Weir House Living Room – Valentine’s Day Heart

This fireplace is one of two in the living room of Julian Alden Weir’s house in Connecticut. Weir (1852-1919) is one of the founders of American Impressionist painting and his farmstead has been preserved as Connecticut’s first National Park site. You can read more about this fireplace on page 57 of my book Weir Farm National Historic Site (Arcadia Publishing).

I was commissioned to artistically document the interiors of Weir’s home before it underwent renovation and the beehive oven fascinated me. I prefer natural light, so I don’t use flash very often.

But for this image, I wanted to recreate a sense of what it might have been like for Weir or his family to open the door and to retrieve a hot loaf of bread during a cold, dark winter morning. So I placed a flash inside with an orange gel over the lens and remotely triggered it.

In addition to getting exactly what I imagined, the light of the flash went through an opening in the oven door and projected a heart on the wall. It was a beautiful and unintended surprise. The heart has made this a popular print.

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From the New England Trail Collection

 

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Heublein Tower

The National Park Service and its partners, the Connecticut Forest & Park Association and the Appalachian Mountain Club commissioned me to create an artistic photographic series to bring wider acclaim to the New England National Scenic Trail (NET), a 215-mile hiking route through 41 communities in Connecticut and Massachusetts comprised primarily of historic trail systems.

One of the many sites along the trail is Heublein Tower in Simsbury, Connecticut. If you ever had A.1. Steak Sauce or Smirnoff Vodka, then you have indulged in one of Gilbert Heublein’s products. He had the tower constructed on Talcott Mountain as a summer home.

At this height, the views of the Farmington River Valley and the Hartford skyline are breathtaking. But during a day that featured rain, hail, and snow, it was the dramatic view of the tower itself that drew my eye.

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From the Boston Harbor Islands Collection

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Gun Powder Magazine

The 39 acres of Georges Island is just over seven miles from Boston and the site of Fort Warren, a National Historic Landmark dating back to 1847. The fort remained in use for 100 years, including service as a Civil War prison where it held Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens.

The site is part of Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, and I was its first Artist-in-Residence. As such, I had the unique experience of staying on the island and sleeping in quarters above the visitor’s center. It was an eerily quiet feeling when the last tourists left by boat, and I remained behind with Boston twinkling on the horizon.

I rarely use flash, but it was pitch dark when I entered this gun powder magazine. I could not even see my hand in front of me, and I had no idea what the space looked like. My photograph not only gives you a view of the brickwork and wood floor slats, but the flash creates the effect of the explosion you don’t want to experience in a place that houses gunpowder.

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From the Big Cypress National Preserve Collection

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Egret Wings

The 729,000 acres of Florida’s Big Cypress Swamp feed its fresh water into the neighboring Everglades, which is essential to the health of the rich marine estuaries. The swamp is home to a diversity of plant and wildlife communities. A spartan government dormitory, just steps away from the swamp, served as my home for a month.

During my time there, I photographed National Park personnel grappling with ultra-deadly Burmese Python snakes. My New York City feet walked gingerly while taking care to discern alligators from fallen tree limbs. Although panthers have never been documented to attack humans, they were also on my list of creatures to steer clear of.

But beautiful birds abound. The slightest movement of my camera startled this egret hiding in the brush. This photograph has never been exhibited, but its dreamy, intimate, and delicate qualities make it one of my personal favorites.

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From the Washington’s Headquarters Collection

prints_01_20_05.jpgThe Ford Mansion at Sunrise

Another iconic president with strong ties to a home is George Washington. The Ford Mansion in New Jersey was his military headquarters during the winter encampment of 1779-80. It is now the site of Morristown National Historical Park.

I was very motivated to create this photograph. As a night-person, it is not easy for me to go to bed early so that I can wake up in the middle of the night, drive from Long Island to New Jersey, and then set up before dawn. I was not sure even sure if the effort would pay off as I had no idea whether the morning light would result in an interesting image.

I was previsualizing an orange or pinkish sky bathing the house in a warm glow. But when I arrived, I saw that the trees were blocking the sun.

In the end, I was pleased with the result. Instead of the typical sunrise view I was anticipating, a narrow gap within the trees unexpectedly funneled the light into an unusual hot streak of yellow cutting across the lawn.

You can learn more about the significance of this collection in this video:

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From the William Floyd Collection

prints_01_20_03.jpg The Other Side

I present this photograph in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Civil Rights Day in Arizona and New Hampshire, all of which fall on January 20. This image is from the first photographic collection centering on the burial ground of the forgotten slaves from the William Floyd Estate in Mastic, Long Island, which is now a National Park unit of Fire Island National Seashore.  Floyd signed the Declaration of Independence and served with George Washington.

The series is a spiritual memorial to these slaves and seeks to dignify them as individuals. They are separated by a white wooden fence, with simple, year-less crucifixes bearing singular generic slave names. I created the image while standing in the Floyd cemetery surrounded by that family’s elaborate individualized tombstones.

Selections were exhibited at African Burial Ground National Monument in lower Manhattan; LeRoy Neiman Art Center in Harlem; and Oyster Bay Historical Society on Long Island. Find out more in this News 12 report:

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From the Frederick Law Olmsted Collection

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Olmsted’s Winter View

Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) began in 1857 with the design of Central Park in New York City and went on to become the founder of American landscape architecture.

The thousands of landscapes he designed include many of the world’s most important parks such as Prospect Park in Brooklyn; the Emerald Necklace in Boston; the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina; Mount Royal in Montreal; the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and the White House; and the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago.

I was commissioned by the National Park Service to create the first artistic photographic collection of Olmsted’s office at his Fairsted home. I had the good fortune of showing up during a snowfall. This wintery view from his Print Room is romantic, and the handwritten instructions are charming. Among its warnings is the proper handling of ammonia during the printing process.

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From the Sagamore Hill Collection

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Theodore Roosevelt

On January 6, 1919, Theodore Roosevelt passed away. The day before, he uttered these wistful words to his spouse, Edith: “I wonder if you will ever know how I love Sagamore Hill.”

His home and summer White House – Sagamore Hill – features a large portrait of the 26th president from back when he was a member of the legendary Rough Riders, a regiment that saw combat in the Spanish-American War. The painting by Fedor Encke stands in command in a corner of the famous North Room where TR met with dignitaries and other VIPs of his day.

My photograph of it was on exhibit at the Long Island Museum exhibition Long Island at War. Another photograph I created that closes in on TR’s face was exhibited at Harvard. You can see this close-up and read about the Harvard exhibit in my essay, published in the Theodore Roosevelt Association Journal.

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From the New York City Collection

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No More White Presidents

Recently, I was back in Greenwich Village. It’s where I went to law school at New York University. Walking along Broadway, I came across this empty storefront, which signaled that the tradition of artsy protest was alive and well in this iconic neighborhood. Ironically, someone – an NYU student most likely – scrawled “No More White Presidents” against the whitewash of the window.

This street photography image is what I like to refer to as “future history.” Years from now, it will neatly encapsulate the political, cultural, and social tumult spanning the Obama and Trump administrations. The stark and gritty image conveys the emptiness, alienation, and decay of these uncertain times. The black-and-white composition also projects the racial divide expressed by the graffiti.

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From the Weir Farm Pre-Restoration Collection

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Weir House – Dining Room Shutter

These solid wood shutters and bold, but decorative, hinges, really caught my attention. My father was a chair maker and, as a result, I appreciate the beauty of the grain, texture, and finish of wood.

But, here, it’s more than just that. It’s also the rustic elegance and character of the handmade hinges and bolts. Despite the “hard” impression of the black metal, a softness is suggested by the curves of the fleur-de-lis and kidney bean shapes.

This is the sort of detail and hidden beauty that may escape your view when visiting the eccentrically decorated home of Julian Alden Weir, a leading innovator of American Impressionist painting. This photograph gives you a rare close-up view that cannot be seen during a tour from behind a stanchion.

I can assure you of the stunning clarity and remarkable detail in this print. Many have observed that it almost appears three dimensional.

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