Geraldine Brooks Randi Baird
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Randi Baird

Geraldine Brooks: Looking Up To Her And Looking Through The Lens

Photography fills my soul and it’s even more rewarding when my subjects are people I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for. That is the case with Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author and fellow Vineyard resident Geraldine Brooks. Geraldine is genuinely sincere, and a passionate activist for the environment and historical preservation, and has a brilliant literary mind. Her success as a writer of historical fiction is proof of her talent to take facts and develop beautiful, intricate stories around them. 

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Geradline Brooks Books

Before she wrote historical fiction Geraldine was a journalist, expected to present objective stories based on facts. She served as a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and now, as a historical fiction writer, she gets to embellish the truths of the past while letting her imagination run wild and limitlessly. 

Geradline Brooks

I can relate, as I began my photography career as a Photojournalist for Greenpeace, surrounded by intense moments that I had to record exactly as they were happening. As a lifestyle photographer, I now get to tell the stories of my subjects using the environment as an extension of their essence and personality, and I’ve had the pleasure to have Geraldine in front of my camera many times. 

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Geraldine’s latest feat was thinking up the life of Jarret, the young enslaved horse trainer/groom of Lexington, the fastest racehorse of the 19th century. With her typical grace and respect for time, place, and character, she weaves his story in and out with that of a 1950s Manhattan art dealer, a present-day Smithsonian scientist, and a Nigerian-American art historian, in her new book Horse.

Geraldine originally came up with the idea during a random encounter with a Smithsonian Institution official who was talking about moving the bones of the renowned racehorse from the fourth-floor attic of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History to the Museum of the Horse in Kentucky. It seems her inquiring mind never rests. 

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Her idea was nurtured by her late husband, fellow Pulitzer Prize-Winning author Tony Horowitz, whom I also had the pleasure of knowing and working with. Tony provided Geraldine with material from the Museum of the Horse while researching Spying on the South, his novel about the famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted before he was known for Central Park. Jokingly he’d tease Geraldine throughout her writing process “doesn’t look like ‘Horse’ is galloping to the finish line today.’” After he passed she took a year off writing and when she picked it back up she was back in the race, with Horse eventually making his way to the finish line. 

Tony Horwitz

I’ve always been a fan of Geraldine’s work (People of the Book and Year of Wonder are my favorites) and Horse especially appeals to me as both Geraldine and I share the love of horses and riding. Furthermore, I had the distinct pleasure of recently photographing Geraldine for a story in the New York Times Real Estate section with her at home with her own animals, as well as a story in Australia’s Spectrum Magazine promoting the book.

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 I’ve also provided her author photo for the last several books she’s written but the opportunity to shoot her for Spectrum was truly special. When I took on the assignment I was given creative control, with the direction to “go wild,” for the cover image, and in the spirit of horses after all, that’s what I did.

I chose the location to be Misty Meadows, a local equine learning center that strives to provide transformative experiences above and beyond riding through authentic interactions with horses. I sit on the Board of Directors at Misty Meadows and I  intrinsically value the incredible work that they do. 

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To pose beside Geraldine for this untamed portrait I selected Remi from Misty Meadow’s herd–a tall, gorgeous mahogany gelding with a dark mane of hair that appeared similar to Lexington. I positioned them against the outside of the barn on the northside of Misty Meadow’s arena, in the most ideal reflective light.

As a horse person, a fan of Geraldine’s, and an advocate of Misty Meadows, it made for an extremely rewarding experience for me, both personally and professionally. The shoot naturally displayed the intense connection between people and animals, a significant theme in Horse, and I just loved the interaction of it all.

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Following the shoot, I was so inspired that I had the thought to have Misty Meadows host a book launch for Geraldine in promotion of Horse, and to ultimately let more people experience the magic I photographed that day. I approached Geraldine and she was on board, and ever the keeper of great ideas, she suggested that Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. join her in conversation at the event.

Now the public is invited to hear from these two bright minds at one of my favorite places on Martha’s Vineyard, in support of Misty Meadows and the impactful work that they do. I expect it to be a remarkable night in honor of a remarkable story, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it.

Misty Event

Enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at the beautiful Misty Meadows Equine Learning Center in West Tisbury before entering the arena for a conversation with award-winning author Geraldine Brooks and Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. about Ms. Brook’s newest title, Horse. Tickets available here.