Presentation at the Arnulf Rainer Museum in Baden, Austria

As the Artist in Residence at the La Gacilly-Baden Photo Festival, Gerd Ludwig will be presenting his work at the Arnulf Rainer Museum in Baden near Vienna, Austria. The two part event, in German language, titled ‘Inspiration – Faszination – Leidenschaft’ will begin on Saturday, September 22 at 10 am and end at 2 pm. […]

summer’s end



Morning, morning.
Another day, already shorter by many minutes of daylight, with the light — yes, that precious summer daylight — now streaming lower, as if tired of hanging too high for too long. Overhead: two-tone passing clouds, shifting shadows and dark foliage of trees. Below — and almost underfoot — sweet slugs on mushroom stems, moss cushions and tall ferns: taller than ever. It has been a wet month, so wet that shrooms emerge already moldy and our heads spin as the barometer jumps up and down like a flea on speed.
Never mind: we have what we have, and the wet is considerably better than the dry and many destructive forest fires out West. We slip our shoes on, check the straps tying our canoe down, and go. It is usually eight minutes to our home lake, a bit longer now that Hurley Mountain Road became a detour for Rt.209 while one of its bridges is being replaced. We pass a growling 18-wheeler which brutally squeezes us right on a tight turn, an empty school bus, some pickup trucks seemingly just cruising back and forth, and join state highway 28W which unspools its 280 rural miles between Kingston, NY, and the Warren County way south. 
Before we turn off the highway a few minutes later, I notice a bank of clouds already assembling above the Catskills. The recent forecast of our local Hudson Valley Weather is a replica of yesterday’s. It starts with a neighborly concern and then tells us what we already suspect. 
We hope everyone made out ok after last nights storms. Unfortunately we are not done with the unsettled weather; it appears that passing showers and occasional pop up storm will be possible into the early afternoon. A more organized line of storms looks to propagate through the region from NW to SE. This will bring a new threat of storms with heavy rain, gusty wind and frequent lightning.
We park by the lake which came up several inches overnight, gather our paddles and push off. Usually we turn right first, heading for blueberry bushes hanging above the water. But today the bushes move, and another berry eater looks out of the thicket. A yearling whitetail buck, with rusty velvet covering its young antlers. Soft mobile nose. Alert eyes. And the berries he nibbles on are the last of the crop, for everybody has been feeding on them all summer: blacks bears, Green herons and Canada geese, chipmunks, squirrels — and us. We never take many, just enough to feel included at the lake’s table, and we like their intense and tangy sweetness. Surely Mary Oliver has something to say about them?
She does, of course:
Picking Blueberries 

Once, in summer
in the blueberries, 
I fell asleep, and woke
when a deer stumbled against me.

I guess
she was so busy with her own happiness
she had grown careless
and was just wandering along

listening
to the wind as she leaned down
to lip up the sweetness.
So, there we were

with nothing between us
but a few leaves, and wind’s
glossy voice
shouting instructions.

The deer
backed away finally
and flung up her white tail
and went floating off toward the trees –

but the moment she did that
was so wide and so deep
it has lasted to this day; 
I have only to think of her – 

the flower of her amazement
and the stalled breath of her curiosity, 
and even the damp touch of her solicitude
before she took flight –

to be absent again from this world
and alive, again, in another
for thirty years
sleepy and amazed, 

rising out of the rough weeds
listening and looking.
Beautiful girl, 
where are you? 
©Mary Oliver

We move on, keeping Edy the canoe close to the lake’s shore: this is where we are the least visible and disturb little. We see a young Green heron we noticed some weeks ago when he, still a fledgling, was trying to fly and kept crashing into the bushes. Then the larger of the two resident families of Canada geese — our Periscopes — floats out of a green eddy and swims close to us. The lake is warm and thousands of bluish bubbles cover its surface. They probably emerge from a cyanobacterial floating mat which trapped these miniature gas domes filled with the gaseous byproduct of the algal bloom, and may disappear during the day.  And these painted turtles on the log behind the geese? I want see the turtles but John takes Edy among lily pads. He wants one, with — as he calls it — its heart of gold. Rendered in pixels. I do not have Mary’s soaring words but I have my pixels, all these digital zeros and ones.
And there is a tiny baby turtle, sunbathing confidently on a lily pad: as is grows larger and heavier, it will need a solid sun porch. This one is perhaps three inches across and seemingly unafraid: it stays put as I lean out of Edy this way and that to avoid sun reflections on its smooth shell. 
In the meantime we lost the sight of our geese. Where did they go? Already by the east side of the lake, swimming in the same tight formation they held for several months. And soon they split: both parents and two big chicks swim left and come close to Edy, while one youngster turns right and takes a nap: an individual preference clearly stated. The chicks will stay with their parents for about a year and then take off and become adult birds of consequence.
Having made sure everybody is accounted for, we move to the sunny west side of the lake and look for more wildlife. Here are two dragonflies in their late summer lustful unison.  But we already know our home lake summer is almost over. We may still come and paddle and watch for a few days, and the life will continue. The showers held off this morning and the sky is still bright. But we are already sensing the slowing down movement of the season, clearly ebbing away and losing its “let’s grow” explosions of passionate energy. It is different now, more contemplative and grounded. It is advancing like an avalanche loaded with small events which add up and change everything in a profound way. Day after day. Hour after hour. Rain after rain. 


Soon we will grab our folding canoe we named Julia and drive maybe north to Maine, and then west once the distant forest fires burn themselves out. Where? We have no idea but it will all take shape, slowly, as we go.
©Yva Momatiuk
www.momatiukeastcott.com

Instagram print flash sale

Starting August 17th, signed prints of the photograph above are available (at $100 plus shipping) in Gerd Ludwig’s first Instagram flash sale. “Hansel and Gretel … became totally lost in the great wilderness and could not find their way out of the wood…. Finally, the forest grew more familiar to them.” This image of two […]

The Passage of Watergate Time

 

Fans of this page (both of you!) will recall how this reporter’s view of recent history is colored, overall, by a disbelief that He ( if I were President, here I would just write my name as if I were some 6 o’clock local anchor in the up and coming St. George, Utah TV market) could have actually been present at events of the last half century, especially the earliest ones.  They all seem like just a few months, maybe a year ago.  Life does have a nasty habit of starting out when you’re in your teens and twenties at a rate you can absorb, then, like a really bad ride at a travelling carnival, it begins to speed up just when you thought you were attuned to the velocity of life in front of you.  Thus, if you are someone who actually remembers the first year you had a television, and your parents watched Adlai Stevenson give his first acceptance speech live to the nation,  those numbers, the ones you can’t believe are YOUR life, just thrash you around like a protective terrier would a small rodent, illicitly caught in the grain elevator. (Yes, that is what terriers were apparently originally bred for.)  

And so it was, that cleaning out a large scale IKEA bookshelf over the weekend produced a number of surprises.  Not shocking, really, just little measures of a life which had mostly been dedicated to capturing what was happening in our world.  For years, with my aspiration to be a Time-Life photographer filled at a relatively early age (I was 20 when I got my first internship at Time … too young at the time to even have a couple of martinis at Duke Zieberts with the D.C. crowd after an LBJ welcoming ceremony)  I spent the better part of five decades chasing events in many parts of the world (not all: never made it to Antarctica, and there are huge gaps in my Asia and Africa coverage…) and for the most part, following the ritual of finding a plane headed to New York or Paris, with my film on it.  We have become so spoiled in the last 15 years, with instant everything, that the toxic nature of this short-term, instant gratification (how gratified, really?) is not going to be truly understood by the citizenry for years to come.  Shooting film meant your job never ended until, to quote my long time buddy Jean-Pierre Laffont, “I see the plane with my film flying over head …” to whichever editorial stop it might be, usually NYC or Paris, the two main axes of photojournalism for the last fifty years.   In those days, if you were on a political campaign, you’d packet up your film in a heavy envelope and leave it at the front desk for a messenger to fetch, and head directly to the bar, where you might actually run into someone working for the campaign who could give you a heads up about tomorrow’s work schedule.  With today’s obligation to edit and process on the fly, it’s rare after a long day shooting that  you aren’t cooped up in your hotel room, trying to edit and tone pictures which will fly out on the wifi system that night.  It’s certainly quicker than film, but it’s a helluva lot less fun.  And all the obligations which accompany those deadlines mean you never really have time to just ponder.  

Pondering was one of my favorite elements of photojournalism.  Essentially, we are always trying to understand the logistics battle of how  we get our camera in the exact spot necessary, and at the right moment, that all we have to do is compose, and shoot.   But those answers never come easy, and you have to really think about what your options are, and what you have to do to make that magic moment happen. Much of it, true, is something you see on the fly, but so many times, thinking ahead about what is happening, or going to happen, makes a huge difference in your work.  Anticipation is a gift.  You just need that time to ponder.  It pays off in the end. 

The accompanying picture (Washington DC, summer 1973)  is by that same French friend, Jean-Pierre Laffont.  JP has been living in New York since the late 1960s.  We met at the first Nixon Inauguration.  I forget the exact moment, but I was a young freelancer, having just been out of college, and in DC a couple of months, and JP was the GAMMA photographer in New York, covering the USA for that then new, and ground-breaking agency.  GAMMA was really the first news agency to operate on the theory that there are enough places to sell and license the work, if only we have the confidence in our photographers, and let them operate “on spec” following their own judgement.  It really solidified the idea that photojournalists were journalists as much as photographers, relying on their inate skills as artists, con men, bullshitters, and business mavens, to get to where the pictures were happening, and send film of said events back to the base, in this case, Paris.  After a nasty split amongst the partners, a number of the GAMMA staff left to form a new agency, SYGMA, and it was with SYGMA that JP spent the next forty something years based in New York, covering the world. (He has published two wonderful books of photographs:  Photographer’s Paradise: Turbulent America 1960-1990 and New York City Up  and Down (https://preview.tinyurl.com/y742hxw5)  I more or less took up the GAMMA slot for the next couple of years, before leaving to start Contact Press Images (www.contactpressimages.com) in New York.  One of the first big stories I covered for GAMMA in 1973 was the Watergate Hearings and the beginning of the unravelling of the Nixon administration.  Every day had a wild new twist as witnesses came to the hill, sitting in front of folksy old Senator Sam Ervin (ever the ‘country lawyer’), the country, and the world.  One of the most explosive days of testimony came when John Dean, who had been the one to tell  Nixon there was “ a cancer growing on the Presidency…”   came with wife Maureeen (soon to be known by all as “Mo’ Dean.”)   I was one of the photographers trying to make some kind of picture of Dean that day, and I was surrounded by some of the best.  Looking back now, I see so many of the Washington world who have since died, but whose presence made me, a young guy fairly new at this game, try and do better than just merely showing up.  When you look a t the talent in that room, and realize how widely viewed their pictures would be over that year, it gives you pause.  There are a few I don’t recognize, but many I do: Daryl Heikes (UPI), Tim Murphy, Joe Silverman (Wash Star)  (standing behind me), ME (GAMMA), Committee Counsel Sam Dash in the dark suit in the distance, Gjon Mili (LIFE – tall in the grey suit, the man who did things with early strobes we all marvelled at, even years later), Stanley Tretick (confidante to Presidents from Kennedy to Carter), Harvey Georges (amazing that we can identify someone by their hair – AP), and Wally McNamee (lower right, Newsweek.)  I think WashPost photographer Jim Atherton, (the guy who could, and often did,  walk into a hearing room where you’d been sitting on your knees for two hours, look around for about a minute, make a half dozen snaps, and walk out of the room, having handed you your very own lunch, an hour before the lunch break) might even be in this picture. I know he was in the room. In my dreary picture of Dean with hand raised for swearing in, Atherton had, alone, snuck behind him and popped up for just long enough to get the anxiious faces of the Senators. Such was the talent in that room, in this picture from 45 years ago.  Forty five years, and none of us alive today can imagine it was really that long ago. Like so many things it feels so fresh, so recent, so real.  We have our pictures to remember our lives, and photography, above all, is about memory.   Thanks, JP. And yes, I’ll get a haircut.