Saturday, November 18, 2017

Deep Woods 3

“Beauty is now underfoot wherever we take the trouble to look.” –Robert Rauschenberg

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Few things seem more mundane than a walk in the woods until one has walked deep enough to feel like a stranger with an uneasy welcome there. One needn’t even lose the trail between endless hills to feel the chill of forest presences and the authority of crows.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Deep Woods Self

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: It’s called “Hidden Valley,” an apt name. The valley winds, deep and invisible, from the Romford section of Washington, CT, where the Bantam and Shepaug Rivers join, until the enlarged Shepaug River emerges five miles downstream at Bee Brook and the new highway bridge. Between these points the river winds behind Baldwin Knoll, Robin Hill and the Pinnacle, looping back and forth and back and forth, at various times flowing north, south, east and west, until the water passes under the highway. Some rivers wind where the ground is level and the river gets lost. The Shepaug cuts steeply following rock’s discipline. 

The Baldwin Knoll entry to Hidden Valley is on the back side of Baldwin Knoll. From there I can descend by any of four trails that surround a shadowy cleft that cuts deep to reach the most remote region of the Shepaug River. The cleft falls to the west and catches sun through much of the day in summer, but at this time of year on a clear day the sun is always winking through forest and is gone early in the depths, and my climb back up in late afternoon is a climb to the light.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Deep Woods No.1

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL:  Robert Frost famously described the woods as “lovely, dark and deep,” but did not linger there, had “promises to keep.” When I first began carrying a camera on hikes through the woods I wanted to capture the austere beauty I found there, but when I got my pictures home, they were anything but deep; in photographs the depth of the forest became a flat wall. I realized the perception of those timeless depths came, in part, from the busy gossip of leaves, birds and streams, and from the phenomenon of binocular vision and from my forward motion along the trail.

This is the first posting of a new photographic project I’m calling “Deep Woods.”  To make these photographs I am closing one eye and trying to be still.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Iron by Iron Geist, Photo by Roth

Next Brass Valley slide-talk

Stratford, Ct. Library, Nov. 5, 2-4 PM

Friday, October 20, 2017

Save Stanley

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: It’s time to stop and reconsider before the historic Stanley Works factories in New Britain are demolished forever. On Monday the New Britain Historic Preservation Commission voted to halt demolition for 90 days.

What is the value of preserving historic buildings in our communities even after they’re no longer of use for the purposes for which they were built? I live in a different part of Connecticut, grew up in another state entirely, but I knew the name Stanley from the first time in my childhood when I measured a length of board and made a cut to build a bird house as a gift for my father. Currently, guests visiting me from the Netherlands describe similar recognition of the name, “Stanley,” and find delight in learning that Stanley Tools were made here, in the state they are visiting. Stanley, even beyond Colt and Sikorsky, is an iconic Connecticut brand that evokes immediate recognition to all who hear it. The name brings recognition to the city of New Britain.

For the past seven years I have been photographing the few remains of the region of Connecticut once known as "Brass Valley." With few tangible reminders of the brass industry's past, the central importance of this region to American industrial development is vanishing, and even in the Naugatuck Valley where it was centered, the name “Brass Valley” is being forgotten, though once brass was Connecticut’s leading industry and part of a metals and machine tools culture that built our state and the nation. For seven years I have photographed this region as it disappears, and Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry (Schiffer Books, 2015) is my attempt to hold on to something of the brick and mortar reality that changed lives and that has almost vanished.

Stanley still stands. For generations of those who worked there it provided, not only a respectable living, but a path to opportunity and advancement. Men and women who worked there saw career options, and their children grew up in an American Dream of possibilities. Their children and grandchildren live among us. As factories closed we unknowingly closed down part of our educational system, but the buildings still speak of the world they created, and preserving tangible remains of that world provides a living connection to what we were and to what we can be. Stanley Works is more than a collection of brick work sheds. Just as forts and battlefields remind us of past struggles and our ability to overcome adversity, historic factories re-purposed for future generations tell those generations of the paths we have followed and provide the inspiration for deeds and enterprises yet to be accomplished. Historic buildings tell us who we were that we may know who we may become. New Britain should think long and hard before allowing demolition of this legacy.

Those who are moved by this issue can write to the Hartford Courant or to the New Britain Herald.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Town Called Sunset

Photographs from “Brazen Grit” on exhibit:

Warren Public Library, Warren CT
thru October & November
SLIDE-TALK: Saturday, Oct. 14 @ 2 PM

Whiting Mills, Winsted, CT
Oct 14 to Oct. 27

Stratford Library, Stratford, CT
SLIDE-TALK: Sunday, Nov. 5 @ 2 PM

Mattatuck Museum: part of “I Believe in Waterbury” exhibit
thru Dec 3, 2017

Democratic Headquarters, Ansonia, CT

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL (Continuation of August’s travels in Maine): I hadn’t come to Deer Isle to photograph sunsets, but I was there for the constantly changing weather that would be s[ecially lit when the sun was low. When I arrived at the Pilgrim’s Inn ( in Deer Isle I was given a warm welcome from Nicole and Scott. Built in 1793 and turned into an Inn in 1890, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and well deserves to be. 

When I let Nicole know I was looking to make photos and would appreciate any hints on where to shoot, she quickly told me that the place to shoot sunset was Sunset. Amazed that there was a place just for shooting sunsets, I asked where one shoots sunrise. She immediately directed me to Sunshine. However, it was on the causeway, just beside the inn on August 6 I watched simultaneously as the sun was extinguished in the west as the full moon rose in the east. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Stoninngton Harbor, Maine

Photographs from 
Brazen Grit” 
on exhibit:

Warren Public Library, Warren CT
thru October & November
SLIDE-TALK: Saturday, Oct. 14 @ 2 PM

Whiting Mills, Winsted, CT
Oct 14 to Oct. 27

Stratford Library, Stratford, CT
SLIDE-TALK: Sunday, Nov. 5 @ 2 PM

Mattatuck Museum: part of “I Believe in Waterbury” exhibit
thru Dec 3, 2017

Democratic Headquarters, Ansonia, CT

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: (A continuation of August’s travels in Maine) In Southwest Harbor, ME, my GPS told me that my destination, Stonington, was only 17 miles away but that it would take almost 90 minutes to get there. Stonington, Maine, lies on the edge of the ocean along a mountain ridge, one of many carved by glaciers. It became popular to a yacht-owning, sailing elite that began traveling beyond the fringe in the 1870s. Getting anywhere overland then was a long and punishing journey. Even today it takes nearly an hour to get “inland” to the “coast road."

Today the road to Stonington, ME, crosses over two sea passages. First a slender 1939 suspension bridge arches high across Eggemoggen Reach, to Little Deer Island. Then comes a causeway over to Deer Island where Penobscot Bay penetrates to Eggemoggin Reach. It is an island of bays, inlets and coves with a granite core. Beyond Stonington is Isle Au Haut that can be reached by ferry. Between lie countless islands, minor mountain-tops; even today it's a world best traveled by boat, and I’m told it is the center of lobstering. Steinbeck wrote about it; Eliot Porter photographed it.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Valley Names


Sunday, Sept 24 @ 4:00pm

The Norfolk Library, 9 Greenwoods Rd. E.

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: The names are nearly forgotten: Israel Holmes, Aaron Benedict, Hiram Hayden among others. The name "Brass Valley” is rarely heard. We pass surviving building clusters without recognition. Few know why brass mattered or that by 1890 brass was Connecticut’s leading industry or that the towns along the Naugatuck River down to Bridgeport and New Haven,  produced 85% of the rolled brass and brass products of the United States.

The Naugatuck River flows across this picture from left to right between the two stacks. On the far side of the river next to the masonry stack chalky smudges on the brick powerhouse still spell out “Benedict & Burnham,” though the company has not existed for more than a century. They made brass wire, rods, tubes, and sheets in buildings on the property around the powerhouse.

On the near side of the river beside the metal stack there is no old sign to identify the property. The brick, gabled building with the Victorian tower was the lampworks of Holmes, Booth, & Haydens, built in 1880 after their original lampworks, on the same site, burned. Between the lampworks and the second Victorian tower can be seen the tube mill building added before 1900. Holmes, Booth & Haydens manufactured a range of brass parts and products in buildings that are no longer grouped around the lampworks and tube mill.

In about 1900 it all became part of a new entity, the American Brass Company, largest brass manufacturer in the world, and the brass industry in the Naugatuck Valley fueled the dreams from which the cities and countryside around Brass Valley flourished. At the same time the old names began to fade, though from the riverside one can still read letters spelling Benedict & Burnham.

Jose at Pickling, 2011


Tuesday, September 5, 2017


PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: I used to think that art was as natural as crabgrass, hemlocks and rabbits; to ask its purpose was to miss the point. While I still believe that, I also believe that art which is lasting explores ones relation to oneself and others, to the planet and nature and to universal forces. Art which dazzles, fades quickly. Art which touches us with some truth has a chance to hold our attention longer and even stay with us. 

After a weekend photographing lobstermen, harborscapes, water and sunsets in the area around Bass and Southwest Harbors I drove to Rockport for a weeklong workshop with, photographer, Keith Carter. His work as represented on this web site ( had touched me, and I wondered who the man behind the lens might be, and what he might do to help me open new work. There were 14 of us, and I suspect we all sought the same thing, the path forward. Class time was largely spent reviewing the portfolios we brought and learning about the pictures that most inspired Keith and about many he had made and why. 

Each day we also reviewed photos we’d taken in response to daily assignments which were completed outside class time. Keith provided poems as a springboard to seeing/making new images, but mostly the places around Rockport looked to me as they had looked on previous trips. On the second afternoon, however, we went to an artist’s barn, home and studio where four models were ready to pose for us among an array of curios. My best photos were made there.

One of Keith’s pleas was to ignore the rules. I recalled Freeman Patterson describing the beauty of a roll of pictures that one of his students thought she had ruined by overexposing. Keith told about his own discovery of the power of accidental blurring in his first recognized image. For whatever it’s worth, prior to this workshop I would have rejected this image and not thought to develop it. Although I recalled the moment when Maya’s hands came into full blossom, I had hoped to have stopped them still; I never would have developed the softness of their motion or the moving catchlight in her eye.

By the end of the week we had seen much of Keith’s excellent photography, but it was clear that the roadblocks to new work were at least as difficult for him as for us, and that our most important answers lay in ourselves and in our work. 

I was helped in my photo by Maya who was as much an artist in her modeling as I struggle to be in my pictures. She internalized each of our requests to her as if it was part of a story she was living. Much of the credit for this image goes to her.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

We Are Makers

You are invited 
to view seven of my images from an earlier exhibition

On display throughout September 

Stratford Public Library
2201 Main Street,  Stratford, CT. 
Visit the library web site for times

Stratford Library slide-talk: November 5 at 2 PM

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: We are Makers. After our time in the trees, our human minds freed our dexterous hands to do impossible things. Making stuff, handiwork, is in our DNA. At least it’s in mine, which is maybe why it feels like death when a manufacturing region vanishes and a culture of innovation is hollowed out.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Sunset Conversation at Southwest Harbor

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Great photographers warn us that it is not enough to photograph the picturesque. Although photographs such as this may have a short shelf-life, the feelings they evoke are genuine, and when I’m in the area, I never miss a chance for sunrise or sunset at Southwest Harbor. 

The first time I passed here was in the spring of 2006 in an ephemeral moment of hallelujah light. I had scouted the area on my way to a workshop in New Brunswick, Canada, and had returned here from the workshop full of the week’s energies. After two hours photographing seagulls near Seawall, a few miles further south, I had lost my light. The road to my B&B took me past the head of Southwest Harbor, and as I passed, the water and sky blended raspberry to cornflower, the anchored boats gleamed in the light of the setting sun, while mist like whipped cream floated over the horizon behind them. I was blinded by the beauty and pulled the car off the road, but I was already too late. 

I know, it’s only another sunset in another Maine harbor, but I’ve come here many times since. The sun rises beyond the harbor and sets behind it, and I’ve photographed here at sunrises and sunsets. In the back of my mind is always that missed photograph and the knowledge that extraordinary things happen here if one is just persistent and patient and seeking the picturesque.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Bass Harbor II

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: By afternoon the cove is quiet, lobstering done for the day. In the morning, when the lobstermen leave, it will be different.

Bass Harbor is a well-sheltered cove at the outer, western edge of the Acadian Peninsula, the outer edge of the mainland. This edge gives Bass Harbor lobstermen an edge in getting to the lobsters and the mainland link gives an edge in getting them to market. Anyone who wakes early and goes down to the town dock before dawn will begin to see the pickups roll in and will meet the fishermen of Bernard getting the edge. Most have been here for generations. Long before the sun is up captains will row or motor to lobster smacks anchored mid-harbor, while mates gather whatever is not already aboard and stack it beside the winch where the smack will dock. There may be hampers of bait, new traps, new lines & buoys, food and coffee to be handed or lowered to the captain when the boat pulls up and docks. Once loaded, captain and mate will sail past the jetty and the large pier where the ferries to Swans Island and Frenchboro dock, past the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse to the sea between coastal islands and to the traps the fishermen have set. The pickups will continue arriving at the Town Dock throughout the morning and slowly the parking area behind the dock will fill with a tide of pickups which will begin to turn around 10 or 10:30 AM after the lobster buyer has arrived with his white truck and scales. 

In the afternoon civilians and tourists will begin arriving for a lobster dinner at Thurston’s, a walk along the docks and a few selfies.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

I’m pleased to share the news that two of my photographs:

Waterbury Grit
Holmes, Booth & Haydens’ Lampworks from Rolling Mill Playground

 will be included in an exhibition:

I Believe in Waterbury

at the
Mattatuck Museum
Sept. 10 to Dec. 3
Opening Reception: Sept 10, 1-3 PM

Waterbury Grit:

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: What portion of the program of local Connecticut art museums should be focused on artists whose muses are local, who sometimes speak with a special intimacy because they speak of places that have gotten under their fingernails? What responsibility do Connecticut museums have to nurture this resource, or do we already look and behave like everywhere else? What rewards might come from people seeing their own communities through an artist’s eyes, not just the pretty places but the real places? It’s my own feeling that every Connecticut museum should have an ongoing series of exhibits of locally inspired art. 

I applaud the Mattatuck Museum for calling on local artist to create art that I hope will challenge the people of Connecticut to look again at Waterbury and to understand it and to celebrate its strengths? I hope everyone will get there, and I invite friends to come to the opening reception on Sept. 10 from 1-3

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Bass Harbor

Bass Harbor

Bedrock America 
Of soil and sea
Toil and commerce
Right of passage
Father to son
Island of tradition
Water suffering the shore.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Maine Lobsterman at Dawn

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: The typical lobsterman sets his pots and visits a portion of them each day. The routine, done at a sprint, is grueling. The lobsterman knows his traps by the markings on the buoys that float above them, and "lobster wars" have been started by men who disrespected other men’s pots or set pots in the wrong waters. Rules and forums for settling disputes have evolved a culture to make lobster fishing profitable for all. Typically, the captain steers to where he can grab a buoy and wraps the rope around a winch on the side of the boat beside the helm. With the flip of a switch a pot is pulled from the bottom. 

Dan's pots are set in pairs. Hauling them onto the gunwale is hard work for strong men who hope the pots will be heavier with lobsters. As soon as Dan and Nate have hauled the first pot onto the gunwale, Dan is retrieving a second one and Nate is emptying the first. Nate works like a film on fast-forward as I struggle to snap meaningful frames. Each lobster must be checked. It must be above a certain length, below a certain weight, not have eggs or a notched tail. If the lobster has eggs, Nate must notch the tail and toss it back. That lobster has been granted a long and productive life unthreatened by the men who will catch her children. A female with eggs or a notch that makes it into the tank can result in a $500 fine to the lobstermen. After Nate has selected the keepers, he bands two claws faster than a toupee in a hurricane and drops them through a hole to a tank filled with water. Hard-shell lobsters get double-banded and set aside; they are double the value.

Lobster fishing is a classic American Industry. It’s still carried on by hundreds of independent businesspeople who own their own boats, hire workers and maintain a capital investment. About twice as many lobsters are caught on the North Atlantic Coast in Maine and Canada as in second-ranked Norway. Lobster became fine dining in Boston and New York in the mid-nineteenth century; before that lobsters were sea bugs. To meet the new demand, Maine lobstermen developed the ubiquitous "lobster smack," a boat customized with an open cabin and a place to store the lobsters to keep them alive. The large American Lobster found in Maine and Canada is considered by many to be the best dining-lobster in the world.

Of course, the smallest markup goes to the men who make the catch; none live lavishly. In the middle of Bass Harbor are floating docks where senior lobstermen have been granted space where they may pen a small portion of the lobsters they have caught. This allows them to catch when lobsters are plentiful and sell when they are scarce and the price has risen. While visiting Stonington, later in the trip, I passed a wooden impoundment in one of the coves. I learned that is where the big lobster companies can store tens of thousands of lobsters employing the same strategy to maximize profits while fit supply to demand. Tanking the catch is not an option for most lobstermen, however. They live at the bottom of the food chain and must take what they are given. Their houses are small, but the ocean’s horizon is large. All I met cherish their way of living.