Snowy Zig Zag

The 215 miles of the New England National Scenic Trail (NET) wind through 41 communities in Connecticut and Massachusetts. For the commission, it was suggested that I also photograph off the trail for context on its proximity to urban areas.

At the Farmington Valley, one need only drive 15 minutes from the trail before arriving at Hartford, the capitol city of Connecticut.

In Hartford, the closest you can get to a natural outdoor environment is probably the 694-acre Keney Park, the largest park within the city system.

I drove around Keney and, while it is certainly a nice place to visit if you live and work in the city, it does not offer the isolation and the vistas one encounters on the NET.

There were patches of snow melting away at Keney. As if acknowledging my presence, the snow and the trees did their best to welcome me by recreating a small stretch of the NET.

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Beautiful Killer – Brazilian Pepper

For one month, I lived in Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve, a 729,000 acre swamp area that is vital to the sustenance of the Everglades.

While there, I created a series of photographs that were displayed as a solo exhibition at the park’s Visitor Center during its peak of visitation.

The exhibition drew attention to how beautiful and benign plants can have a dark side that gets unleashed if they are moved from their original environment to a new location. Native plants and animals fall prey after the imported visitor establishes itself and becomes dominant.

The Brazilian Pepper is an evergreen shrub that grows to 43 feet tall (13 meters) and is native to parts of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. When crushed, the leaves smell like pepper or turpentine.

Brought as an ornamental plant, Brazilian Pepper has rapidly spread within Big Cypress and throughout Florida. It shades out and displaces native vegetation and has already impacted some rare species.

The spread of non-native species is a global issue and is a problem with which Florida and the National Park Service has much experience.

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The Other Side: Pompey

February is Black History Month and this photograph was one of the prints on display during solo exhibitions I had at New York City’s African Burial Ground National Monument and other venues.

The burial ground, located in Mastic Beach, Long Island, is believed to be the site where some of William Floyd’s slaves are buried. Floyd signed the Declaration of Independence and was a General serving under George Washington.

My experience in seeing these lone crosses bearing generic slave names was profound. I wanted the photograph to suggest what I was feeling at that time.

I experimented with a special lens and with a flash – which I don’t use very often, especially outdoors – to create the distortions and blurs. So the effect was achieved on the spot rather than in Photoshop, which I only used to change the original color image into a sepia tone.

I had previously posted a News 12 report about this collection. Here’s the full uncut interview:

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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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