Winter amnesia

With the first big snow come all the things you forced yourself to forget since last winter, like how you should really bring an extra two set of gloves, at least, because snow is wet. Or how you know you have those hand warmers but you have no idea where you put them. Or how, at the right angle, all the melted snow running down the back of your "water resistant" jacket will drip right down the back of your pants. (Luckily my gear belt prevented that from happening, but I saw others who weren't so lucky.)

Now it's on to basketball season.



With each of these pictures comes a flood of memories for me. I can remember what the weather was like, what happened before or after the shot, sometimes I can even remember what I was wearing (especially if I didn't dress warm enough.) I remember with the first photo at the steroids hearings, I was shooting for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and I should have been right in front of McGwire at the beginning of the hearing but instead I was at the complete opposite end of the panel, with José Canseco right in front of me, with his bloodshot eyes and his lawyer that he must have met in the gym because they were both unnaturally muscular. And I remember as I was waiting in the hallway outside the room to be let in, (we were waiting for a LONG time and we would get yelled at if we sat on the floor, but there was a nice woman photographer who offered me apple slices that she had brought) who walks right past me but Shaun, a friend of mine from HIGH SCHOOL, who was a huge baseball fan and was trying to sneak a peak at his favorite baseball stars. And I remember I was wearing a blue sweater, but I only remember that because I saw myself countless times on TV whenever CNN aired their footage of the hearings. And of course I remember McGwire's line that he must have repeated several times, "I'm not here to talk about the past...."

And I don't even have to look at the caption information of the casket photo to tell you that the family was from Londonderry, NH, and that the woman who's crying at the casket was 5 or 6 when her father disappeared during the Vietnam war. I remember the BBC reporter who was there too, who wanted one of my pictures afterwards and I had no idea what to charge him so I called Prof. Southwick in a half-panic. I remember before the funeral service talking to members of Rolling Thunder, one of them had his 5 year old daughter with him, and she was wearing a tiny little leather vest made just for her. I remember a Marine was in the parking lot with us with a horse, and the little girl went up to it and the Marine said the horse had blond hair and blue eyes just like her.

I don't remember all this just because it was at Arlington cemetery or it was the steroids hearings. I remember almost every circumstance under which I shot a photo.. I remember if I was in a hurry, if the subject was nice, if it was awkward, if there were any complaints about the photo, if there was a long wait, even if it was hard to tone.

All this means only one thing: I'll make a great star witness one day....


Top 9 things no photojournalist EVER wants to hear

The other day I had an assignment to shoot Eugene Driscoll and Jodie Mozdzer, who work for the Valley Independent Sentinel in Ansonia. This was weird because a) they were another news organization and b) I know both of them pretty well... I'm accustomed to shooting strangers. Anyway, upon hearing that I was assigned to it, Eugene, who's wife Autumn is a good friend of mine and a photographer for the Connecticut Post, sent me this message, as a joke, which brought back memories of the most difficult photo assignments I've ever had to shoot:

1. I trust you'll be e-mailing the photos immediately after we shoot?
2. I want the photo of me taken in front of my computer, over my shoulder, as I look at the computer screen, because the story involves computers.
3. I trust I will have final say over what photo you use
4. ...You have 5 minutes to shoot -- as I am a big deal and extremely busy.
5. All wrinkles, skin blemishes will be either be Photoshopped out -- or I trust you'll be using a soft lens, such as the one usually reserved for Cybil Sheppard.
6. I have about 15 people I want included in the photo. We will stand together, shoulder to shoulder.
7. You'll have to figure out how to marry demands 2 and 6.
8. Breaking news will not, I repeat, not interrupt or cancel my photo shoot.

IDEA: Ribbon-cutting/ground breaking WITH a fake check presentation.



I guess I just like shooting artists

Louise King, with her dog Toad at her Washington home where she builds her mud ponies and soot monoprints, will have her work on view at the Gunn Memorial Library in Washington beginning Dec. 12.


Star Party!!

Nov. 20, 2009: Stargazers take turns looking at stars through a telescope during Friday's Star Party at White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield, hosted by the Friends of the Morris Public Library, in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy.
Josalee Thrift Republican-American


zombies, weddings, and field hockey

What do those three have in common?

I shot them.

Zombie Party:

Sarah & Tara get married:

Semi-final field hockey game goes into TRIPLE overtime:


Rocky Votolato

I shot pictures of one of my favorite musicians at a living room show in Burlington the other night, which was hosted by a girl I had actually photographed for the paper about two years ago. You can see a light I set up right next to him. I set up another light about five feet to my left, and I put a tube around it (made of cereal boxes covered with gaffer tape) to give it a spotlight effect. Afterwards I had a wonderful conversation with Rocky and his wife April.


It's November ALREADY.

In recent weeks, with only one or two night photographers working at a daily newspaper that covers almost 50 towns, I'm regularly shooting two sports games a night, plus other news assignments. It's crazy. Anyway, I just was able to catch my breath and thought I'd share this:

New Milford's goalie Jack Holub punches the ball away from the goal as his teammate Zane Swanson jumps for the ball along with Pomperaug's #14 Connor Kennedy, #12 Matt Ruston and #19 Kyle Molnar during Monday's game at Pomperaug. New Milford won, 2-0.

This coming up weekend is my four day weekend (a perk that comes with rotating schedules). I'm really looking forward to it since MAE the band is coming through and I'll be seeing them in NYC, and then I have a zombie party I'm going to as well, which should all make for great photos.


Chuck Connelly

Every day of working opens my world just a little more.

The other day I got a photo assignment to shoot some portraits of artist Chuck Connelly, the subject of an Emmy winning HBO documentary called "The Art of Failure," released last year.

I thought, "Cool, let me look this guy up."

I found this.

I thought, "Holy jeez what am I walking in to?!??!"

Then I thought, "Okay, whatever, I'll just pretend I didn't see it and I'll treat him like everyone else."

I had about 30 minutes at the art gallery in Litchfield before Chuck arrived with his assistant, Mark.

Now, I know I'm supposed to be an unbiased journalist, but come on, I'm also an artist, (in the most primitive sense of the word, I think) and his work was absolutely amazing, and in that short span of time I developed such a nervous excitement to meet the artist who's hands were responsible for all the stunning work that surrounded me.

And guess what?

We got along just fine.

The last shot, a painting of Chuck's studio, is my favorite piece from the exhibit. It reminded me of my favorite children's book when I was a kid, "Hey, Al."

Go to New Arts Gallery in Litchfield between now and Nov. 22 if you want to take a look for yourself.


It's sports season!

Happy September! The first photo is proof that I can make even the meanest looking high school football player smile. The second is from the first football game I shot this season. (Actually, it's the second game I shot. The first game lasted only 10 minutes until the electricity went out and it was canceled.)

The third shot was the first time I've ever seen a high school soccer game get really close to fisticuffs. And wouldn't you know the next day I shot a game where the SAME THING happened. The shot with the goalie is actually the play that angered the two players in the background into pushing each other and earning themselves a yellow card.

The last shot I just had come across when I was driving between assignments. I was driving down Route 8 when suddenly the light traffic that was on the road slowed down and I noticed a line of cars were pulled over on the side of the road, but I didn't see any police lights. The people who had pulled over were standing on the side of the road looking at something in between the two lanes, and when I drove by them I saw that it was some sort of feline. It turned out to be a bobcat, something I had never seen before. What I didn't mention in the caption is that the guy who dragged the bobcat out of the road also said he was an avid hunter and usually has a gun in the car with him, and he said he wished he did that day to put the poor animal out of its misery. I don't think I could have stayed for that. In fact, I left before any state troopers came by partly because I had to go to my next assignment and partly because I didn't want to be there to see it happen. Well, I probably wouldn't have been there anyway because the troopers would have yelled at me like they do so well.


on grief.

I remember when I was a kid, about 8 years old, being amazed that I only saw one tear fall from my father's eye when his father died. I was fascinated that he wasn't bawling in absolute grief like I imagined I would if I was in the same situation.

But now I know that when you're a grown-up, it's not as easy to let your emotions take over you like when you were a kid. That no matter what happens, the sun will still rise, the earth still turns, the day wears on, and life continues. People depend on you to get up out of bed and march on. Your already previously scheduled activities don't allow time for grief or contemplation.

I've thought about that a lot since Marie died. I wrote a remembrance article that published the same day as her obituary, and writing it came so easily that I didn't even shed a tear. But the next day, when I read the article in print, next to the picture of her sitting in Lake Iroquois, titled with a headline that read something like "Days after celebrating life, cancer victim loses battle," it suddenly became real. I had just about five minutes to pause and stare at the paper until I had to be on my way to an assignment.

Even though reading the article in the paper makes me cry, I find so much solace in it.. but I still wrestle with accepting the reality. And I find that the most emotional times come at the most unpredictable. I can't even count how many times I've cried in a company car on Route 8 now. But little by little I'm finding the time.

If anyone is wondering if I took any photos since her death, of the family mourning, of any of the pleasantries that come with burial, I haven't. The death was sudden, out of state, the family is scattered, her body was cremated, and the story wasn't even about her death anyway. It's about her life. She lived it until the very end.

Here is the article:

Three and a half years after being diagnosed with lung cancer and told she had just six months to live, Marie Tyrrell celebrated her 63rd birthday Monday on the shores of Rhode Island, later telling her two daughters, Tracie Marcil and Marcie Keller, that it was the best day of her life.

On Wednesday, in the company of close relatives, and after years of beating the odds against her cancer, Marie Tyrrell died at Westerly Hospital in Rhode Island.

Tyrrell was the subject of two articles and photo documentaries in the Republican-American for her resilience and optimism in the face of her terminal illness. The former activities director for the Oxford Senior Center, Tyrrell, who always said, "Life is what happens when you're making plans," planned for everything once she was diagnosed, believing that if she just kept striving to meet her plans, she would buy more time to survive. Tyrrell planned ahead of time so well that just after her death, when her relatives searched her belongings for a pink velour jumpsuit she wished to be cremated in, they found it in the bag that she took with her for the weekend visit to Rhode Island.

Tyrrell's spirited enthusiasm also inspired other cancer survivors, many of whom she became friends with over conversations during chemotherapy treatments.

"My mom was given cancer for a reason, so she would become my best friend and inspire people. Truly, she inspired people. I think this was her purpose in life. She lived her life to the fullest and I know she left with no regrets," said Marcil.

Besides her daughters, Tyrrell leaves her husband of 26 years, Paul Tyrrell, and granddaughter Mysti Keller.

A memorial service in celebration of Marie Tyrrell's life will be held on Saturday, Sept. 19 at 10 a.m. at St. George's Church in Middlebury.


Marie died today.

Civil War Reenactment: Battle for the Shenandoah Valley

I got a little taste of my home state of Virginia the other day, during the Civil War Reenactment in Woodbury. It was WICKED hot.

I forgot to mention in my last post that at the Litchfield Jazz Festival I had noticed a couple in their 50s or 60s that looked SO in love. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling, and I kind of had to hold myself back from approaching them just to tell them how cute they were. Luckily though, I had a chance to talk to the woman, who I had previously taken a photo of at a social gathering just before the festival.

It turns out this woman, Lucy Anne Hurston, was the niece and biographer of Zora Neale Hurston, the author of "Their Eyes Were Watching God," a book I absolutely LOVED and was assigned to read by my high school AP English teacher, Mrs. Robison, an AWESOME teacher who I found out about a year ago had passed away after a battle to breast cancer. I smiled a little when I thought of her, because it was proof that she still lived on.

So, every once in a while I'm able to have a mind-blowing conversation with complete strangers. It's a rare treat that Lucy unsuspectingly brought to me. I got to hear about the love story of her and her husband, a little about Zora and the book, and about Lucy's sociological research about this country's prison system, and our culture's relationship with the idea of redemption.

And even though afterwards I had to walk through the mud and driving rain to my car, it was a great day. I live for days like that.



So in the past few weeks I've moved from Waterbury to Southington, and since the actual move I've been working on painting the walls and getting stuff in order. And by "stuff in order" I mean filling up the three entire power strips underneath my desk.

In the meantime, this is what I've been up to at work:


Way to go, tough guy.

Sometimes, when people ask me how my job is, I tell them you see the best in people and you see the worst in people, but usually it's the best.

Today was unusual.

It never ceases to amaze me how some of the most "highfalutin'" people (as my grandpa would have said) have the most barbaric ways of dealing with people.

I saw a man, who at one point was voted to the level of state legislature, (who, by the way, resigned from that position after getting ARRESTED on a charge of THREATENING, to which he pled GUILTY) point his finger in a reporter's face as he was screaming at her like he was a baseball coach spitting tobacco juice in the face of an equally volatile umpire. And even though the reporter handled it extremely well and was polite about it, I knew exactly how she felt, because who can ever feel good after being completely disrespected like that?

It just absolutely disgusts me at how some people find pleasure in putting other people down like that.

I spoke with the reporter afterwards, and she kept her cool pretty well, but I know that the damage isn't even really made during the personal attack to yourself, but mostly at the blow to your optimism about people in general. For someone who was able to convince so many people to trust him enough to vote him into office to act like a complete baby, short of stomping his feet and banging his fists, as if it's perfectly acceptable behavior.....that just blows my mind.


Rhode Island and Providence Plantations

Did you know that the above is the ACTUAL name of the smallest state in the country?

And here are some random photos I shot in a past few weeks:


Hmmm, what to do when the zombie apocalypse comes..

Yesterday I went to a farmer's market in Thomaston where I ran into some people from a farm whose owner I had made a deal with last year: When the zombie apocalypse comes, and all infrastructure fails, I will ride my bicycle the 20 miles or so to his farm, where shelter and food will be aplenty.

The first year I worked at the Republican-American I did a photo story on a couple different CSA farms. (Community Supported Agriculture.. NOT Confederate States of America) It was a good excuse to be outside and enjoy the earth.


I'm on a boat!

Today I was assigned to shoot a triathlon sprint. Getting there was a pain, as I was directed to park in a place where another person told me I couldn't be and then he wouldn't let me turn around and then another person let me turn around and then two other people helped direct me through some obstacles and one of them angrily yelled "YOU'RE WELCOME" as he walked away. (I of course stopped my vehicle and yelled "I SAID THANK YOU!") By the time I got to the beach where the triathlon was to begin, I had about 10 minutes before start time and no good vantage point.

Then along comes one of the organizers, who I knew from local high school swimming. I waved to him, and he says, "You want a boat?" as he's pulling a plastic kayak to the beach.

"Sure!" I say, and before I know it I'm in the kayak with my gear and only as he's pushing me out to the lake does he say, "You know how to do this, right?"

I've never kayaked before. But I've spent many hours canoeing at Camp Skimino and at Newport News Park, so I nodded my head yes. And if I hadn't known I would have learned pretty quick since I was already on the water and was about five minutes away from being surrounded by swimmers.


Marie revisited

Since I had a couple separate slide shows of the story, I thought it would make more sense to combine them in one. I also added some newer photos from the past few months. The audio was taken back in 2007, but still applies for the most part.

Marie's not doing so well. She just signed up for hospice, so she has a nurse visiting her down in Killingworth a few times a week to help her out. Marie said that when she feels it's time, she'll move back down to the house in Middlebury (which still hasn't sold, and Marie now sees that it wasn't such a bad thing after all), put a hospital bed in it, and die there, among friends and family.


Jolene's wedding

I came down to VA this weekend to go to an old friend's wedding. The wedding and reception were at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond. Even back in high school I always really liked Jolene's style, so I was really excited to see what she had in store for us. I think the detail I was most impressed with was the all-vegetarian buffet.


I'm going to lose my hearing.

About two months ago, maybe a little more, I met another Josie through a mutual friend. The craziest thing is that she's just like me, too! At least, just like me when I was her age.... which is 19. Apparently she didn't think I was TOO old, as she invited me to go to some local rock shows, which brought back a LOT of old memories from back in Virginia.

Those shows, mixed together with my previous visit with my friends MAE (see 3/1 post) made me want to go out and listen to some more live music.

Luckily, one of my most favorite bands ever, Alkaline Trio, came to Toad's in New Haven, and I decided to actually bring my Mark II.... to a concert in which I knew it was very likely to turn to fisticuffs. But then I convinced myself that a Mark II with a wide angle lens on it is much more potent than a fist. Luckily, it didn't go down like that and I came out with some images that I may just blow up poster-size and hang in my room:

I also saw a band that I had never heard of but was suggested by a friend, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and the photos were funny to me, because the setting was an American Legion:




I changed servers. In doing so, I lost most of the photos I had uploaded onto this blog. Sorry. I could go back, but that would be time wasted on the past. Let's focus on the present!

The following are some videos I did about a local prep school. I learned more about rowing than I'd ever thought I'd learn. The first video is the team practicing for the upcoming regatta, and the second video is of the actual regatta, which I edited at around 2:30am... after drowning my 28-70mm lens in Lake Waramaug, and after shooting and editing another video.



Recently I feel like I've been getting a pretty annoying case of bad karma. But then I think instead that perhaps it's just the fact that the more risk you take, the more of these little annoyances will happen. And when I say risk, I mean like, walking outside. Anything can happen. Especially on the steep and slippery bank of a river in the rain while trying to shoot both stills and video for the same assignment.

Thank God for insurance.


Update on Marie

A little more than two weeks ago, Tracie called me to tell me Marie had had a heart attack and was in the hospital, but it was minor and she was okay. Then, about a week ago, Marie had suffered a stroke, and she has been in the hospital ever since then.

I visited her at the hospital tonight, and I felt like I was in a fog. I didn't know why until I later realized that this time I wasn't there primarily to take pictures, but rather for the sake of visiting. When I got there her husband Paul was there along with her granddaughter Mysti and Mysti's boyfriend Matt. Also there was one of Marie's close friends she made at chemo, Ron. Since there were now 7 of us in all, we moved everyone to the floor's "lounge room," and just chatted for a few hours.

At one point Marie went around and asked everyone what they wanted to do before they die.

I saw the cancer on her x-ray. I saw the effect of chemo when she shaved her head. But it wasn't until today that this all became very, very real.

To see how I've covered Marie's story for the past two years, go here:



The other night one of my best friends from back home came to town while on tour with the band Mae, who he plays bass for. They're a fairly well-known band, and because they're from my hometown of course I have a sense of pride in them as well, not to mention how awesome it is that they're donating a lot of the money they're making to Habitat for Humanity to help a woman in Newport News. Check them out.

So since I had the day off I got to hang out with them before and after the show. I forgot how much I liked shooting musical performances... especially when there's no bouncer glaring at me and no chance of getting hit in the face by a flying shoe and/or crowd surfer.