Photo Flash Back
Every couple weeks, if I’m organized, I review the photos I’ve shot and the people and places I’ve seen. The absolute best part of my job is I’m rarely in an office and often on the road meeting the people of this fantastic state. I am in constant awe of some of the hobbies, innovations and interests that grab people here in Vermont. My camera is a ticket into other people’s lives and and excuse to satiate my curiosity and get nosy. These are a sampling of the faces I’ve encountered lately in my travels for the Free Press. We hit a variety of topics and cover a number of stories. Each and every day somebody teaches me. Just about every week something humbles me. And if I’m lucky someone will surprise me in such a way I will absolutely never forget it.
More often than I like people ask me: “So, do you just take the pictures?” And I’m knocked down a peg. I don’t expect everyone to understand what we (Freep shooters Glenn, Ryan and I) do everyday but I would like to think that I’m doing more than just taking photos. I’m working to understand the story, and should the story warrant it, collect audio and video for a multimedia piece. While I’m maneuvering around a scene I’m of course taking pictures but I’m also talking to keep people loose, keep people comfortable because the last thing I expect is someone to feel comfortable with my obtrusive camera circling around their face. It’s a delicate dance. People hate their pictures taken. I get that. Some of you are naturals and some of you are locked up, frozen, curled-lipped blinkers. That’s the great divide for me: people that blink and people that don’t. Everyone falls in one of those categories. Below is a small collection of recent portraits and I’m hoping, if I did my job right, you won’t know which subjects fall under which category. Enjoy.
**Above photo: Dux the Balloon Man. Dux is a character. I run into his smiling face all over Burlington whether he’s crafting imaginative balloon hats for children on Church Street, performing his talents at local events or creating unbelievable inflated art pieces at local music venues. Dux had his moment in the spotlight with me this past week while I took his portrait beneath one of his alien-esque creations at Higher Ground. Wow. I’ve seen his work develop over the years and am impressed with what I see now. You can’t shrug off Dux for being a simple “balloon twister” (the term is his). His art is beautiful, interesting and silly. It makes you look. And it’s temporary. If you get a chance to swing by Higher Ground to see his installations now you know him: Dux the Balloon Man.
Wood turner Michael Mode works from his studio in New Haven. I wrapped my week by spending a couple hours with Michael in his dusty, dirty, busy wood shop. It was a beautiful space with unexpected moody lighting. He kept apologizing for the mess but I prefer it. I love busy photos rich with antique machines, traditional hand tools, a library of wood and of course Michael, the artist, right in the middle of it all. This is a tighter shot that I used as the lead. He is an unbelievable talent and I was amazed how he transformed a chunky slab of wood into a smooth, delicate, feather-light bowl. When I picked up one of his bowls for the first time my hands shot up since I expected it to be much heavier than it was. People that can build and construct objects amaze me. Sure, I can see something and compose a photo from it, I can steal a moment, but to create from scratch is true, true talent.
This photo was made after an unfortunate event. A local man went fishing with a friend on Lake Arrowhead in Milton and due to the swollen water levels from a recent thaw and flooding, their boat was sucked into the Milton Dam. One man survived, the other did not and is still missing. The rescue turned recovery effort carried a heavy and solemn tone. On this particular day the Milton Dam was closed and the river bed was drained. I had never seen the water level so low and neither had most of the locals. To go from a raging flue of water to a still, quiet scene like this was dramatic. I wanted to capture the feeling I felt standing on these empty shores with this vast, depressing landscape. This was my lead shot. I received a lot of reaction to this photo both from the newsroom and the community. I’m glad I could bring people into this scene with a single photo, that was the goal, but it’s unfortunate I had to take this photo at all. David Driscoll is still missing but will hopefully be found soon.
Farmer Dan Baldwin is a young entrepreneur. He and his older brother continued their grandfather’s farming tradition by starting up their haying business while in high school. I was shocked to learn this not only because I generally wouldn’t credit a high school kid with imagining and creating a business plan at such a young age, but I was surprised to learn this because I went to high school with Dan. We didn’t know each other much at all but when we met for this photo we both had that “wait, didn’t you go to….” moment. It was good to see him doing so well and to learn a story I never knew. The Baldwin brothers started up their farm while in high school and remember being ridiculed for being “farm kids” and saving their pennies for their big plans rather than spending them, like the rest of us, on items we couldn’t recollect today. Smart guys, even if they were “farm kids”
Dairy farmer Paul Bourbeau runs Paboco Farms in St. Albans and has had a tough run keeping his dairy business afloat. The dairy scene in Vermont is growing increasingly more difficult and volatile for farmers as some farmers are forced to sell their herds and close up shop. Paul did just that a year ago in an effort to keep his business alive. He sold off his herd and a year later gradually starting repopulating his fields with Holsteins. Nobody works harder than farmers. I share conversations with these farmers rich with economic and political know-how as they are on the forefront of our food industries and our legislation. Don’t ever write off a farmer for being just that. These days many of these guys are political players, and they have to be, to keep their voices heard. Paul only had a few minutes to work with me this day because he’s busy. Of course he’s busy. Never ask a farmer what time they get up and what time they get to bed. I ask because I’m curious and it makes for good conversation as we walk over to the barn . I always get a laugh. Silly girl with my silly questions. I remember a farmer saying there is no time on the farm, just chores, just a big collection of stuff that needs to get done all day every day. Well, turns out our conversation warranted more time as Paul took off nearly an hour to walk around with me, shoot the breeze and tour the farm all while I snapped away as frames and moments came together. Nice way to spend an afternoon.
This was a quick photo I shot between a series of other assignments. Just one of those days. Steve Page is working with All Earth Renewables to draw solar energy to his home in Williston. It’s a growing technology and see more and more solar arrays, panels and trackers popping up along the Vermont landscape. People are getting excited about energy, but most importantly they are getting curious. I think a lot of us forget how much power we use to simple everyday tasks, but people like Steve are able to track their electric consumption as well as the energy they are collecting from the sun. He has a heightened awareness which I’m sure in turn affects the way he goes about his daily life. I shot this photo with Steve’s dog, Keister, as he lovingly nudged his nose to his owner’s hand. Keister greeted me when I arrived at Steve’s home and being the dog lover that I am I couldn’t resist including him in the photo. It was just a nice moment of an otherwise dull solar panel.
This last photo is a bonus photo that I don’t think we used, but it brought me instant happiness. The long winter and slow start to spring made this a welcome moment. I walked through the Claussen’s greenhouses last week for a spring planting tips story and breathing the warm, humid air was beyond refreshing. I’m anxious to dig into my own garden and spent all day yesterday buying and collecting plants from local stores and neighbors. Can’t wait to get my hands dirty, I’ve been in this wintery hibernation too long. So for all of you Vermonters or fellow winter wonderland survivors this photo is for you. It’s spring…and summer is just around the corner. Breathe easy.