yet, it was important to stay in close contact with the White River Junction station to make sure I was at the bridge in time for the shot. I left from Randolph for Bethel as the train arrived in White River, knowing that a short stop was planned for brief speech-making and boarding.

It seemed an hour passed as I waited in my perch above the tracks for the train to arrive. Then I heard a whistle, and the Montrealer swung around the bend to the south, a silver blur heading right for me. In the moments that followed I have a recollection of gripping the bridge with my knees and right arm. The camera, snugged in my left hand by the tightened strap, was trained on the tracks below. 

A 24mm wide-angle lens provided great depth of field; the speed was set at 1000 to insure that motion wouldn’t destroy the image. Then the engine was upon me. The noise was deafening, violent vibrations shook the bridge, hot wind whipped all around. (This was a complete surprise; apparently, the engine’s exhaust discharges from the roof which roared by barely seven feet from my left thigh.)

I have a vague recollection of the engineer waving. Looking back over my shoulder to the north I saw dignitaries on a platform at the rear of the last car. Then, everything was quiet. Still. It was over.

Dazed, I climbed down from the truss. I was totally overwhelmed. I felt like an idiot for having climbed up there; but was grateful I had done it and was thankful I had made careful preparations a day in advance. 

Nonetheless, I wasn’t even sure I had the shot. Everything had happened too quickly for me to know.          

Only upon developing the film did I learn I had the image. I printed the single good frame for the paper. In the frame preceding, the train can hardly be discerned; in the one following there is nothing but blurred roof. In my photograph I could see a small American flag flying from the front of the train, a detail missed in the act of shooting.

Had I not climbed the Bethel bridge on Monday, July 17, 1989, this photograph, entitled, “Back on Track,” wouldn’t have run on the front page that Thursday. This unique moment would have been lost. 

Sometimes it’s like that. Two days of planning are required for a split second photographic opportunity. Was it worth it? Would I do it again? Well, everything changes. I’m now 62, not 38. The tracks have just this year been made longer, straighter, much faster. So, the photograph today would be altogether different. As I said earlier, seldom can you go back and get a shot you didn’t take when you first had the opportunity. 

I will admit this much, however. If I were 38 again, and Amtrak was reinstating an overnight train run to Washington, D.C., I would grab this image again in a heartbeat. And that’s all the time I’d have!

[email protected] (The Herald) Amtrak Vermont bridges film motor-drive nikon politicians preparation trains Thu, 14 Mar 2013 13:10:15 GMT
The Quiet Landscape of Winter  

A great gift of winter is the encouragement it gives us to settle down, to take time for renewal. As nature cycles through its annual rite of shortened days and deepening, colder nights, we do well to take time apart, even for a few days, to slow down, consider the years that have passed and the one that lies ahead.

I hope that in this season’s flurry of parties and feasting, there have been moments of quiet reflection for you. These snowbound days are nature’s incentive to follow the bear into the cave of repose and contemplation. Even if just for a few days, we are better for it.

Winter provides a landscape for the quiet eye. Snow muffles sound, and in like manner, hushes the cacophony of the visual. Fields of stubble, gleaned crops, and manured soils are blanketed with undulating waves of whiteness. Roadside ditches, bracken, and stone walls are drifted into memory. The litter of the forest floor is smoothed over. The eye, like the ear, is invited into a quieter space.

Winter provides opportunity to see the world anew. Take time time this week to look about and really behold this change. This is a different vista than we experienced two weeks ago. Let your eye take it in. Revel in it.

Twenty years ago, in just such a season, I was headed to work and passed a neighbor’s pond. Well. I say it was a pond, because I passed it every day and knew a pond was there. That day, however, the pond wasn’t there. Gone was the berm that arced across the lip of the field; gone, too, was the water and its reflection of sky. All I really saw was a blanket of white. In the flat light of early morning there wasn’t even the slightest sense of the snow’s surface, no sign of near and far. Only the familiar lines of our neighbors’ home assured me I was in the right spot. Snow had erased the pond!

I slowed the car and proceeded into the driveway. For the next 15 to 20 minutes I trudged amidst drifted whiteness with my camera and a moderate telephoto lens. Framing the scene from one angle I was able to isolate the absent pond, separating it from a small shed in the foreground and a treeline some distance to the back. 

To my left, atop snow where, in my memory, the berm of grass still framed the pond, sat three Adirondack chairs. Gone were the flat surfaces of arm and seat slat. Gone too, were the evenly cut edges of the lower back legs. Like the pond and the earth, these three chairs, too, were slowly disappearing.

Before all vestige of the world I had known was removed, I photographed the scene. Carefully lowering my lens to a point just below the treeline, I removed it also from the frame, leaving just these three vanishing remnants from another time.

This is the pared down, simplified, quieted view of winter.

[email protected] (The Herald) landscapes snow winter Thu, 03 Jan 2013 14:21:25 GMT
A Photographer's Eulogy for Kodak P3200 Film  

I learned last Friday that Kodak is stopping the production of P3200 film. 

This breakthrough black and white film was introduced to the market in 1988. By that time I’d been shooting for The Herald for about two years. Pro Camera was our photography supplier in White River Junction. 

One week, when I was in the store picking up an order,  Jeremy gave me a conspiratorial look and asked, “Would you like to try something very special?” He reached behind the counter and pulled out two rolls, saying, “I’ll put it on your tab.”

This film was a sensation, and in this brief account I’ll try to explain why.

Photography has, since its inception in the mid-nineteenth century, been constrained by the light sensitivity of film emulsions. In the early days emulsions were wiped onto glass plates which received the photographic exposure. Later, by the time of George Eastman, film was substituted for glass, and long rolls were loaded into box cameras in Rochester, N.Y., sent out to customers who took their photographs and sent the whole camera back to Kodak for processing. 

“Kodak”  is an onomatopoetic name invented by Eastman, imitating the clunking sound of the camera shutter opening and closing. This sound was brand new, as earlier emulsions, so slow the exposure often lasted a minute or more. There was no quick “kodak” sound with those long exposures! 

This slowness meant that many things couldn’t be captured in photographs. People moving in town squares were just a blur, as were most babies in mother’s laps. Smiles were difficult to hold; somber expressions reflected mostly the limitations of early emulsion speeds, not the dispositions of those sitting, often held motionless for studio portraiture by iron neck braces. 

Though film speeds were faster by the 1940s, still many images were almost impossible. Flash-free night photography was feasible only if the camera was held fast by tripod. Even then, movement would blur the image. By fixing the camera, Edward Steichen and others carefully composed haunting low-light images concentrating on composition, light and shadow, soft focus and atmosphere.

The advent of the 35mm SLR camera with sprocketed film permitted quick frame advancing for repeated exposures. Then came the quick Plus-X and Tri-X films of 100 and 400 ASA respectively (ASA being a film speed rating now termed ISO). This technology was black and white newspaper photography’s “bread and butter” for over three decades, from the ‘60s on. Tri-X was fast and forgiving; it could be “pushed” as high as 1600 with a modicum of success. The resulting images were somewhat contrasty, but they were discernible, and often preferable, to on-camera flash photography which produced a decidedly artificial lighting look.

In today’s digital world, when photographs can be manipulated in myriad ways on the computer, newsrooms need to be especially vigilant in publishing images faithful to the original scene. Alteration of  press photographs through digital chicanery can be grounds for dismissal from a newspaper staff. In that light, it has always been somewhat puzzling to me that flash photography, with its reliance upon quick bursts of light loosed upon the scene just for the duration of the camera exposure, became so embraced by the press. Talk about changing the look of the subject! 

Yet, even though most photographers longed for a better, more natural look, on camera flash photography dominated imaging in low light situations.

P3200 film changed all that. Suddenly, we had a film almost as sensitive as the human eye; a technology that could look into darkened corners and reveal detail, a film that could stop a basketball player in mid-leap without the intrusion of a flash. This Kodak product was much more elastic than Tri-X; it could easily be pushed or pulled from 400 all the way to 6400 or even 12800 ASA. The “P” in P3200 was acknowledgement of this. The tonal range at the higher speeds was truly remarkable. If you could see it, you could shoot it, and you could shoot it without a tripod. 

Overnight the veil had been lifted; the lights were turned on! The resulting images had a more honest feel, more accurately recording the light illuminating the original scene.

I had many conversations with Harry Beilfuss of Rochester, N.Y., about the seeming miraculous qualities of P3200. Beilfuss, the father of Randolph’s Becky McMeekin, was the consumer products manager worldwide for Kodak in the late ‘80s, when P3200 hit store shelves. Beilfuss acknowledged that P3200 was a really big deal for Kodak. With this new T-grain emulsion they had beaten all the competition once again.

For this piece I’ve selected two P3200 images as a nod to Kodak and this amazing innovation. 

The first is a portrait of Harry Holland, then CEO of Clifford of Vermont. I believe this is the first P3200 image I took. It was shot with a Nikon 180mm portrait lens on a Nikon F body. I hand-held the camera in Mr. Holland’s office for this portrait. 

The light is clean and honest; the tonal range in the print is smooth.  Holland looks like a member of the Roman Senate, like the powerful charismatic captain of industry he was. 

The second image is of Chad Rainey getting a hug from his grandfather Howard Rainey following  Randolph’s victory in the Boys Division II Vermont Basketball final in 1996. (Howard had been on the last boy’s team to win at the Auditorium, in 1941.) Ryan Bushey is cutting down the net in the background.

This image, with its near and far elements, would have been almost impossible with on-camera flash; P3200 made the photography easy. 

Clifford of Vermont is gone now; so too are Harold Rainey and P3200 film. Kodak itself is fading into history; but I give thanks for them all—for Kodak, for George Eastman, for Harry Beilfuss, for all those who “turned the lights on,” allowing us to capture with our camera what we saw with our eyes.

[email protected] (The Herald) Kodak P3200 film Thu, 11 Oct 2012 13:35:02 GMT
'Going for Fifty' at the Tunbridge Fair

Every photographer has a few favorite places at the Tunbridge World’s Fair. For me, this has always included the animal barns, the Larkin Dancers, dairy judging, harness racing, and all the colorful personalities. 

Back in 1989, I chanced upon an unscheduled event in the carnival area located in the afternoon shadow of the grandstands. Walking along the mid-way I heard a boisterous exchange between a game operator and a rather large fellow with a Mohawk insisting that, “ringing the bell with a swing of that mallet is easy as pie!” The operator selling chances for this event, just smiled and kept the conversation light; he didn’t want to antagonize this big guy. 

“Why that’s so easy, I could ring the bell fifty times without a miss,”the young man bellowed for all to hear. The sheer audacity of the boast turned heads all around. That’s when, as they say, the coin dropped. Turning to the challenger, the operator held up the mallet and said, “Well why don’t you just give it a go?”

The contest usually cost a dollar a swing, and the winner received a cigar. I didn’t see any money exchange hands, though perhaps a few bets were laid down behind my back in the beer hall.

With all the confidence of Paul Bunyan, the challenger strode into the ring. In his hands the mallet, which had to weigh twenty or more pounds, seemed small. Wasting not one second, he smashed the hammer down, sending the weight on its vertical climb so fast it seemed the bell might explode. One, two, three, four, five times he did this in rapid succession, and the crowd knew the game was on.

In photographing this event, I began with a portrait lens, shooting from a front corner of the enclosure. The frame was filled by his upper body, a face of resolute determination, and the mallet high overhead. The photograph was published as part of a five image layout in The Herald that week. I’m sad to say that, though I knew this fellow’s name then, it wasn’t included in the cutline, and is now forgotten. (I’d be happy to provide a copy of this image to the first Herald reader who could properly identify the gentleman, who would now be around fifty.) 

With each mighty swing, the crowd became more and more engaged, counting every ring of the bell. I sensed this was a truly memorable fair event in the making, and wanted to photograph not just the challenger, but everyone in the area.

I could have replaced my moderate 105mm telephoto lens with a 24mm wide angle for this shot, but I had an even better choice at hand. I pulled my Widelux panning camera from my bag, moved toward the front center of the ring, and captured the scene pictured here.

Widelux technology exposes film differently than most 35mm cameras. Typically, the shutter is released, exposing the film frame with one quick burst of light from the scene. The Widelux is a true panning camera, however. The film is looped across a curved surface behind the turret-like lens area. When the exposure is begun, the turret swings from one side to the other, passing a slit over the surface of the film. The film, then, is exposed over a period of time. In early panning cameras the lens turned so slowly that clever students standing on one end of a graduating class could run to the other side and be pictured twice in one photograph! 

Photoshop has made stitching panoramas from multiple exposures quite popular. In this instance, however, with the quick motion and tight confines (with consequent relative shifting of elements) digital stitching would be very difficult. 

The Widelux was a perfect camera for this Tunbridge Fair moment. What you see is one entire frame, which, because of the panning lens, is longer and leaner than other 35mm images. 

“Going for Fifty,” is the name I gave to this photograph. As the count continues, nearly fifty people are gathered around the ring in anticipation.

Yes, he clanged the bell fifty times in succession. 

In the decades since that Saturday evening in 1989, I’ve see many other young bucks trying to impress their friends with a swing of the mallet. I think to myself, “You might ring that bell, but I once saw a fellow go for fifty without one miss!” 

[email protected] (The Herald) 50 Tunbridge World's Fair Widelux fifty ringer strong man Thu, 20 Sep 2012 13:06:33 GMT
Annie Burke: Vermont's Great Dairy Woman Annie Burke, farm woman

I just learned that Annie Burke passed away on April 11. This iconic Vermont farmer was the subject of many memorable photographs. She was, in a word, a photographer's dream.

I was visiting with Ethan Hubbard, looking at some of his prized images of Vermonters, when I learned of Annie's death. Ethan had three of her in his collection; all of them beauties.

Why is it that some people don't photograph well and some don't photograph poorly? The Hollywood 'screen test' is very real; some people 'light up the lens.'

Most of us have what we call 'a good angle' for the lens. I took a portrait of a woman recently who told me to take her image “from above, with me fully facing the lens.” She was right, of course; all the planes and parts of her face fell beautifully into place from that perspective. Other views couldn't compare.

Annie Burke was that rare sort who photographed beautifully from every angle. Such persons are exceedingly uncommon. I cannot, in fact, recall photographing another like her.

I photographed Annie many times at the Tunbridge World's Fair, her favorite in all of Vermont. A natural teamster, she would often be standing with her charges watching the ring, awaiting her turn. She was born in Connecticut, but she was no flatlander; her image is quintessentially Vermont.

A few years ago, as staff photographer for the Cabot Creamery Cooperative, I visited Annie and Ray at their Berlin farm. Harvest Hill was the love of her love, and of course Ray was a big part of Harvest Hill. I spent two hours with them, in the barn and outside under a big tree. Annie visited with “the ladies,” sat telling stories with Ray, helped a great granddaughter pose with a rambunctious calf. In looking over my take from that visit I discovered two things which contributed to this woman's remarkable photogenic quality. First, she didn't care a fig about how she looked. Because of this, she never primped or posed but, rather, simply visited with another good friend, who happened in this case to be a photographer snapping pictures as she spoke. The resulting images were just as selfless, egoless, as photographs of Mother Theresa.

The second quality of Annie Burke that strikes me now as I look over all my images of her, is the uncanny way in which she draws your attention to the one she's with. She never thought of herself as she was being photographed. I can see it now, though I didn't know it at the time. It's Ray she's delighted by, it's her granddaughter she's so proud of, that Ayshire or Charolais she is doting over. Always magnified by the one she's with, Annie glows in every single frame.

I last photographed Annie Burke at the 2008 Dairy Luncheon of the Vermont Farm Show in Barre. Tim Calabro and I had set up a small photo booth into which we invited farmers to step for a portrait as they passed on their way to the buffet. The images were to be collectively used as “the face of farming in Vermont” for The Herald's farm show supplement the following year.

Annie Burke was the last to be photographed that day. True to form, she didn't disappoint. While all the others, about 50, simply walked in front of the lens and consented to being photographed, Annie made an event of her moment. Springing over to a neighboring table, she grabbed a bunch of balloons, and pulled them into the frame. Then, just as I started shooting, she deflected the attention, pointing to the simple “got milk?” message at her side. This is vintage Annie Burke, and it is the way I remember her; happily drawing our eye to the one she's with, and looking marvelous in the meantime.

[email protected] (The Herald) Annie Burke Farm Show Vermont dairy farm women Thu, 17 May 2012 13:00:00 GMT
Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press The paper of record for towns along the White River, The Herald has for over a century strived to provide its readers with balanced reporting on the town governments and general news of many communities. To cover a region stretching from Pittsfield to Vershire, and Brookfield to Sharon, we rely on minutes from many towns, and diligent reporting from correspondents in hollows and hills as diverse as Broad Brook and Braintree, Bethel Lympus and Granville. 

Each year, on the first Tuesday of March, this paper’s enthusiasm for fair and balanced coverage of so many readership areas is tested by a number of simultaneous town and school district meetings. Getting accurate reporting and voting results from so many towns into print barely 18 hours following the closing of polls is a monumental task. 

For more than two decades, we’ve taken pride in obtaining not only words but images from as many of our 16 towns as possible. This task has been helped somewhat by the advent of digital technologies. Gone are the times when, returning to the office at 8 p.m. Tuesday, I would begin developing 20 or more rolls of film! 

Nevertheless, each town requires a visit with a lens if we are going to publish an image. For a few years we’ve received some photographs electronically, but there are still massive numbers of miles between those picture-taking opportunities. 

Back in 1993, when this image was published on The Herald’s front page, I photographed proceedings in eight towns: Pittsfield, Stockbridge, Barnard, Royalton, Tunbridge, Chelsea, Brookfield, and Randolph, in that order. Conspicuously absent is my own town of Braintree! Such is the fate of many press folk on Town Meeting day. 

Visiting eight towns in a single day doesn’t allow much time for conversation. As most of the action takes place between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., I allowed myself only 45 minutes for travel and picture taking in each town. Of course, there are also precious minutes spent with pie and coffee! 

The trick is to have a sense of what you’re after even before arriving at the meeting. One year I focused upon the “mechanics” of governance: shots of the gavel, the ballot box, checklists, voting booths, town reports being perused. Another time I was particularly looking to capture the full age spectrum of those in attendance, from newborns cradled in mothers’ arms, to wizened old townsfolk, their faces a vivid accounting of life lived hard and well. 

I am constantly struck by how willing our citizenry is to be photographed and interviewed. Yes, my presence there with a press camera is a constitutionally protected right, but I sense that those being photographed know these images play an important role in keeping our meetings open and vital. 

This Photograph 

In 1993, I was interested in finding ‘the face’ of Town Meeting. To this end I entered the Royalton meeting shortly following lunch to find citizens testifying on a proposed ordinance banning nude dancing in the village. As the issue was placed on the Australian ballot in an advisory capacity only, discussion was permitted, and discussion aplenty there was! 

I placed myself low on the floor of the old gym and took a few images looking up and into the faces of a few who came forward to speak. Some faces were twisted with pained expression, others with anger over having to even discuss such an issue. Then, Jim Proctor, pastor of the Royalton United Church Federated, stepped up to the microphone. Rev. Proctor’s whole demeanor was the embodiment of reasoned, thoughtful and compelling free speech. I was immediately reminded of Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting for “Freedom of Speech” as part of his “Four Freedoms” series in 1943 war torn America. 

I regard this photograph as a complete image. Everywhere the eye looks there is something that adds to the whole. 

Rev. Proctor’s face, open, calm and lifted up, is bathed in light from the few windows high on the gymnasium’s upper wall; he is dressed simply and neatly, there is no puffery here; in his right hand he holds evidence of preparation before speaking; his left hand, in his pocket, shows that he is at ease in stating his views; a voting card in his shirt pocket is a visual reminder that each person in a democracy has the right and responsibility of informed voting. 

Out of focus, but very much a part of the image, are attentive townsfolk and an American flag crowning the whole proceeding. 

Gazing upon this photograph nearly two decades later, I’m decidedly proud to be an American living in Vermont. I am humbled, too, entrusted with the responsibility of accurately reporting with my cameras on the people and events of our region. 

[email protected] (The Herald) Jim Proctor South Royalton Town Meeting Day community freedoms speech Thu, 01 Mar 2012 15:27:36 GMT
Remembering Warren Blaisdell Warren Blaisdell lights a pipe In the summer of 1977, an auction was held for the benefit of Bethany Church in Randolph. In this time before the church had any space beyond the drip edge of its meeting house and parish house across the street (now Chandler Gallery), a site with enough room for display and a small tent, in the event of rain, was needed. Day’s Funeral Home provided the tent and the location, out behind their barn.

Objects of every type imaginable were donated. Bikes and toys, antique furniture and garden implements, old radios, a small printing press, dresses and art work were all part of the mix that day. As the auctioneer, I remember hearing from Gil Blaisdell early in the week of the auction.

“Dad would like to contribute a dairy calf, if you think it might bring in some money,” he said over the phone. The Blaisdell Farm in Peth was widely regarded as having one of the best Jersey herds in the area. We enthusiastically accepted the offer.

I’ve auctioned quite a few things in my lifetime, but never before or since a dairy calf. The sweet young thing caused quite a stir among the crowd as Warren Blaisdell gently lifted her off the back of his truck. The bidding was brisk. As I recall, $70 was realized from the calf, in a time when $200 was considered pretty good weekly wages in Vermont.

Warren Blaisdell died this week on Monday morning. He was surrounded by his dear wife Bea, all seven of their children, coming from as far away as Michigan, and many grands and great-grands. I saw him last on Sunday evening. A fighter to the last, he was still hoping to get home.

Since Warren’s passing, I haven’t been able to get out of my head the image of him with that young calf. This man had a remarkable way with cows. You could say he spoke their language.

Many years later, in 2000, three Randolph Jersey farms were selling out: Hodgdon, LaBounty, and Blaisdell. I remember visiting Warren and Bea to take some photographs. Their barn wasn’t the prettiest by a long shot; doors hung askew, paint and shingles were wanting in more than one location. Warren’s love for his cows, however, is all that I remember. Together with Bea and their children Mary and John, Warren milked the herd, silently talking with each cow in turn, settling them, helping them to be at rest, at home.

Anticipating the selling of the three herds, Perry Hodgdon told me that the Blaisdell’s would bring much more than those of the LaBounty and Hodgdon farms. He was right. They realized twice the price, and were kept together, all being shipped to a new home out west.

Warren Blaisdell was a Vermonter, a great dairyman, and spoke pure Jersey.

Warren Blaisdell contact sheet

[email protected] (The Herald) Warren Blaisdell a second look cows dairy Thu, 09 Feb 2012 15:30:00 GMT
From Snowy Porch to Front Page sled

Some visual experiences are so compelling, they are vividly remembered years later: a deer bounding across the path and through a field; majestic columns and stained glass of a gothic cathedral, rising above our upturned eyes; a barn burning in the middle of the night; morning fog lifting from the surface of a pond where a great blue heron is fishing.

Photography derives from taking a second look. It comes from spending time with a person, place, or event, until something telling is revealed. That revelation is manifest in an image, written with light. Good photography can bring the viewer inside the photographer's experience. In this column, to be published occasionally, we will take a second look at images published in The Herald during my 25 years as staff photographer.
We begin this column with a photograph from the front page of the Herald exactly 24 years ago, published in the issue delivered just before Christmas. Sitting above the fold, this image of a sled, graced by a bow and fresh snow was framed by a border of red. Uncharacteristically, there was no cutline. I remember Gordon Harding, photography editor, saying the image needed none; it could speak for itself.
Gordon was right. The photograph won first place pictorial image honors for weekly papers at the New England Press Association that year.
Let's take a second look at this image and see why it may have fared so well.
Early in that week of 1987, I was riding area roads in search of material for the paper. The skies were grey, there had been a storm the night before and big flakes, signaling the tail end of the precipitation, were still falling. Fields looked as though they'd been smudged with an eraser. Passing slowly through Pond Village, Brookfield, I saw a sled propped up on the porch of the Green Trails Inn. I stopped, climbed out of the car, and began the process of taking a photograph.
I can't recall how many thousand times I've seen possible photographic subjects and not stopped to record the scene! That initial vision isn't enough. What follows is the hard work of carrying cameras and lenses into the cold, walking through knee-deep snow to view and record from many perspectives.
I shot perhaps 20 frames in about 15 minutes that morning. My first images included much of the inn and foreground of snow. In this final frame, all that is non-essential has been stripped away. Left only are the snow-flocked sled and a bit of surrounding architectural detail. The scene is a study in texture and tone. The tuxedo-crisp contrast of beribboned sled is framed by dark and light of clapboard, shutter, doorframe, the blur of falling flake and slurry of ice and snow at the floor.
Making this image a fit Christmas present for Herald readers are the bow and a fresh dusting of snow. Note that the snow animates the bow's shape; while everything else in this intimate scene is flat, the bow pops off the surface, adding depth and interest to the image.
This is a balanced composition. The width of the sled is equivalent to the space on each side. The clapboards of the Inn are, in turn, framed by equal measures of light and dark, the door-surround to the left and window shutter on the right. This balance quiets the eye; there is no hurrying here, no sound save that of falling snow. The sled and scene are very much at rest. A space for contemplation is provided in the midst of holiday whirl.
The invitation to stop and rest is deepened by the subject matter. This gift has no bells and whistles. There are no batteries, there is no assembly required. This simple, quiet sled is a powerful icon, especially for adults viewing the image on Christmas, 24 years ago, a time when disco music filled the air. This is no plastic creation, but a sled like the ones we used as children in the 1950s. We are taken back. Like Citizen Kane, we have here our "Rosebud," and are sledding again on the hills of years gone by.
Finally, this is a Vermont image. It is a scene as New England as Currier and Ives. We feel here the presence of parents and grandparents past; we taste again the cocoa and feel the warm fire waiting inside.
This is the view which drew me from my car, camera in hand, to take "a second look."


[email protected] (The Herald) front page porch sleds snowy Thu, 22 Dec 2011 19:45:00 GMT