For 20 years I had held onto a photograph, found in a friend's attic, made around 1900 on Pawtuckaway Mountain in southeastern New Hampshire. The picture shows the family homestead of George W. Goodrich, a barefoot farmer who was also a diarist, fiddler, and eccentric. And a large landowner with a respectable bank account.
Sometime in the late 1800s, George became a photographer.
I recognized where that old photograph had been made. I knew the foundation stones of the workshop, the smaller cellar under the house, the graveyard out back. The road follows almost the same track as it did 150 years ago, but the old fields have grown up to large trees in today's Pawtuckaway State Park. I found the boulder where he must have set up his camera to photograph his homestead. I set up my tripod.
That was the beginning. I found more Goodrich photos eventually, and other photographs in historical societies and personal collections. Initially I was interested in changes in land use. Over time I was seduced by the quiet drama between different generations of people in the same place. The past is the frame for the present, wherever it is seen. The discoveries, the surprises, are in how they come together.
Because of the wonderful collections of available materials in small institutions, I have been drawn to local historical societies and underfunded state agencies. They have provided access to collections of old photographs and have hosted several exhibits and locally published books.