“The Father of his Country”


March brings an unusual confluence of poetry and politics.

On March 4, 1789, the U.S. Constitution came into effect as the governing document for the newly formed nation.

March 21 is recognized as World Poetry Day and March 24 marks 138 years since the death of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-82), who was one of 19th century’s foremost poets.

When I was commissioned to photograph Longfellow’s house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I decided to train my camera on specific locations that served as sources of inspiration for his writing. As far as I know, this had not been done before.

The house was conveniently located near Harvard University, where Longfellow taught. But, for Longfellow, another key attraction to the house was that it had served as George Washington’s military headquarters during the Siege of Boston (July 1775 to April 1776).

In 1844, the Longfellows acquired the pictured bust of Washington, which is a plaster copy of the one sculpted by Jean-Antoine Houdon. Its location by the staircase is no accident. Indeed, the bust and staircase inspired Longfellow to compose the following passage in his lengthy poem To A Child:

Once, ah, once, within these walls,
One whom memory oft recalls,
The Father of his Country, dwelt.
And yonder meadows broad and damp
The fires of the besieging camp
Encircled with a burning belt.
Up and down these echoing stairs,
Heavy with the weight of cares,
Sounded his majestic tread;
Yes, within this very room
Sat he in those hours of gloom,
Weary both in heart and head.

It is rare when one can closely observe such a personal object or location that sparked the creativity behind a world-renowned poem.

The photograph is also rare in that it has never been exhibited or published in the media.

Click here to get a signed print of this and other photographs.

Xiomaro does not endorse the advertisements on this page.

Fire Island – Wilderness


March 22 has been designated as World Water Day. The date is intended to raise public awareness about water and climate change – and how the two are inextricably linked.

This got me thinking about the Otis Pike High Dune Wilderness Area, which is part of Fire Island National Seashore. It is deemed to be a “wilderness” because no human “improvements” – such as boardwalks, piers, walking paths, rest areas, etc. – can be introduced.

The High Dune ecosystem includes a salt marsh, which is a critical habitat for fish, mollusks, and crustaceans.

It is remarkable to think that one can travel 50 miles east of New York City and be in a seven mile stretch of barrier islands where nature is allowed to take its course without intervention.

Camping is allowed in the High Dune. But to protect its wilderness status, there are no facilities. So campers must bring their own drinking water and all necessary supplies. No open fires are permitted and all garbage must be carried out.

I had arrived at this part of the High Dune before dawn. The colors of the sand, water, and sky changed dramatically as the sun gradually rose. Indeed, the wilderness landscape is in a constant state of change as natural forces sculpt the elements into new and nuanced forms.

By late morning, I was walking toward a marsh area and happened to look behind me. As soon as I saw the serpentine shoreline suggesting a yin and yang, I knew I had to work fast to create a photograph of a fleeting moment in time.

Click here to get a signed print of this and other photographs.

Xiomaro does not endorse the advertisements on this page.

Olmsted’s U.S. Capitol Grounds


It is only a matter of time before a new and growing country needs to expand its center of government. Such was the case when Frederick Law Olmsted was commissioned to design an extension of the U.S. Capitol grounds.

I had the privilege of photographing Olmsted’s home office, which was the first of its kind for landscape architecture. The office as well as his house are open to the public for ranger-led tours.

But I also wanted to photograph something that is not typically on view. Museums are like icebergs. Most of its collections remain unseen underneath. The staff generously brought out artifacts for me to photograph in their archival area. And the hand-drawn plan pictured above was one of my subjects.

The U.S. Capitol had been extended by the addition of the House and Senate wings along with a new dome. This meant that the grounds also had to be enlarged. So, in 1874, Olmsted was brought on to plan and oversee the project.

In addition to the landscaping elements, Olmsted also was responsible for the architectural treatments such as the terrace walls, lighting, fountains, railings, and balustrades.

This image has never been seen outside of the National Park Service, let alone printed or published online.

Click here to get a signed print of this and other photographs.

Xiomaro does not endorse the advertisements on this page.

“Home is the Starting Place”


I was reminded of this photograph after seeing that St. Patrick’s Day is coming up on March 17. It’s an image that is published on page 30 of my book Weir Farm National Historic Site (Arcadia Publishing).

My book tells the story of Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919), who is one of the founders of American Impressionist painting. It also explains that this photograph is a close-up of an inscription appearing over the front door of his house that reads: “Here shall we rest and call content our home.”

What my book does not explain – due to space constraints – is that the quote is from a letter Weir received from his brother John. It was hand-painted over the door by Weir’s friend Stanford White.

White was a member of the famed architectural firm McKim, Mead and White. The Washington Square arch in Greenwich Village, New York City, and the second Madison Square Garden were among the many well-known structures that he designed. As a friend of Weir’s, he also designed the 1911 additions to the artist’s house.

As Weir’s grandson noted in my book, his grandfather evoked “a gentler, quieter age in which family, friends and colleagues were the core of life….” Indeed, this observation was well summed up by Weir in a letter he wrote to his godson: “Home is the starting place.”

This photograph has never been exhibited or printed. It was created as part of a commission to artistically document the restoration of Weir’s house and other historical buildings on the property. For more information, take a look at this clip from News 12:

Click here to get a signed print of this and other photographs.

Xiomaro does not endorse the advertisements on this page.

Pennsylvania Station, New York – Harrison Ford


I love to photograph and can’t always wait for a commission to come along. So I use every opportunity in my day-to-day comings and goings to be creative.

I’m in and out of New York City’s Penn Station pretty regularly. Some time in the 1990s, the station underwent a much-needed renovation. Although it’s still a miserable place to be in, the facelift made the experience a little less like a dark and fetid basement.

One of the first decorative treatments I noticed during this 1990s makeover was this curious looking fellow pictured above. He appears in relief along the wall of the staircase that leads to tracks 20 and 21 of the Long Island Railroad.

Perhaps you may know who he represents. I’m thinking it’s some sort of mythological figure. I haven’t had a chance to find out and, if you can identify his origins, please enlighten me.

But over the past two decades, every time I pass by I keep seeing Harrison Ford – he of Star WarsRaiders of the Lost Ark, and Blade Runner fame.

And for the past two decades, I’ve been meaning to photograph him. Finally, I made up my mind to do it. I had my camera ready and, on the appointed day, I had the misfortune of finding him boarded up and the stairwell closed for repairs.

For the next week or so I would pass by to check when he would be released from his wooden incarceration. Finally, he was freed and I was ready with my camera.

If you’ve been to my workshops, you’ll be familiar with my discussion of the Dutch tilt. And given the weirdness of Harrison Ford silently watching me for over 25 years, I could not think of a more fitting angle from which to photograph him.

Click here to get a signed print of this and other photographs.

Xiomaro does not endorse the advertisements on this page.


Washington’s Master Bedroom – Vignette


March 8 is International Women’s Day and 2020 marks the suffrage centennial. So I dedicate this photograph to the memory of Theodosia Ford. Here’s why.

If you were to ask the average person to name famous people from the American Revolutionary War, you will probably hear George Washington and the other Founding Fathers mentioned.

But naming a woman? Perhaps Betsy Ross will come up for making the first American flag, which is a story that many scholars reject as historically unsupported.

A quick online search yielded less than a dozen names of women who figured prominently during the Revolution. But none mentioned Theodosia Ford.

What is not readily known is that Theodosia twice offered up her house to Washington and his large entourage of officers. Having one’s home turned upside down by soldiers is challenging enough. But Theodosia was also still grieving the recent deaths of her husband Jacob, her father-in-law, and her infant daughter – and all while still caring for her four remaining children.

There is more to her contributions and sacrifices that space does not allow me to get into here. But I had an opportunity to explore this little-known region of history more deeply through a solo exhibition – The Diary of Theodosia Ford – at Women’s Rights National Historical Park in 2018.

The photograph above was part of that exhibition. The scene is from a corner of the master bedroom that George and Martha Washington used while Theodosia and her children slept in the dining room and sitting room. The image features a Windsor chair and a Chippendale-style table, which is an original Ford family piece.

The photograph was also published in a new booklet featuring my photography of the Ford Mansion that is available for sale at Morristown National Historical Park.

Click here to get a signed print of this and other photographs.

Xiomaro does not endorse the advertisements on this page.

Attic Clock


Don’t forget that on March 8, all the clocks will “spring forward” for daylight saving time. The time will move ahead by one hour and we’ll lose an hour of sleep. But we’ll gain extra sunlight and the pleasure of knowing that spring is near – it arrives on March 19 to be exact.

The clock pictured above, however, will not be springing forward or backward. It has laid untickably dormant for what appears to be decades.

This was one of the many interesting artifacts I got to explore wandering around the large attic of William Floyd’s mansion in Mastic, Long Island.

General Floyd (1734-1821) was a Founding Father who served under George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. Floyd was one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. His home was visited by James Madison and fellow Declaration-signer Thomas Jefferson.

Although the clock is old, it is not an 18th century artifact. It is of more recent vintage as Floyd’s descendents, remarkably, lived in the house continuously up until the 1976 American Bicentennial when they donated the house and property to the National Park Service (NPS).

This photograph is a rare view as the attic is not part of the house tour given by the NPS. The image has also never been exhibited or printed before.

Click here to get a signed print of this and other photographs.

Xiomaro does not endorse the advertisements on this page.

Longfellow’s Smoking Jacket

To celebrate Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s birthday on February 27, I thought I would present an image that has never been displayed in public or printed before. Indeed, even the subject of the photograph is a very rare sight.

One of the things I enjoy about being commissioned by the National Park Service, is the opportunity to see objects that are housed in the archives and out of public view.

Longfellow (1807-82) was a “rock star” poet of his day. And like any rocker, he enjoyed his smokes and indulged in them while lounging in the special jacket pictured above.

Oftentimes, it is I who cajoles the staff to bring me to the archives. But for this commission, I was happy that little prodding was needed. It was the Museum Tech’s idea to have the jacket photographed and, rather than photographing it in the clinical surroundings of a storage room, she brought it up to Longfellow’s study.

The jacket is back-to-back against Longfellow’s literary deity, Goethe, in the form of a white statuette on the poet’s standing writing desk.

And I will leave to your imagination what the mysterious figures on the upper right are all about.

Click here to get a signed print of this and other photographs.

Xiomaro does not endorse the advertisements on this page.

Fort Warren Demilune

In working with the National Park Service, I get to visit many interesting places. The experience is also an educational adventure.

I never heard of a “Demilune” before until I was commissioned to photograph Fort Warren and other sites at Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.

The fort is a National Historic Landmark dating back to 1847. The Demilune is a crescent-shaped fortification that juts out from the fort from which an attacking force can be divided and fired upon.

There are historic sites where entry is guided by a ranger and distances are maintained behind velvet ropes and other barriers.

But Fort Warren and its Demilune are open to be freely explored. There’s an eerie beauty as one descends into the bowels of the decaying structure – especially as the last rays of the sun pierce the now defenseless space.

Click here to get a signed print of this and other photographs.

Xiomaro does not endorse the advertisements on this page.

Washington’s Conference Room – Fireback

For Presidents’ Day, I thought I’d offer this image, which has never been seen before other than by National Park Service personnel. Nor has it ever been printed or publicly exhibited. Even during a tour, it would not be possible to get a clear, head-on view of this cast iron fireback.

The photograph is part of a collection I was commissioned to create of the Ford Mansion in Morristown, New Jersey, which served as George Washington’s headquarters during the winter encampment of 1779-80.

This fireback sits in the fireplace of the mansion’s parlor, which became Washington’s makeshift communications center and dining room. It was here that his secretaries dealt with the General’s correspondence and military orders.

Ironically, the fireback bears the coat-of-arms of George III, the very king that Washington was fighting against. The royal motto – Deus Et Mon Droit (“God and my Right”) – appears underneath. “Oxford” on the lower left suggests that the piece was made at the Oxford Furnace in Warren County, New Jersey.

Click here to get a signed print of this and other photographs.

Xiomaro does not endorse the advertisements on this page.