Fall Foliage Questions? Ask Jeff Folger

The Old Barn

The Old Barn

It’s getting to be that season again: fall foliage, when we head out with our cameras to capture nature going out literally in a blaze of glory. Due to the unseasonably warm weather we’ve had in the Northeast, the foliage in the New York and New England areas is on the late side this year.  My friends from the New England Photography Guild are reporting the colors slowly and gradually developing, and Dr. Robert Kozlow, who has just published his third book of photographs of New Hampshire, tells me it may well be mid-October or later before the colors peak there.

17 - Autumn Color Splash

 Autumn Color Splash

If you want literally up-to-the-minute information on New England foliage, you should be following photographer/blogger Jeff Folger, who with good reason is nicknamed Jeff Foliage. Come this time of year, he hits the road to drive everywhere and report on what he sees. And Jeff reports not only on the status of the foliage itself — he’ll also recommend places to stay when you’re in the area, always places where he himself has stayed, no guesswork here. Check out his blog here.

During the non-foliage season (notice how fall foliage is so important that the other times of yearDSC-2678 s are referred to in the negative), Jeff is busy monitoring all sorts of meteorological reports so he can offer educated prognoses on what sort of a foliage season will await us in New England.  And not only does he offer the information on his blog — he also replies to personal questions, including requests for recommendations for driving tours, etc. (always with the disclaimer that this is not scientific but educated guesswork based on years of experience and research).

Jeff is also a stunning photographer. You can view his work on his Fine Art America website and purchase not only prints but also a wide array of photo products. Click here for a look.

Another disclaimer: The photos in this post aren’t Jeff’s but mine, taken, of course, last year or earlier. (And they’re for sale; click on the image for information.} This year’s burst of color still awaits the attention of my camera.


Amazing Photographer Trio Sheds Light on Letchworth


Letchworth Village: sounds like the name of a pretty New England town, or perhaps a new condo development with all the latest amenities. It’s neither. Letchworth Village is a blot on the history of New York State, certainly a black mark on the state’s treatment of what we now call marginalized people. Located in Rockland County and opened in 1911, Letchworth was a residential institution for the mentally and physically challenged, adults as well as children. It was built on 2,600 acres of woodland and fields and, at the height of its existence, had 130-plus buildings and more than 4,000 patients, and was touted as the ideal place for the mentally challenged to be.

It was anything but. Rumors of mistreatment circulated. Not only were the residents exploited to “benefit the state,” as the Head Psychiatrist’s report from 1921 implied — he advocated that “idiots” not be accepted because they could not do the heavy work (e.g., loading coal, building roads) to which the “morons” and “imbeciles” were assigned — but they were also used for medical experiments, including otherwise untested polio vaccines four years before the Salk vaccine trials began. Overpopulation was a problem already ten years after the facility opened.

In 1946 photographer Irving Haberman made a set of photos that first alerted the outside world to the appalling conditions — the filth, overcrowding, neglect — in which Letchworth’s residents, especially the children, lived. Then in 1972, Geraldo Rivera included a report on Letchworth in an ABC News documentary that focused on a similar institution on Staten Island. This report eventually led to extensive reform of disabilities services throughout the USA but had little immediate effect on conditions at Letchworth.

Photographer Lynn Ronan with two of her pictures

Photographer Lynn Ronan with two of her pictures

Letchworth was permanently closed in 1996. Today it stands in ruins. A few buildings have been recycled for other uses. The others may well be demolished sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, they and the adjoining cemetery stand as silent, accusing testimony to 85 years of state-sponsored gross maltreatment of vulnerable people.

Three local photographers have been making images of what’s left of Letchworth Village and

Camille LaPlaca-Post and some of her images

Camille LaPlaca-Post and some of her images

are now presenting them in an exhibit titled “Letchworth Village: Finding the Human Element in Abandoned Places.” Those of you who are familiar with my work know that this sort of subject matter is right up my alley, but I’ve actually never been to Letchworth. Having gone to the opening reception for this exhibit yesterday, I can say that viewing these photographs is as intense an experience as actually visiting the site.

George Garbeck with two of his photographs

George Garbeck with two of his photographs

The photographers — Lynn Ronan, Camille LaPlaca-Post, and George Garbeck — are all membersOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA of the prestigious Ridgewood (NJ) Camera Club. Each has a uniquely personal way of responding to and interpreting the “human element” in this abandoned place — or, perhaps I should say, more than one personal way: What impressed me most about the exhibit as a whole is that each photographer captured different aspects of the subject matter and, in the postprocessing, interpreted the image as s/he saw fit, whether color, black-and-white, or infrared, whether tending toward the documentary or the very creatively artistic — and yet it all comes together; there is still a unity about it in which a response to this place called Letchworth Village is uppermost and the individuality of each photographer serves that purpose.  It’s moving, chilling, and appalling all at the same time. I’m hoping to return and see it once more at least.

“Letchworth Village” is on exhibit at the Suffern Free Library, 210 Lafayette Avenue, Suffern, NY until the end of September. Lafayette Avenue is the same as Route 59, and the library is on the left if you’re going east. Click here for opening times.  If you’re anywhere near the neighborhood, absolutely don’t miss this exhibit.