With his allegiance to dewy-eyed innocence and earnest sentimentality, the illustrator Norman Rockwell has often been mocked for creating an America that never was and never will be.
But Kevin Rivoli, a photojournalist in upstate New York, will tell you that's just not true. He knows because he's documented it.
Rivoli has spent the past 15 years capturing timeless moments in contemporary America — the solemn christenings and squirmy first haircuts, the town meetings and patriotic parades, the youthful shenanigans and the mature reverence symbolized by elderly hands resting on a well-thumbed bible.
PHOTO: NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE
He calls his project In Search of Norman Rockwell's America, and by autumn his photographs will have grown into a book, published by Prestel, and a traveling exhibition, overseen by International Arts and Artists, that juxtaposes Rivoli's images with Rockwell's.
The project has received the blessing of the Rockwell family; the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts; and Curtis Publishing, owners of the Saturday Evening Post, whose covers Rockwell illustrations adorned. Additionally, some scholars hope that Rivoli's images will put the old criticism about Rockwell to rest once and for all.
“I cover a lot of small-town America,” said Rivoli, 47, a contract photographer with the Associated Press who occasionally does work for the New York Times. “I'm not a war photographer, I'm not in metropolitan America. I tend to look for connections between people.
“Rockwell did a lot of that in his artwork,” he said.
Rivoli connected with Rockwell 18 years ago when he and his future wife, Michele, visited the Rockwell Museum. There they learned of critics' contentions that Rockwell's images were trite and kitschy figments of their creator's nostalgic imagination.
“Kevin immediately said, ‘He's not creating an America that doesn't exist,'” Michele Rivoli, a former reporter, recalled. “'Those moments do exist, and I have them on film.'”
Over time Rivoli collected more than 120 such images, mostly the result of spontaneous moments snapped during assignments in upstate New York. For example, a photo of altar boys at a 1996 wedding in Otisco recalls the Choirboy cover Rockwell drew for the Post in 1954. “When I go into an assignment that could be boring, I try to look for the picture within the picture, the essence of Norman Rockwell,” he said. “I always think, ‘How would he paint this?'”
For a while the Rivolis owned a gallery near their home outside Auburn, in the Finger Lakes region. But they closed shop two and a half years ago to spend more time with their small twin sons.
“My concern was that Kevin wasn't going to have a creative outlet for people to enjoy what he did,” Michele Rivoli said. So she suggested that he compile his images into a book.
“One day we started looking at Rockwell's artwork, and it was kind of uncanny, in that the pictures would match up,” Rivoli said. “There were a lot of parallels between what I was shooting over the years and what he painted.”
The Rivolis sent the images to the Rockwell Museum and to John Rockwell, Norman's grandson, who granted the Rivolis the rights to use the artist's art and name.
“I thought it looked great, and I thought it was nice that he was inspired by Norman's pictures,” John Rockwell said. “I think the moments in Norman's pictures, if they actually didn't take place, they could have taken place. I think Kevin's pictures do show that there's a side of America that still exists.”
Rivoli's images may help buttress the argument that Rockwell's illustrations helped to give rise to feature photojournalism in the 1950s and 1960s.
“Rockwell really taught photographers to see those common everyday moments, which he defined through his covers for the Saturday Evening Post,” said Andrew Mendelson, chairman of the journalism department at Temple University.
“The era of illustrators is really over, and in my argument that era has been replaced by photojournalism,” said Mendelson, who has written about Rockwell's impact for publications like Journalism History.
The chills were what first tipped me off that something was wrong. It was an early Thursday evening in late February and I was sitting in my office. I normally hit an energy low this time of the day but this was different, as I suddenly felt chilled, absolutely drained of energy, the lightest of achiness in my muscles and joints and a slight pain behind my eyeballs. I went home, took a long hot shower and went to bed early. After a full day of rest, I felt normal enough on Saturday to jump on my bike and enjoy
1. If you go to the hospital for a check-up, plan for the worst-case scenario — having to stay there without returning home. Have a hospital “grab bag” to either take with you or have someone deliver. Recommended items include: T-shirts, shorts and sleeping clothes, socks and underwear, sweater/fleece, personal toiletries and medications, computer (and headphones) and phone plus charging cables, towel, slippers, nail clippers and reading material. Also, have a water bottle/container that nurses can fill up with drinking water. Remember that Taiwanese hospitals generally only provide the most basic of daily necessities. 2. If you test positive, anticipate
When a man surnamed Chen discovered that his wife, surnamed Chang, was having an affair with a foreign national surnamed James, he hired private investigators to catch them having sex. Chen and three private investigators staked out James’ apartment and, when they heard moaning sounds coming from Chang, burst in and filmed the couple in flagrante delicto. A judge later found the pair guilty of adultery and sentenced them to four months in prison, and ordered the foreign national to be deported. Like anywhere, adultery is a daily occurrence in Taiwan, and rarely a day passes when an adulterous couple
Over a million people flooded Kenting National Park over two weeks in 1986 to see Halley’s Comet, massively boosting the area’s tourism industry March 30 to April 5 About 30,000 disappointed visitors lingered on the streets of Kenting National Park on the evening of March 28, 1986. Established just two years earlier, Taiwan’s first national park had never seen so many visitors — all hotels were full, hundreds of tents cramped the campgrounds and the latecomers slept in their cars. Most had traveled here just to catch a glimpse of Halley’s Comet, which only passes by the Earth every 76 years or so. That year, the comet was more visible the further to the south, and Kenting’s location at Taiwan’s southernmost tip made