From the series, CELEBRATING SARAH
I first met Sarah Fleck and her parents in the nineties when I was drawn to their "fresh eggs for sale" sign posted at the driveway of this house beside the road, and I became an occasional customer for their free-range hens' produce. I was also attracted to the rather unusual outdoor accoutrements that adorned the yards and porches, decorations that showed great care and playfulness, and — originality.
Every time I passed by the house, I admired the lawn displays that were elaborately set up and faithfully changed with every holiday throughout the year. I was amazed to see that someone was going to so much effort to make these "only in America"-type installations.
I decided that I should delay no longer and follow through with my desire to photograph her place. While knocking on Sarah's door, I heard dogs barking and birds chirping inside the house. And outside, there were various feral cats that kept circling me to gauge my worth and their degree of trust. There were several minutes for me to observe that the back porch and the garage and back lawn were all equally rich with someone's very particular style of decorating.
When Sarah answered the door, I was hoping she would remember me from the "eggs for sale" days, and allow me to photograph her and her yard for one full year, at every holiday. I explained about the big 8x10-inch view camera I would be using and that each session would take many hours and days, and that these pictures would not be snapshots.
We soon had good conversations about her place, my photographing intentions, and the gaining of her permission to record this particular and delightful American experience.
1969 was the year that Sarah decided to extend her father's tradition by doing a more elaborate outdoor decorating job to commemorate each and every holiday throughout the year—and, she has not missed a holiday or a year of doing so since then, adding a little more each year, and arranging a little differently each year. (Her parents had passed away in the intervening years.)
While photographing one day, it suddenly occurred to me to call this series "Celebrating Sarah" with its double meaning as both verb and adjective to honor her lively spirit and dedicated effort at making the world a little bit more fun and light-hearted for her friends, her neighbors, and all who pass by.