Tuesday, December 17, 2013

David Vestal, 1924 - 2013


March 21, 1924  - December 5, 2013 

David Vestal was one of the first people I photographed for my book "Respecting My Elders" back in March 2009. 
I visited him at his home in Bethlehem, Connecticut.

I'm sharing some of his wisdom here, via his thank you note:

                                      June 17, 2013

"Dear Ellen Wallenstein,

Thanks very much for the book. The photos are good and the things people say reveal a lot about them. What a crew. I've spent a few hours going through it: fascinating. I hope, however, that you won't spend the rest of your life photographing your elders as they age and die. Wouldn't that pinch out too soon?

How about photographing what you love and hate seeing? That was Lew Hine : "I wanted to show what had to be changed. I wanted to show what had to be appreciated." Quoted from memory, so probably inexact. But you get the drift. It doesn't have to be about society or art. Anything visible will do.


Mr. Vestal's "Craft of Photography" is a bible for the black & white darkroom. He was an incredible teacher, writer, editor. His book is an encyclopedia of sorts about black & white printing. It is full of information and droll observations.
As was he.

He died December 5, 2013, at his home, so says the Robert Mann Gallery obit.But I haven't seen him mentioned anywhere else. It's been a busy time for photographers' disappearances: Editta Sherman died in November, as did Saul Leiter. And Vestal's death was eclipsed by that of Nelson Mandela. I bet he would think that was just fine.

Rest In Peace

Saturday, November 30, 2013

justice card

JUSTICE, tarot card XI

 My Photobook class was assigned to do a tarot card for a class deck.
Everyone picked one - I chose Justice, No. XI

Appropriate, as I grew up the daughter of a lawyer.
And, as the professor, I get to give the grades!

(collage: pope innocent X by velazquez,
collage elements from national geographic,
& red leaf).

I'm inspired to do a whole deck now.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

teaching teenagers photography

I just finished teaching a three-week intensive darkroom class at SVA with 15 teenagers, average age 15. They were wonderful. Worked hard, came in early to develop film, spent many hours in the darkroom and many more shooting pictures. I'm very proud of them, and myself, and my Teaching Assistant, Molly Matalon. A good time was had by all....















Sunday, July 21, 2013

Respecting My Elders, book published

My long-awaited book "Respecting My Elders" has been published and is available at the link below:. 

It costs $25 and comes with a free digital download. The book of 94 pages is perfect bound and has portraits of 30 very interesting creative people, all over the age of 80, photographed in their homes and studios. It was designed by Renee Rockoff. 

You can see the whole book in preview mode. 

There is a wonderful introduction by Marion Winik, which you can read here: 


And, there is a wonderful article on the project by Laura Paull, here:

Thank you to everyone who contributed and to everyone who posed for me!
I will be posting separate images and information on the portraits in the near future....

Monday, May 27, 2013

My cousin Lynn, RIP

 Lynn Rowland, April 11, 1952 - May 8, 2013

Cousin - friend - cohort- fun person to be around. Family. Making fun of family. Laughing in that deep booming throaty sexy voice. My cousin, my sister. My cousin. My friend.

My grandfather married her grandmother when we were both eleven. The grandchildren picture says it all, 7 of us posing (at Bachrach's!) all dressed up and smiling. While our mothers sipped sherry in the vestibule "To take the edge off."

Lynn was exactly six months older than me, to the day. In that picture she'd reached puberty and I still had pigtails. We were connected from that moment on. And forever.

What to say about my cousin. That she was smart, funny, loving, real. That you knew where you stood. That she was honest, kind, appreciative. Musically and artistically talented.

She was brave. She was forthright. She was concerned. She loved her parents deeply. Happy the last years of her life were spent up in Maine, near them, caring for and being cared for. A gift for all of them.

She called me at the beginning of May, or maybe it was April.
 "Coz, I've been thinking of you, are you okay?"

I am more than okay, but she wasn't.
I'm so glad we spoke. And that I sent her one more photograph of the backyard where we'd grown up and hung out together.

I miss her.

Friday, May 10, 2013

spring in connecticut

the backyard
may 4, 2013
a beautiful spring morning

Sunday, April 21, 2013

moonrise over backyard

moonrise in connecticut, april 20, 2013.
how lucky i am to get to be in the country each weekend, and see the change from week to week, season to season, morning to night.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

23 skidoo

23rd & broadway @ fifth avenue, 100 years ago

an amazing little film from the metropolitan museum's "street" exhibition. the corner of 23rd just east of the flatiron building, men's hats and women's skirts flying. for real, on film, then, now, always.



i've started to photograph sparrows and other small birds (mourning doves) whenever i see them, which is nearly everyday during the week as i walk to the subway or around town. i hear them before i see them - a sweet high-pitched plaintive sound. they seem to live in the bushes and play on the fences. this photo was made on washington square north, just west of university place. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

from the westside highway

taken from the car, friday february 8, 2013. from the west side highway as we passed below chittenden avenue. the apartment house where i grew up, in washington heights.

as i remember, the wall on the other side was about 4 feet high and 2 feet wide -low enough to climb onto. one day i walked back and forth on it, following my friend who was not scared of heights. i had nightmares for weeks.

it was a ten-story building; my grandmother lived there too and her studio apartment faced west- three of those windows were hers- two from the main room and one from the kitchen. she had a gorgeous view of the hudson river and the george washington bridge.

i have memories of sitting on her floor and playing with her button collection. i wish i had had the idea then to ask her about her growing up- (she was born in manhattan in 1875). but hindsight, like memory is 20/20. i didn't ask and she didn't say. but i do have some old family pictures to piece together clues.