The NY Times Lens Blog, From March 6, 2013
A few weeks back my photos from Canada were featured on The New York Times Lens Blog site. Here it is (click image below to link to the article).
A few weeks back my photos from Canada were featured on The New York Times Lens Blog site. Here it is (click image below to link to the article).
Lucy, the World’s Largest Elephant.business, Lucy the World's Largest Elephant, Margate, New Jersey
Where my ancestors landed. Rumour has it I’m the great-great-great-something-or-other granddaughter of Captain Myles Standish, the Captain of the Mayflower. Landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620.
business card, Captain Myles Standish, Massachusetts, Mayflower, Plymouth Rock
Today’s “1000 Words” is the story of how I found my dog Maggie, the rescue dog copilot as we have just embarked on a road trip around America.
It was July 9th, 2011 and I was in Saskatchewan, Canada on a road trip across the country. I had checked out of the hotel I was staying at in Regina and was planning on shooting Pearl Lutzko, the oldest Canadian, the next day in a small town called Ituna but I’ll save that story for another “1000 Words.” Meanwhile I had a day to kill with nothing planned so I looked on a map and saw that a hamlet called Kandahar wasn’t too far away. And since I would never go to Kandahar, Afghanistan why not go to Kandahar, Canada.
There were two different routes I could take, one on a highway that took me a little bit out of the way or one that was more direct but on a dirt road that went through the Poor Man’s Native Reservation. If you know Saskatchewan roads at all you know that they are the worst in the nation, paved or unpaved your shocks are going to take a beating so I decided to take the unpaved but more direct route.
It was a little after noon, the temperature was probably about 32°C (or 90°F) and I hadn’t passed another car in the last half an hour. I was in the middle of nowhere and all of a sudden I saw a figure in the distance. As I approached I could see it was a young man of about 25 wearing headphones so he hadn’t heard my car. I looked back in my rear view mirror and saw him waving his arms trying to get my attention. I had never picked up a hitchhiker before, and maybe it was the heat and the fact that the reservation was 15 Km away but something urged me to give this man a lift. I think he was surprised too when the car backed up, the window rolled down and this lone woman offered a lift (apparently not too many non-natives came through these parts) but he quietly got into the car. We made small talk and when we got to the turn off I asked if I could come and photograph his family to which he replied “sure.”
I had never been on a Rez before, don’t know too many people from Toronto who have, but it was honestly sadder than anything I expected: bleak pre-fab homes with no landscaping, dirt roads, broken down cars in the yards among other garbage, stray dogs roaming the streets and to top it off a tornado had torn through the community the summer before. While I waited for his parents to return home so I could photograph the family I began talking with Jer’s younger sisters. Out of nowhere this horrible, tick-ridden, dreadlocked, muddy, wretched creature waddled up to us. Instinctively they kicked it away to which I was like “whoa, what are you doing?” They simply replied it was a Rez dog so it didn’t matter, to which I retorted that it was a living creature so of course it did. I wanted to prove to them that under that horrible coat was a sweet creature so I went to my car to get some scissors and began giving the dog a hair cut. Immediately she rolled over in submission and let me cut off all of the matted hair. I asked the girls to get a bucket of warm soapy water so we could give her a bath and by the time we were done they were all excited by how sweet this dog was, you see underneath that mess was a pure bred Shih Tzu. She had a cherry eye that required surgery and scabs from the ticks but seemed ok otherwise.
Now how she came to the reservation in the first place I’ll never know. Did she belong to an older resident who passed away and was put on the street, or was she dognapped from the big city, it’s a mystery. When I was leaving I asked Jer if I could take her with since she didn’t belong to anyone and after her hair grew back and she was scruffy again the kids would loose interest in her and he thought that was a good idea. On reservations it’s not uncommon for stray dogs to be gunned down, a practice called “spring cleaning.” As I drove away I felt a sense of guilt that I was taking a dog away with me instead of being able to do something for the family I just left.
We checked into the Ituna Motel that night and she kept jumping up on the bed trying to cuddle. I had already found two ticks on myself and was paranoid so made her sleep on the floor. The next morning I went out to get a hamburger for her since the supermarkets were closed on Sunday and there were no other options in this tiny town. I nervously left her in the room alone when I went to go photograph Pearl, and when I returned I half expected the room to be torn apart but thankfully she was a good girl. I don’t normally take self-portraits but decided to take one with this unnamed dog to commemorate the moment as she’d be getting dropped off at the Humane Society in a few days. See I wasn’t planning on keeping her, after all I was a crazy cat lady and was on a road trip that was to last another 2 months.
And this is where it got interesting: I was in a gas station filling up and a woman walked by and commented that my dog looked like she’d be going into labour any day now. I had hoped her distended belly was the result of eating garbage and her swollen nipples were from a past litter but no, this dog was pregnant. I made my way to Winnipeg, Manitoba to take her to the Humane Society but they would only give me information if I relinquished the rights to her which I wasn’t prepared to do; when you have this thing sit next to you staring with this look of wonderment you change your mind pretty quickly! I took her to another vet who said she was extremely anemic and the x-ray showed 5 puppies and had I left her on the reservation she and the puppies would most likely have died. Great, but how could I continue this road trip with a nursing dog?
Thanks to a friend I made through Tumblr (who also gave her the name Maggie) we found this incredible woman who said she’d keep Maggie, help deliver the puppies, find homes for all of them and then deliver Maggie to me when I was done the trip. Just before I pulled out of Winnipeg Maggie gave birth to 6 puppies (one was hiding in the x-ray), and true to her word all the puppies found good homes and Maggie was flown to me two months later in Toronto.
The evening I picked her up from the airport cargo I set the carrier down in the parking lot, opened the hatch and out came Maggie, all confused from the ordeal of the trip. She looked around and suddenly there was this look of recognition in her eyes, like “it’s you, the one who rescued me!” She jumped up and down and licked me excitedly something she does every time I return from being away.
And so the adventure continues only this time around the US so be sure to check back for updates in a new section I call “Travels With Maggie.”
Tags: Canada, Kandahar, Maggie, Poor Man's Reservation, Rescue dog copilot, Saskatchewan
In November 2008 I got an assignment to photograph Antony Hegarty the lead singer of Antony and the Johnson’s for Rolling Stone Magazine. Being a fan of his music I was very excited to photograph him and began discussing locations with the photo editor; he didn’t want to be photographed in his home and it was very cold outside so where should we do it. We decided on a strange little hotel on Third Avenue and I believe 26th Street. I don’t know if it exists anymore and it must have been an SRO at one time but they were aiming for an artier crowd with individually decorated rooms. I had chosen an Indian themed roomed with brightly coloured walls of pinks, fuchsias and purples, flowered bedspreads and Hindu gods adorning the walls. Figured it would help make a poppy picture of Antony who is very subdued and monochromatic in his dress.
My assistant and I had everything set up and when Antony showed up he was less than enthusiastic. First of all Antony considers himself a witch and didn’t want to have any associations with anything religious (fair enough). And he was afraid to get on the bed for fear of bed bugs (can’t say I blamed him, though he was ahead of the times of bed bug mania that swept New York in 2011).
We quickly asked the front desk if there was another room available we could switch over to. We were in luck, there was a room where the guest had just checked out. It hadn’t been cleaned yet but we were welcome to shoot in it. It had a woodsy-feel to it and Antony was much happier in here since he is very in touch with nature and the animal spirit world.
My assistant Alyson and I quickly reset the lights for the shoot while Antony spoke with his companion about his cat…who had died the night before. Oh lord, the poor man was grief stricken and it was about all he could do to keep it together.
I had forgotten about this shoot until this morning, you see my cat Meredith Baxter Birney died suddenly yesterday morning. She had been fine: playing with my touque, meowing the world’s most annoying meow, attacking my dog, licking my face to wake me up in the morning with her sandpaper tongue, purring the loudest purr I ever heard on a cat. Monday night around 12:30 am I found her outside my door crying in pain and panting. I picked her up, gently put her on my bed and went to get my mum. When we returned she was still panting and had wet herself. I put her in the cat carrier and rushed her to the 24-hour vet. We left Mama there to be put in oxygen and be given some tests and treatment. At 5 am I received a call that she had passed away.
Yesterday I was a mess. Today I’m still tearing up every 15 minutes. Can’t stop thinking of her and all the cute and annoying things she did that made her such a special cat. I had found her living under a bush on my street in Brooklyn and on a particularly cold night she followed me home and that was it. The vet gave her a clean bill of health though she detected a heart murmur. She wasn’t sure if she was fixed or not but was positive she wasn’t pregnant. And then 6 weeks later Mittens came into the world.
How Antony managed to get through our shoot together I don’t know; I haven’t been able to get through more than a half an hour without thinking of Mama and sobbing uncontrollably. When I showed him and his friend some of the images on my computer the two of them commented on how it looked like he was channeling his cat and emulated her in the pictures. I thought that was sweet but today I feel an added pathos to that. Antony, I can only appreciate now how difficult that day must have been for you and thank you for your utter professionalism.
I don’t know if it’s better to have a pet die of an illness or old age or to go suddenly like MBB did last night, either way it just isn’t fair. A little over 3 years ago she walked into my life, yesterday sweet girl with no notice you left again. Thank you for the gift of Mittens, you will always be my first.
Tags: Antony and the Johnson's, Antony Hegarty, cats dying, Hope There's Someone, Meredith Baxter Birney, Mittens
In September 2012 a skeleton was discovered beneath a car park in Leicester, England. And thanks to a Canadian’s DNA it has been concluded that this is the remains of King Richard III who had been lost for over 525 years.
A little back history: Richard III, the last Plantagenet (or descendant of the English royal dynasty that held the throne from the accession of Henry II in 1154 until the death of Richard III in 1485) was King of England for 26 months (1483-1485). He died at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, the battle that concluded the War of the Roses and over time both the location of Bosworth Field and the site of his burial was lost.
He suffered from scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that with the help of a chiropractor today could be treated but back during the 15th Century it was used by the Tudors who succeeded him on the Throne to malign him. This was further instilled by Shakespeare’s play Richard III where he was portrayed as a deformed hunchback who would do anything to climb his way to the Throne, even kill his nephews. While this point of view was popular during Shakespeare’s day and for the next 500 years, the Richard III Society was founded in 1924 to exonerate the King.
And it was the Richard III Society who together with archeologists from the University of Leicester made the discovery of skeletal remains that belonged to an adult male that exhibited severe scoliosis (which could explain the reason people referred to him as a hunchback), and a mortal battlefield wound in the back of the skull.
The problem the archeologists and Richard III Society now faced was identifying the remains. Carbon testing confirmed the appropriate date but how were they going to obtain direct evidence that this skeleton belonged to the King? And that’s where a Canadian came in to save the day.
55-year old Michael Ibsen, a cabinet maker who lives in coincidentally London, Ontario had been tracked down a few years previously as a 17th-generation nephew. Seems his late mother Joy, a UK-born journalist who emigrated to Canada in her 20s, was a direct female descendant of his eldest sister, Anne of York. She passed away four years ago so Michael was invited to attend the dig and give a DNA sample. The testing was more difficult than expected, and several labs had to be involved but finally last week, it was announced that there was a DNA match and the remains are “beyond any reasonable doubt” those of Richard III.
Amazing thing is that the mitochondrial DNA being tested is passed along the female line so while you can find the DNA markers in the male relatives only the females can actually pass it to the next generation. So Michael, who has no children, and his brother both have it but only their sister is capable of passing it on but she too has no children. Once she passes away this blood line dies with her.
When I was working on my book “America Swings” I wanted to make sure I photographed very American events: Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Halloween. But what could be more AMERICAN than the Super Bowl!
As a Canadian I have never understood the game of football. I don’t know what the rules are, how you play it, how you keep score, is it called a goal like in football in the rest of the world? Sure we have football in Canada as well but it’s not a very popular sport north of the border. And we have larger fields: a Canadian field is 110 yards long by 65 yards wide while the American field is a mere 100 yards long by 53 ½ yards wide. Canadian teams have 12 players while American teams use 11 players. There are a whole bunch of other differences that I can’t be bothered listing so if you want to learn more go here. Now getting back to how I ended up photographing a Swinger’s Super Bowl party.
I had met the hosts Paul and Robin the previous summer at an event called Swingstock, a four-day camping and fornication festival held each summer in Minnesota. I took their portrait at their campsite and they said they often held parties in their home in Des Moines, Iowa and if I’d like to come photograph I’d always be welcome. When they emailed me that they were hosting a party at their place for the Super Bowl I booked a ticket on the next plane out.
There was everything any ordinary Super Bowl Party would have: a big screen tv, beer, chips and dip, a crock-pot full of chili, piggies in blankets. And one thing not so common at these parties: partner swapping! I mean what’s more red-blooded American than football, beer, and blow-jobs.
The previous year was when Janet Jackson had her wardrobe malfunction during the halftime show so the NFL went really tame for Super Bowl XXXIX and had Sir Paul McCartney perform. Maybe it was the PG-13 show that bored the party goers, or maybe they weren’t New England Patriot fans but the halftime show involved another kind of adult entertainment if you know what I mean.
The final score was New England Patriots 24, Philadelphia Eagles 21 but the real touchdowns took place in this suburban living room that fateful day back in February 2005.
Wishing you a happy Super Bowl Sunday. And full disclosure, Buddy the dog was not harmed during the shooting of this party.
Been a while since I’ve posted a Touque-for-Tuesday post so figured I’d share one of my favourite Twits I like to follow: @Cmdr_Hadfield. The 53-year old Canadian Astronaut is currently orbiting earth aboard the International Space Station and sharing some of his good old fashioned Canuck humour as he tweets from zero gravity, like the photo above.
Daily he’s posting fascinating photos of planet earth from his point of view, often with a quirky tag line like this one:
He also answers people’s questions about how an astronaut lives:
He currently has 278,799 followers (and rising!), that’s just a little over 10,000 less than our Prime Minister. Maybe if PM Harper posted videos like the one Cmdr Hadfield uploaded this past weekend he’d gain some popularity. Or not.
So Cmdr Hadfield, take your protein pills, put your helmet on and keep on tweeting…we’re watching for you from planet earth.Tags: Commander Chris Hadfield, International Space Station, nuts in space, space photos
Flying from Los Angeles to Toronto it still amazes me that A: we can travel from one place to another by hurling through the air in these giant metal birds, and B: that we can get Wi-Fi 10,000 feet up in the air and continue to mindlessly ignore all those around us as we do on the ground. I of course am being more productive with my time and my Wi-Fi access and decided to read the Times where I came upon this headline:
And so today while eating warm nuts in my upgraded business class seat (yet another thing that amazes me about flying, the only place I ever get warm nuts) I bring to you the second installment of “1000 Words.”
Photography has allowed me access to all sorts of characters but I will never forget the day that I was assigned by the London Times Magazine to photograph the subjects of a new documentary film Crazy Love (if you haven’t seen it do so…it’s on Netflix streaming). At this point in 2007 Burt and Linda Pugach had been married for 33 years and seemed the all-American perfect couple next door. Well except for the fact that in 1959 Burt hired 3 men to throw lye in Linda’s face permanently scarring and blinding her.
The two had been dating for a few years though Burt was a married man. When the beautiful 22-year old Bronx native Linda Riss decided she could no longer wait for him to leave his wife she ended the affair. And that’s when things got weird: rather than let Miss Riss move on with her life (she was engaged to be married to another man) Pugach hired thugs to disfigure her. At the trial in May 1961 Linda testified that Burt had told her, “If I can’t have you, no one else will, and when I get finished with you, no one else will want you.”
The trial was one of New York’s most sensational where Pugach was declared insane three separate times and at one point popped the lens from his glasses and slashed his wrists, crying: “Linda, I need you. Linda, I love you. Linda, I want you.” He was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in a state prison where he would call Linda and mail her love letters daily. In March 1974 he was released from prison after serving 14 years. And in November of that same year the two were married.
My assistant and I were greeted by Burt at the door asking me if I could put in the article how the FBI was harassing him over some sort of business deal or what not. I quickly reminded him that I was merely the photographer and no I couldn’t help in any way in having the “real” story published.
We busied ourselves with lugging in the lights and setting up in their living room. Apparently there had been a fire in their Rego Park apartment a few months earlier so all the furniture was brand new…so new that the price tag was still hanging from the lamp. And then she appeared, Linda came out from the bedroom in a very stylish black outfit wearing large black cats eye sunglasses. If I didn’t know the back story I would have thought she could have been an actress shielding herself from the paparazzi’s gaze. But I did know the back story and it made it that much stranger when they argued nonstop. I couldn’t understand what the power was that he had on her. You could tell he loved her madly but what was her reason for being with him?
After shooting them in their living room I asked if I could photograph them in their bedroom as well. They had no problem with it and in fact seemed to love being photographed lounging on their bed. I particularly loved the ginormous answering machine that took up half the nightstand.
While setting up in the bedroom I noticed a little table and chair set up in the closet where Linda would sit and chain-smoke. This was the only place in the apartment Burt allowed her to smoke and I wanted to take her picture in there but she refused. This was her own private space and she wanted to keep it this way. Perhaps this is where she reminisced about being that 22 year old girl being wined and dined at New York City hot spots by a dashing attorney 10 years her senior before it all went sour. And this is the mental picture I took away with me, the one I wasn’t allowed to take, her sitting there all alone smoking More cigarettes among her clothes hanging all around her.
Linda died Tuesday in Forest Hills Hospital in Queens of heart failure. Her husband Burt is her only immediate survivor.
Tags: Burt and Linda Pugach, Crazy Love, Crime of Passion, London Times, One Thousand Words, Rego Park
Am very proud to be a part of this great project to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Roe vs Wade. put together by ChoiceOutLoud.org40 Faces, Choice Out Loud, Pro Choice, RoevWade
How has it been nearly TWO years since I’ve made a Cat-tastic Friday post?! I’m a very bad crazy cat lady. So let’s make a kitten appear magically!
(and you can too by adopting a cat at your local shelter!)Tags: Cat-tastic Fridays, kitten, magic
When in portfolio reviews or guest lecturing I’ve been told I’m a pretty good spinner of the yarn so I’ve decided to start a new section on my blog called “One Thousand Words” in which I’ll give the back story to a photograph I’ve taken in 1000 words (give or take). And seeing as today is New Years Day why not start the year off with a bang. So sit back, nurse your hangovers and enjoy this the inaugural post.
For five long years beginning in 2003 I traveled around the United States photographing swinger parties which culminated into my first monograph “America Swings” published by TASCHEN books. I would look for particularly American themed parties or parties that celebrated the holidays: Halloween, Fourth of July, Christmas and the Super Bowl to name a few. The idea was to show how swinging is like camp for adults with a lot of emphasis placed on fun and games and dressing up not just on having sex.
In December 31st, 2005 I went to a New Year’s Eve party at a nudist-slash-swingers club called Live Oak Resort in Washington, Texas. Located 80 miles northwest of Houston, Live Oak is the largest lifestyle-friendly, clothing optional resort in Texas, located in cattle country with large open spaces, ranches and longhorns roaming the fields. I was greeted at the reception desk by Ashley, a male to female transsexual who had just had her sex change operation.
There are those that call the resort home year-round, as well as many city slickers who come down for a weekend or holidays. The property was peppered with campers and trailers plus a few cabins that were available to rent. The popularity of nudist colonies had waned so owners Larry and Jennifer, who were not swingers themselves but were lifestyle friendly, decided to make the switch from family nudist club to swinger’s resort in order to keep Live Oak from going under. There was a large pool area and clubhouse as well as the Bare Necessities Restaurant and Club Larry, where dances were held. The swinging activities took place in people’s trailers or motel rooms and also at a party house called The Miller House, after its original owner.
That New Year’s Eve day was unseasonably warm, I believe somewhere in the low 80s so the pool was jam packed with people trying to balance their tan for the nights revelry. Not shy of the nude scene, I too lotioned up and tried to get a little colour before returning to New York the next day. I find it always helps to get into the spirit of things if photographing subjects of a delicate nature by ingratiating myself to the gang by having the “when in Rome” attitude. Plus I don’t like tan lines. This wasn’t my first time to the rodeo, I had actually celebrated the Millennium New Years Eve photographing at Haulover Beach in Miami, the nude beach where I learned about the lifestyle.
The New Year’s Eve party was held in Club Larry which resembled a sports bar complete with Dallas Cowboy themed carpeted walls and a dance floor. As I did on many of my shoots I set up a little ad hoc portrait studio off to the side so I wouldn’t make those who didn’t want to participate in the project uncomfortable. With all the swinger shoots I was always very conscientious that there were those who wouldn’t want to be photographed for a variety of reasons so I required everyone to sign model releases to protect us both and also shot with big old strobes so no one would feel I sneaked up on them.
Several couples agreed to let me photograph them that night. I had set up some of the shoots earlier in the day poolside and as I mixed and mingled during the dinner and dancing I found more willing participants. There was the wealthy couple with the husband who was very excited to show me his wife’s one-carat diamond genital piercing. The Mexican couple who barely spoke English but danced up a storm. The nudists from Mississippi who were there for the nude dancing and not the wife swapping. The polyamorous trio with the one member of the party who sported a cast on her broken leg and had to be wheeled around the dance floor.
The couple whose photo I have chosen to start this series off with were the jokesters of Live Oak, permanent residents rather than weekend warriors. I love their expression, their comfort in their own bodies and their Texas pride. The eagles screeching on the wall reminds me that Texas is the heart and soul of all things American, patriotic and free.
It’s also fitting that I begin this series with the swinger’s New Years Eve party because this is the last time I drank a pop. I believe it was a Canada Dry ginger ale of all things but I remember thinking to myself that pop has no nutritional value whatsoever and considering I hardly drank that much in the first place why not simply give it up. That was 7 years ago now and I don’t miss it one bit. Sure I’ll liven my palate up with a little seltzer from time to time but I will never allow a drop of pop pass my lips again.
So whatever your 2013 resolutions are I wish you the best luck in sticking to them and hope you’ll make visiting my blog one of them.Tags: Live Oak Resort, New Years Eve, One Thousand Words, pop, swingers