Longer winter nights and body blankets are custom-made
for curling up with a good book. That’s one reason bookstores are
popular places this time of year; well, there’s also a little something
called “The Holiday Season.” But books are never out of season,
although those on your Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa lists would likely appreciate these two new releases.
It’s not every year that coffee-table
books with a local bent are available, but 2008 is a happy exception.
In addition to Onondaga Historical Association curator of history
Dennis Connors’ latest photo look at Syracuse’s prime, Historic Photos of Syracuse
(Turner Publishing Company, Nashville, Tenn.; 206 pages;
$39.95/hardcover), two tomes bring Central New York and the entire
Empire State into focus.
In Search of Norman Rockwell’s America
(Howard Books, New York City; $24.99/hardcover) features photographs by
Auburn-based freelance shooter Kevin Rivoli alongside artwork by none
other than Norman Rockwell. And New York: Yesterday & Today
(Voyageur Press, Minneapolis; 144 pages; $25/hardcover) brings to seven
the number of books local author Meg Schneider has published.
Americana, the beautiful: Kevin
Rivoli (above) couldn’t compile a book of all-American scenes without a
few baseball selections. Here are his “Autograph” , paired with
“Gee, Thanks Brooks” from Norman Rockwell. The page on which the
Rockwell painting appears includes a writeup from none other than the
Baltimore Orioles great, Brooks Robinson.
Rivoli, who shoots for such media as the Associated Press, The New York Times and USA Today,
worked on his book for the past two years, drawing from 18 years of
photos he had taken throughout Central New York. He praises his wife
Michele Rivoli for nudging him to take on, and finish, the project.
“This book was my wife’s idea,” he says
from his Auburn home. “Without her, it never would have happened. She
made contacts with the publisher, the Rockwell Museum.” In fact, it was
at that Stockbridge, Mass., venue where the Rivolis discovered that the
critics weren’t always kind to Rockwell, best known for his iconic Saturday Evening Post covers, all 300-plus of them. “The critics thought the America he painted was idyllic, a little too optimistic,” Rivoli says.
But something about Rockwell stuck with
Rivoli, and he realized that, although their media differ, their themes
don’t. “My work tends toward the Americana, slice-of-life,” he says.
“When we started putting the book together, it started as a mockup of
one Rockwell image. My wife began doing research on Rockwell’s archives
and realized that things match up, there were 68 pairings of my work
and his; enough to do another book.”
You read right, folks, 68 examples of
thematic similarities in Rivoli’s photos and Rockwell’s paintings, from
kids fishing from a shoreline, to a friendly cop-and-kid encounter,
from citizens reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to voters contemplating
the ballot. “All of the moments I shoot are spontaneous; it would be
impossible to set up that many matches,” Rivoli says about the
remarkable coincidence. “I never set out to mimic Rockwell, I just went
out to take a picture. It just proves that the America that Rockwell
painted is alive and well today.”
Next to each pairing of photo and
painting are mini-essays by politicians, celebrities, business gurus
and famous athletes. And we’re not talking Paris Hilton, but folks like
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, former Chrysler chair
Lee Iacocca, former President Jimmy Carter and Apollo 13 commander Jim
Lovell. As quickly as the book fell into place, it was just as smooth
for Michele Rivoli to make such contacts.
“She got on the phone and she did it
through e-mail,” says Kevin when asked how such people got into his
book. “She either got them directly or their assistants. No one really
gave us a hard time. Debbie Reynolds called our house, and when Michele
called him, Sidney Poitier picked up the phone.” Alas, Poitier couldn’t
contribute because he was working on a book of his own.
If nothing else, Rivoli wants his
readers to embrace this book for the everyday it captures. “A lot of
times we let those simple moments pass us by,” he explains. “These
quiet moments are often the most significant moments in our lives. The
book is meant to celebrate and embrace those moments that Rockwell
painted and are with us today. I also hope to introduce Rockwell to a
And the fact that those moments (the
photographed ones, anyway) took place right in our own back yard drives
the point home further. That’s why Rivoli didn’t label the locales for
the photos, although some of them carry clues, like the Hiawatha Seaway
Council badge-wearing Eagle Scout or the Auburn Doubledays jersey worn
by the baseball player.
“It’s almost like Anytown, USA,” Rivoli
says. “To say Moravia, New York, is almost too specific. It could be
Oklahoma. What’s important is that you see the moment and it speaks to
you, not where it came from.”
While book signings are always in the
works, Rivoli has on his calendar the following event: Sunday, Dec. 14,
noon to 5 p.m., at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 17 William St.,
Auburn. For more information, call 253-3331. To keep track of future
events, visit kevinrivoli.com.