Girl in striped shirt and tie

I believe she worked in Dean and Deluca, a neighbor of ours in Soho, NYC, 1986. Wherever it was I think she could have gone places; I wonder if she did. 

Girl in striped shirt and tie 

I believe she worked at Dean and Deluca, a neighbor of ours in Soho, NYC, 1987. Wherever it was she I think she could have gone places. I wonder if she did.

Girl in striped shirt and tie

I believe she worked in Dean and Deluca, a neabor of ours in Soho, NYC, taken in 1987. Wherever it was I think she could have gone places. I wonder if she did.

Nancy Shore, waitress

I saw her in a small restaurant on Prince Street, NYC in 1986. She agreed to be photographed and turned up at the studio one afternoon. Immediately she told me how uncertain she was about everything in her life. Who she liked and who she did not like, and who disliked her...almost everybody she thought. And she did not like being a waitress but what else was there. I did not like what she was wearing and she agreed to wear one of my shirts.


Eventually she settled down in front of the camera and kept quiet. 

Tidying up

Long time ago. Mid -1970s, probably. I used wander about London looking for activity and people I could snap. I took to portraiture of cultural figures of the time to earn a living but never gave up shooting life going on. 

Dressed for the occasion: society country wedding 

Somewhere in England a long time ago. Probably mid-1970s. Don't know who or why. Doesn't matter. She decided to go the whole hog... and did she? 

All too much so lets sit down

Somewhere in Sussex, England, around 1982.  This is why I did weddings. Where else, except at a smart wedding in the country, could you find something like this?  A perfect example of a couple enjoying themselves. To hell with what anybody thinks. "Let's get a bottle of champagne, some tea, make ourselves comfortable, and talk things over."    

Christmas night dinner at our house, 2023

Christmas night dinner at our house: Sitting: Wendy and Caroline; standing: Anthony and Lance.

I cooked filets of turkey breasts with marsala (Elizabeth David from her book Italian Food). We searched high and low here for fresh turkey breasts with no luck. Eventually Caroline found them at Ceriello Fine Foods in Grand Central Market, probably the best butcher in New York State.

The vegetables were a purée of parsnips and carrots and a potato pancake. Champagne (Pol Roger) courtesy of Wendy. Lots of chat and reminiscences of life in Soho in the mid and late eighties, where we all were having the time of our lives.      

Caroline at Brimstone Bakery

Caroline at her favorite place for lunch.  

Woman resting at a wedding in Hampshire, UK

I took this photograph in 1977 at a wedding in Hampshire, UK. I had given Radley College, my old boarding school in the UK, a print of it for their art collection in the mid 1990s. Below is an email I received on December 21, 2023 from Kevin Mosedale:


Hello. I'm a physics don here at Radley College and I'm getting in touch for two reasons. Firstly to say how much I enjoyed the feature about your photography in the recent Old Radleian. Secondly, to say how much I enjoy having one of your wonderful photographs on the wall in my physics lab. It was originally hung near the Art Department and I often commented on it to the Head of Art, so when there was a rearrangement I asked for it to be loaned to my lab. I can't attach a photo of it, so I will have to describe it in words. I think the picture must have been taken at a wedding and what I love is that I have so many questions about all the people in the photo. When boys ask about the photo (as they often do - it has nothing to do with physics) this is what I get them to ponder. What is the woman lying on the floor (who you can easily miss at first glance) looking at? Does the man standing by her have something in his mouth? An ice cube? Are the couple in the background hiding their faces deliberately - probably not - the woman appears to be lighting a cigarette but who knows? It is the fact that so many stories could be invented about the photo that intrigues me. Anyway, I hope all this doesn't sound too fanciful, but the article in the Old Radleian did make me want to get in touch to say thank you.


Best wishes for the festive season.

Kevin


This was my reply:

Not at all fanciful!. Ponder on please and how very nice you put that picture up in your classroom and found that people wanted to know those things about it. I take photographs because I receive a message, metaphorically, not unlike a swipe across the shoulders with an iron bar. Sometimes I then say to myself “That will be a good one" and go back looking around waiting for the next swipe or have a nap. I have done my bit. Then I hope viewers will take over, like your students, and add to it according to what they see in it.


Not completely true because I have a stock of opinions and stories which I love to tell at my talks to schools, art foundations and libraries here in the USA. My comment about this picture would be something like: ”How would I feel if I had bungled this shot”? It is one of my favorites. It is a comment about the upper classes which, hanging about on the edges, I was never being quite sure what exactly I felt about them. Essentially, for me, it is photography first, scram after you have taken a picture like this in case the subjects mind. Too bad if they do I say, but I never hang about to find out. The picture says something poignant of that world that I was so uncertain of. I am an observer first and foremost, not a wedding photographer who might pass up on moments like this. I would shrink at the thought if I had wavered for a second and missed this shot.


My feeling about the woman lying on the grass is that she had had enough of standing so she lay down. She was of the nature who says to hell with what people might think. I am not at all sure, though, that the man standing beside her is of the same free thinking or has her abandoned nature. Yes, I think the couple in the background are lighting a cigarette.


Thank you very much for taking the trouble to write to me. Your letter was a great pleasure to receive.

Season's greetings to you,

Dmitri 





Katie Prael, filmaker

About fifteen years ago Caroline and I met Katie's mother, Liz,  Liz's twin sister, Katie's father and Katie's brother at Bread Alone in Rhinebeck, NY. A few years before we moved to a small village, Schuyler Lake,  15 minutes north  of  Cooperstown, they moved to Cooperstown Village.

Liz heard about us and got in touch. 


They came up to our horse farm last month and Katie did some filming. Her brother showed me the picture on his Instagram that I had taken of him in Rhinebeck when he was 6 years old.  I took this picture above of Katie on the occasion of their visit last month.   

Young woman with puppy

Puppy is still a handful.

Recent Hamilton graduate

Not only a lovely face — an accomplished sailor and oceanographer.

 

Mikaila, girl on a picnic table

A summer photograph to celebrate the short time we experience warmth, plants and hummingbirds. Mikaila describes herself as a God loving, people loving, tarot card reader.


“Which God is that?” I asked


I gathered from her vague muttered answer that it was not the Christian God, more like Buddha. As we know, though, Buddha is considered an extraordinary being, but not a god. I left it alone and proceeded with what I saw as her gift.


I said, “I think you know what people are about just by looking at them.”


She replied with a modest nod and murmur. She added “But of course I still need the cards.” She then sat down opposite me and laid out the cards.


I thought: who would not want to be sat down and looked at by Mikaila, God or no God, cards or no cards. She told me she is self taught from books as to what the cards mean and how to use them. There was nothing hesitant about what she said when she asked me to take a card, or when she was laying the cards out or looking through them. She has a very confident manner which in itself makes you wonder if what she is saying might be true. She told me she had only one rule when she did a reading: no questions to be asked about love life.  

Nickey and Poe

Here is Nickey with a Great Dane called Poe, whom she walks and looks after when the owners are away. She has made a life loving animals and particularly dogs. Fashion comes a very close second in her interests. She is always beautifully and unusually turned out whenever you see her around Cooperstown with one of her charges. I'm not sure, but I think Poe is her favorite, but she loves them all. Nickey also house sits, the two occupations often going together. I came away thinking how sensible to do what you love most and make a good living out of it. 

Natalia and Tavar, fitness instructors

Natalia and Tavar are instructors in the Fitness Center at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, NY, a popular and affordable gym which has almost everything one might want in sports activities and is most efficiently run by polite and helpful staff. 

Chrissy and Holly, farmers
Chrissy, on the left, and her wife Holly, grow and sell heirloom vegetables on their holistic, 265 acre farm, near Jordanville in Central New York State. They also produce pastured large black pork that are mother's milk fed.

Chrissy told me that she has been greatly influenced by the philosopher Rudolf Steiner, founder of "anthropomorphic agriculture", later known as "biodynamic" now practiced by many farmers in Europe and North America. Biodynamic farms use composting, integrating animals, cover cropping, and crop rotation to create their own fertility. Chrissy and Holly sell their produce in farmers' markets in New York City and Westchester. Holly is also a teacher at the Richfield Springs school.

Mikaila

Mikaila is a 24 year-old God loving Tarot card reader who gives readings online and in person. I sat with her for a minute or two after I photographed her and had the feeling that she could dispense with the cards. It is her rather than the cards that knows what the person sitting opposite her is up to. She merely looks at you and she knows. Next time I see her I am going to ask more about this. She stays near here from time to time in the house where her grandmother and father live. Other times she lives with her mother somewhere not far away. Caroline met her with her grandmother at the swimming pool in The Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, NY.

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl, the first of England's brilliant writers of the mid-twentieth century to be scolded when he described people as fat when he meant fat. Now we are told, by these word police, that no, he did not mean fat. What he meant, oh dear, how could he have erred so, was: not thin, or some word they knew that was a better way of putting things, a word or phrase that showed concern for people's feelings, they said. What about the author's feelings? The author, who struggled day and night to write something we all read with the greatest enjoyment? Tameness ― who ever got anything done through tameness. 


It is books, now, that have attracted the attention of those who believe they know better. Next it will be film directors, painters and playwrights being told how to do things. Perhaps somebody knows: was Chaucer told what word he could use to describe somebody, was Shakespeare, was Defoe, was Byron or Lewis Carroll? Was P. G. Wodehouse? Yes, I think they have already started in on him. Almost bound to have done, but he is mid and early twentieth century, of course.

Erin, thrift shop manager

Erin is also a Yoga instructor at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown. Caroline wrote me a short note saying I must photograph this young woman. She had spotted her in the Thrift Shop. A glance was all it took to see that this young woman had Mozartian perfection in looks, style and presence. 

Kate Walrath with her daughter at Brimstone

Kate Walrath and her daughter lunching at Brimstone Café in Sharon Springs, NY. Kate is everything dog, the owner of Run By Dogs where they everything happens from breeding to training to sledding. 


It is not often you see a lovely smile like hers.

Barbecue owner, John Yule with Mia, one of his waitresses.  

The Maplewood BBQ and Spirits is a popular straight up and down barbecue on Rt. 20 in Richfield Springs. It has an unadorned menu listing familiar barbecue items at reasonable prices. The limited wine list has fairly low priced items by the glass and bottle. The seating in the main room is at large, communal wooden tables and benches. Up stairs is a brightly lit overflow also with communal tables and benches. Through the bar is a small room with more conventional tables and chairs and a large wood burning fire place dating from the late 18th century. We were struck by the first class organization and politeness of the staff.


Because of the handsome wooden tables, stone walls and tiled floor I decided to ask John Yule, the owner, if I could do a picture. He was delighted at the idea and we turned up a couple of weeks later and did it.


One of the enjoyments of photographing people in their own surroundings is looking for interesting light. As we all know digital cameras these days can record images in very dark places so the amount of light is no longer a problem, only the position of the light source. Getting around that is the fun, and bringing the subject into the problem of finding the right light lets them to feel part of the camera and the photographer's activities, thus reducing their self-consciousness.

Dark trees on the golf course

Nothing more to add.

Two students from the life drawing class at Hartwick College, Oneonta, NY

I encountered these two students in the dining hall of Hartwick College after I gave a talk there to the drawing class. I did not ask the relationship between these two, but I thought they looked like good friends when I saw them afterwards sitting together. But why do I need to know about people I photograph as long as they look good? Only curiosity.

I am not a gossip columnist. I am a recorder of interesting looking people, whatever lies between them. What drew me particularly to these two, apart from their lovely faces, was the contrast in their clothes. "Let’s keep it simple," for the young woman on the right whereas the young woman on the left likes to do her hair and to wear eye-catching things. The cap, showing its wear and tear, is a brilliant choice.

Young man in Brooklyn

What is it about him that made me want to photograph him? One thing, I think his face is of exceptional balance, all its components are the right size and in the right place. But that is never enough. Something else drew me to his presence. 


But why should it be explained? He comes out well in pictures, and if that is all that can be said, let's say thanks to fate for his walking into the room that morning in Brooklyn in 2012. 


Display the picture and leave it at that.

Patricia Fiorent, painter, children's books author


Patricia Fiorent lives on 500 acres of woods and pasture just outside Cooperstown. Her house is her studio where she paints portraits and produces children's books. There is a large barn where her many animals live, including varieties of exotic chickens. We were at this lovely place on a perishing morning slipping and sliding looking for a spot to take a picture of Patricia. After I had done the photograph we sat inside and had a sandwich generously made by our friend Marla who had come to help if needed. Patricia suggested that we light a fire. “Oh no we won’t,” Marla’s husband Tom said, “not with that Christmas tree in the corner. The house has already burnt down once, we don’t want it to happen again and with all those needles lying around it might well catch fire.” The large tree looked as though it had been there a couple of years.

I sent Patricia five or six pictures that I had done of her and she wrote back and asked if I had taken any smiling ones because that was what she wanted. I explained that I only took smiling pictures if the portrait had been commissioned and this had not been commissioned. I had written to ask if I might do it for series of people who live in Central New York State. A couple of weeks later I received another note from her exclaiming how much she loved one of the photographs that she had just discovered in the package and she was going to frame it. She had indeed a slight smile in this one. She told me that originally she had not seen there was more than one photograph in the package. Most odd, I thought, and wrote back that I would, in the future, enclose a list of contents in my packages. I like the first one posted here.

Nicole Bartlett, yoga instructor
I did not want to photograph Nicole as a yoga instructor. I had already done a close up picture of her but thought I could do better, so I attended one of her classes in case I saw something that was not like the millions of photographs of yogis sitting looking calm and collected. What struck me at her class was the confident way Nicole moved around the room, carefully avoiding touching any of her students. I was also impressed by what she was wearing. She moved with the ease and grace of an athlete in slow motion. I wanted to capture this in a still photograph and returned to do so one afternoon after her class. As good as her word she had emptied the studio of her fellow yogis and we had the place to ourselves. I did not know what I wanted in the way of a pose so I just asked her to stand with her feet well apart as though she was making a large stride, and to do what ever she felt like with her arms. Without hesitation this is what she did. It is a photograph, admittedly not altogether without calm, but a photograph of a yogi I have not seen before. 
In the bar at the Bolshoi Ballet

I recently had an e-mail from a high school student whom I did not know but who wanted to find out as much as she could about my picture of the bar in the Bolshoi Ballet for a school project. She said she had chosen this picture from my website and needed to give an "in depth" description about the photo. She very sensibly wrote to me to find out what she could from me. After a few exchanges of emails she seemed happy with what I told her. One of the questions she asked was: are the photos you have taken that look candid, are they actually candid, or are they set to look that way? I replied that the ones that look candid are candid, i.e. not posed. I will not pass on any further questions and answers as I hope she will show me her project when it is finished and I can post it here.


The Soviet Union was never without champagne drinkers; possibly there were fewer than there were in Imperial Russia, but one wonders.

Perhaps these two were important party members or successful artists, both groups always well looked after by the authorities. 



Vili with his friend Ruby

Vili bought a site in Little Falls, NY, that had a house and two small barns on it, for $1. "The barns were more like sheds," he explained. After being told by the realtor that there was $23,000 owing in taxes on the property, he took the trouble to investigate and found that actually no tax was owing. The investigation, as one can imagine, took many weeks and much hard work.


The house was beyond repair but he has converted one of the barns into a residence. His friend Ruth and her family helped him with the conversion. Vili moved in in early December after installing a present of a wood burning stove. He has piped in water from a nearby spring. "It will be a one room apartment quite adequate for my needs," he says. The bottles in the photograph, found on the site and slotted in to a wood wall provide a gentle, diffused light and cost nothing. Propane lamps provide light after dark. The window below the bottles, gleaned from the barn, astonishingly had no broken panes.

Grasses in a tub 

Calamagrostis ‘Overdam’ grasses growing in half a whisky barrel on our patio. They help shield from site the Generac generator. The grasses were bought from Perennial Fields, in Otego, NY, the plant nursery in our area of Otsego county, NY. I nursed it through a dryish summer by careful watering. Never thought it would turn out to be so beautiful it its maturity.

Caroline and Nicholas

Caroline and Nicholas at home with us in mid-September 2022. Nicholas is now living in Bend, Oregon. Every body says that is a very nice place. We are planning a train trip out there. 

Connie Tedesco at The Fernery

Connie is a biologist who grows native plants at The Fernery, near Hartwick, NY, seen here standing in the doorway of her office that her husband built for her from materials lying around their house. She calls it a small backyard business but her collection of native plants is large. Her fern collection is the best around. Her website tells you all you want to know before you make a visit. https://theferneryatwhitehouse.com/  

A young life-saver at a lake in Connecticut

A certified young life-saver at a lake in Connecticut taken a party held by the lake members. We were there one late summer's evening with our friend Robert Becker who is writing a forward for the second printing of my book Who How When Where.  

Christina Kral

Christina Kral, artist from Frankfurt, Germany, in Utica, NY train station.

Here is Christina in a garden chair at our house.


I received an e-mail from a woman artist living in Frankfurt, Germany asking if I would photograph her. She explained that she knew my work from Instagram and from my book Who How When Where. She had found herself unexpectedly in New York City. I explained that I lived four hours upstate from the city but she said that was fine and she would take the train, which she did. I am so glad she did because she has one of the most unusual looks I have ever seen and was altogether a delight to be with.


Twelve-year-old Payton on her horse, Diamond Reflection

Payton, a most gifted rider, on her horse Diamond Reflection in Schuyler Lake, NY, where she lives with her mother and siblings. 

A pair of Percheron draft horses 

A pair of Percheron draft horses in their 19th century harness pulling a circular harrow of the same vintage at The Farmers' Museum, Cooperstown, NY.

Christina Wood at her brewery 

Multimedia artist Christina Wood. She is also a founding member and program director for Get Woke! Catskills, an organization using the arts as a vehicle for discussions around race and identity, seen here sitting on a tin tub chair in the grounds of the The Muddy River Farm Brewery, located on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Unadilla, NY, owned and run by her husband Jared Wood and his cousin Dustin Wood, and by Christina herself.  

Born to be Wild

Gay Pride Parade, 1987, Washington Square Park, NYC. I moved through the noisy crowd not seeing anything I wanted to see. 


Then I stopped and turned, and there they were, standing in silence right beside me. I watched them for a moment before asking if I could take their picture. 


They were calm and affectionate, just loving being with each other. 


"Where are you now, 35 years on? If you see this please get in touch."


kasterine.com

dmitri@kasterine.com

(914) 525-5989

Henna and Beads
One of the greatest pleasures of being in Newburgh NY photographing and filming was coming across people dressed and styled in ways I had not seen before — more often than not, bold, loud and sexy. Here is a couple with all that, and astonishing looks as well.

How much time was spent by each of these luscious people getting to look like this? The girl, with just half her hair dyed henna? Great judgement, and then finding two shades of red straps to match and clash, but so gently so. And he, with that muddled mass of beads lying on the Gucci initial circles. Who would dare!


And now to those lovely faces: those lips — those perfect lips! 


Which are more perfect, his or hers?


One of my troubles is that I often want to ask my subjects all sorts of questions about themselves, but, being usually so relieved at getting the picture, I scram before they change their minds about the whole thing and snatch my camera away from me. It has never happened, but worrying about what has not happened, but could happen, has often happened.

Lonely Woman?
We'll never know if this woman was mourning, feeling lonely, regretting yelling at her husband, or desperate for money, or hoping that he or she will come back. Or — was her mind at rest, miles away, thinking how lucky she was to be free of all responsibility and looking forward to a promising love affair.

You can't tell when people sit alone and gaze.


I first thought...lonely woman. Then I said to myself, I am not sure. It could just be a woman alone, and grateful for it. What's in those bags? Is there tension in her knuckles?


I wish I had asked her. 

Sometimes One Needs an Ally
I had just photographed this house in Cherry Valley, a neighboring town of ours in Central NY. I stood on the sidewalk wondering about it. A young man and his daughter came out of a nearby house and I asked him if anybody lived there, pointing to the house I had just photographed. He said, “It belongs to an old man who is blind — hence its condition.” Then the young man asked if I had met so and so or if I knew her, pointing to the museum. “She knows all the history of Cherry Valley.”

“I am not interested in history, I am looking for faces.” I replied.


I had already asked him if I could photograph him with his daughter who was quite wonderful looking but he had said, “No, I don't think so, thank you.”


I gave him my card and said, ”You can see what I do on my website. 

If you change your mind let me know.”


I have not heard from him.


This reminded me of a similar situation when I came across a mother and daughter in Newburgh, NY. The daughter was probably 13 or 14 years old and I asked her mother if I could photograph them. She also said "no." But on this occasion a mutual friend who had heard the conversation stepped in. He said. “Let him photograph you, he's fine.” And she did. 


Have an ally at your side, just in case.



David Niven
The young publicity woman on the film that Niven was making on a disused airfield in Lincolnshire told me I had five minutes during the lunch break to take his picture. I chose a location that had side lighting from a small window set high up on the wall of a what was once a store room. 


By the time we got there, three minutes had already gone, and the publicist said I had two minutes more. Mr. Niven was in full swing telling stories, as he loved to do. When he paused to draw a breath, I said, “Please Mr. Niven, we have one minute to take this photograph, could you give me your undivided attention so that we can get it done?” He obliged and I got what I wanted.


I sent him a print and he wrote back, “Oh what a brute! What a brute!

Mick Jagger
According to those who drove with him in London in the 1960s Rudolph Nureyev was terrifying to be driven by. I did not experience being driven by him, but in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s I was driven by Mick Jagger.

“I'm off to a rehearsal. You are welcome to come and listen. Hop in.” 


This sounded fun, I thought, and hopped in.


He got in the driver's seat, turned up the radio and we were off at a steady pace out of the Beverly Wilshire entrance. After that it was quite different. 


He liked what he heard on the radio and began to sing, at the same time increasing his speed to...I did not dare look. And being Mick Jagger, included in the singing was waving his arms, which meant that his hands were on the wheel only when it became clear to him that unless he steered the car we would hit something. This manner of driving continued for the entire ten minute journey.


Of course, the rehearsal was worth every moment of the terrifying ride.

Rudolf Nureyev
The quickest way to cross central London in the 1960s was to be driven by Rudolf Nureyev. His skill as a driver, frightening though it was, was not far short of the skills of a Formula I driver. He weaved into gaps so small it was better not to look, dodging and narrowly missing oncoming cars by fractions of an inch, but he got you there alive and on time. I did not experience this myself and I have forgotten where I read it.

I believe it was true considering the rush he was in most of his life. Dancing here, there and everywhere. As Manuel Legris said: "Rudolf Nureyev was a high-speed train (he was a TGV). Working with Nureyev involved having to surpass oneself and stepping on it.” (Wikipedia.)


I took my picture of him in the mid-1980s in Central Park, a short distance from his apartment on Central Park West, when he had slowed up a bit through ill health.

Doug and Amy
Wanting to live differently, without so many possessions and in far less space, Doug Reilly, seven years ago bought a 1947 Spartan Manor Travel Trailer, restored it and lived and worked in it. Made in Oklahoma by a World War II aircraft manufacturer, the company, with no orders for aircraft after the war ended, retooled and designed and manufactured a trailer.

First in the Catskills and then in the woods above Oneonta NY, Doug and his partner Amy lived until very recently. The small space needed attention, moisture was creeping in and then mold. The floor was wearing thin from the traffic around the one table. Doug used the table for his sewing, then he cleared his stuff away to let Amy do her lino cuts, and when that was cleared away they would eat off it. 


To relieve the space problem they opened a store in Oneonta where Doug works on his five or six vintage sewing machines making, among other articles, canvas and leather bags of all sizes and uses, and Amy her lino cut cards. See https://www.etsy.com/shop/spartancarry/


From the comparative comfort of their small apartment in Oneonta they can think about the repairs and general maintenance that the trailer needs. Other ideas they are considering are to build a cottage from hay bails or Cob (mud and straw).     
Two Women in their Best
“I love what you are wearing,” I said to them.

“Thank you; nobody dresses up nowadays. I've got a hat too, and reaching into the car, said, “I'll put it on.”


Then taking a second look at me in my pink scarf and 8 wale bottle green corduroys, she said, “I don't know  ̶̶ you look pretty good too.” I told them how I still bought clothes in London even after living in the USA for 37 years. The pants are from Cordings in Piccadilly, thanks to Eric Clapton who supported Cordings when they needed cash to save the historic brand.


“Um. Eric Clapton eh! The finest guitarist who ever lived” said one of the couple.


“Yes, and the place is booming.” I replied.  

Teenager Holding a Toddler

Earlier this week Tierra Labrada asked me for a print of this picture which I took in Newburgh, NY in about 2001. The photograph appears in my book Newburgh Portrait of a City. Tierra was about 15 years-old, when I took it. The baby she is holding is her godson, Yahinese, whom she frequently looked after while he was growing up. His mother and Tierra were very close school friends in Newburgh.


Tierra is now Senior Policy Analyst at Supportive Housing Network of New York. 

Woman in Red

I spied this woman in red as I was leaving Price Chopper in Cooperstown, NY. She was being polite and helpful with the customers who were foolish enough to think they saved time checking themselves out.


I asked her if I might photograph her, explaining I did not have my camera with me, but could she spare five minutes tomorrow and wear what she was wearing now.


“I'll be wearing this exact same outfit for the next five weeks and be here almost every day.”


Good, I'll see you tomorrow. Would you be allowed not to wear a mask?”


“Like this you mean?” She dropped her mask to round her neck.


“That will be great, thank you. See you tomorrow.”


I turned up at 2:30 the next day and there she was wearing the same outfit.


“Wait a minute,” she said, “The big-wigs are here. Go and set up and I'll be out.”


Minutes later there she was, minus mask, asking where I wanted her. She was 

back with the customers within two minutes.


Before I left I asked her if she had any watercress.


“Yes, I am sure we have,” she replied and went into a isle and came back with a tin. That didn't seem right but things change rapidly these days and maybe that's the way watercress is sold now. I looked at the tin and it said water chestnuts.

Jade Sitting in a Horse Stall  

"Don't move a muscle,"  I said as I saw Gerry's daughter Jade sitting there. "Don't move a muscle," I repeated, "I'll get my camera." If you say that to people they invariably move, but a minute later when I returned with my camera Jade had not moved an inch. Jade was resting after helping her father Gerry replace floors in our stable.


I asked her what she was going to do in the winter when most construction work dries up..


"My fiancé and I are going to buy a truck and haul people out of ditches."



   

 A Woman who Sounds Right

She wondered later,  "Why me?"


I was leaving the Farmers' Museum, but knew as I was leaving that I should turn back and photograph her. I said to myself, "There's a picture there," and turned back.


You cannot photograph quietness, but I think it was the woman's quietness that drew me to her. I had also noticed that she was not pretty, but had regular features, that she did not screw her face up when speaking, held herself upright and looked directly at me when we spoke. And then there were her two handsome Swiss calves that she had been talking to, as she let them out after the rain. They had a direct way of looking at you too.


I have never been drawn to photograph excitable and flamboyant people. Or as the French philosopher Roland Barthes put it, "I do not like acrobatic photographs."


The woman's name is Sandy. As we sat in the farmers' coffee hideaway at the museum a few days later, she looked at the picture and said how glad she was that the two calves had been so well behaved.      


Family Firm who Build and Repair

Nice dog. Nice family.

Sonja

I wanted to photograph Sonia although I had only  heard about her but not seen her. Rather than bother her at the Cooperstown farmer's market I decided to go and find her at her farm, Nectar Hills Farm, a few miles south east of Cooperstown. Not only does she farm cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, ducks, geese, Emus, and probably a hundred other two and four legged beasts, she makes wonderful teas and humus, and designs clothes made from sheep skin and wool. 


I arrived at the farm  where I was greeted by two friendly dogs but no humans. I knocked on the door of the handsome house that had not been taken care of in quite the same way as had the animals. The animals looked and behaved as though they were in paradise. On the other hand stone chips, fallen from the walls of the house, lay where they landed. Windows were veiled, either with material or grime.  The beauty of the house, indeed, lay in its original architecture but beauty was added to it by its in-need-of-attention state.  


Old boards with almost no paint left on them are one of the most attractive decorative features  for the exterior of a house. And if the wood is good, as it is on Sonia's house, rot is far away into the future.    


Animal sculls and other bones are fixed to the walls of the house around the front door. 


Sonia came to the door after a few minutes and I explained who I was and what I wanted. She was wearing black tights with multiple large holes and tears in them. She said she had just woken up—from a nap, I presumed, as it was in the middle of the afternoon. She sat down on the crumbling top stone step leading up to the front door and proceeded to question my story. 


"So you have just published a book.. Where is it? I want to see it before I agree to anything."


Of course, like an idiot, I had forgotten to bring a copy. I said I would send one and meanwhile would she like to see some of my work on Instagram. She went back into the house and returned with her iPhone. She was reassured by what she saw. Then I asked her what had broughtn her from Spain to the USA.


"A man."


"And what brought you from Manhattan to the wilds of Central New York State."


"A man."


I did not ask if it was the same one. She did, though, say that things got difficult in the city as a dancer and an artist.

We, she explained later, that is Sonia and Dave Dutton run the farm together and come from a background of world music, Indian dance, Qigong, martial arts and Kundalini yoga. I mailed the book, and after a muddle from my sending a message to the wrong phone number, hearing nothing from her, thought she did not like the book, whereas the opposite was the case.


We got together a couple of weeks later and did the picture in the fading sunlight of a lovely late summer evening. 


  


    

A Man in a Million 
Things go wrong with houses and farm buildings however well built. When this happens your heart sinks and you cry, "Who the hell are we gong to get to fix this?" The answer is Gerry if you are lucky enough to know him. So far he has re-wired our fences, re-laid the floors in the stalls in the stable, re-surfaced the black top, straighten and sealed the gutters, replaced a rotting board and sealed a gap in the concrete thus preventing all manner of four legged beasts from entering the house. The picture below is of Gerry and his crew which consists of his girlfriend, his daughter, her fiancee, far right, and a friend who makes jewelry including bracelets made from
t-shirt sleeve cuttings.
Coincidences
Mimi is the daughter of White Russians. My father was a White Russian but I did not know him as he died when I was four. It is therefore a great pleasure to meet other White Russians.


One day in the summer my wife and I stopped on our walk to watch two girls exercising, one doing perfect somersaults on a trampoline and the other swinging from an aerial silk. Then I saw this same girl who had been swinging on the silk closer to, walking with her Airedale dog. I immediately wanted to photograph her. As we knew where she lived we walked up her drive a few weeks later and we saw her mother sitting outside. I asked if I could photograph her daughter and she said yes. We chatted a bit and it was then that she told us that she and her husband were White Russian. Feeling ashamed that I spoke not a word of Russian I explained why and they understood.


Mimi is eleven years old and a budding circus girl. "She'll climb and swing on anything," her mother said. She also rides. I have not seen her on a horse but I would not be in the least surprised if she rode standing up and could jump from one horse to another at full gallop. Her favorite acrobatics, though, are done on her aerial silk. Most generously she admits her sister Sophia to be the better of the two on a trampoline.

Mimi has a direct and clear way of talking. No likes or you knows, just uncluttered, understandable, un-rushed thoughts and comments.
When Mimi and her mother, Ksenia, recently came to sit in our garden to look at the photographs I had taken of Mimi, the conversation turned to icons. I have an icon but I did not want to show it to her so ashamed am I of how I have neglected it over the years. But Caroline insisted I show it. Ksenia looked at it closely and very delicately moved the pieces of silver that covered the painting back into place. Then she explained that it could be restored very well by her Russian friend living in Carmel.

A few days later I received this text from Ksenia.


I keep thinking of your icon and can't get it out of my head!


Then she told me on the telephone that I had to get it restored because it would guide me in my new life in Richfield Springs, near Cooperstown, where we are moving to in late November. She said it gently but firmly, leaving no doubt in my mind that the icon must be restored.


The icon depicts the Mother of God. What I do not know is how the icon came into my father's possession. Was he given it, along with an uncut diamond that I know his mother gave him before leaving Saint Petersburg for the last time on his way to fight the Red Army, or did my Godfather, Grand Duke Dmitri, give it to him when they met up again in the early 1920s in France? My father was Dmitri's ADC at one stage of his career.


Ksenia thinks that his mother could have given it to him because it was common for Russians to travel with small icons for protection. However my icon is not a diptych and actual traveling icons are often diptychs which fold shut with a velvet cover.


I remember the icon well as a child. My mother hung it in the corner of a wall in the dining room. It was in good condition and she often polished the silver overlay.
It would, I feel, have been hard for my father to have carried the icon in his uniform pocket without it getting damaged. He was, after all, fighting for the White Army in the Russian Civil War. But, may be, he managed to get back into Saint Petersburg before escaping Russia through Finland and that was when his mother gave it to him along with the diamond. However, the city, we must remember, was in the hands of the Bolsheviks and this would have been very risky.


Grand Duke Dmitri was generous to my father giving him all the necessities of life for those days: a gold cigarette case, a gold pocket watch, a silver salver, pearl studs etc. The icon certainly could have been included among those presents, and I believe a pearl handled pistol. I always wondered how my mother got it - she never told me when I asked, and then it was stolen in a burglary.


The icon is being restored by another Russian, Ekaterina Piskareva. Ekaterina’s grandparents and parents remained in Russia after the revolution surviving the Soviet years as artists and illustrators. Ekaterina now lives in Carmel, NY but has strong ties to Moscow where she is remotely restoring, to its original state, her grandfather's house in Moscow, and preparing it for its new life as a cultural center for artists. The house has a plaque on the exterior honoring her grandfather as an illustrator.


Ekaterina has identified the icon as in the style called Smolenskaya, dated 1856. The figures 84 refer to the grade of silver. Icon artists never signed their work, Ekaterina says. Ksenia believes that the initials on the silver may refer to the silversmith, but Ekaterina thinks they are family initials. My grandfather's given name was Boris although the initial K would be correct for my grandfather’s surname.


What started with a walk up a stranger's drive in pursuit of permission to photograph an eleven-year-old acrobatic girl, has become in a flood of Russian connections and activities. Never before have I felt as close to my Russian side as I do today.


Then, to make sure that this new state remains in place and the coincidences go full circle, we are planning to move to a house, (unbeknownst to us before we met Ksenia), that is only a few miles from the hamlet of Jordanville, NY. This hamlet is the home to one of the largest Russian Orthodox Monasteries in the nation. It is also where Ksenia's father gave up cattle farming and became a priest.
An Everlasting Summer
Summer is heartless. It’s like a ravishing woman who is full of promise, but vanishes from your side with no explanation. Every twelve months we are left bereft, standing there holding our rakes, looking at the mess she has left us to clear up.


And next spring we know she will be at our side again and we will fall for her headlong, with trowel in hand, ready to dig and weed to her every whim.


Caroline Kasterine, (yes, here we go again, my wife), see photograph above taken in England in 1986, a gifted designer and producer and dedicated dog and cat rescuer is a permanent summer. Without a pause she has enchanted all whom she has met for all the years she has lived. I say this with certainty although I have known her for only 32 of her 56 years.


A lot whizzing around about Beethoven at the moment, as this year is the 250th anniversary of his birthday in Bonn. The British conductor Ronald Hazlewood commentated and conducted in the 2005 BBC mini series The Genius of Beethoven which, to my mind, gives you no finer picture of the composer and his music. I read somewhere that to celebrate his birthday we should not listen to anything by him for a year. Have you heard of anything so stupid?  


What we should be doing is listening. This means listening not while cooking or looking at nonsense on Facebook, but sitting and doing nothing else except listening. This will include re-listening to passages when your attention has wandered and comparing different performances. Try this: Listen to all 32 of his piano sonatas three times over the next year. Listen first to Richter’s version of a performance then to Brendel’s version. Then to Wilhelm Kempff’s (who’s mastery will probably cause you to fall off your chair). All these performers have the complete sonatas on YouTube. Then you find a pianist you like better than those three and listen to them.


In the 1970s in London I had a great friend who ran off with the Indian lodger and whose husband more simply ran off — to the pub. She had two children one of whom, a boy, aged about 12, had a passion for the Kempff recording of the Appassionata Sonata which he played over and over and over again driving everybody in the house crazy, except himself. “But Mum, this is the greatest performance of one of the greatest pieces ever written. What greater influence do you want me to have?” Very sensibly his mother put up with it and the boy has, what they say in England, turned out well. 


This may all be too much to ask as we are now not brought up to sit still and do one thing only. But I believe, by doing so, you will see and absorb excellence — a great influence in writing, painting, designing, etc.


Amor Towles, writer, 2019

Caroline heard Amor talk about his book A Gentleman in Moscow at the Garrison Library. She thought he would be good to photograph. I wrote to him and he agreed. I took this picture in his garden in Cold Spring, NY in 2019. He lives in a lovely house in even more lovely grounds. After I took the photograph he asked us in and made some Lapsang Soughong tea. 


We talked about my Russian father who was an ADC to Grand Duke Dmitri. My father fought the Germans, then the Red Army, finally escaping through Finland with six of his men and an uncut diamond that his mother gave him before he left St.Petersburg. When he arrived in England he sold the diamond and bought a car and a suit.


We miss Amor a lot. He lived only a couple of miles away from us in Garrison, NY. You never know he might find his way up here one day.