Greene: Vermont Life's Photo Legacy
Vermont Life Magazine was founded in 1946 to attract visitors by celebrating the state’s culture and natural beauty.
With lyrical articles and stunning photography, it touched a nostalgic nerve in people across the country. By 1970 it had 100,000 subscribers, 90% of them outside the state.
The decades between 1945 and 75 were a golden age of American photography, sustained in part by the national magazines Life and Look. Vermont Life Magazine benefited from that wealth of talent.
My parents were the southern Vermont writers and publishers Stephen and Janet Greene, and for three decades they wrote for the magazine. During those same years, the magazine featured the work of many exceptional photographers – and three who stood out for me were Neil Priessman, and the husband-wife team of Bullaty-Lomeo.
Neil was our friend and neighbor, a dapper and laconic gent with an extremely dry sense of humor. A superb cook and world traveler, he often entertained my family, occasionally pulling out photos from his travels. As a child, I loved visiting him because he seemed to have an almost magical supply of kittens.
Sonja Bullaty and Angelo Lomeo were extraordinary photographers, who published in Life and Time magazines, exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the International Center of Photography. Sonja and Andy were often our houseguests and I remember them constantly taking pictures. It was especially lovely being around Sonja, a smiling and gentle presence as she clicked away.
Much later I learned she was the daughter of a prominent Jewish banker in Prague, who had been given a camera by her parents when forced to leave school at 14 as the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia. She was the only member of her family to survive the concentration camps. Bullaty once said, “I celebrate life and beauty precisely because I have seen so much pain and ugliness.” She met Andy, a native New Yorker, after coming to New York in ’47, where they began working together, then married in ‘51.
In 1961 they published a photo essay of a group of us kids celebrating the joys of spring by chasing a ball, rough housing and jumping rope. It’s a privilege to have a moment like that preserved by such artists.
The exceptional photography showcased in Vermont Life helped create the state’s cachet by promoting the state’s natural beauty.
It also helped inspire the mandate to preserve it.