Tag Archives: Tom Kretsch

Meandering On The Saugatuck

Bistro du Soleil — the French-Mediterranean restaurant in the old post office on Riverside Avenue — has a loyal following. But it does not get enough attention, either for its food or the ever-changing art on its walls.

This Sunday (November 3, 4 to 7 p.m.), there’s a reception for Westport photographer Tom Kretsch’s photos of the Saugatuck River — the water that runs directly behind the restaurant.

His new exhibit is called “River Take Me Along.” Tom writes:

“The River that Flows Out” is the translation of the word Saugatuck. The Paugusset Indians gave this 23-mile river, with its origins in Danbury, its name.

This treasure of a resource served first as a place of early settlements by Native Americans. Later, settlers farmed along its banks. In the 19th century it was a large shipping port, with warehouses nestled by the edge.

Saugatuck River (Photo/Tom Kretsch)

Today this winding river, flowing through the heart of our community, serves as a wondrous resource for physical and spiritual reflection. From the fishermaen who cast their lines off the Cribari swing bridge to those who fly fish up stream, from the rowers who ply its waters both solo and in team sculls, to the many who simply stop and pause to sit on a bench by the library, the Saugatuck River holds a place in the hearts and souls of many Westporters.

Living close to its banks for 45 years sparked my interest to capture the many magical moods of this flowing body of water. Its ancient path that winds its way, sacred and slow, through woods, ponds, reservoirs and finally into Long Island Sound has provided me a palette to create my impressions of its spirit and soul.

From vantage points on a kayak floating slowly down the stream, to walking along its wooded banks, to standing on a bridge on a misty morning, the river can truly “take our breath away,” as Dar Williams sings eloquently in “The Hudson.”

Saugatuck in the mist. (Photo/Tom Kretsch)

In my series of images I have tried to create both impressionistic and realistic photographs of this ever-changing body of water. I hope the work will speak to you, and draw you into the beauty and spirit of the river.

I hope too it makes you pause and appreciate what a great natural resource this river is for all of us.

Perhaps it will inspire you to take time to explore the Saugatuck’s many nooks and crannies, or simply pause on a quiet summer evening, an early misty morning fog or deep in the fall foliage season to gaze at this gift we have been given.

My journey on this water is always evolving. I continue to look for those moments that speak to me; to capture the many hidden treasures it holds, and that can only be captured in the light that breathes life into our treasure, the Saugatuck River.

(The reception this Sunday is free, and open to the public. Tom Kretsch’s exhibit runs through December 28.)

Newtown: What Remains After All Is Lost?

Four years after the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history, the pain is still raw. Westporters recall that horrific day, and our hearts ache for our friends and relatives in Newtown.

Tomorrow (Wednesday, November 2), theaters all over the country are showing a riveting documentary. “Newtown: What Remains After All is Lost?” will be followed by a national, livestreamed discussion about where we go now.

The poster — a melancholy, misty image of the town’s iconic church — suits the mood.


Photographer Tom Kretsch is a Newtown native.

But Tom has lived for many years in Westport. A former educator in the Norwalk school system, his work has been featured here and throughout Fairfield County for many years.

A few days after the Sandy Hook shooting, “06880” posted a story and image of Sandy Hook Elementary School, taken a few months earlier by Tom. (Click here for that story.)

Tom’s photo of the church hung in Newtown’s Town Hall. Film director Kim Snyder saw it there, and asked to use it for the documentary’s publicity.

Tom Kretsch took this photo of Sandy Hook Elementary School just a few months before the tragedy.

Tom Kretsch took this photo of Sandy Hook Elementary School just a few months before the tragedy.

Snyder spent 3 years in Newtown after the tragedy, gaining confidence and support of many of the victims’ families. The film was shown at last year’s  Sundance Festival.

“Newtown” documents a traumatized community which — though fractured by grief — joins together in a story of resilience.

Mark Barden — whose young son Daniel was one of the 26 children and educators murdered that day — says that the film and conversation that follow are crucial.

“Even though we are spread across the country and won’t be in the same theater, we can all be there watching Newtown and the live-streamed town hall together, starting important conversations about preventable gun violence.

“Losing my sweet little Daniel is something I will never move on from. But what we can do is move forward together, step by step, toward a safer future for our children.”

(The film will be shown locally at the AMC Loews Danbury 16. Click here to buy tickets online, and to find other locations.)

Thoughts Before The Wrecking Ball

Tom Kretsch is a retired educator, an excellent photographer, and — since 1974 — a resident of Wakeman Place. He and his neighbors, the Burroughs family, have been friends for years.

Sometime soon, the Burroughs’ home will be razed. Tom sent along these thoughts on the impending demolition.

Gazing across the street, my eyes are fixated on the parched land once filled with a seemingly forested landscape of hemlocks, rhododendrons, tall pines and several towering oaks. The trunk of a once mighty oak rests on the back roof, which the final slice of the tree man’s saw sent crashing through what was once the studio and home of Esta and Bernie Burroughs.

Peering through the broken windows in the living room are the bare walls where their collection of funky artifacts (including Bernie’ s paintings) were gathered from art shows and places like United House Wrecking long before this sort of collecting and decorating was in vogue.

Walking along the side of the house and into the backyard brings back memories of the magical place it was.  A small swimming pool that Bernie helped create was the focal point of a garden of statues, shaded trees, a funky gazebo and pathways around the pool that led to gardens of shaded plants along a small stone wall.

The Burroughs' house in 1974 -- the day Miggs was married in the back yard.

The Burroughs’ house in 1974 — the day Miggs was married in the back yard.

The back of the house was adorned with signs like “The Remarkable Bookstore” (where Esta  worked for so many years), “Gentleman’s Clothing” (which Bernie made for a friend), and  “Woodman’s Ice Cream Store” (a sign found at some tag sale).

On summer nights friends seemed to gather nightly for little parties. They were the artists of Westport, as Bernie was a fine illustrator. Their social comings and goings often centered around that community, a vibrant part of Westport in those days. We could hear their laughter and joy as we sat on our screened front porch.

Our houses were actually mirror images of each other, built by the same builder back in 1938. My wife Sandi and I aspired to make our place as artistic as theirs. Following the sign example, we bought one in the Berkshires for $3. It said “Homemade Candies and Cookies.” We thought it would look artsy on the front of our house, but after several knocks on the door from people wanting to purchase cookies and then a call from our insurance company asking whether we had started a business in our home, we moved the sign to a less conspicuous place.

And so the Burroughs home awaits the final wrecking ball, a familiar scenario in this town. A new structure will arise, hopefully a tasteful and graceful one that will fit the contours of the land and melt into the fabric of the street. To the unwary driving by, the house now looks like an eyesore deserving of destruction. But for us there is sadness in seeing a place once of such beauty and style standing naked and broken, with but the memories of what used to be.

The Burroughs' house today. The wrecking crew arrives soon.

The Burroughs’ house today. The wrecking crew arrives soon. (Photo/Tom Kretsch)

Time brings change, and things left to their original being are often difficult to fix and salvage. It is easier to tear them down and start from scratch. Over the last years while she was living there, Esta graciously offered me a few of the signs that adorned the outside of the home. Miggs, her son, gave me the “Gentleman’s Quarters” sign during the final days of the salvaging period. This and the others now adorn our home, and remind us of what an inspiration their classy home was to us.

The morning light dances across the old red house that once stood gloriously on Wakeman Place: not a mansion by today’s standards, but truly a unique home that was cared for and loved by a wonderful couple. Like the place Esta worked in, it was “Remarkable.” It is sad to see it go.