Friday, June 25, 2010

Summer Begins

I recently took our daughter, our baby, shopping for summer clothes at Forever 21, which is a hit or miss venture.  This particular visit was all hit, and the pile of great stuff at ridiculously low prices kept growing.  "OK," I said.  "This is more than I planned on.  This is going to be your graduation present."  Maxie continued to nose around while I was watching the salesman tally our goods at the register.  "Happy Graduation," I called to her as I handed him the credit card.

"Is she graduating from college?" he asked.

"No!" I responded as if he were crazy.

"Is she already out of college?" he pressed.

"NO!" I practically shouted.  "She's only 16!"

It took a moment to correct myself.  "Wait, she's only 13!"

Today, driving home from the beach, a celebration of the first day of summer, I looked back at my girl, just days away from leaving Middle School.

Graduating from college?  Hmmm.  Guess it's an easy mistake.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Oprah's Psychological Thread

This post was written several weeks ago but I was asked by the magazine to hold off on it until publication.  I just got the issue and the story in which the images appear and still thought the post pertinent.

Last week I was on the road for O The Oprah Magazine

The shoot in California, a portrait of vegan chef Kyle Evans, was part of what will be a 12 page feature on ways people eat, done in signature O style.  As Director of Photography Katie Schad told me, "while the food is important, a clear psychological thread in the images is critical."

Seven hours of shooting at the Stanford Inn, a sampling of Kyle's food including his sublime Sliders, and then home on the red-eye--32 hours of travel, 6 hours of sleep, one hour-long run through fog-shrouded Mendecino Headlands, and 3 exceptional meals.  And that was two of the 12 pages in this story.

Thursday I was in Fort Greene, Brooklyn to shoot a couple of hardcore carnivores.  This portrait featured a couple who eat only what they hunt (in Montana and Alaska, not Brooklyn!).  Friday was at Goodlight Studios for a series of still lifes to round out and complete the story.

I've photographed food for Martha Stewart, Food and Wine, The New York Times and the beloved Gourmet.  Many of the stories I did for those publications involved personalities and travel but this story was unique.  The editors at O are always focused on visually conveying a literal message in the images they use.  A 'concept' or as Katie defined it in this case, 'the psychological thread' is sometimes difficult to visually convey--most magazines just want beautiful images.  

On my first commercial shoot for Conran's-Habitat over 20 years ago, I bristled when asked to do something out of my artistic character.   I was an artist and this was a commission wasn't it?  The Art Director gently pulled me aside.  She understood my dilemma but explained that it was my job to deliver the image they needed to sell the product.  I learned then and there that while I was hired for my eye, I was also hired to solve their problems while maintaining image integrity.  It is a lesson I refer to over and over--making an image that the Art and Photography Directors, client, stylists and I can all be proud of.  It's hard work and always surprisingly stressful.  There are a lot of eyes and input on a shoot but the eyes I keep on myself are the most critical.

The red-eye flights are no fun.  Flying and being away from home and family is awful, but there is a flip side.  Kyle Evan's delicious Sliders, runs on the Mendocino Headlands, working with very talented people, and walking away from the shoot with all parties, including myself, pleased.  Whenever I question myself after a shooting, I recall that even Horst, the revered master, with whom I worked as an assistant, used to leave a shooting doubting or bemoaning some of the things he did or did not do. That's good company to be in.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Low Impact Entertaining

Imagine.  Forty plus guests for a backyard bbq and only ONE BAG OF TRASH!  People, it can be done.  Here's how we did it.  Ordered paper plates, napkins, bamboo forks, and compostable plastic cups from, a site that a friend had worked with for Bedford's Environmental Summit, and found them extremely responsive and accommodating (which should not be unique characteristics for a business, but somehow are!).  The napkins were 100% recycled, an attractive unbleached cafe au lait color, and compostable.  The bamboo forks were much more attractive than the corn starch plastic-looking ones, and compostable, too.  The plates, a nice shade of tan, which looked great against royal blue cloths, and coordinated well with the wooden folding chairs and tiki torches, were biodegradable and compostable.  Finally, plastic cups, but not the kind which will float around the Pacific for a thousand years or more, but compostable as well.  With the right array of well marked trash cans, one for food scraps and compostables, one for recycleables (the glass and plastic bottles) and one for straight trash, we ended the day with a load of future garden soil, and only one bag of future landfill.  Not bad. And a good time was had by all.

Monday, June 21, 2010

First Light

Consciousness comes like the first bird to sing with the earliest light of day.  A single thought plays in your mind.  You try to disregard it.  There are so many comfortable positions in which to sleep, and you try them all, but slumber, at least for this night, is history.  That one bird sings insistently, soon to be joined by another, then another and another until there is a full chorus playing outside and inside and you know that the only choice is to get up.  Maybe in a few hours, you can lie back down again and resume sleep, but for now, there is joyful work to be done and the body is eager to get at it.

Hours from now, we’re expecting over 60 people here to celebrate the high school graduation of our oldest boy with a backyard barbecue.  Our youngest is at a landmark place too, entering high school in the fall.  Our middle son will embark on the beginning of his college search as an 11th grader. A particular lyric from Joni Mitchell, who has put to words better than most the collective experiences of life, runs through the mind.  It’s from The Circle Game. “We’re captive on a carousel of time.  We can’t return we can only look behind from where we came and go round and round and round in the circle game.”  It’s the line about dragging “your feet to slow the circles down” that gets us.   Would that we could.  We know that we can’t.  Like the scene in the movie “Parenthood” in which Anne Archer and Steve Martin are caroming through a wild roller coaster ride, gripping tightly the bar before them, their faces at once a shifting blend of terror and exhilaration, we hang on and do our best to enjoy the ride.

Life is passing before us at a seemingly accelerating speed.  All the more reason to smell deeply of the roses, or the lilacs or the peonies or the honeysuckle…  All the more reason to stop and marvel at that one bird’s beautiful song.

Even the dogs out in the office can feel the energy in the air.  They’re howling to be released from their crates.  For us, there’s fruit to cut, vases to fill, skewers to thread, drinks to chill, meats to grill, and salad to toss. But for now, a moment to savor the growing chorus of birdsong welcoming the first light.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Joys of Working at Home

When you work at home you are your own boss.  You make your own hours, you can go to work in your pajamas, you can have your dogs with you all day, you can be there when your kids come home from school.  The hours can be crazy--early mornings and late nights.  The pajamas til noon can make you feel like an insane person.  The barking dogs can drive you mad.  The kids think you're just there to make them food and drive them places.  But, oh, when you really need it, there's no need to sneak a few minutes of shuteye at a desk out of sight of the boss. You're the boss, and if you need a little snooze, you go and take it, no questions asked.  Sweet self-employment.
Sweet summer afternoon

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Oh, The Humanities

While our oldest child, Zander, is off to Bonnarro this week,  he's entering Cornell at the end of summer to study liberal arts and the humanities.

Yesterday, David Brooks wrote a piece in the NY Times entitled, History for Dollars.
It opens, "When the going gets tough, the tough take accounting."  That's exactly what Bill did straight out of High School -- before transferring to art school.  

We think Brooks' piece is worth sharing.  When the going gets tough, we encourage the study of the humanities.

You can read Brooks' piece here.

Zander's shadow, above, in a photograph taken at the Temple of Aphaia in Aegina, Greece, 1993.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Our Sleeping Porch

With the onset of warm weather, we’ve moved our bedroom onto our screen porch.  We love how living right off the kitchen simplifies life as though we only needed these two spaces and a bathroom. It’s camping at its most luxurious.  We fall asleep listening to the peepers, owls, coyotes and other creatures that inhabit the woods behind our home—a symphony that lulls us on even the most restless nights.  We look forward to night time storms for the cool air, sound and light show. 

And talk about energy efficient.  No need for air conditioning--just a quietly whirring ceiling fan and those sweet cross breezes.

It helps that we're naturally early risers.  The the chorus of songbirds that begins at first light can be overwhelming.  It softens to gentler tweets as morning comes full on, and by that time, we're  up and about our business too.

When the nights start to chill, we’ll add blankets, then a down comforter, and finally an electric blanket.  That’ll get us well into November.  We will move back inside when we can no longer read at night without our hands freezing. 

For now, we’re waiting for the first Screech Owls to arrive—they are willing conversationalists when you know how to talk to them.  And sleeping outside has taught us how.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Perfect Summer's Eve

A perfect summer's evening--The Saratoga Performing Arts Center to see The Dave Matthews Band.  The concert was great and the people watching, perfect! 

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Sucker for Kitschy Sweets

Now that my true nature as a dumpster diver has been revealed, I'll go ahead and make a further admission.  I'm a sucker for kitschy sweets.   Cotton candy, jelly apples, those orange marshmallow elephant peanuts, pixie stix, wax lips, Brown Bonnets, salt water taffy...  I could easily walk away from madeleines, biscotti, flourless chocolate cake--just about any grown-up and sophisticated dessert.  But show me a rocky road brownie, a perfect chocolate chip cookie, or anything constructed of Rice Krispies and marshmallows and I am first on line.  That's why I've fallen for these cookies I found in some magazine somewhere along the way:  Mini Hamburger Cookies.

More about assembling than actual baking, the cast of ingredients is as follows:

As the Hamburger, chocolate cookies (bake 'em tiny, to fit on a Nilla Wafer),
As the Bun, Nilla Wafers, with toasted sesame seeds affixed with a spot of egg wash
As the special sauce or ketchup, orangey or red colored frosting
As the lettuce, green dyed shredded coconut

These cookies are the opposite of organic, and they are surefire crowd pleasers.  Like Jiffy Pop Popcorn, they're more fun to make than they are to eat.  But, like Lay's Potato Chips, betcha can't have just one.

Now go ahead, build the perfect burger, and serve them at your next BBQ.  I'm going to figure out how to do hot dog cookies.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Faux That

Andrea is a proud dumpster diver.  Much of the furnishings in our homes were procured from places other than a store.  While we buy plenty, we love the thrill of the find at a tag sale, side of the road pick-up, or thrift store.  It's part of our reduce, re-use, recycle philosophy.

On a recent scout to one of her client's homes, the homeowner, artist Constance Olds, pointed to a car filled with all kinds of stuff  destined for the thrift store.  Andrea peered into the back seat, and spotted a small wooden table.  Constance originally purchased it at a thrift store to use as her daughter's drawing table, and had always intended to repaint it herself, but years later still hadn't gotten around to it, and now the daughter was adult sized.   Within hours of getting it home, we had it painted.

I love my dumpster diving momma!