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Stockbridge This Evening. February 1, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
Tags: , , , ,

My meanderings took me through Stockbridge this evening, a quintessential New England town with a lot of history – hell, Norman Rockwell immortalized the place in his paintings, and nothing old there hasn’t appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.  It’s about as iconic as America gets, and as intimate as such a shared experience could possibly be.

As I tooled through the central village, I caught a glimpse of a beautiful brick edifice and found a place to hang a u-turn and park.

Turns out the building was once the Town Offices:

That’s a straight-on, no trick shot from Elliot, who none the less managed to get a lot into the picture.

Now days the front of this building houses a sales room for Yankee Candle, a local purveyor of, well, you know what:

…yeah, right.  Candles.  They’re cool candles, but they’re still just candles.  That was Elliot employing his tilt-skills to get things looking rectilinear.  That’s why architectural photographers use tilt-shift lenses – they allow one to present a straight-on image without distortion, even if the photographer can’t occupy the exact spot where an image would be rendered without convergences.  Here I’m considerably below the center point of the image, so all of the vertical lines would have leaned slightly inward toward a “vanishing point” at the photo’s top, except for Elliot’s “shift” function.

Thanks, Kid.

The cool thing about “shift” lenses is that one can either negate vanishing points, or exaggerate them.  The latter choice can yield images which look dream-like to me, like this:

…a detail from the front of the building, with a good deal of “swing” (that’s left-to-right ’tilt’ of the front lens) to get it all in focus.

As I was shooting this, a young-ish lady and older man came out of the building, and the woman asked if I thought I ought to ask permission to photograph there.  No, I thought, this is a public sidewalk and a public facade.  But I inquired instead why she was asking.

Turns out the photo in that frame was taken by the older man at her side, Clemens Kalischer was his name.  He’s ninety years old, a German Jew who escaped the Holocaust by the skin of his teeth, and has his photography on permanent display at the Met, among many other esteemed venues.

I was humbled, and even more so when I accepted their invitation to the gallery at the the rear of the building.  Tears welled up in my eyes at the beauty of this man’s work, a lifetime of observing the human condition, rendered in the honesty of black and white.  See some of it here.

I’ll be back to study these masterpieces in the near future.  Plainly, I have soooooo much to learn from people like this, who go unheralded through our space and time, but none the less deserve our time and attention.

Thank you, Mr. Kalischer, for showing me the way.


1. susan - February 1, 2012

Your pictures of the old town hall turned candle shop are really neat – all the more so because I know how my own camera and photo skills would handle them and that’s not very well at all. I loved the old New England towns and your pictures are like a balm to me. Not that there aren’t a lot of historic buildings here but a lot have been destroyed and replaced with cubes of the glass, steel, and cement variety. Boring stuff and somehow inhumane as well.

I had to leave earlier before I could read your post but I’m very glad I came back and was able to see the photographs of Herr Kalischer. They’re quite amazing. Do you think that really is the John Lee Hooker sitting in front of that blackboard? It just didn’t seem possible to me but it’s a great shot.

2. littlebangtheory - February 1, 2012

Susan, thanks for liking my efforts, and yes indeed, that’s a very young John Lee Hooker, photographed by Mr. Kalischer at the Music Inn in Lenox MA, probably shot in the 50’s. His current show at this gallery has photographs including one of a middle-aged Pablo Casals, if that places him in time!

3. Laurie B - February 2, 2012

OMG Ralph, that is one amazing ‘I was here and this happened’ link.
Goes to show what happens when you start hanging around in some good places and pick up on the leads that people give you.

Mr. Kalischer no doubt was honored to be recognized as the Master Photographer that he is, but you found the story and shared it, priceless. I know where I’m going to try and visit this weekend. Thanks.

4. Spinny Liberal - February 2, 2012

Awesome architecture!!

5. littlebangtheory - February 2, 2012

Laurie, DO GO – it’s quite a collection. I myself will be back there, perhaps this Sunday.

Spinny, thanks for commenting!

Stockbridge has been a retreat for the well-to-do for a looooong time, and has some really beautiful structures, gardens, etc. Also, Berkshire Botanical Gardens is just west of the center of town, and is well worth a visit.

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