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Falling Snow

I found this interesting chart about snowfall totals in the Philadelphia area. It seems the earlier we have our first snowfall, the higher the season snowfall total. 

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be working out this year.  Our first snowfall was in early December but we’ve barely seen an inch of snow since then. Today will help – we’re expecting five inches of snow in Upper Bucks County.  Schools are closed, roads are a mess – but it’s a sight for the sore eyes of this photographer!

Thank you!

Moon Over Lake Nockamixon

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Palisades Gallery for my show opening last night – what a great time!  I didn’t get a chance to talk with everyone because it was so well-attended, so if I missed you, please forgive me.   Send me a note and let’s catch up!

Special thanks to those who came from quite a distance – especially the Hofmann boys! – and to my good friend, Moe Telsichs, for the flowers.  

Hope you caught the full lunar eclipse on the way home – it was gorgeous.

Here’s the statement that accompanies the 24 images in my show:

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Between 1982 and 1997, America converted over 25 million acres of rural land — primarily farmland, pastures and ranches — into subdivisions, malls, workplaces, roads, parking lots, et al. That’s about equal to the combined land mass of Maine and New Hampshire.

We’ve been developing 2 million acres of rural land per year for the last 20 years.

If the trend continues, America will develop an additional 85 million acres of countryside by 2050. That’s about equal to the combined land mass of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Virginia.

WHAT DO WE GAIN AND WHAT DO WE LOSE?

We gain infrastructure, homes, roads, shops, schools, parking spaces, hotels, resorts and jobs.

We lose wetlands, woodlands, hundreds of species of plants and wildlife, clean water, the ability to grow our own food, and as recent studies have shown, our mental & physical health, and our sense of well-being.

I want my photographs to help Americans question the worth of our land above & beyond its monetary value.

How much is an open horizon worth to us?

Back in the Saddle

Show Postcard

Two weeks!  Yikes!  I can’t believe I’ve been away that long.

I took a break from writing to prepare for a show of my prints that opens Wednesday, February 20th (tomorrow!) from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the Palisades High School Gallery.   I’m very honored to participate in the ongoing “Community Art Series” organized by Cathy Beck and Kim DeNato, the school’s art teachers.

The show features 24 images all taken within the last 18 months. Most appear on my photoblog at www.durhamtownship.com.  Even if you’ve seen the images on the web, it’s quite a different experience to view them in print — the level of detail really brings them to life!

Hope you’ll stop by and say hello!  

Palisades High School Gallery

Route 412 & Church Hill Road

Kintnersville, Pennsylvania 18930

February 20 – April 2, 2008

Opening reception:  Wednesday, February 20, 2008, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. 

(Gathering afterwards at the Ferndale Inn, Route 611 & Church Hill Road, Ferndale, PA)

Closing party: Wednesday, April 2, 2008, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Jasper Johns

Graduation

Jasper Johns is one of my favorite artists – quintessentially American, absolutely provocative and yet unusually quiet about his work.  He has a reputation for saying very little about what he does, which leaves interpretation to the viewer.  As much as I love his work, I love his persona.

Jasper Johns has a new show at the Met (called “Gray”, through May 4th) and a new exhibition of drawings at Matthew Marks Gallery (“Drawings 1997-2007” through April 12th) in Chelsea. There’s a lovely piece about him by Carol Vogel in yesterday’s New York Times. Some highlights (that tickled my tummy!) from Carol Vogel’s article:

♦  “Mr. Johns seems to have perfected the art of talking about his work without ever revealing too much. Always courtly, he answers questions in a measured, seemingly straightforward manner that leaves a listener wanting to know far more. It’s as if he is aware that a myth surrounds him that he must be careful not to dispel.”

♦   “For decades now his interpretation of flags and targets, numbers and letters — things, as he has often said, ‘the mind already knows,’ ‘things that were seen and not looked at, not examined’ — have become as embedded in the contemporary American art psyche.”

♦  “Predecessor Mark Rothko impatiently dismissed Mr. Johns’s targets and flags, saying, ‘We worked for years to get rid of all that.'”

♦  “He often executes drawings after he finishes a canvas, rather than before. ‘To do a drawing for a painting most often means doing something very sketchy and schematic and then later making it polished,’ he said. ‘It’s done out of a different kind of energy. I love drawings, so I’ve always enjoyed making drawings that exist on their own.'”

♦ “Born in 1930 in Augusta, Ga., and raised in Allendale, S.C., he received his early education in a one-room schoolhouse in rural South Carolina.”

♦ “About 60 years after he first arrived in New York, Mr. Johns is still very much the Southern gentleman. He retains his accent and his soft-spokenness. Yet his quiet demeanor and his six-foot frame make him intimidating at first; he chooses his words with such care that a questioner is tempted to do likewise.”

♦ “Each year, as soon as the temperature begins to plummet in Connecticut, he decamps to his house [in Saint Martin], joining his two resident dogs, Pepper and Pumpkin — both were found abandoned on the island — to work, garden, read, cook and do crossword puzzles.”

♦ “Asked what influence he feels he may have had on young artists, Mr. Johns paused. ‘To me,’ he said, ‘self-description is a calamity.'”

Lady Walking a Mule

Decades-Old Photograph Helps Solve Mystery of New York Man’s Drowning 15 Years Later

Saturday , February 02, 2008

by STEPHANIE REITZ, Associated Press Writer

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. —

A treasured old photograph, a police investigator’s long-shot appeal to the public and a retiree’s sharp memory have combined to solve a 15-year-old drowning mystery.

State police in Somers, N.Y., tried for years to identify a body found in the Titicus Reservoir on June 13, 1993, carrying 38 pounds of rocks in a backpack. The man left no clues to his name and matched no local missing-persons reports.

The only lead was a black-and-white snapshot found on the body that showed a grandfatherly man holding a small boy in the crook of his arm, both wearing attire from the 1950s or early 1960s.

Police assumed the toddler was the drowning victim, but years of investigation produced only dead ends. Then, with a few remarkable coincidences last month, Andrew Bookless got back his name.

Bookless was eventually identified through dental records — though only after police seeking to identify the little boy wrongly guessed a vintage light fixture in the picture may have been in western Massachusetts.

When they circulated the photo in the Berkshires, retired teacher Terry Yacubich, who had moved to Pittsfield from Bellport, N.Y., recognized a building behind the man and little boy as one she had known from her days on Long Island.

Bookless’ family, it turned out, once lived in the very spot the picture was taken.

“I’m not psychic or anything like that, but I think maybe Andrew worked through me to finally get some closure,” Yacubich said.

Bookless disappeared from his family’s lives years before that June day when police found him dead at 31. The snapshot was intact in a glass frame and close to his heart under layers of winter clothing.

Troopers searched for years to find someone who recognized the older man or features in the photo’s background.

Investigator Joe Fiebich sent the picture to The Berkshire Eagle newspaper in January after learning the vintage street light in the background was similar to those installed throughout western Massachusetts decades ago.

It turned out they were common on Long Island’s south shore, too.

But it wasn’t the light fixture that grabbed Yacubich’s attention when she saw the newspaper last weekend. She spotted the church auditorium in the village where she’d lived for 47 years.

“The moment I saw that picture, I knew exactly where it was,” said Yacubich, 59, who had attended decades’ worth of first Communion parties, church socials and funerals there.

Yacubich contacted friend Donald Mullins, a retired Suffolk County, N.Y., police detective and code enforcement officer in Bellport, a village in the town of Brookhaven. He trekked to the church’s neighborhood and quickly found the spot: the front corner of a now-empty residential lot.

“I stood on that very spot and said, `This is it. This is exactly it,”‘ Mullins said.

He tracked the land’s ownership history in town deeds until he found that the Bookless family had a house there before it was destroyed in a fire.

The Westchester County, N.Y., medical examiner’s office confirmed Bookless’ identity Jan. 25, and it was released this week after his four older siblings were notified.

They told police the man in the picture was Bookless’ grandfather and that his parents, John and Marianna Bookless, had died in 1994 and 2004. Police said Bookless’ family had him declared dead after his mother’s death.

Fiebich traveled Thursday to Long Island to speak to Bookless’ family in hopes of determining whether the death was accidental or suicide. Investigators believe Bookless fell through the ice in the winter of 1992-93, months before his body was found with the rock-laden pack strapped on his back.

New York State Police Senior Investigator Patrick Bosley, one of several troopers who reviewed the case over the years, tried unsuccessfully in the mid-1990s to have it featured on television’s “Unsolved Mysteries.”

“It was obvious to us all along that the picture was the best piece of information we had,” Bosley said. “It was clear that evidently the older gentleman was someone very close to him — his father or grandfather, a favorite uncle, someone he cared a lot about.”

Bookless’ family said he often would disappear for months, part of the reason his mother did not report him missing until 1999 even though she had not heard from him in several years, police said.

They said Bookless’ body was buried in New York as an unidentified person, but that his siblings would be able to move it if they wish.

“For me, the best end of the story would be to see that Andrew rests in peace,” Yacubich said.

Boy, Dog, Sky

I heard an AP newswire report yesterday that stated, “A winter storm is setting its sights on the northeast, where ice and rain have caused numerous accidents in parts of New Jersey.”

Note to AP newswire writers:  winter storms do not cause traffic accidents.  People who drive on icy roads cause traffic accidents.  Please stop blaming the weather for human ignorance — you’re giving Mother Nature a bad name.

(This bit of weather logic in no way relates to that tired old discussion of whether guns kill people or people with guns kill people.)

More than One Way

Scandanavians say, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.”

If you’re not out taking photos in the rain, snow, ice, wind and cold air, why?  More than likely it’s because of your clothing (or lack thereof).   Here are a few items I’ve put to the test for the last five years — and that have helped convince me winter is the most beautiful and fascinating season to take pictures.   

A Great Down Parka – Preferably with a hood and plenty of pockets, and in bright red or orange so the hunters don’t get ya.

High-Quality Layers – Staying warm is all about retaining body heat, and layers of silk or synthetic silk make all the difference, especially for your legs, because your parka isn’t that long.

Socks – I’m crazy about Smart Wool hiking socks. They’re cozy as can be, not the least bit itchy and they last for years.

Boots – I love my UGG Adirondacks so much I wish I could wear them in summer! I’ve walked through ankle-deep water in my UGGS and my feet stayed totally dry.  They’re pricey but worth every penny for their comfort, warmth and superb quality.

Hat – 15% of your blood volume is in your head. 30% of your body heat is lost through your head when it’s bare.  Keep it warm! I’m partial to brims and ear flaps.

Gloves – A photographer needs dexterity and it’s challenging to find gloves that are warm, waterproof and thin enough to work with. I’ve found that archery gloves are excellent for this purpose.

Now imagine all the winter gear that’s available for your camera!