Inspired by Photographer Yousuf Karsh

I spent a bit of time this evening looking through one of my books of portraits by Yousuf Karsh- “Karsh Portraits”, that I’ve kept in my studio now for about ten years now… A book that once was my grandfather’s, and my Mom felt I should have with the copy of the portrait of Grandpa that I have now hanging on the wall over the Giclee Printer… After Grandpa had passed she told me that he had wanted me to have them…

I sat here in the new studio, legs up on the milk can I use as a drawing stool, reclining some in my computer chair, the hardcover book in my lap… Opening carefully the now worn hard cove, as to not loose any of the article clippings that are within, as well as the letter to Grandpa from Karsh he had taped inside… I read the letter again, and then all of the articles, remembering grandpa sharing this with me so many times over the years…

My Grandfather- Vernon deTar, Past Professor Juilliard School (organ and church music) from 1947 to 1982 http://www.countrygraphics.us/VernonLdeTar.html

The look on Karsh’s face when Grandpa let him push the some of the keys to the great organ in the Church of the Ascension in NYC… The deep note you could feel deep within your chest that shakes every muscle and bone from within and the look of wonder and childish joy on Karsh’s face made me laugh I recall… He watched as Grandpa played a few pieces, then after took some photos of him near the the keyboards and he looked up and said, That’s the one…

We spent some time after, sipping some coffee as he admired the church, Grandpa telling him of the artwork and great stained glass illustrations that the church has within…

Then Grandpa told him I wanted to be an Artist, and had an interest in photography… Karsh looked at me with a smile, then very stern, as if his dark eyes where looking into me deeply… He asked if I had a camera and was shooting photos, and I pulled out my kodak 620 film camera that once was my father’s in the early 50’s… He smiled as I told him of spending hours feeding chipmunks and chickadees to get them to eat out of my hand, so I could get a close up photo with the camera of them…

Karsh Portrait of Robert Frost

Karsh laughed, telling me that was a good idea, then said with a serious look; “To be a photographer, you need to understand light and shadow, and be able to capture your subject eyes in a photo, tell a story with it, capture their soul- practice and keep practicing”… He asked if I had been to the Met and recommended I should go, which Grandpa said we where planning on going the next morning, Karsh approved…

Karsh Portrait of Picasso

He then looked at me and said; “You need to study the great artists and how their works where created, study as much Art as you can, look to the great Renaissance Master’s, learn through their works and keep practicing”… He then reached out and ruffled my hair and winked at me, then started talking with my Grandfather again…

Karsh Portrait of Georgia O'keeffe

I was suddenly started watching one of the men that was with Karsh, take his large camera apart putting it in boxes… I remember how fascinated I was with such a huge camera that would need a tripod to take photos with, and not just hold in your hand and that you would need two men to help take just one photo- so simple the thoughts of a 14 year old… A few months later I got my first 35mm camera from Grandpa, as he later told me that Karsh had recommended he get a camera a bit more up to date and easier to process to keep me interested in photography… Grandpa often referred to Karsh over the years, when ever I was visiting…

Karsh Portrait of Einstein

It wasn’t until my senior year of high school I started to grasp who this photographer truly was, that enticed my Grandfather to buy my my first 35mm camera… I started to laugh a bit to myself, as I at the time only looked to Grandpa deTar as “Grandpa”, and this fellow was just a photographer, not then having much of a clue just how much that that day would influence me in the future…

I sit here in the studio now, just looking at the photos, the faces, the eyes and wrinkles upon the faces, the eyes again, then the fullness of the locations and how he was able to capture not only the light, control the light but to also show the person from within- these great people of history…

Each time I do this, I notice more and more and understand what Karsh’s advice meant- I want to learn more, see more and practice more… A memory Yousuf Karsh, and what an inspiration he was in my life…

For more information about Yousuf Karsh

 Visit his website at: http://www.karsh.org/

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My Hero, My Mom- Neenah Kromer

My Mom, Neenah Kromer

One of the most influential people in my life has been my Mom, Neenah Kromer, but she didn’t just influence me, she has become one of my heroes too…  Yes we all love our mothers and how much love and care they pour into us from the time we are born, through childhood, teenage years and every day of our lives we are a major part of their cares, worries, hearts and thoughts…  But for me, My Mom is really special, as she has given to me so much more then just knowing how to tie me to walking, talk, which fork or spoon to use and the basics of life, she taught me will power and responsibility and not giving up and one of the largest things, to be myself for whom I am and not live under other’s shadows…

Pride of my Family History she gave me too…  My grandfather was a professor at Julliard teaching classical Piano and Church Organ Music.

Vernon deTar, Photograph by Yousuf Karsh

My Mom was accepted at her Father’s Amimoto, Syracuse University, studying to be a Voice major in the Visual and Performing Arts College… She had already had a couple of albums with her and my Grandfather singing church music and song- a beautiful voice even today, a voice as if she being an angel… He also was the Organ and Choirmaster at Church of the Ascension in New York City… He received Syracuse University’s highest awards, the Arents Award… Through the deTar name a cousin of mine traced it back to one of the three ships of Columbus, the Nina, where one of the Lady’s in waiting of the French King’s court had escaped the French Revolution with her head…  They also traced it back to the first use of the stamp for letters, and to be proud of her part of my family history with great uncles and Aunts that where a Doctors and a Nun…

Nina deTar as a student at Syracuse University

But one thing bothered her while in Syracuse University, she was always introduced as Vernon deTar’s daughter and not as Nina deTar for her own achievements…  This too I also had the chance to experience while I also was at Syracuse, and I also grew to kind of stay away as often as I could from the being introduced as Vernon deTar’s grandson, though now I have more pride in this, as I have also achieved my own self wealth, and now take more pride in my family history but like to not depend on it…  Does add to very interesting conversations though, and I do take great pride now in knowing his history too… Because of this my Mom taught me in this way to “Stand on my own merits” and it wasn’t until recently I started to talk to others of who my family was and their history…

Mom changed from being a Voice Major in the College of Performing Arts the School of Education, obtaining bachelors of Education from Syracuse University with final classes with me inside of her… She often would tell me laughing the story of how her last professor would make sure she was comfortable and his great worries she would give birth in his class…

As a child, I’ve memories of visiting my Grandfather in New York City.  It was here she taught me of the beauty of Art in its many facets…  In the Church of the Ascension beautiful art stained glass windows paintings murals and building architecture…  Memories of her and Grandpa deTar walking through the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts the wonder in my eyes of paintings, sculptures and so many kinds of artworks…  How she always supported and encouraged me to follow my dreams of becoming an artist even excepting somewhat my drawing on walls as a child later buying me proper art supplies watercolor, oils paints and charcoal…

Her life has also been filled with so many people that makes me sit back in wonder of the Who’s-who’s of culture and history she had the chance to meet and share life and learning with…

Eleanor Roosevelt Portrait

In stories she tells me, my sister with her children of who taught her which of tea time with one of my Grandfather’s friends, Eleanor Roosevelt whom enjoyed his organ playing so much within Episcopal Church of the Ascension, 5th Avenue at 10th Street, New York City where she use to sing in the Choir…  How Eleanor Roosevelt had her and her friends after school for Tea Time, there how to set a table and the proper way of sipping tea, in little tea parties she would hold for the young women from her school…

In my youthful hell raising days Mom would tell me of her helping tutoring

Chuck Mangione

Chuck Mangione an American flugelhorn player and composer who achieved international success in the jazz-pop scene…  Mom would give some examples of the 60’s artist scene and how she knew of things regarding my youthful hell raising days…  How often she would play his music and I would listen to his playing, as she would tell me of her knowing and helping him through college at Syracuse…  Through my listening to her collection of his albums I grew to enjoy Jazz music…

While she was working at Cornell she was the secretary of Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr.

Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr., B.A., Ph.D

an American literary critic, educator, scholar, writer, editor, public intellectual and He was the first African American to receive the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship…  She gave me the chance to meet him and also some of the people that came through his office he knew such as

Nobel Prize Winner Wole Soyinka

Nobel Prize Winner, Wole Soyinka…  She was also able to allow me to meet some of these great people that will leave their print on American and world history, such an enlighten…  She taught me not to see people as color, but for whom they truly are within…

I was in 9th grade when my Mom was able to get something she had ever wanted a small farmsted an old salt box styled house dating back to around 1875 with a nice sized Dutch styled barn and about 5 acres, half of which was wetlands…  We started to raise pigs and a couple beef cows and got to the point of having 24 head of dairy cows…  She also had great joy in having ducks and chickens, and a very large garden…  Heating with firewood I started to do the firewood to heat the house and learned to do chores of taking care of the animals and milking…  Here she taught me major responsibility, how to do a large garden the enjoyments of it’s harvest…  It was also this property that I got to start to do carpentry, building and renovations within the old house…  A farm I now have it begin a 2nd generation ownership and great pride in the last 20 years of renovations I have put into this old family farmstead…  Hobbies, appreciation of owning a property and the enjoyments of animals and gardens because of my Mom…

While I was in High School, my Mom started suffering from a very bad back…  It got to the point where she finally had to go in for surgery on her spine…  She had a spinal tap and for a few seconds her heart didn’t pump, she died, but it suddenly started to pump again…  I feel an angel was around then, knowing this wasn’t her time, and helped my Mom back into her Body then- I like to think it was Grandma deTar…  This back problem though was so hard on her she needed to stop working for a while, it didn’t stop my Mom, she learned to grit her teeth and bare this insane pain, she still worked on the farm she had bought…  She would do some of the milking and not be afraid of pushing a cow or a pig to where they should be, would drag bags of grain or bails of hay to help feed them and for years she also would buy coal in 100 pound bags for heating the farm house…  She taught me to bare the pains, to go forward and do what truly needed to be done for family and friends…

It gave me happiness when I first graduated High School to see my Mom in tears of joy in watching me graduate from High School, lets say I was a handful with my “girl chasing, fast cars, fast living and hell raising” days…  The happiness she had in her eyes when I was accepted and planned to go off to College in Boston at Chamberlain Jr. College will always stick in my mind, she was so happy and also very supportive of my going into the Arts… Later when I finally was accepted to Syracuse University, she glowed with deep happiness and pride, I would be the third generation through her and my Grandpa deTar, to become a Syracuse University Alumni…  She is still very proud of this part of my life and my achievements…  It was her inspiration and pushing me to go to college and to acquire a life of learning and giving of your self…

When I finished and came back to this town without a stoplight Mom has been involved with the 19 years of volunteering in the town Ambulance squad…  She helped raise money for them to get an Ambulance garage new ambulances and her volunteer work she also would make run after run, some times never sleeping, helping people…  She and I also joined the beginning years of the Candor Chamber of Commerce and she was on the committee that helped to write the bi-laws that this Chamber still uses…  The pride in her eyes later when I would become the Web Master, a Director on the board then finally a Vice President of the Town Chamber also gives me pride as she was one of the founding members and so implemental in it’s beginning days…  She also was proud when I was a major idea and supporter and founding member of the Candor Economic Development Committee…  She taught me to give of yourself and your abilities to help others…

Two years ago, my Mom was diagnosed with having Lung Cancer…  She had recently remarried a very Great fellow,

My Mom on her wedding day with her husband Rick Kromer

who is also earning my deep respect in his views and life as I get to learn more about his life’s history- Rick.  In her learning she got Cancer, they started to do Chemo treatments on her, the really heavy hard kind…  This was so hard on her; she not only lost her hair, but also suffered greatly in loosing energy, and even fainting several times…  But this didn’t stop my Mom; she would do a hat to protect her skin, but not to hide her lack of hair…  And she continued to work her part time jobs, not giving up as often some do… She has stopped the heavy treatments of radiation and has been going through a less evasive form, which she is now able to feel a bit better, not loosing as much energy or her hair…  she even took major pride when her hair started to come back curly, joking; “All these years of getting perms and finally I have what I enjoy and don’t need to spend so much time after a shower on my hair”…  She still amazes me each day and every time I share some time with her, learning a bit more of her history, the people she knew and those in her life I didn’t know about as I was a child and blind to seeing the small world children life in…

Her life and the people and places she has had in her life, the places she has been and experiences I haven’t enough space to continue to go into some details off… I have been trying to get her to write an Autobiography of her life as I am leaving so many people she has met and places she has seen out of this…  And I will continue to try to get her to write this too… Once I am able to sell the farm and move down near her we also will be creating a DVD of Grandfather’s life, his achievements and his music…  When I finally open my Internet Café, I hope to she will also be able to help me with it to have classes of teaching older people how to use the computer and get online… So many things I seem to be leaving out of her life and how those too earned me such deep respect in her…  An amazing person and humble and she has given so much of herself and her life to others, this too she taught me…

You combine all of this together and my Mom becomes a living hero to me!!! For all she has taught me and in how deeply she has also earned my undying respect in her… She isn’t just my mother, she is a friend, a past & future business partner and will always be my hero- My Mom, Neenah Kromer…

Happy Belated Mother’s Day Mom, you mean the world to me!!!!

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