How This Photographer Captures The Places "Where American Ideas Began"
Long Island, New York-based photographer Xiomáro first picked up a camera on a trip to Arches National Park in 2006—and he never put it down. A former music industry lawyer, he now documents historic sites and natural landscapes for the National Park Service and other clients. We recently caught up with Xiomáro about his work, and have gathered some photo selections and excerpts from our conversation below.
Have you always been interested in historic places?
Yes. My parents were avid collectors of antique radios and furniture. My father had a business where he made antique chair reproductions. So I’ve always been appreciative of decorative arts, carving, and things of that nature. My parents used to take us to historic houses. And they would take us on lots of road trips to visit national parks.
Are you equally interested in photographing architecture and landscapes?
I just finished a commission for the National Park Service’s New England National Scenic Trail, in partnership with the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Connecticut Forest & Park Association. I’m also doing some landscape photos of Fire Island National Seashore, and Big Cypress National Preserve down south.
I do see a similarity between architecture and landscape; one is designed by human beings and the other is designed by nature. I’ve seen some patterns in nature that are stunning. Some of the sand photos I’ve taken at Fire Island, you would think somebody drew out these shapes. So I think there is a connection between the two.
What are your favorite historic sites?
They tend to be the ones I’ve worked at the latest. Right now, it’s the New England National Scenic Trail and Fire Island National Seashore. But I would also say Weir Farm National Historic Site in Connecticut. And I say that because it’s the homestead of an artist. Indeed, it’s the only national park in the whole system that is dedicated to American painting.
I feel a kinship to that place. It’s a very iconic landscape. But it’s also a historic landscape. And Weir Farm is where I got my start as a photographer. I began there as an artist-in-residence in 2011.
When people think of the national parks, they’re going to think about Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon. But there are so many parks that, while they don’t give you spectacular views, they offer something more for the mind. They have their own grandeur, and the landscape is beautiful. These are places where American ideas began.
You’ll find the paintings of Julian Alden Weir (of Weir Farm) in the Smithsonian. He was a rock star in the day. Then there are other places in the Northeast, like the homes of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Frederick Law Olmsted. Photography gives me a way of drawing attention to these places.
A lot of these houses are very dark in nature, so there's a lot of shadow. I don't use flash very much. I try to play with the light that's there.
What is it like being in these houses that were inhabited by key figures in American history?
You read about these iconic figures like Theodore Roosevelt, Longfellow, and Olmsted, and you see programs about them on TV. But when you’re actually walking on the very floorboards where they walked, or you see the door handles and know their hands were on it, it just gives you a whole different visceral experience.
I did some photography for the home of William Floyd, which is part of Fire Island National Seashore. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. When I was photographing that house, I learned that those rooms were frequented by his friends, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. It was incredible to know that these world-renowned figures were right there in the same room that I was in. That’s a feeling I try to convey in my photos.