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I went to pick my daughter up from a Halloween party last weekend. Upon entering, a group of girls sat in a circle riveted by the telling of a haunting ghost story. The quiet could be cut with a knife as their expressions hinged upon every word that came from the story teller. Then in chorus, shreiks came in tandem from the girls followed by giggles tinged with relief and nerves. It became clear to me that everyone loves a good ghost story. In late October, a multibillion dollar holiday is dedicated to ghost and their haunting friends. Ghost stories fascinate because they connect us with a real part of history and our infinite imaginations. Ghost have a way of keeping history alive in their best undead fashion. So upon one of my many visits to Greenbacker's Brookfield farm, my imagination got the better of me. In one of the old cobwebbed stalls, a vision of a victorian ghost came through one of the old walls. She seemed as frightened of me as I was of her. She was then joined by two other beautiful ghost, each striking a style all their own. It was a joy to photograph them and see the old barns in an entirely new eerie light. Seeing the apparitions drift over the cut corn fields, was a vision to remember. I have been told that the real ghost of Durham lives on Howd Road. I ventured into the darkness of the woods on that very road and was meet by even more apparitions. Apparently, ghost lore is alive and well in this area, and I am happy to share it with you. Happy Halloween!
A note on this shoot:
I have been doing portraits for some years now. I wanted to do a shoot that would step up my game in a really fun way. I called upon two friends who I knew would be up for the challenge. The shoots hauntingly beautiful models were Katrina Anderson, Kate Schulten and Madison Terrell. To take my photography up artistic notch, it wouldn't have been possible with out Lili Kinsmen, who beautifully styled the girls. Besides that, Lili's hats are awesome! Kim Terrell, Durham's best baker, kept us supplied with cookies throughout the shoot. From the back of a pick-up, we layered the girls giving each their distinctive look and ghoulish charm. The experience couldn't have been more rewarding. Two moms and a step-mom with two daughters and a step-daughter bonding in a truly unique fashion. It became a moment I will truly cherish for many reasons. My skills were challenged, our friendships were sealed and the girls felt as beautiful as they looked. Lili and I plan on teaming up in the future. If you are interested in a highly styled shoot, one that has our unique stamp, please contact me so we can create something with you in mind. Maybe Kim will even bring us some cookies!
We dodged the bullet. After a drive through Durham and Middlefield, it's apparent that we seem to have been spared from the worst of Sandy's wrath. When you look at the complete devastation down on the shoreline and throughout my home state of New York, the story is heart breaking. Our small towns of Durham and Middlefield had learned much from Irene and last years October storm from hell and were far more prepared for what was to come. Thanks to our emergency personnel that ensured our safety throughout the storm. There was one perk from this swashbuckler of a storm. I drove by Memorial School and recovered Pete's brand new frisbee that Chris had thrown into the trees. If there was a night to shake it loose, last night was it!
It's entirely too easy to belittle the carnival crowd. Once a year when the Durham Fair comes around, we look sideways at the carnies as they beckon one last dollar out of our pockets. We'll pass them by as they call us out to play their games; our heads down almost as if we are hiding our own indiscretions. As society's norms calls out more and more for perfection, I am beginning to think that maybe the carnies are on to something. Perhaps our quest to be the perfect human is all wrong. Maybe life is truly screaming for us to be imperfect. Let me be the first to step up on the soapbox and shout out my newly proclaimed carnie self. As these photos show, looking at ourselves in full carnie spender is a far more candid and realistic approach to life. Not a day goes by without feeling like Dolly Dimples or Jenny O'Grady the Lion tamer. On a regular basis, no one better defines me than Zip, the pinhead. On a rarity, I may feel like Superman, but there are more days that the sad clown better defines one's mood. And while my rare trip to the salon may have me feeling briefly like Betty Boop, Amazon Kate is far more realistic(especially before 7am!). So while you may proudly display your "proud parent of a ….." sticker, I suggest you add a sticker that says, "I love carnies". Truth is, it better defines us all.
Many that are familiar with Durham's Greenbacker Farm have become accustomed to seeing their cows as they drive down Route 68. I am fortunate enough to often use their rural backdrops as a portrait photographer. A few weeks back, a client and I meandered through the back fields of Greenbacker's. While the cows are mostly relegated to one side of route 68, horses are the pride of the north side of the road. I found this out as I walked through the corn fields. The perfectly manicured path seemed unusual to me in the midst of the giant corn field. The corn was at it's highest peak meeting the sun and blue sky seamlessly. In the distance an old fashioned horse buggy came into sight. I was torn wondering to myself if I should leave the high school subject behind to capture this character as he trotted towards me. The beautiful animal and it's trainer came by us leaving an image of old fashioned nostalgia unheard of these days. I couldn't wait to come back. Early the next morning I was returned to explore the old barns. My field trip wouldn't disappoint as I felt like I had stepped back in time seeing bits and pieces of the farms history everywhere. The horses here were beautiful and impeccably cared for by a trainer who understood all the nuances of his job. As I watched him take each horse out for its mooning ride, I couldn't help but feel a bit envious of his duties. He has somehow carved out his own piece of heaven here on earth. While we hustle our way up and down route 68 getting the things done that need doing, try to imagine a life so much more simplified. I believe these photos define it.
(Dedicated to Kim on her birthday; a great inspiration and a woman that's as sweet as the cakes she bakes!)
In a small town, it’s the little yearly reminders that help you keep your seasons strait. Who needs an iPhone when I can run my calendar on things like Lyman's corn maze. From the sowing of the seeds in May to it’s opening on September 1st, it quietly marks the long summer. In the same fashion, Country Flower Farms spookily reminds me year after year when Halloween is fast approaching. I love taking in the view of the farms friendly ghost calling from deep within the field as I meander up Bailyville Road. Each year, I vow to capture these ghost framed by fall’s multicolored backdrop in a morning mist. I rush back and forth in the chaos that ensues during schools beginning and the Durham Fair, making a mental reminder to come back for a better look. A small window of opportunity came last week. I would have gotten the full fog effect if losing my keys hadn’t distracted me. Nevertheless, I enjoyed a meander through the fields and even more so, a walk through CFF’s amazing greenhouse. My morning stress lifted almost instantaneously as I poked through ferns, cacti and steamy houseplants. The tropical houseplants would remind me to bring summer’s warmth into the house for the long winter ahead. I looked in awe at the mums beckoning as far as the eye could see. Another season grew just beyond that with deep green poinsettias just waiting to sprout their red petals. I would snap a few photos and then purchase some plants that I had no idea how to care for. Plants see me and start to shake from their roots in fear of my black thumb. After soaking in the heavily oxygenated air provided by the plant filled room, the rest of the day had me breathing easier. I swear that people who spend their lives surrounded by plants are healthier and happier. They even had Jack Johnson playing in the greenhouse helping the plants grow. It's places like this that help bring an imperfect world a bit closer to perfection.
The young girl smiling here was not the first girl in the today’s cross-country race to cross the finish line. But let me make a point. She is somehow playing the greatest role of her young life. In a quest to discover herself, she decided to take on an activity that looms furthest from her comfort level. At 12, there is no more difficult task than doing something your not naturally inclined to do. It takes some guts to take that risk. To make it even more challenging, none of her close friends were on the team when she first began cross-country. In short order she is realizing that the struggle to get to the finish line is truly the reward. In less than a month, she has gone from walking parts of the course to running it completely. Her sweetest victories come from within and it is a joy to watch her discover her true strength. Its no surprise the shirt says Strong because it defines her in every way.
Often, we wait for the winner to break the tape so we can live vicariously through their adrenaline rush. Today’s real victory came in watching the final boy cross the finish line with the opposing team supporting him. It was beautiful. With this image in my mind, another day closes with yet another ordinary miracle to ponder.
Rather than go on and on about how wonderful Chicago is, I’ll just post some pics. There were some highlights that made the weekend getaway amazing.
1. We got to see Mark (Chris’s brother) and met his awesome girlfriend Liz.
2. Totally by chance, I had a private tour of Soldier’s Field by its head custodian Nick. The view was incredible and the photo doesn’t do it true justice. PS . This is proof alone that it pays to be nice to everyone you meet.
3. Chris did his fastest time in the last 4 years at the 2012 Chicago Marathon all while stopping to give me a kiss. Time 2:46. He beat around 37500 people all due to the fact that he rubbed the nose of the stone lions in front of the hotel prior to the race for good luck.
4. Chicago is clean.
5. The mirrored bean is really fun, even if I’m not sure of its meaning.
6. I survived the ferris wheel despite the fact that I wanted to throw up from its height. The view was worth it.
7. The magnificent mile was something to see(even though it feels like a knock off of New York’s 5th Ave.)
8. For some reason, the entire city seemed to smell like warm chocolate chip cookies
9. The city has so much going on and with the limited time we had, another trip is a must.
10. The hotel’s giant bathroom was so totally awesome and fantastic (tv and all that), that I felt myself wishing I could live in it and never wanted to leave.
I’m feeling the squeeze of getting senior portraits tidied up and readied for the yearbook. My son sits with me studying the parts of the flower for a test in the morning. Fidgeting, he asks when in his adult life, the parts of the flower could ever matter. I sit wondering the same thing as I size one photo after another. At the moment, he feels my stress and I understand his. He say’s goodnight only to return a few minutes later with a hot chocolate and a chocolate chip cookie. He plants a kiss on my cheek and says, “Stressed is dessert spelled backwards”. In an instant, my stress is gone knowing that today’s ordinary miracle just delivered the sweetest goodnight.
For the past four days, my right arm has been weighted down by a monster camera. And despite the fact that I could really use a well deserved shoulder massage, I don't complain, because I love what I do. The world seemed to stop spinning on it's axis because the Durham Fair came to town. Each year, it's not like we all sit around and wait for the fair to come to us. We (as in you, me, your neighbors and such), are the fair. Without, the efforts by everyone who lent a hand to the extravaganza, it could never exist. This weekend proved to be a experiment of how a town can band together for common cause, but not without its challenges. While many experimental factors came into play, such as weather, parking, and finance woes, we somehow persevered and fared well enough. The fair isn't short on drama either. We get an overdose of it during this late September weekend. For 4 days, kids run on no sleep, a recipe for disaster usually resulting in high school break-ups, pre-teen irrationality and youthful meltdowns. Department heads must juggle the many clucking hens in their house and the fair council gets their yearly barrage of shoulda, woulda, coulda. But for me, there is always a bright side. On the flip-side, it is the best weekend Durham has to offer, bar none. It's is a wonderful time when we get to revel with many friends all in the name of fried food. Nothing warms your heart more than a walk down(not up) the hills of the fairgrounds seeing the people you know and love. So much happens that it's hard to get it all down in the blog. So please allow me share some highlights in the photo essay below. Thanks to everyone that took part in the grand occasion. Like every Durham Fair, it leaves us with a sense of nostalgia than only gets better with time.
Talent is huge part of the fun at the Durham fair. I know that each year, I am more excited about the talent show than any of the headliner acts. I revel in photographing the performers as they make it all happen. I love watching parents, with clenched hands and tears of adoration in their eyes. It is the most heart warming aspect of this fair by far.
Speaking of entertainment, the committee for this did an amazing job. I actually felt entertained. So much, that I couldn't see it all. The lighting on the big stage was out of this world for a country fair. I learned that maybe I am a little bit country after all. Kelly Pickler lit up the stage with her cancer cause hair-cut allowing this lucky photographer to get some great shots of her.. Thanks Kelly. I am sure Kenny Rogers was great, but based on a long rainy Friday, I knew when to fold em.
I was fortunate to catch some of the pie judging. I conveniently stopped by when I was starving. Good thing, because there must have been over 60 pies to judge and why let a good pie go to waste?
Speaking of pie,the pie eating contest is arguably the cutest (and grossest) yearly tradition at the fair! I personally call for the committee to bring back the Lyman pies, they're messier and that much better to photograph. My two cents...bring the kids activities to the town green. It is one of the best parts of this fair and seems under noted. Nothing boast a new England fair like pie eating contest on a quaint town green!
Hey, I found Waldo in the pouring rain, did you?
So what's your feedback on the rides? I was out $60 on ride day and I am pretty sure, no parent will ever again buy into the half-baked idea of pre-purchasing ride passes. But my kids got some rides in despite the feeling that there were fewer to go on...With the fantastic coaster "Boulderdash", only 10 miles away, I'm sorry to say the "super"coaster missed the boat.
Thank you for supporting John Lyman School (see girl eating corn) and all the other non-profits. Everyone knows that that managing this fair must require a delicate balancing act supporting profit and non-profit groups. I personally know that my husband must have consumed 20,000 calories, and $100 dollars, pin-balling from one non-profit to another in under an hour. I have tons of great photos of smiley faced volunteers putting their best effort forward for their respective groups. While the giant donut is a for-profit requirement by my standards, let's hope that everyone pitched into the important non-profit causes.
Fingers are crossed that we made some money for the organizations of this town! This photo was taken on Saturday night and I can only imagine that the Exchange club booth in this neighborhood was churning out french fries faster than they could fry them up.
We were safe thanks to these guys who truly care. No one usually thinks about what can go wrong because their too busy eating fried dough. But if someone gets stuck on a ride, slips in the knee deep mud or eats too many gyros, their the first one to take care of it. Thanks.
I was fortunate enough to have the awesome experience of working on an intergenerational project for the fair. Here are some of the kids that worked on it and I couldn't be more proud of the connections we made. I and my fellow young classmates had a fascinating peek into the lives of our many local seniors. Priceless!
Speaking of seniors, I got to know Janet this weekend. Being somewhat new to the photo department I had a blast hanging with this ragtag crew. We may be the techie nerds of the fair, but we had a dry roof over our heads and while visiting, people had lots of beautiful photos to look at. What strikes me about Janet was that she is youthful beyond her years and she inspired me to always stay young no matter what life throws at you.
Thank goodness there are still people out there who take on monumental farming challenges (like growing giant pumpkins). While I wore my best plaid shirt, these guys are the real deal. As Monday comes and we head back into surburbia, let's not forget the efforts that were taken by our local farm folk that shared their animals, tractors, vegetables and expertise so we can relearn how to simplify and better our life.
Finally, lets not forget the ones we love that truly inspire the Durham Fair each year. Our community would not be the same without you (yes, have a look in the mirror). The more you care, the better this event will be and it's future will be insured. Through my lens, I saw more people connecting than ever and I feel truly fortunate.
Many more photos to come on Facebook. Check back here for the link soon.