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Photographing a Long and Winding Road

Route 22 North

 

By Lindsey Pizzica Rotolo

Part-time Norfolk resident Rick Schatzberg was interested in photography as a collector for decades, but didn’t start taking photos himself until five years ago. He spends a lot of time on a bicycle, in Brooklyn, where he and his wife, Marilyn, also have a home, and in and around Norfolk. He wanted to document the things he saw while riding, and so a passion for making pictures bloomed.

Schatzberg retired in 2001 from a long, successful career at Merck, where he had run sales and marketing for their Medco division. “I did the corporate America thing for 17 years. That seemed like enough,” says Schatzberg. The relatively early retirement allowed him to stay home with his children, Lee and Jack, while they were young. “It was so great to have that time with them.”

After a few years, when his kids were more independent, he co-founded a company in the genetics field that he sold five years later. “Then I quickly became obsessed with photography,” says Schatzberg. Playing around with his iPhone’s photo-taking capabilities evolved into making pictures with better and more sophisticated cameras.

“I can’t call it a hobby because it’s all I do,” says Schatzberg. He entered a part-time continuing education program at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in 2013, but as he became engrossed with the subject he decided to apply for Columbia University’s six-week Photography Intensive under photographer Thomas Roma, as well as ICP’s full-time program in 2014.

His son moved up to Burlington, Vt. in 2010, so Schatzberg and his wife began making that trip from Norfolk quite a bit. To vary it up, they started exploring alternate routes and became intrigued with Route 22. Schatzberg was struck by the fact that the rural stretch of road up north is the same route he often took to get from Brooklyn up to Norfolk.

Stretching from the Bronx to Canada, Route 22 is steeped in history. There are parts of the route in Westchester County where it’s still called the Post Road, the old colonial-era mail delivery route between New York and Boston. It was also a major iron ore distribution route during the Civil War, and during Prohibition Route 22 was popular for smuggling alcohol into the states from Canada. “All these layers make it very attractive to me,” says Schatzberg.

Ausable Chasm at midwinter.

Ausable Chasm at midwinter.

“My first impressions had a lot to do with decline—of the architecture, agriculture and industry—but once I started spending time in these towns, meeting people, it came alive.” Schatzberg met a lot of people, in fact. During his extended stays in various towns along the way to Canada, he was particularly struck by the artisanal and niche farming enterprises. He met a gregarious brewery owner, who introduced him to hops farmers and cheesemakers.

“It’s funny. On the Vermont side of Lake Champlain you find great locally grown food and craft beer in all the restaurants. On the New York side, the food scene is pretty dull, but it’s not due to a lack of supply. There are great small, sustainable farms, breweries and cheesemakers in upstate New York.”

When asked what he likes most about photography, Schatzberg says, with a grin, “The surprises.” The photo of the Ausable Chasm, for example, which was used on the postcard advertising his show at the library, was quite a wonder. “I had been to that spot a bunch of times in summer and fall, and there were always people there taking pictures. I decided I should return in the middle of winter when no one else would think of going, and the light was on inside the house. I couldn’t believe my luck.”

“One for the Books,” an international prize for self-published, on-demand photography books, was recently awarded to Schatzberg for the book of photos he published this year entitled “Twenty Two North.” The Ballarat International Foto Biennale selected Schatzberg’s book from among 20 finalists.

An opening reception for the artist will be held on Sunday, November 1 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the library. The work will be on exhibit from November 1 through December 2.

Photos by Rick Schatzberg.

 

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