12 March

The Windowsill Gallery: Declaration Of Spring

by Jon Katz
Waiting For Spring

There is a point at the end of winter where we simply start thinking of Spring. The sun is higher and stronger in the sky, the day is longer. The animals act like it’s Spring, they follow the sun, not the weather people. Tomorrow night, a big storm is coming, then perhaps another by the weekend. We are declaring it Spring, but keeping the shovels handy. I was taken by the rich color in this photo, taken with my new lens. We are going to make some nice music together. Russian glass is pretty cool.

12 March

Re-Imagining The Portrait: Maria At Home

by Jon Katz

We spent a very quiet an peaceful day at home today, we only went outside once in the bitter cold. This is the first outdoor portrait I’ve taken with the new lens, and this is making me re-thinking my portrait work, I try to get a sense of the person as well as the place. Maria always seems peaceful and purposeful to me, she is always on her way to one place or another, sometimes she relents and sits. She has a powerful attachment to the animals, and any photo that shows them around her helps to capture her. I very much like the bokeh here, the blurring of the background so that you see it but don’t focus on it.

Tomorrow night, a big storm approaching and continuing through Wednesday afternoon. I think of the day Maria went off to India, a big blizzard hit and that was a hard and cold and lonely day for me. I’ve got good soup and things to eat and we will do some nice work and take some neat photographs I hope.

12 March

Re-Imagining The Portrait. My Petzval 58 Takes On Maria And Lulu

by Jon Katz
Maria And Lulu

It is not uncommon around her to see Maria communing with a donkey or a pony or chatting with some sheep. It is a difficult thing to capture well, and this afternoon, in finger-freezing cold, I took my new Petzal 58 Portrait lens – just as it was when it was invented in 1840, turned my focus gears, inserted my aperture plate, and blew on my fingers and got this shot.

The amazing thing about the Petzal is that you can control what phographers call  bokeh, the blurring of the background so that the viewer is drawn to the subject. This is most effective when doing close-up portraits, but also in landscapes, when you are trying to capture a particular part of a scene while also capturing a sense of place.

I like this photo because it shows Maria with her donkey, but you also know where you are and where she is. That is a hat trick.

Bokeh makes the photographs so appealing that the viewer is instinctively drawn to the subject. My new Petzval lens permits me to control the swirl and depth of the bokey. As in the above photo, where I focused on Maria and Lulu and the camera knew what to do with the rest.

I was in the farmhouse alone and Maria yelled she was going out to the back pasture. Every day when we are home, she goes out to spend time with the donkeys or with Chloe, her pony. Chloe is leaving us soon, so the time is a bit more charge dand I wanted to capture it

I was taken by the scene. Red up front watching the sheep, the donkeys and some sheep grazing around Maria, a cold clear day and a new lens. I am very excited about the feeling this lens brings, and amazed I got it for a fraction of what new lenses usually cost. Good on me, and thanks to Ely at B&H photo for guiding me to it. The lens is a monumental pain in the ass to use, and I am already the better photographer for that.

Eventually my fingers just froze, and the frost-bitten fingers started to scream. But I did some damage before they did, and I will share it over the next day or so. I’m putting up an album tonight on Facebook.

12 March

Portrait Of A Relationship. Robin: The Gift Of Distance

by Jon Katz
Portrait – Robin

I sometimes wished I lived closer to Robin and could see more of her. People love to tease me and jeer at me, suggesting I am succumbing to the great power of grandfatherly love, I told you so, they say, as if I didn’t know myself, see,  they say, whenever I show them a photo or speak of her. They laugh, look at you, they say, you are hopelessly smitten.

I often think I am not explaining myself well, or they simply don’t get me. It may be my that own way of looking at  relationships, or the hard lessons I’ve learned about them are simply out of the experience and tradition of most people.

I feel this about dogs also, I feel there is great pressure for me to deeply grieve and mourn the loss of my dogs, as much as I love them write about them. But I don’t, really, mourn much for them not for long. I can’t wait to love the next one, I prefer getting on with the life I have than grieving for what I have lost.

People simply don’t believe me when I say I need and wish to accept the geographic and emotional limitations of my own psyche and the distance between Robin and me. It isn’t that I don’t love Robin – of course I do, and in a very pure and powerful way. Even more than that, I love my daughter, and often wish I could be more present and helpful to her as she navigates this very wonderful and difficult chapter of her life.

But she is doing better without me than she ever did with me.

I am not being coy when I talk about the nature of my being a grandfather, it is up to me, not others, to define it and shape its dimensions. Robin and I are already close, we get along very well, and I can see there is such a thing as blood love – we just know each other.  And she does get me, I think. She has the Pirate Eye.

I love her seeming thoughtfulness and cheerfulness and just a touch of wickedness and mischief.

But there is also a gift to distance, as I have learned with Emma. After some bumpy times, we appreciate each other more and more, and all the more so for the distance between us and the great differences in the choices we make and the way we choose to live our lives.

Emma and I don’t get tangled up with each other, or even get on one another’s nerves much, we are both independent and willful, the visits always seem a little too short, and that is the way it ought to be for me, and I think, for her. She knows what she is doing.

I don’t want to be a daily or weekly part of Robin’s life, I am busy and happy living my own life, as she is living hers. You can know too little or you can know too much. Boundaries are important to me.  I know many people feel differently about grandparenting, and I have no quarrels with them. I only know what is best for me.

I don’t want to be intruding on Emma’s rich new life either, she has had some hard times and deserves the life she is living with her husband Jay. My own life was not so well composed  or smooth that I can tell others what to do. I find that closeness does not only come with in terms of a physical presence, but a commitment to respect and connection. That is not about geography.

I like coming in after a while and seeing the changes in Robin, they are very clear and dramatic and fascinating to me, perhaps because I don’t see them every day. I am always surprised.

I am so grateful for Robin, she has brought Emma and I closer together, given me someone else to love, connected Maria to all of us more meaningfully, and then, there is Robin herself, all joy and love, I can always leave before the hard stuff emerges. I am a happy observer from afar, eager to come, eager to go back to my life.

I love my life and do not dwell on the end of it, but I also know where I am, and Robin is not likely to know me for more than a small fraction of her life. I don’t kid myself about things like that, nor do they make me gloomy. Part of loving life for me is seeing it clearly. At best I will be a happy memory for her, she may read one of my books one day and wonder about me.

She might even be able to come onto my blog and see some images of her early life and read these words. People used to leave letters for their grandkids, I’ll leave the Farm Journal behind.

Perhaps some of my own commitment to a creative life, and to a particular way of life is in her blood or will inspire her. Perhaps she will stay away from corporate jobs in soul-sucking offices working for people who care nothing about her,  and follow her bliss,  in part because she caught that bug for me. Maybe it is in her blood.

I doubt I will influence her in that way, that will be the work of Emma and Jay.

I will probably be gone long before she even thinks about things like the choices of life. In the meantime, I like riding this Robin train, both literally and figuratively. I love the train ride to New York and back. I love seeing her change and capturing it. Emma always bristled a bit at my annoying photo-taking, now she asks me to send her some pictures. That means a lot to me.

Emma and I have never been closer or more comfortable with one another, Maria is gracious enough to share this experience with me, I look forward to showing Robin her first donkey sometime this Spring and giving her a peek at my life. There will be some distance between that as well, it works both ways.

But somehow, the distance fits me, I do not pine for more, and I don’t ever wish for Robin to pine for more of me than she gets. I had the greatest time going to Brooklyn Saturday, seeing Emma, seeing Robin. Each visit is more uplifting and satisfying than the one before it. I can’t wait to be working on my book tomorrow and Wednesday when one of the last snowstorms of Spring hits.

And this time, I won’t be alone on the farm.

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