In January I got a short email from Phaedra Brown, Photo Editor at The New York Times Travel Section, to ask whether I’d be available for a very visual assignment at Killington. Yes, I responded quickly! It had been a while since getting an assignment from the Times or The Travel Section. On a cloudy Tuesday I met up with writer Elisabeth Vincentelli at Killington. Morning fog made visibility very bad. I was not happy. We met Dave Lacombe, Snowsurface Manager at the resort, and got an inside view of the science and logistics of snowmaking and making skiers happy. I rode a snowmobile with Snowmaking Operations Foreman Greg Gleason and got a closeup view of snowmaking guns blasting snow on trails and skiers and into my face and lens. The weather never cleared up. In the late afternoon I launched my drone from the parking lot for an overview photo of the mountain with a hint of sunlight in the clouds. That ran as the biggest photo. At twilight we rode with Snowcat Operators Brett Frazier and John Marotti who groomed the trails into fresh corduroy for the next morning’s runs. Indeed they are snow farmers, working through the night to make all this possible. The weather conditions were less than ideal, but I filed the pictures and hoped for the best. A month or so later, The New York Times ran twenty photos in an online slideshow and eleven photos in a full page spread in the Sunday Travel Section. Here’s the online version: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/02/21/travel/killington-snow.html
One of my most memorable photo assignments was to photograph strangers in Windsor, Connecticut when I was fourteen years old. I was a freshman in high school taking my first photography class with Walter Rabetz in 1984 at Loomis Chaffee School. It was terrifying and exhilarating – walk up and engage a perfect stranger and ask them permission to make a portrait. This was the basis of my becoming a photographer.
For the last few years, I’ve embraced drone photography and love its ability to soar above landscapes and create abstract compositions. But my roots as a photographer are making portraits, assigned and found. There is nothing like the intimacy and brief emotional connection of creating a portrait.
Some portraits are made and some are found. Sometimes I’m walking on the street and I have a second or two to decide; should I engage and ask to make a portrait? If I hesitate, they’re gone down the street, vanished in the crowd. I have many regrets of the times I haven’t made the time for a portrait. I’m looking for a personal style, flair or attitude. Most portraits are of complete strangers I will never see again. Sometimes I’ll have a few minutes to set up a light and think about a background and how subjects will pose. Other times, I have a split second to frame a shot and click the shutter. We are all passing through life at our own pace and I feel alive and engaged when I have spent a few minutes acknowledging another person on the other side of the lens. These are gifts.