Photos from an acoustic evening with Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen at The Birchmere last week. For a review of the show, go to my new Music: Live & Otherwise blog here.
The fourth and final album from this month's New England adventure focuses on Cape Cod, where my wife and I stayed at a friend's beach house for two-plus days. As it was throughout the trip, the weather was flaky, with a beautiful sunset one evening and two solid days of rain that accompanied us all the way back to Boston. These photos were taken in three places: Provincetown, Wellfleet, and Hyannis.
To see more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
I haven't said anything about much of anything for the past month or so, even as one outrageous event after another pervades the news cycle and feeds the partisan frenzy. So here goes, in a series of bullet points no less:
• In some ways, I can't help but feel like we're living in The Princess Bride's "Pit of Despair" (sans the cheeky satire) and that our fragile democracy is, if not dead, then mostly dead.
• At the risk of repeating myself (the child of a first-grade teacher is nothing if not redundant), I do know our nation has a serious case of pronoun trouble. "We the People" has become "You People," and it starts with leaders on both sides.
• This morning, I read an excellent column on the "fake news" phenomenon and what it can teach you about event marketing. Much of the column isn't relevant to many of my friends in Facebook land, but this part is worth sharing in a broader context:
"People are drawn to fake news because it caters to their biases. ... Want proof? Look at the Facebook news feed of a friend who holds opposite political ideologies than you do. You will quickly discover their feed looks nothing like your own because the news sources and articles will be skewed to show them what they want to see."
• On that note, I'll leave you with one last pop culture reference. Since when did our country's theme song become, "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better"? Isn't there something wrong with that?
• Pop Culture Addendum: Irving Berlin wrote “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better.” He also wrote “God Bless America.” Which is our nation’s theme song?
Given that it’s social media we’re dealing with, my political musings resulted in a number of comments. Before I knew it, I found myself going down the Facebook wormhole to make what I hope are a few salient points about the current state of the state. Here are the highlights:
• We are so divided as a country right now that one side could say the sky is blue and the other side would disagree.
• There's no question that the working class have been ignored in this country for the past three decades, an era that covers the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama years. I wish the Democrats had come up with a better candidate in 2016, but the current shit show we are living in is far worse than I imagined.
• As a longtime journalist, the problem I have is that anyone can write anything, say they are a "news service," and if the content matches what you want to hear, then you'll share it. It doesn't matter if the commentary/news is legit or not, people share it. And as long as that continues, then unity is elusive at best.
• Trump frightens me on a lot of levels, starting with the fact that he is incapable of telling the truth and showing genuine compassion for others. Instead, he has taken advantage of an already divided electorate and made the divide even larger. He is being forgiven now because the economy is booming (at least in his words), but his inflammatory rhetoric and inability to see that true leadership is about trying to do better by everyone — not just one admittedly ignored faction — is disastrous for us in the long-term.
• What bothers me the most is the GOP was so desperate for a win so they could advance their agenda that they have attached themselves to someone who, ideologically speaking, represents the exact opposite of what they stand for. That is hypocrisy at its worst.
Finally, after a person pointed to an editorial cartoon that said the Democrats’ only agenda is “I Hate Trump” and listed a number of things the Republicans are touting with the upcoming midterms, I decided to respond to that too. (After all, when you’re buried deep in the wormhole…)
• What did Obama do? Here’s my list, for starters: Bailed U.S. out of 2008 financial crisis (worst since Great Depression); got Bin Laden; stood up to Russia. (And that's without the divisive pieces on health care and gay marriage.)
• Obama wasn't perfect. He made a number of decisions that I disagreed with, especially with regard to education and border security. But all we heard was "I Hate Obama." At least he didn't treat the presidency like Pee-Wee's Playhouse.
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to meet two of my music idols — Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris — during a fundraiser for the New York-based Women’s Refugee Commission. The event, held at The Mansion on O Street in Washington, D.C., preceded the musicians’ concert at the Warner Theatre as part of The Lantern Tour.
Lila Downs, who also performed at the concert, and dobro legend Jerry Douglas also mingled with the 75 to 100 guests who appeared at the meet and greet. Sarah Costa, the commission’s executive director, and Michelle Brane, director of migrant rights and justice, spoke at the event, as did Harris’ longtime friend, Gail Griffith, and Mansion owner H.H. Leonards.
The Lantern Tour is a series of five acoustic concerts featuring a rotating cast of musicians. After opening Tuesday in Nashville and moving to D.C., the tour features stops in Collingswood, N.J. and Boston before it concludes Sunday in New York.
The tour was developed by Harris and Earle in response to the Trump administration’s “family separation” policy for immigrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. Thursday’s concert also featured Jackson Browne and Shawn Colvin.
For a review of the show, go to my new Music: Live & Otherwise blog here.
Here's a story about two of my professional worlds — music and event photography — colliding.
Last week, I shot the American Staffing Association's annual conference at National Harbor. For the finale, ASA brought in pop star Andy Grammer and his band in for a private concert for attendees.
Currently on tour behind his 2017 album, "The Good Place," Grammer was scheduled to play in Baltimore the next evening, As a result, Staffing World participants saw a 90-minute show with his six-piece band.
Grammer played a string of hits — “Keep Your Head Up,” “Fine By Me,” “Honey, I’m Good,” and “Good to be Alive (Hallelujah),” among others — in an energetic and well-received show.
To see more photos, go to my Concert Photography page.
Taking a side road and seeing where it leads you is one of my favorite things to do when traveling. Those opportunities are rare, however, and I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out on a lot every time I'm in a new place.
This was especially true during the ongoing saga of this month's 10-day trip to New England. Throughout the adventure, Mother Nature let me and everyone else know she is in everlasting charge. (No shock to the folks there I realize, but still…) The arrival of fall meant the weather ping-ponged all over the place — sunny and warm one minute, cloudy and cold the next, wet after that.
Nowhere was this in more evidence than during the 20+ hours I spent in New Hampshire, the bridge state on my trip from Vermont to Massachusetts. Traveling alone — my friend, Eric, had left Vermont early due to a death in the family — I dodged clouds and raindrops and found a couple of sunny/cloudy moments to take pictures.
These photos were taken in Sunapee and on the grounds of the Fells House, a lakeside estate that was originally the summer home of John Milton Hay, who was Abraham Lincoln’s private secretary during the Civil War and Secretary of State from 1898 to 1905.
To see more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
Bill Crawford, author of "Freeing the Artistic Mind", and actor Dan DeLuca, who starred as Jack Kelly in the first national tour of Disney’s “Newsies,” presented two sessions Sunday as Metropolitan School of the Arts held its first Community Master Class.
The sessions, one for arts professionals and the other for families and students, focused on stress management, mindfulness and ways to overcome anxiety as performing artists.
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
While shooting at a conference earlier this week, one of the attendees sat next to me at lunch and asked, “How long have you been doing photography?”
This question usually comes up at least once or twice when photographing a multiple-day event, and my standard explanation is pretty simple: When I was working in newspapers and school communications, I had to know my way around a camera, but I became really interested in it about a decade ago. After getting laid off in 2013, I turned it into a business to supplement freelance writing income and it’s taken off from there.
The attendee, like me a middle-aged man, nodded and asked several more questions about the subjects I like to shoot, the types of equipment I use, etc. As the conversation wound down, he asked, “What was the one thing that really spurred your interest in this type of work?
That answer, too, is relatively simple: My dad.
My father was a middle school art and history teacher for most of his career, but his first love — besides my mom — was visual arts. Drawing, painting, sculpture — he could do it all and make it look easy.
Conversely, I can’t draw a straight line while using a ruler. My painting skills are such that I usually have to bring in a hazmat team to clean up while I go buy new clothes. And my sculptures all look like the mashed potatoes that Richard Dreyfuss used to visualize the mountain in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” (If you want that visual, I’m sure it’s on YouTube.)
Nine years ago this month, I was spending several days a week in New York with our youngest son, who was in rehearsals for a show, and found myself navigating a series of two and three-hour gaps. Sometimes I’d go back to the apartment or find a Starbucks to work, but two or three times a week there just wouldn’t be enough time to get back or to be truly productive, so I picked up my camera and explored.
I had never taken “fine art” pictures before, but soon found myself looking for the types of things that would attract my dad’s eye. A year-plus after his death, I thought it would be a neat way to pay tribute to him and found that it kept him closer to me. Soon I posted photos online and folks said I had a good eye for it, so I pursued it further.
Why tell this story now? Consider it a late birthday present.
As I returned to the task of editing conference photos this morning and realized how it’s been some time since I’ve updated the blog, I went to my “Daily Photos” folder from this month to assemble the picture you see here.
On almost every photo, I see my dad’s influence, whether it was in capturing something he would like, or in photographing the lines I cannot draw or the paintings I can’t paint.
In those times, I realize my eye is his and through my eyes (and others) he lives on.
My father would have turned 78 yesterday. Happy belated, Dad.
Earlier this week, I posted a series of photos from a recent trip to Smugglers Notch at the top of the Green Mountain in Vermont. Here are more photos I captured on the visit, showcasing the changing leaves, the beauty of the landscape, and a 1939 Hudson found in a backyard.
To see more photos from "Visiting Vermont," go to my Facebook album here.
As I see it, a person’s life is a collection of experiences, big and small. What I love about this work are the types of experiences it brings to my daily life. Each job — whether it’s a photography assignment or a freelance story — provides new opportunities for learning. Each trip to another place represents another chance to be creative, and then share what I see with my eyes.
Chaotic juggling at times? Certainly.
Scary to be out on a creative and financial limb? Definitely.
I would not be able to do this work without the support of Jill, my wife and partner in this life, and my family, friends, and clients. I am eternally grateful to each and every one of you who takes the time to look at my work, show me what you like, and help me in the search for ways to improve.
I hope you enjoy my collections.
A true highlight of a 10-day trip that covered large parts of New England was spending an afternoon with one of my best friends seeing sites in his home state of Vermont.
Throughout the trip, the weather was decidedly unpredictable, a mashup of sun, clouds, fog, drizzle and rain. It was all three last Sunday, especially as my friend Eric Kleppinger and I approached Smugglers Notch.
Referred to as “the notch” by Vermonters, this mountain pass separates Mount Mansfield — the highest peak of the Green Mountains — from Spruce Peak and the Sterling Range. Its name comes from Thomas Jefferson’s Embargo Act of 1807, which prevented the U.S. from taking part in trade with Great Britain and Canada.
Vermont’s proximity to Montreal made the state a convenient trade partner, and Jefferson’s embargo — an attempt to prevent American involvement in the Napoleonic Wars — caused great hardship. Smugglers Notch was a way to carry goods and herd livestock illegally.
Over time, Smugglers Notch was used by fugitive slaves as an escape route to Canada. When the one-lane road at the peak was created for automobile traffic in 1922, it became a convenient way to smuggle liquor into the U.S. from Canada during prohibition.
Eric told me these stories as we approached the summit on an overcast Sunday morning. Fog and mist rolled in as we moved toward the notch itself. We parked and got out — the area is popular for hikers — and I took these photos.
To see more from my "Smugglers Notch" album, go here.
Embrace the unexpected. Be thankful for friends and family who allow you to make those twists and turns, or those who sometimes join you on the adventure.
Case in point: A series of unexpected challenges/heartbreaks/joys/pleasures on a 10-day business/family/work adventure that just ended last night.
I can and likely will elaborate at some point, because the experience was loaded with lessons. But suffice it to say, I'm grateful to everyone I encountered over the past week plus.
And now it's time for ... Monday.
As someone who has written recently about trauma, grief, and mental health, I'm truly grateful to my wife for all she has taught me on this subject and to my children for their commitment to debunking myths. In observance of World Mental Health Day today, I hope you will join us in raising awareness.
World Mental Health Day is held annually on Oct. 10 to raise awareness and mobilize efforts in support of mental health. This year’s theme is "Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World."
The photo here is of three of our four kids who have the semicolon tattoo in support of “Project Semicolon,” an American mental health nonprofit that primarily functions as an anti-suicide initiative.
Founded in 2013, the movement is aimed to presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction, and self-injury. The semicolon tattoo is a form of solidarity between people dealing with mental illness or death of someone from suicide.
Oct. 3 is big in Mean Girls lore, so the show had a number of things lined up to celebrate the day, starting on Monday with the appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers and continuing with a supersized media blitz.
First up: My son can certainly tap a pencil.
A feature was posted on Broadway.com featuring photos and biographical information on the show's 15-member ensemble. The idea behind the feature was "a take on OG mean girl, Marie Antoinette."
Here is a behind-the-scenes video that includes a brief interview with the boy toward the end:
Meanwhile, another video from the MathLit trio was posted in honor of the Oct. 3 celebration, featuring a special guest appearance. It's hysterical.
And finally, before last night's show, the cast was joined by Tina Fey and Jonathan Bennett, who played Aaron Samuels in the 2004 movie to unveil West Fetch Street to the world.
A few notes from the weekend:
• Insomniac/DVR alert: Members of the Mean Girls cast are scheduled to be on Late Night with Seth Myers tonight. You might see someone you know...
• Thanks to Gary Vorwald for taking these photos at the Broadway Flea Market on Sunday. After shooting a festival at Forest Hills Stadium Saturday, I was there briefly before leaving for home.
• The Broadway Flea is an annual fall tradition that raises money for a wonderful cause — Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. It also is, excuse the expression, the Stage Door from Hell. Ben and I spent 45 minutes walking to get coffee at a Starbucks that was just two blocks from the Mean Girls booth.
• Jill and I saw an early screening of “A Star is Born,” which will be released on Friday. Lady Gaga is a revelation and Bradley Cooper (writer/director/producer/actor/singer-songwriter) creates a work of Hollywood art. Wow. Highly recommended. (Small world bonus: Jason Isbell, the artist I primarily went to shoot at Saturday’s festival, has written one of the best songs in the film — the lovely ballad “Maybe It’s Time.”)
After Jill posted about last weekend’s engagement party for Nick and Conner, several folks asked why we didn’t have any photos of the happy couple. Other than taking a few pics before things got started and a couple of crowd shots, I stayed happily busy in my role as the groom’s dad.
That said, I have taken a couple of sets of engagement pictures over the past few months, and as things get closer to the big day in mid-February, thought I’d share them with you. So in the spirit of celebration — something we all need these days — here are some pics of last week’s party intermingled with my first born and his lovely bride to be.
Earlier this week, someone asked if I still do headshots/corporate portraits. The answer is most certainly yes, as I spent 14 hours today editing 90 of them, with another 30 or so in the queue for tomorrow.
If you want me to do headshots, senior pictures or family portraits, get in touch. The next month is busy, but I would love to be part of your schedule in late October/early November.
"When it rains, it really pours... "
Two weeks ago: Headshots for the MSA Academy, Nutcracker promo shoot, photography for Motion X Dance DC, corporate headshots and a two-plus day retreat on the Pennsylvania-Maryland border.
Last week: Washington-Indianapolis game, three-day trip to Texas for a magazine feature, day-long conference photography in DC, engagement party for Nick and Conner in NC.
This week: Writing, editing and catching up.
Oh my. Feeling blessed.
Random thoughts on music, the weather, and the power of the young and old:
• You know Mother Nature is confused when September impersonates July and fall allergies start early.
• I was in Texas earlier last week to work on a story and see my family briefly. They’ve had so much rain down there that the state’s leash laws need to be amended to include mosquitoes.
• Agree with this statement wholeheartedly: Some days I need the music and some days I need the lyrics.
Thought-provoking and interesting quotes I’ve read recently:
• From comedienne Robin Fox on getting paid to do what she loves: “Know your worth ... If you’ll work for free why should someone pay you? It is the very definition of being a pro. If you’ll do a free weekend show at a restaurant that won’t even pay you with a sandwich and the place is packed selling food and drinks week after week year after year ... and you’re still willing to perform there ... you’re part of the problem. Being a pro means being paid.”
• About our list obsessions, from David Cantwell in a New Yorker essay on rock critic Greil Marcus: “The List is an essay in enumerated disguise … That click-baiting scourge of our online age, the all-pronouncement-but-no-argument “listicle,” is a different animal.”
If you haven’t had the chance, read these two stories that I saw recently. The first is about an 8-year-old who noticed a boy holding back tears at a football game, so he offered him a seat until his dad arrived. The second is about a 99-year-old man who walks 6 miles a day to visit his wife in the hospital. Both give you hope.
Such a beautiful song. I will never forget seeing Christiane Noll and Robert Petkoff perform this the night that Ben made his Broadway debut in the Ragtime revival. It brought — and still brings — tears to my eyes. Wish I had seen Marin Mazzie and Peter Friedman do this in the original production. RIP, Ms. Mazzie.
As a 12-year-old overweight, socially awkward kid, I spent most of the summer of 1977 in a movie theater. My dad’s illness — spasmodic torticollis and dystonia — was at its peak four years in, and my parents continued to go from place to place looking for someone to help him.
My parents spent a month that summer — the summer of “Star Wars” and Elvis’ death — in Los Angeles, where my dad was getting treatment. That meant that my sister and I went to Longview, where my parents were raised and where my grandparents still lived.
Like many, I used movies as an opportunity to escape my woes, especially during those tumultuous middle school years. I saw “Star Wars” — who didn’t? — shortly after the movie was released at the end of May. But another film released that week captured, and kept, my attention, despite being shot in only 16 days on a $4.3 million budget.
It was called “Smokey and the Bandit.”
My dad was a big Burt Reynolds fan, as were a lot of people in those days. Reynolds was riding a streak of hits — albeit with the occasional flop — that made him the top actor at the box office for seven straight years. And he was a popular guest host on “The Tonight Show” that my dad — and mom, when she could stay awake — watched religiously.
With shades of Three Stooges slapstick, “Smokey and the Bandit” is not art, but it hit my then-12-year-old self squarely in the demographic. Anyone could see the chemistry between Reynolds and Sally Field, my summer of 1977 crush. And it had other “classic” elements: Jackie Gleason’s “sumbitch”; Jerry Reed admonishing his basset hound, Fred, while providing the movie’s theme song (“East Bound and Down”); and the Trans-Am, which my dad was later inspired to buy in his first non-Cadillac move.
I watched “Smokey and the Bandit” 15 times that summer, either at the Cargill Cinema in Longview or at the Tradewinds in Texas City, where it played on one of the theatre’s two screens for eons. For a long time, one of my prized possessions was an original one-sheet from the movie.
Reynolds continued to do some interesting work after “Bandit,” which was the second highest grossing film of the year behind, well, you know. By the mid 1980s, though, the hits stopped coming. With minor exceptions — TV’s “Evening Shade,” the Oscar-nominated “Boogie Nights” — his career went on a slow fade to black.
Today, Reynolds died of a heart attack at age 82, half a lifetime from the movie that made a 12-year-old boy laugh and laugh at a time when I really needed it. Thanks, and RIP.
One afternoon. Two dancers. A black box and a chance to experiment with angles and light for something a little different. To see more, go to my Facebook album here.
My wife and I took a three-day mini-vacation this past week to Virginia's Shenandoah Mountains. It was a chance to unplug and get away from everything — except my camera, of course. To see more from this album, go here.
The Mathletes are at it again.