By the end of the nineteen sixties many of us were worn out. Perhaps in the same way WWII produced an unmatched batch of monastic vocations, so did the sixties produce a “back to nature” movement. After all the craziness of trying to grow up in that complicated time, when the culture was changing so drastically, some of us wanted purification, simplicity, and a connection with the land.
In Brooklyn we read “Living the Good Life” by Helen and Scott Nearing and began to believe it might be possible that life existed outside of New York City. I know how strange that sounds but on the few times I was out of the city on some photo assignment I would look at the quiet villages and houses in New England and say to myself, “What the hell do they do there?”
In my case I had learned to fish off the rocks of Glenn Island on Long Island Sound and had hunted squirrels and rabbits on the golf courses of the Bronx. As much as I knew about that I liked it, the sense of space and freedom of those places.
My first wife, Melynda, and I made the move. I was twenty five. We bought an old falling down place in Lyme, New Hampshire for $11,000 which was twice what the old timer had bought it for a year previously. She didn’t stay long but I did and then came Francine, my true partner, French, who quit a job at the United Nations and joined me in the hardscrabble life for the next twenty five years. There is more about this in my book The Painting of My Life.
These pictures were taken with a Leica M4 camera and processed by me in my darkroom. I carried a camera for at least twenty years wherever I went, and I made my living that way. My hero was H. Cartier Bresson but my interest in photography was sparked by my father, Roy Winsor, and by my neighbor, Rowland Scherman, who is the subject of a recent film called “Eye on the Sixties”.
Photography, and especially black and white photography, carried with it a sense of truth. There was very little manipulation of the image, not only because it was difficult to do, but because the inherent value of photography, as we understood it, was in its veracity, its credibility. That is a twentieth century idea I know, but for us photography was a way to understand the world and to know ourselves. It still does that but a great deal about it is different now.
My pictures in this album I call “Back to the Garden”, freeze time as only a good photograph can do. What we are not able to see very well at the moment, because time is always moving on to the next thing, we do see clearly in a good photograph. It stops time and lets us look closely and reflect.
Time has everything to do with the value of photography and the more time passes the more that value reveals itself. Things don’t look anymore the way they did when these pictures were taken. A lot of the people are dead and the “old timers” we knew are not being replaced. They disappeared. But they were very worth knowing and I am happy to have had that experience.
What I have learned from photography and especially from these photographs is that, yes, we had a good life, and yes, we appreciated it, but not enough. I think we did our best to know that it was good, but it was even better than we knew. As far as I can tell, that too-late understanding has more to do with the failings inherent in the human condition than with any personal guilt one may feel.
Please click on the link below when you are ready. Make use of the good controls that come with the gallery software above each picture. Or, run the slide show. There are captions at the bottom of the screen. And, at the top of the index page, I have added a link back to the photography home page so you can escape when you choose.
Back to the Garden Photographs