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From East Alton to shooting Fashion Week at Lincoln Center, photographer Andrew Walker has forged first-class career

ALTON — So much of life goes by in a flash. For photographers the constant challenge is to capture a moment in time — freezing it as it were — in order to reveal something interesting about a person or event.
That's what Andrew Walker strives to do every day in his work as a celebrity/event photographer.
For the past week Walker has been encamped at Fashion Week in New York City, a semi-annual event where top designers showcase their latest creations which consumers may see in the fall.
As a staff entertainment photographer for Getty Images, Walker has for more than six years now been watching and recording the comings and goings of celebrities at fashion shows, posh parties, sporting events and film festivals, including Cannes in France and Sundance in Utah. The career path that has taken him from East Alton to the Big Apple has been anything but a straight line.
And considering Walker's first try at taking pictures it's a wonder that he found his niche in photography.
"When I was in high school (at Alton Central) I tried taking photographs of games for the school paper. But when I turned in three or four rolls of blank film they took me off the job," Walker said with a chuckle.
But while his initiation to picture-taking was far from auspicious there was another influence in his early life that helped prepare him for his career.
"My dad was a painter. I got a lot of my visual sense from watching him paint," he recalled.
Both Walker's father, Frank, and his stepmother, Margot, are teachers at Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro.
After high school Walker attended Pacific University in northern Oregon where he graduated in 1992 with a major in creative writing and played varsity soccer. While at Pacific he decided to take a photograph course "as a lark." Looking back on that first serious exposure to photography he observed that what he learned was how to take better photographs, "but they don't teach you how to make a living as a photographer."
After college he got a job in a photo lab in Oregon. Processing rolls of film of other people's vacations and family events wasn't for him, and after a year he joined the Peace Corps which sent him to Poland. At the end of his two-year stint in the Peace Corps he joined the non-governmental organization called Building with Books which sent him to Nepal and Bolivia to oversee the building of schoolhouses.
By 1998 he returned to the U.S. and ended up in New York City where he worked at an assortment of jobs, including bartending. Eventually he got a job as a creative director for a company that owned entertainment venues. His responsibilities included overseeing photography and art direction for events. But that job ended shortly after 9/11 when business dropped off.
Rather than seeing the layoff as a setback, Walker viewed it as "unpredicted opportunity." He picked up a camera and with the contacts he had made began doing all sorts of photography assignments: actor's head shot, band performances, bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings, you name it.
"There's a very thin, fine line of people who have gotten me to where I am today," Walker said during a telephone interview on Wednesday during a break from shooting Fashion Week at New York's Lincoln Center. While the spotlight at Fashion Week is on the runway, Walker cruises the sidelines of the event capturing mood, rhythm and style of the occasion. "I walk around the venue looking for alternative views. I want to get something interesting or unique," he said.
His work has brought him into contact with countless celebrities, mostly in the field of entertainment. He drops a couple of names: Megan Boone of NBC's "The Blacklist," and Vanessa Hudgens of "High School Musical" series fame, who Walker was hired to photograph while she was shopping in a New York boutique.
Perhaps because Walker spends so much time around the glitterati of stage and screen he realizes that many people stereotype celebrity photographers. "I get defensive when I hear the word paparazzi," he said. Just about every celebrity he photographs wants to be photographed. Most of the time the shoot has been set up either by the celebrity's representative or a third party who has obtained the celebrity's permission beforehand.
Walker credits his affable manner with his success as a celebrity photographer. "I'm very personable. Talking to people comes easily for me," he explained. "And I try not be too demanding."
While Walker mostly rubs elbows with actors, singers, musicians and the like. His work has brought him into the world of politics. In 2006 he was the personal photographer for Andrew Cuomo during his successful campaign for New York Attorney General, an opportunity that brought him into contact with Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Asked to name someone who he would like to photograph, Walker quickly cites, Hillary Clinton, who he says he greatly admires. But then he adds, "I'd love to be able to shoot any sitting president."
But Walker says that being a photographer is not always as glamorous as it might appear. "(Celebrities) want to be photographed, but they don't want to see the person taking the photo," he observed.
And being a professional photographer means there will be times when there will be humdrum or even unpleasant assignments. Walker recently had an experience of the latter.
On Feb. 2. Walker got a call to go Manhattan's West Village and stand outside Philip Seymour Hoffman's apartment building and try to get a photograph of the actor's body being taken from the building. Walker was on the scene for five hours and the best shot was able to get was of two medical examiners exiting the brownstone building. "It wasn't the kind of assignment that I enjoyed," he said. But then he added that to being successful as a photographer means taking opportunities as they come. "Don't be afraid to take any assignment."

Last Updated on Friday, 14 February 2014 12:23

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Gilford sticks to position that Smith Farm is a road, not a lane

GILFORD — Selectmen this week agreed to keep the name of Smith Farm Road as the address for a lot that was subdivided off from 95 Sleeper Hill Road, despite the desire of E-911 to change it to something more distinct.

Planning Board Director John Ayer said Nathan and Carolyn Smith subdivided a 2.37-acre lot and sold it to another family. He said the sale triggered the need for the Smiths to come up with a new address as they couldn't use 95 Sleeper Hill Road any longer.

Ayer said he learned there are three or more homes off of the new road and E-911 requires the town to assign addresses for emergency responders.

In November, Ayer said he checked with both the fire chief and the acting police chief who agreed the name Smith Farm Road would be appropriate and would not cause any confusion in the event of an emergency response.

Ayer said when he advised E-911 about the new name, a data administrations manager balked and recommended it be changed to Smith Farm Lane so as not to confuse it with Smith Cove Road. The administrator said that Emergency Services Director Earl Cheney would be calling the fire chief or the town administrator to discuss it.

Property owners began clamoring for an address, said Ayer, noting the Smiths operate a maple sugar operation and need an address in order to register their products.

Since Cheney hadn't yet contacted the town, Ayer and Town Administrator Scott Dunn met and decided to recommend to selectmen to name the road Smith Farm Road.

In December of 2013, selectmen officially named the road Smith Farm Road.

Ayer said that when he sent notification to E-911, they immediately got a letter from Cheney opposing the road name and asking them to change it to Smith Farm Lane.

Ayer explained to selectmen Wednesday night that the reasons the road name should remain Smith Farm Road is because E-911 makes non-binding recommendations, the name Smith Farm Road has been used informally for years to identify the Smith's driveway and even appears on Google Maps, the local chiefs didn't find the name confusing, and in his and Dunn's opinion, Smith Farm Lane is also non-compliant with E-911 guidelines.

Dunn pointed out that selectmen do not need the approval of the state to name a town road. He also said that any road name change now could have negative effects on the Smiths and the other residents because they would have to change their addresses for a second time.

He said the Smiths have already printed materials for their Smith Farm Stand business.

 

Last Updated on Friday, 14 February 2014 12:06

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AutoServ opens state-of-the-art collision center on Rte. 140 in Tilton

TILTON — A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the new AutoServ Collision Center on Rte. 140 Wednesday afternoon which was attended by town officials and representatives of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce.
Tom Cavanaugh, fixed operations director for AutoServ, says that the center will feature the latest state of the art technology in welding, painting and auto frame repairs, including the only aluminum workshop in the area, where specialized tools and equipment will be used in making auto body repairs.
Located across Rte. 140 from Kentucky Fried Chicken, the center will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and also will offer off-hour appointments.
All estimates are free and no appointments are needed unless scheduled for off hours according to Cavanaugh.
He said that other benefits available for customers include the ability to file a claim with their insurance company and have AutoServ write the estimate and follow through with the insurance company until the repair is completed.
A 24-hour towing service is available and on-site rentals are available.
''We work with all insurance companies and are the approved shop for many insurance companies which makes it a lot easier for our customers, who will have the peace of mind of knowing that all our repairs are guaranteed,'' said Cavanaugh.
He said that the company is proud that its entire facility is completely compliant with all environmental standards.
AutoServ Collision Center works with the following insurance companies to offer customers a direct repair option: MetLife, Farmers, AIG, Bristol West, MMG, Zurich, Mount Washington, AAA Insurance, Innovation Auto, 21st Century, Allstate, Ohio Mutual.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 February 2014 01:06

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Temps running hot as county budget talks near end

LACONIA — Tempers flared and accusations flew around the meeting room as the Belknap County Convention met Tuesday evening for its second straight day of deliberations on the proposed 2014 county budget.
One of the hotly disputed issues dealt with administrative pay and an effort by County Convention Chairman Colette Worsman to adjust line items in the budget to reflect the salary of County Administrator Debra Shackett, who gets $106,720 a year and whose salary is split 70/30 between the Administration and Nursing Home budgets..
Shackett questioned the numbers Worsman was using and asked how she was calculating them and charged that Worsman was presenting the wrong information to the convention in an attempt to cut her pay.
Worsman denied that she was trying to cut Shackett's pay, but said she was basing her calculations on the $86,720 listed in last year's budget when the convention's Republican majority voted to cut the administrator's pay by $20,000. The ounty commissioners later restored the pay cut by transferring funds from other accounts.
Rep. David Huot (D-Laconia) pointed out that the convention has no control over setting salaries, saying ''we don't have the right to monkey with that.''
Other Democrats weighed in, with Rep. Lisa DiMartino (D-Gilford) asking Worsman why she was attempting to cut Shackett's pay, asking ''do you think she is overpaid?'' and Rep. Ruth Gulick (D-New Hampton) asking ''why are we going through every line and punishing people who don't deserve it?''

Worsman made no reply.
County Commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia) stated emphatically that the convention does not have the authority to set salaries and said that the commissioners would continue to pay Shackett the salary they had agreed on.
It was the third attempt Worsman has made to cut Shackett's pay. In 2012 she attempted to cut the administrator's pay to $89,164, the same amount as County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen makes, but that motion failed on a 11-7 vote.
County Convention Clerk Jane Cormier (R-Alton) defended Worsman, saying that ''there's no way to get to the bottom line unless we do separate salaries'' prompting Huot to say that, while the administrative salaries being apportioned between departments does make for difficult accounting, that ''it doesn't make any sense at all'' to follow the procedure Worsman was using.
Later in the discussion Shackett told Worsman that she was indeed, trying to cut her salary and the audience, composed largely of county employees, broke out in applause.
Commissioners and the convention members also clashed over the legal services line item in the administrative budget. Commissioners had asked for $40,000 and that sum had been reduced to $30,000 by the convention's subcommittee. Worsman, with support of Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia,) moved to reduce that number to $10,000, with Tilton maintaining that the actual expenditures for 2013 were less than $10,000.
That touched off a discussion of the legal action that the convention has voted to take against the commissioners in their year-long dispute over line item budget authority. No legal action has yet been filed and when Rep. Ian Raymond (D-Sanbornton) asked for an update on the suit, Rep. Worsman said she wasn't prepared at this time to talk about in a public session.
Raymond said that the county has already spent $7,554 defending itself against the potential pending lawsuit.
When Worsman made the motion to reduce the legal services line to $10,000 Rep. DiMartino said that with a possible lawsuit pending ''that would be foolish'' but Tilton said that the commissioners had chosen to use funds from the contingency line to pay for legal bills rather than coming to the county's Executive Committee to to seek a transfer, so it was appropriate to hold that line to $10,000.
Commissioners pointed out that transfer requests which had been made were denied by the committee, which is why the contingency line was used.
The motion to reduce the legal services line to $10,000 passed by a 10-7 vote.
Other cuts which the convention is considering in its proposed ''working budget'' total up to $732,855 from the $26.57 million budget proposed by County Commissioners.
County Commissioner Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith) said that the cuts under consideration — which include a 1.6 percent cost of living pay increase as well as 3 percent salary-scale "step' increases for elegible employees, as well as reductions in health insurance, longevity and retirement benefits — will have a devastating affect on the morale of county employees and increase turnover.
''We're going to suffer and people won't want to come here to work.'' said Nedeau.
The convention will meet next Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the Belknap County complex to finalize the 2014 budget.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 February 2014 11:59

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