The New York Times described my photography “as artworks rather than as mundane documentation,” which present “an unorthodox look” with a “focus on striking details.”
The color photographs are rich, with many of them having dramatic contrasts of light and shadow that create a stark ethereal quality. The black-and-white photographs, however, are often gritty and candid.
Many photographs also evoke the mysterious and invite exploration. Objects and meanings are not revealed by one glance. Sometimes, tight compositions reveal iterative patterns to provoke new ways of seeing at the intersection of realism and abstraction.
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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.
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.
The North Room of TR's "Summer White House" was a place he designed for meeting with heads of state and other dignitaries.
The room, especially the
Northeast corner, was used as a modern day version of what we would call a family entertainment center. The Victrola record player was acquired sometime after 1910.
Here, TR danced to the Irish tune "Garry Owen" with his grandson, Richard Derby. His sons entertained the family at the piano or playing a mandolin.
These items are just
a few of the 125,000 artifacts at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site.
The image is part of a commission where I photographed the mansion in a very unusual state: it was in the process of being emptied of its contents so that the structure could undergo an upgrade in its systems. The
rare views and perspectives of my photographs are discussed in this video:
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
From the New York City Collection
Copyright notice will not appear on your print
(8th Avenue between 42nd and 41st Streets)
It seems like there are all kinds of special occasions popping up nowadays. February 17, I have come to learn, is National Random Acts of Kindness Day.
And that brings me to this photograph. I don’t know if he is her caregiver, works for the Port Authority, or is a good Samaritan. In any case, it was a nice scene to encounter along the gritty, fast-paced street life along Eighth Avenue.
I especially like how he is stooping over to check on her and the path they are taking in the crowded street. In the background, the posture is echoed by a man wearing a white shirt.
I remember a time when New York City was a lot rougher place to live and work in. The Port Authority area, in particular, was kind of seedy. Starting during the mid-1990s, I noticed the city became cleaner and safer.
The streets also became more crowded as tourists from around the country and around the world starting visiting in higher numbers.
After the city started slowly recovering from 9-11, the feel of the streets improved even further – or so it seemed to me.
Of course, there are still problems as one can expect when you have over 8½ million people in a confined geographical area with a variety of ethnicities, languages, cultures, and educational levels.
Despite the city’s fast pace and energy, however, there are moments when things slow down and a scene that looks like it could have jumped out of a Norman Rockwell illustration comes alive.
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.
Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) is America's foremost parkmaker beginning with the design of New York City's Central Park.
Unlike mere decorative gardening, Olmsted’s unique designs reveal what he called “the genius of a place” by respecting the true character of the natural landscape.
While many have seen and experienced Olmsted’s parks, not many are familiar with Fairsted, his home office in suburban Boston. With Fairsted, Olmsted established the world's first full-scale professional office for the practice of landscape design.
During the next century, his sons and successors perpetuated Olmsted's design ideals, philosophy, and influence.
Pictured above are the actual lead blueprint weights that the office used in the Upper Drafting Room. The weights were whimsically referred to as "Whales."