Pawlet History
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, YARD, RUPERT MOUNTAIN
ADAM WAITE 2P (2), YARD, RUPERT MOUNTAIN
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Photographic "Series"

Overview

Neil Rappaport organized several groups of photographs within The Pawlet Community Study into units he referred to as "series," including historical photographs by Nellie Bushee and Ella Clark. The fourteen series are a significant element of the database because they were so essential in Neil's thinking about his vision for the community study. While making the database unique and adding to the visual richness, they provide a physical context for the rhythm of work and daily life extending and expanding our knowledge of the subjects beyond the more formal portraits.

What meant the most to Neil as a photographer were the extended periods of time he spent with each subject; he often returned again and again over the years, building relationships and moving inside the lives as he worked. The large groups of photographs resulting from this approach to subject would become the "series" in the final collection. He relished "the visit" and the conversation that occurred as he set up his view camera, a large format camera requiring a tripod. He also used faster, hand-held cameras, but the slowness of the process that a view camera demands was central to his personality and what he wanted his subjects to experience.

"I have vastly extended the period of observation to bring a diminishment of strangeness as a creative impulse and a growth of familiarity embodied in the narrative series and felt by the viewer. The extended view increases the invisibility of the photographer, includes the possibility of expressing change and the multiplicity of human truth and allows a movement of knowledge from the public to the private aspects of life. It provides an opportunity to evolve various ways of seeing and recording over time." (Neil Rappaport) Photographs in a "series" depend on each other for meaning and allow a story to be told.

Loveland Photographic Series—Loveland Daily Life (photo #00000)

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Baker, Messiter Photographic Series—Baker Family (photo #00001)

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Clark Photographic Series—Clark Store (photo #00002)

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Scott Photographic Series—John Scott Daily Life (photo #00003)

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Troumbley Photographic Series—Rowdy Troumbley, Hunter (photo #00025)

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Covino Photographic Series—Covino Slate Quarry (photo #00211)

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Rogers Photographic Series—Rogers Farm (photo #00212)

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Leach Photographic Series—Leach Farm (photo #00238)

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Griswold Photographic Series—Minnie Griswold House (photo #00448)

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Clark Photographic Series—Clark Sugaring and Family (photo #00571)

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Hosley Photographic Series—Hosley Farm (photo #00587)

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Connors Photographic Series—Connors Garage (photo #CONNO)

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Historic Photographic Series—Early Pawlet Images (photo # HISTO)

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Slate Photographic Series—Slate Quarry Groups and Landscapes (photo #SLATE)

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Loveland Photographic Series—Loveland Daily Life (photo #00000)

The first photograph in this series was made on Lonnie and Etta Loveland's fifty-first wedding anniversary in 1973. Lonnie knew Neil Rappaport was photographing next door at Rogers Farm. He stopped there to ask Neil if he would come by his place to make the anniversary portrait. Neil ended up staying with the Lovelands quite consistently for five years, photographing their daily life and unique living environment as they both declined and finally died. The series is really about the rhythm of that decline as the habits of all their days farming and for Lonnie quarrying still to some extent sustained them. They both had tremendous energy to work but at this time in their lives it was all about surviving each day. Lonnie continued, as long as he could, to plant an enormous garden, cut wood and care for his hogs and chickens. Etta became more and more reclusive while still writing her poems and making her sewn art work, helping Lonnie in any way she could. Finally, Lonnie lost one eye to a detached retina and Etta broke her hip. Even though she struggled back from that blow, an aneurysm close to her heart finally took her life. Lonnie did not live long without her.

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Baker, Messiter Photographic Series—Baker Family (photo #00001)

Neil and Susanne Rappaport rented Joyce and Charley Baker's tenant house in December of 1969 soon after they moved to Pawlet. They lived there for thirteen years. The Bakers had five children of their own and they also took care of Nelly Messiter, a part-time resident's child, from the time she was a baby until she was nine years old. Charley worked two jobs and Joyce worked at the Butternut Bend Store just to make ends meet. Neil and Susanne soon became part of the family and Neil photographed the Bakers particularly on family occasions. Thanksgiving was the most important holiday each year and even after the kids grew up and moved away, it was rare that one of them was missing on Thanksgiving Day. Other neighbors and friends who had no place to go were absorbed into the family circle on that day. After dinner almost everyone took a long walk on the Bakers' land leading to the foot of Haystack Mountain. Finally there was music and dancing and dessert. Most years thirty people or more came for dinner. Neil's group of attendees' photograph became an annual tradition. He also photographed the larger family reunions when people came from all over the country; and two fiftieth wedding anniversary celebrations for Edward Baker and his wife Rose and Charley and Joyce. As one generation ages and becomes infirm, the next generation is clearly coming on.

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Clark Photographic Series—Clark Store (photo #00002)

George and Leora Clark bought the Butternut Bend Store and the house next door in 1953 from the Kibling family. They would run this neighborhood store at the base of Haystack Mountain in North Pawlet for forty years. "Clarks' sold a bit of everything. George was a shrewd trader, and I don't believe he ever came up short on a deal. As well as an excellent stock of groceries, he also bought and sold guns. He stocked all the most popular ammunitions, also fish poles, lines, hooks and flies. Hunting and fishing licenses were sold, sometimes at midnight the day before deer season. Every inch of the walls in Clarks' store held merchandise that was for sale. The gas pumps drew in many customers. Depending on the time of year there could be a 'town meeting,' a fish and game discussion or a presidential discussion going on. A good seat in the 'house' was the coke cooler or the ice cream freezer." (Joyce Baker)

In 1972, with the support and encouragement of George Clark, Neil Rappaport began making portraits of the denizens of the store. He continued to do this on a fairly regular basis until 1975. "Neil Rappaport spent many years photographing a wide variety of customers who entered the store. The back wall of the store soon became a gallery exhibiting the very life of Pawlet. One had only to study these pictures to know the many and varied lives in this small town… the farmer, the quarryman, the factory worker, housewives, teachers, the sheepherder, the lawyer and the doctor. Looking at the pictures of the children on this wall one could see that they were welcome in the store." (Joyce Baker) Sometime in 1990 the gas tanks had to be removed from the ground and the Clarks found the replacement cost prohibitive. Without the gas pumps and with all the large grocery stores now in the area, business declined quickly but George kept the store open to serve his loyal customers in the North Pawlet area. Joyce Baker who worked for the Clarks for many years remembers him saying, "Everything is for sale, for the right price."

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Scott Photographic Series—John Scott Daily Life (photo #00003)

Neil Rappaport did a series of photographs of John Scott and his surroundings in 1974. He was a close neighbor and Neil was fascinated by the exactitude of his solitary life, both visually and in reality. His wife Mabel had already been in a nursing home for over a year when Neil first met John at the Butternut Bend Store during the time he was making portraits of the regular customers. John was clearly lonely and a great storyteller so he welcomed Neil's regular visits with his camera and let him make photographs all over the house. At one time the teachers who taught at the one-room schoolhouse next door lived in the small upstairs apartment and the other room had been Mabel's. John left it as it was while she was using it as her bedroom. John had been a steeplejack and painter by trade and even though he was in his nineties, he was still doing a lot of painting and roof work on properties he owned or rented in the area. He worked quite a bit with his friend Leslie Smith. As the story goes, he walked the ridgepole of his family home place on his ninetieth birthday and painted the whole downstairs of his house every spring instead of letting the housekeeper do a spring-cleaning. He lived with one cat and ate one meal a day with breakfast, lunch and dinner on the same plate. After the meal he had a shot of whiskey, smoked a small cigar and took a nap. He often said his favorite memory was seeing apple trees bloom.

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Troumbley Photographic Series—Rowdy Troumbley, Hunter (photo #00025)

Neil Rappaport photographed the daily life, activities and travels of Floyd Troumbley in the late 1970s. Floyd, who got the name "Rowdy" when he was a going to school in North Pawlet as a young boy, was a premier hunter and trapper. He had done… " Pretty near everything anybody ever done for a living. Cut cord wood, cut logs, laid brick and concrete blocks – most anything – rode truck, logged it, cut pulp, drawed lumber, plowed snow, sanded roads, chased ring-tailed rabbits [raccoons], and shot a few deer to boot." (Floyd Troumbley) He learned everything from his father including barn building, which he was particularly well known for in the Mettawee valley. His good friend, Fred Morey, who made his living strictly as a hunter and trapper, died the same day his fourteenth child, Tom, was born. Floyd took Tom under his wing and taught him everything he thought his father would have in the same way. This series is about their relationship. Much of what Floyd knew about hunting and trapping, the way he knew it by doing, would have disappeared if the knowledge had not been passed on and accepted by Tom. This took time, patience, and the frustration of repetition and persistence. But the real and tangible connection between generations was the central idea. Floyd knew this to be true and Tom seemed to have naturally, if not uniquely, understood his role as apprentice.

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Covino Photographic Series—Covino Slate Quarry (photo #00211)

"I began photographing the slate industry, it methods, and its working people during the late sixties and early seventies by accident. On a Saturday afternoon, my car broke down next to the Evans pit, from which the sounds of Italian opera could be clearly heard. Looking over the edge, I could see a lone rockman shoveling rubbish, the radio in his lunch bucket playing the Saturday afternoon opera from the Metropolitan. I knew I should photograph there. My series of photographs of the old Evans Brothers quarry, owned by Rising and Nelson and run by foreman, Jim Covino, was completed over two years, detailing what I learned was one of the few remaining operations still using 'traditional' methods of extracting rock." (Neil Rappaport)

Neil Rappaport photographed at this one quarry almost everyday over the two years. When he started he had only been working as a photographer for three years. His first approach was to photograph to learn about the process so he started at the beginning, in the pit, and followed the stone through the final trimming of the roofing tiles. Gradually he began to get to know the workers, particularly Vince Covino, Jim's son and the pit boss, and by asking questions and always sharing his photographs with his subjects, he learned more about the process and ultimately more about the work. At this point he started to make portraits of the quarrymen, some in informal settings and some more formal. Then he took the time to make photographs of the industrial landscape, the machinery and tools, slate in its rawest form and as a finished product. And finally he returned to the process again with more understanding and a more knowledgeable eye. He refined this cyclical method of working in new environments throughout his thirty years photographing in Pawlet.

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Rogers Photographic Series—Rogers Farm (photo #00212)

"During the four seasons of the year beginning with fall 1974, I photographed Howard and Freda Rogers in an effort to record every detail of their hundred-cow dairy operation. They hired a minimum of help, dividing labors between themselves and their cow dog, Tippy. They loved the farm and the work, and made milk, sugared, gardened and split firewood. They were always tired. I returned to the farm during their last year operating the dairy in 1991. Howard had a bad heart. Freda had a stroke on a morning while I was visiting with my camera. The struggle to keep working finally ended. Howard died of a heart attack and Freda had to move away from the farm." (Neil Rappaport)

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Leach Photographic Series—Leach Farm (photo #00238)

"I started to get to know Tim and Dot Leach around 1980. They appeared in two family portraits, once as an expecting couple, once as the parents of a baby son. Tim's farm crew also stood before my view camera several times. When I decided to concentrate on farming, I decided to photograph at Tim's place because I knew very well that his professional goals were driven by commitment to the future of his children – typical, I suspect of farmers everywhere. The desire burned strong to pass on knowledge of the land, of husbandry, of the honor to work. More than the details of farming, which I had earlier recorded with such obsessiveness at Rogers farm, I was interested in this virtually genetic connection to a way of life." (Neil Rappaport)

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Griswold Photographic Series—Minnie Griswold House (photo #00448)

When Minnie Griswold died in 1952, her son Charles closed her house and left it as it was, maintaining it undisturbed as an act of reverence and devotion. It was her family home place and she had lived there as a widow with three children, one of whom died, since 1900. This series, which was made in 1986 when Charles gave Neil Rappaport permission to photograph in the house, explores the dimensions of human permanence.

"At first it was the material world which captured me. I was surrounded by so many antique and beautiful things! The visible presence of the past in the rooms, on shelves and surfaces, and in drawers, gave witness to a way of life I had only heard about from people who could remember the century's turn. I innocently began to document as directly and richly as possible. Gradually the process of photographing was transformed into an exploration of this spirit, which still held tenancy here. Minnie was a reader, of religious tracts, the Bible and other literature. Fortunately for my exploration, she marked and underlined what she found provocative, leaving a trail of the ideas and questions with which she grappled.

"The idea that people inhabit their objects and rooms had been suggested to me by all of my portrait work, and at Minnie's I was testing it in depth. I searched for the most specific evidence of her experience…. A realization about Minnie altered my photographic approach. Minnie had an absolute passion for color. It was everywhere. Her favorites were painted on walls, wallpapered, collected in every variety of printed materials, and revealed in her own amateur paintings. Black and while photography would tell of too somber a Minnie Griswold; its portrayal would make too much of her tragedies, too little of her joys. The photographs would have to be open to hand coloring if any sense of her true spirit was to be conveyed. My part in the photographs was to discover the fragments of spirit in the house and to assemble them as an expressive entity. Some attempt to express Minnie's spirit esthetically while creating simple documentary evidence." (Neil Rappaport)

Susanne Rappaport would hand color a large group of these images using the technique of coloring photographs with oil paints employed before the days of color film in photography and very popular at the time Minnie Griswold lived in this house as a young woman. The color gives a kind of living energy to the image space as each black-and-white image is illuminated anew. Since color accuracy was a clear aim, the colorings of interior spaces and arrangements of objects were done at the house, infusing them with "the life that is in things," that Charles Griswold must have felt every time he entered the house after his mother's death.

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Clark Photographic Series—Clark Sugaring and Family (photo #00571)

This series begins with a few pictures Neil Rappaport copied for the Clarks of the couple at the time they were married in 1940. There is also a copy photograph of their son Larry who died as a fairly young man. The next pictures are from a group Neil did on their fiftieth wedding anniversary. At the end of the series there is a photograph of Chester Clark dowsing for water and a few photographs of a birthday celebration for Lenora's brother. The majority of the photographs, taken in 1987, are of Chester and Lenora sugaring together on their farm, something they did for sixty years. Just the two of them, sometimes with help from neighbors, set out over fifteen hundred sap buckets every spring and their maple syrup, maple cream and maple candy were considered some of the best made in the state of Vermont. They also shipped their products all over the country. It was very difficult for the Clarks to give up this annual ritual; probably as difficult as when they gave up farming if not more so, but they just couldn't handle the physical labor and long hours during the compressed and unpredictable period each spring when sugaring occurs. The last of their syrup was sold in 2005.

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Hosley Photographic Series—Hosley Farm (photo #00587)

"Dave and Cindy Hosley are young farmers, just starting out as part of a larger family farm enterprise. In the summer of 1991, they lived with their young daughter, Shannon. While I was making my extended portrait of their farm life, they had a second daughter, Morgan. Dave and Cindy, even early in their careers, manifest the same dedication to hard work, family life and their community. In the setting of a less technologically advanced dairy operation than the Leach Farm, they express an abiding interest in new developments. Like Howard and Freda Rogers, Dave and Cindy bear the farm labor burden together: Cindy is mainly responsible for milking, while Dave concentrates on fieldwork and acts as jack-of-all-trades in the barn." (Neil Rappaport)

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Connors Photographic Series—Connors Garage (photo #CONNO)

Connors Garage was a small neighborhood garage in North Pawlet owned and operated by Ed Connors for many years. When Neil Rappaport photographed there in 1972, the only employee was George Sears. Ed and George could fix almost anything and they worked on cars, trucks, tractors and other farm equipment and even lawnmowers. It was also a gathering place particularly for men interested in hunting. In the morning they would sit around the homemade wood stove at the back of the garage and discuss hunting, politics, town affairs and local gossip. These same men would meet on the weekends to shoot skeet at the back of the garage to help improve their aim for turkey season. Ed Connors also bought and sold guns and maintained a very high quality collection of his own. There are very few of this type of local garage left today.

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Historic Photographic Series—Early Pawlet Images (photo # HISTO)

"In his effort to document the overlap of past and present in a rural community undergoing transition, Neil Rappaport was influenced and inspired by the historic images made by Nellie Bushee (1862-1947) and Ella Clark (1893-1980). Nellie concentrated her portrait-making in private settings; Ella had a photojournalist's eye, documenting the local scene. Not only did Neil Rappaport use their work for study and reference, but also, he photographed several older townspeople who appear as children in these earlier portraits." (Meg Ostrum, text for exhibition "In Place: The Photographs of Neil Rappaport)

Images 001-030 by Nellie Bushee

Images 031-060 by Ella Clark

HISTO_006 - Ella Clark, far right (c.1910)
HISTO_008 - Nellie Bushee and her niece, Mildred (c.1900)
HISTO_023 – Rachel Alexander [Waite] (c. 1915): pair with photo #00061 and #00215 – Rachel Alexander Waite
HISTO_024 – Pauline Smith [Woodruff] (c. 1900): pair with photo #00109 – Pauline Smith Woodruff
HISTO_025 – Edward Clark (c. 1900): pair with photo #00069 – Edward and Mary Clark
HISTO_026 and 027 – Luella Phillips [Croff] (c. 1900): pair with photo #00223 – Herbert and Luella Phillips Croff with their son, Phillip, and his wife, Kathleen
HISTO_057 – George Clark, Pawlet Baseball Team, 1932 (George Clark, front row, fourth from left): pair with photo #00002 – George and Leora Clark

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Slate Photographic Series—Slate Quarry Groups and Landscapes (photo #SLATE)

Neil Rappaport photographed in the slate quarries of West Pawlet and other neighboring towns in Vermont as well as just across the border in New York State for approximately twenty-five years (1970-1995). This series begins with a portrait of the final crew working at the old Evans Brothers quarry, by then a Rising and Nelson quarry, just before it closed in the late 1970s. This is the same quarry where Neil began his work when he first moved to the Pawlet area (refer "Covino Slate Quarry" series). Throughout the series there are portraits of individuals and quarry groups that were made from the mid-1970s through the 1980s. And during the summer of 1993, with the cooperation of quarry operators and the Slate Valley Museum, Neil visited every working operation in the area to make a group of company portraits, crafted according to the direction of the operator to represent the unique aspects of her/his operation. These appear in the series as long narrow "banquet camera style" portraits.

The landscape images are intended to show abandonment of old quarries and how modern technology and quarrying methods were dramatically changing the look of the quarries at this time, creating a new industrial geography. As the quarries became more mechanized and the business boomed through the late 1990s, the landscape continued to change with much larger open pits often connected by roadways. The quarry sticks previously used to lift stone from the pits and so dominant at the horizon throughout the area for decades were gradually disappearing.

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All Images Copyright © Susanne Rappaport. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.
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