In Connecticut, a Quintessential Christmas

In Connecticut, a Quintessential Christmas

Her own favorite Christmas adornment? “I like stockings around the fireplace so I always have those.”

Following are edited excerpts from an interview with Ms. Davis.

When you were doing the book, did you get caught up in the spirit of the season?

What blew me away was how generous people were with their time — it’s so busy that time of year. This is going to sound corny but I found that people were more about the Christmas spirit than they were about the materialism of the holidays — they invited me into their homes, their businesses. A police officer held up traffic in Litchfield so I could get my dusk shot. I couldn’t believe how friendly people were and how excited they were to share their passion for Christmas with me.

Why are people drawn to places like Connecticut during the holidays?

New England’s old and you’re going to find old houses here and old traditions. Especially today when we’re moving a million miles an hour, I think that people really like the simplicity of that. What I appreciated was that it’s so beautiful out there, especially at night, with all the different lights and all the different decorations.

There are a lot of shore towns in Connecticut — what impressed you about how they observed the season?

I love Mystic Seaport so I’m definitely biased. But I had never been there at Christmastime. The decorations were simple yet apropos for boats. Noank is a very, very small town on Fishers Island Sound — every Christmas [season] the people who live there put out paper bags with lights in them; there are a thousand of them. And that was really stunning.

The annual Boar’s Head Festival at the Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford, which celebrates the Epiphany (complete with jugglers and jesters), is prominently featured in “A Connecticut Christmas.” What was it like to photograph?

To me that was the most visually stunning shoot that I had in the book. It was so colorful. All the people in it are volunteers, and they had a live camel, a llama and geese. All the costumes were handmade and homemade. They had hundreds of people in this play, and all the activities happen up and down three aisles to the point where they eventually all wind up on the stage and create this tableau. I was just blown away by the coordination of that. And then the music — there was a live chorus. It was gorgeous; the whole thing was just a feast for the eyes.

Do you have any tips for people who might want to photograph boat parades and holiday festivals?

Bring a tripod. Because those things don’t have a lot of light and you’re going to need to stop the action. This is why shooting those boats was so challenging because it’s getting dark, you need to stop the action, otherwise you’re going to have blur — but you want to keep a lot of that ambient light that’s coming off of the boat. So I actually used a flash — it was on a tripod doing a long exposure with just a hint of flash going off. Now I’ll probably be out of a job.

Did the book inspire you to do any Christmas-y things?

Actually, I just finished making wreaths out of wine corks. My friend owns a vineyard so we made a lot of wine-cork wreaths and I decorated them with sea glass and seashells. I already hung my wreath up — because it’s art!

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