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Farewell to Dennis Stock

January 25, 2010

I was sad to learn that photographer Dennis Stock has died at age 81, after a short bout with cancer.  Yesterday, I opened up the latest issue of Time magazine and  gasped when I found his obituary.  For those unfamiliar with his work, he is perhaps best known for his photos of actor James Dean, taken shortly before Dean died.  In fact, on the day that he died, Dean asked Dennis if he wanted to join along in what was to be his last and fatal car ride.  Dennis said no, and lived to tell about it. Here’s a link to a Magnum Photography’s slideshow series of his work,  narrated by Dennis.  It’s divided into projects. Jazz, James Dean and The Hippies are my favorites:  The Self Assigned Photographer | Magnum In Motion.  Meanwhile, his most famous photo (of James Dean):

I  got to know Dennis several summers ago at the Omega Institute  (Wellness – Personal Growth and Mind, Body, Spirit – Omega Institute)  in Rhinebeck, NY.  Steve and I go there every summer for a week during their Arts Week.  During that time, you can sign up for one of many five day workshops.  That year Dennis Stock was one of the workshop instructors, leading a course he called The Articulate Image.  I considered signing up for it, but wasn’t sure whether it would be too basic.  Having already taken a couple of other workshops that were being given that year, I chose one that I hadn’t: a very popular gospel singing workshop which is attended by a lot of middle aged white women.   Ninety minutes into the first morning, I was getting hoarse and sleepy singing repetitious choruses praising god beneath the workshop leader’s strong voice.  So, at the break, I decided to check on the other workshops.  That’s when I walked into the cabin where Dennis was talking about and showing examples of his work,  and ended up hanging around for the rest of the week.  The other workshop members were mostly beginners, and it was definitely an ego boost that Dennis loved my work, saying I was the “real deal,”  but mostly it was great getting to know Dennis and working along with the other workshop members.  Dennis was an Omega oddity.  He told the truth.  If he hated your work, he told you he hated it.  That was a shock.  At Omega, everyone is wonderful.  You never suck at Omega.   He opened a lot of eyes in that workshop.  There were tears, and a some indignation.  I admired his honesty and clarity.   By the end of the week, many eyes were opened, and the group loved him for it.

Dennis taught the workshop  again the following two summers.  The second summer,  we heard that he had almost died the winter before, and now he was using a cane.  Last summer he had graduated to a scooter.

I don’t remember what we were doing when I took the following photo, but here is my farewell photo to Dennis:


Welcome back to our blog!

January 16, 2010

It’s been a while!  We return now with the promise of regular posts which will be chock full of  entertaining and informative content.

I’ll start with the history behind the new graphic at the top of the page.

In June we photographed the wedding of Amber and Michael at The Garrison in Garrison, NY.  They were referred to us by Howie Goodman, an old friend from our days as students in the MFA fine art photography program at RIT.  When Howie married Lisa in 1985, they asked us to photograph the wedding.  In those days wedding photography was synonymous with posed and preconceived: couples superimposed in wine glasses and other silly stuff.  Steve and I were documentary style photographers – black and white film, no flash, no posing.   And that was how we photographed Howie’s and Lisa’s wedding.  It was fun.  We decided to do more.

Amber and Michael live in Astoria, Queens and were eager to meet us for a Getting To Know You photo session.  We hoped to be downstate sometime before their wedding, but it just didn’t happen.   So, we came up with a solution.  On MapQuest I searched  for a town that was half way from Astoria and our home in Rochester and found that  Amsterdam, NY is exactly three hours and eight minutes from both places.  On the weekend before their wedding, we met at one of the few Amsterdam restaurants open on Sunday, a crowded diner filled with hungry churchgoers.  A priest entered just before we did.  Amber and Michael were inside waiting for us.  We spent our first hour together eating, talking and laughing.

I like to call our Getting To Know You sessions “play dates.”  Amber and Michael were the best playmates and Amsterdam was the perfect playground.  We set out to explore the threadbare town.  Having eyed several gems on our way to the diner, I knew where we were headed.

Our first stop:  A large lot filled with chainsaw bears and racoons.  The owner told us we needed to hurry because a man from Ohio had bought every animal on the lot, and was in the process of loading them onto a large flatbed truck.  They left a few creatures on the ground for us to play with.

And with all the bears on their way to Ohio, we moved on to an intriguing complex of barns and storage buildings.  In front was a sign promoting a Saturday Farmers’ Market.  Amongst the buildings was a hugable three sided shed where the photo at the top of the blog was taken.

And the other buildings:

On the other side of the parking lot behind this building complex was a Volunteers of America.  Steve and Amber could go no further until they checked inside.

Amber found a purple knit cap that she loved.  Steve and Michael pitched in a dollar each.

Our next stop: A shop called Michael’s Hair Studio.

In honor of Michael’s former hair.

And finally, before heading back to our respective cities, we noticed one last opportunity parked directly across the street:

A limo for rent.  The owner said he would be quite happy to drive down to Garrison.

The next weekend we photographed their wonderful wedding.  More on that later.

Emily Elizabeth Gelfand Piper

May 21, 2008

Both our daughter’s live in Boston. I am so proud of how they have tackled this adulthood thing, and that they have even survived for almost a year now as roommates. Allie is 23. Emily is 26. Or maybe that’s Emma who’s 26. After she was born, it took us four weeks to name her, making it rather anticlimactic when we chose Emily, the most popular US female baby name of this and many other years. I think that’s why in grade school she decided she was really Emma. Or maybe she had discovered Jane Austin. I don’t know. Two years ago she moved to Boston for grad school at Emerson College, and decided maybe she’d give Emily another try. Now I don’t know what to call her. Perhaps I should resort to her original fall back name: Punkinhead.

This past Sunday, Steve and I drove to Boston for her Monday Emerson graduation. At the ceremony, thay called her by the name on her birth certificate: the same name that is the title of this post. Only, they pronounced my name Gelfond, which I thought made her sound more aristocractic than I’ve ever felt.

After the graduation, Emma/Emily/Punkinhead was beaming, and it had nothing to do with the empty diploma folder she was holding, because the truth is, she won’t officially get her masters in theatre ed until she finishes her thesis in August. So, here’s the rest of the story:

On Saturday, Steve and I were photographing a wedding here in Rochester. Otherwise, we would have gone to Boston earlier for Emily’s boyfriend, Michael’s 30th birthday party that night. He rented a room in a restaurant or bar for 75 guests who including Emma, Allie, Michael’s parents and step parents, some of Emma’s friends from Rochester, and others. Steve helped Em choose an electric blue Stratocaster as a present which she gave him the night before. At some point in the evening, Michael took the microphone to thank everyone for being there.

And then he pulled out a ring and asked Emily/Emma/Punkinhead to marry him.

Lots of happy tears. Allie cried on her friend, Ali’s shoulder. I like the symmetry of the Allie/Ali shoulder thing. And then of course, Em called us. We had just finished photographing the wedding we had stayed home for.

And now I’m an MOB to be. Or is that MOB 2B?

After the graduation, there was a reception at the Boston Common. Outside the tent was a row of Porta-potties. The company name was displayed over each unit. Emily and Michael compained, but finally let me take their photos before we headed out to dinner.

Here’s my salute to their future together:

engagement photo time

newly engaged

Congratulations Punkinhead and Michael! I love you!

Catching up!

May 19, 2008

The last couple of months have been very busy, leaving this blog free from updates. Now I have so much to write that it will take a number of posts to catch up!

The marathon begins.

I’ll start with fellow photographer/friend, Mary Corcoran. In March, Mary was very pregnant and her belly was the target of a number of her photographer friends. I think I was the last to get a turn, and needed to figure out what I could do that was different than the others. I came up with BUBBLES.

I dumped half a bottle of honey bubble bath into the tub in Mary’s bathroom. Here’s her BIG belly:

pregnancy photo

Okay, and now I zoom back a bit:

bubble bath

sunshine and water

window light

And then, on March 27th, this human being appeared:

baby photo

With a handful of fingers:

baby fingers

But who does this finger belong to?

point and shoot

It’s Annabelle! I photographed Annabelle’s magnificent birth at home in January ’07. Check out Dawn Delivers on our client galleries to see the photos. She is now a beautiful, self-confident, little person who seems amused by life.

eyes on me

Come out tonight!

March 7, 2008

Okay, I know it’s snowing and I realize I’m late to post this, but if you have nothing to do tonight, and you love being out and about in the snow, come down to Bernunzios Vintage Music store at 122 East Avenue near Gibbs St. to hear Steve and his friends Maria Gillard and Scott Regan perform their original music. As stated on the Bernunzio’s website, “These folks came together as a group to collaborate and critique each other’s song writing and will provide an evening of acoustic music, quirky personalities and general fun.”


That’s Scott, Maria, John Dady (sorry no John tonight) and Steve.

They’re playing from 7-9 as part of the city’s First Friday event.

“Getting to Know You” Photos with Amanda and Patt

March 2, 2008

I love these guys!

The last time I saw Amanda was around 15 years ago. She and her sister Gina, and our daughters Emily and Allie were members of the Rochester area chapter of Peace Child International, a performing arts/cultural exchange program. Amanda had a beautiful voice then, and continues to perform today.

She and Patt are getting married next December 28th at the Planetarium at the Rochester Museum and Science Center, and I’m thrilled that they have chosen us to photograph the day.

Last Monday, Steve and I met the two of them at the Eastman School of Music where Amanda was once a student and where we have photographed many operas, performances and visiting musicians.

These photos illustrate how we like to take the “formal” pictures of our couples. We look at the light and possible backgrounds. Beautiful natural light and interesting environments truly tickle me, and I love discovering new places. We encourage the couple to relax with each other. We don’t ask them to pose in a particular way, touch foreheads, perform dips. We want them to move in ways that are natural for them, so that the resulting photos are about their relationship, and about who they are. Perhaps they WILL touch foreheads, or perform dips without being directed to do so. We want them to talk to each other and find ways to place their bodies that show us who they are. By spending time chatting and exploring the environment together, we engender trust, and help loosen up even the most camera shy couples.

At the Eastman School, we started by having Amanda and Patt sit together on a bench under the watch of the father of us all, George Eastman:


There is a long hall that connects two buildings. I love the windows in that hall, and particularly like how the blue arch of the window is repeated in the neckline of Amanda’s blouse:


Then, there was just a bit of reflection coming from the doorway at the beginning of the vestibule:


I love showing that the couple isn’t necessarily alone. It’s fun to figure out how to encorporate others into their portraits:


In the next one, the light on Amanda’s face, the wall behind her and her expression were delicious:


A few more:





Outside for a bit of cold air:



And then onto Bernunzios Music Store where the biggest challenge was trying to tear Steve and Patt away from the guitars:


What I love about these photos is that they show the strength of their relationship, the joy they find in each other, what a strong, self-assured young woman Amanda is, and how genuinely nice they both are. If you don’t know Patt and Amanda, you wish you did.

We had a great time playing together.

Thanks Amanda and Patt!

Trippin’ in October

February 19, 2008

Better late than never. Now that I have gotten this blog up and running, I want to back track a bit. If I had the blog working last October, I would have written the following:

On October 7th, we took off on a three week road trip. Our goal was Lake Powell in Utah, but we made various planned stops along the way to visit friends. That incuded stops in Pinckney, MI, St. Louis, and Steve’s hometown of Pittsburg, KS. After Pittsburg, we drove south through Oklahoma and across Texas where we stayed overnight in Amarillo. And that’s where my photo tour begins. Before leaving Amarillo, I insisted we stop at Cadillac Ranch.

We met a couple from England who were on a six week tour of funky US landmarks.


From there we drove to Las Cruces, NM to visit an old friend of Steve’s who he hadn’t seen in over 30 years. While there, we took a guided sunset walk at the White Sands National Monument. White Sands is part of the White Sands Missile Range, which makes visiting particularly eerie. B-52’s flew overhead. At least once a week, they close the park to the public while they run missile tests. The gypsum dunes and the vegetation that grows there is stark and other worldy.





A couple of photos from around Las Cruces:



We left New Mexico, and drove up through Phoenix, Tuscon, Preston, Jerome and Sedona. Before reaching Page, where we boarded a houseboat, we had to make a stop at the Grand Canyon.


Five sightseers:


Finally, we reached Lake Powell, the houseboat capital of the world. Our friends, Pat and Rosie Maloney, invited us to join them and 12 other friends for 6 nights on two houseboats. Pat’s a singer/songwriter, and invited a number of his musician friends. Guitar cases filled one of the boats.




My Homer Simpson rock:


We spent 6 nights on the boat which we moored in a sheltered cove. On the third day, we had a brutal windstorm. Two of the group had gone out kayaking, and we were nervously waiting for them to return. The rest of us sat inside one of the houseboats. I was sitting at the kitchen table playing Canasta with three other boat mates when we saw the empty houseboat floating away. The wind had blown it off its mooring. One of the men jumped into the water and swam to the boat. The boat rescue:



More Lake Powell:




An evening song circle:


And the journey home:



Three weeks. The turquoise skies in these photos were real. We saw no rain, no snow – until we hit Buffalo. We drove the last hour in the snow.