sunset

As June approaches, I resume my annual trek north from Florida to Vermont. It is an annual event that has been going on now for 10 years but this time it will be a bit different. We used to bring our cats along with us and that meant we had to do the trip in two days because as you may know, especially if you have a cat, they absolutely hate hotel rooms. However over time, they have moved on—victims of old age and tis time our trip will be taken a bit more leisurely.  Hopefully I will be able to stop in a few places and perhaps take a picture or two as my old friend John used to say.

The photograph above was taken one summer evening in Burlington on the shores of Lake Champlain. I went down there because I had little else to do and I was feeling a bit restless. I noticed that as the sun began to set, people from the town would migrate to the shore to watch the sunset. It was a nice experience.

HB_Kid

As a kid growing up in Montreal, I sorta got used to freezing my ass off in winter. Of course when you are younger, you don’t really realize it… or care for that matter. As a teenager you have to show how tough you are so you never wear a hat, don’t lace up your flight boots, and keep your jacket unbuttoned. And gloves? Fuck em! That phase only lasted until my 18th year. That’s when I went out one January afternoon and walked over to my friend Harvey’s which was a 20 minute walk. It was -10° F, and there was a 20 mile an hour wind blowing but I didn’t care. I was a tough teenager who thought he knew it all. (Over the years I have found out quite gradually, how little I really know. Its fascinating!) It was cold but I could “handle it” so off I went. When I arrived, his sister Julianne opened the door and blurted out, “David, what happened to your ear? Its white!” I reached up and touched it and it was frozen stiff. It took about 10 minutes to thaw out and after that, whenever the temperature was below freezing, my ear would sting like hell unless I wore a hat.

Over the next few years I started becoming more adverse to winter with age and started wearing sweaters, buttoning my coat, wearing gloves and of course a hat. At some point that was not enough. Winter became just as exciting as a trip to the dentist. I began to hate it with a passion. Slush in Montreal made the temperature damp. My toes were always cold. Sitting in a restaurant there was always a draft. Even having a car didn’t help because it took time to warm up and I always had to shovel it out after a snowfall.

I moved to Vermont as I like to say for “the warmer climate”. It actually was warmer… by about an average of 5° but after a few years it didn’t seem really different. I still froze, and my toes were still cold.

When I was 45, I went to Florida for the first time and met my present wife Sharon. We were both from Montreal and we both drove our parent’s cars down south for them. (An old middle-class Jewish custom) We were both broke so for the first few years of our marriage, that was our annual vacation. Every November and April… her in her mother’s car and myself  in my father’s car following each other down/up I95. It was worth it though, because I fell in love with that hot wind, on a winter night as we walk down the street with the smell of Jasmine in the warm aire. After a few years we eventually settled on one car. We found someone else to drive my father’s.

As time went on, we became a bit more affluent and started going down on our own—this time in winter when it was cold. As things got better we would do it twice, and eventually three times a year. It was nice, but we both hated coming back north and so about seven years ago after figuring out how to make our business portable, we bought a place here. It’s really funny but for most of my life, I always thought that people who were doing the same thing were schmucks. I saw it as typical “follow-the-herd” mentality. I never really wanted to identify with them. As I said at the beginning, I didn’t know very much when I was younger. You grow up, and as a teenager, acquire prejudices that you stick with for most of your life until you smarten up or other things happen to change your mind. This is what we call “coming of age.” In my case it took a while.

So, why the picture?  Because it was taken yesterday on the beach here in Florida when it was a balmy 82°. As I said, you have to adapt and change. In this case it was not about being able to afford it—it was about changing one’s view on things, figuring out how to make it work,  and I am the better off for it.

A very happy new year to everybody.

Its good to be back. Italy is the land of good food. Not only good food but good meals—which means a nice 2-hour lunch, a bottle of wine, and lots of sunlight—not a bad way to eat. I love it!. You are driving along some secondary road, the weather is wonderful, and at noon it is time to eat. Sometimes you will see a “Ristorante or Trattoria” sign along the road. You stop, go inside and you are seated at a table with tablecloths, beautiful decor (they are very proud of their places)  and an array of spotless glassware. The meal begins. You eat, you drink, and after an hour or two, you are sent on your way with a slight buzz—not too much but just enough. America is different and in America, Vermont is still more different. It would be nice to drive along a road, enjoying the scenery, spot a restaurant sign and hop in and have a good lunch but that is not the case. Perhaps in some states, but here in Vermont, all you find are these places—little crumby roadside stands with greasy burgers and no services—and I love it!

I must admit that after a week or two of just great food and fine cuisine, I miss a crappy meal at one of these places. Now that it is autumn, they are closing down for the season and soon I will be heading south. Florida will be different—very different. You are rarely driving along country reads—most of the time it is expressways with little signs every few miles at the exits pointing out the local fare—McDonalds, Burger King, Chic-Fila etc. Not too exciting, but hey, its home. What you have to do is find a town and in Florida there are lots of them—just head toward the ocean and there are towns. Most places along the water serve fish and its fresh and there is nothing like a catch-of-the-day and a beer. I suppose it is just what you are used to.

One thing about Italy though is that my long-range plan is to spend a summer in Italy and my lunch routines certainly will change. Then I will be getting into just going into a bar and having a sandwich and a beer and they make great sandwiches!

By the way, this photo is taken in Vermont—not Italy and the “joint” is in between two towns—the names of which I can not remember. Dining in Vermont can be an anonymous experience.

I have always had problems making good photographs in Vermont. I suppose it is just too pretty. Somewhere along the way, I decided that “pretty pictures” is not what was for me. If it has to do with expressing yourself, I guess I tend to be cynical and a bit gritty so I look for different subjects. Photography for me is an expression of how I feel about things. For instance many years ago as my first marriage was breaking up, I noticed that all of my photographs were about people alone. It did not take much of an imagination to figure out where my head was back then.

I still take pictures of people alone but it is different now. First of all, it is not the sum of my work. Second of all it is just one of the 20 themes that I have going on concurrently. Now it is a subject—not a portal to my brain. Funny thing about loneliness though is that it is no longer a negative feeling for me these days. Now I kind of like it.

That is probably why I like Vermont. There are no people to speak of. When you actually run into someone, there is minimal chit chat and on you go. Its not really a lonely place—more of a quiet one and that suits me fine. This photograph is of a pizza place about 10 miles outside of Swanton. It is near a gas station and there is not a single home in sight. Ya, Vermont can be a lonely place.

I have noticed a few things as I get older. The first is that I think of mortality more often. The second Is that I find it easier to talk to strangers. They are not unconnected. This summer while driving through central Vermont, I noticed an old cemetery in this small village. lately I have been photographing these locations as one of my many ongoing projects so I stopped to see if there was anything happening (moving or otherwise). The tombstones were interesting, but not that interesting so I started heading back to my car. I passed a gravedigger who was working there maintaining the plots. He was with his three children and I said hi. He nodded back and we started to talk a bit and out of the corner off my eye, I noticed one of his kids staring at me from behind this grave marker. Naturally, I asked If he minded me taking a few shots and he nodded—not quite sure what I was up to. I got off 2 quick ones—one focussed on his eyes and the other on the tombstone.

As I said, these events are not unconnected. I guess all photographs (at least the ones I make) are personal and tell my story.

Halloween Fairy: Middlebury Vermont: 2009
Two Bright Children

About a week ago I wrote about stupid officials, their misguided attempt to protect the public, at the expense of artistic expression.

This is something different. This is how it is supposed to work.

Just before Halloween, Sharon and I spent a day in Middlebury Vermont which is about 45 minutes from our home. We hung around, had an ice cream cone and watched the action on the street. Not much was happening but all of a sudden these two beautiful asian children ran past us dressed in their super-fairy Halloween costumes. I snapped a quickie and kept walking.

“Excuse me sir” said a voice behind me.

I turned around and saw this fortyish yuppie white guy. They two kids were standing next to him. I guess he was the parent.

“Oh shit!” I thought. “Here we go again.”

“Did you just take a picture of my kids?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Oh great! My wife is always after me to take pictures of them but I just never get around to it. Would it be a problem for you to send me a copy?”

” No problem” I answered. “But perhaps we should do it right. Why don’t they stand in front of that wall and I will take one of them together. I love doing this stuff”

He told them to stand in front of the wall and I ran off a couple of exposures and handed him my card with my web site and email address on it. “Send me an email and I will send you back a couple of JPEGs tonight. ”

He said he would and went off.

The next night he sent me an email and  said he had visited my site and both him and his wife enjoyed my pictures. I sent him a photo of his kids and he replyed thanking me. The next night his wife emailed me and again thanked me for the photos and asked if I would mind photographing them when they were in their traditional outfits.

“No Problem” I replied but I doubt that they would follow up.