(Host) In 1937 Aldo Merusi became a sports writer at the Rutland Herald. A natural with a camera, he quickly moved from writing stories to taking pictures. As the Herald’s chief photographer for 37 years, Aldo Merusi captured on film what it was to live in Rutland. All this month the Chaffee art Center in Rutland is presenting an exhibition of Merusi’s work. VPR’s Nina Keck has more.
(Keck) Anyone who knew Aldo Merusi says he was rarely without his pipe or his bulky, speed graphic camera. Mickey and Bob Carboneau, who grew up in Rutland in the 1950s, say he was everywhere.
(Bob Carboneau) "Mr. Merusi was – he was the guy who took the pictures for the local newspaper. So if as we were involved in growing up in Rutland in the 50s, getting into sports for instance, one of the neatest things in the world was to have Aldo Merusi take your picture."
(Mickey Carboneau) "Oh yes, definitely, everyone knew Aldo . (Bob Carboneau) He was everywhere."
(Brown) "He was everywhere, he was a people photographer, he was interested in everything around him. I mean that’s universal remarks that seem to be made by anyone who was living in Rutland at the time he was here."
(Keck) That’s Richard Brown, curator of the Aldo Merusi collection which includes about 30-thousand negatives. After Merusi died in 1980, his widow gave the negatives to the Rutland Herald which has been working to identify, archive and publish them on their website. For the Chaffee exhibit, Richard Brown selected one-hundred-thirty photographs from the late 1930s to the early 70s.
(Brown) "So we have a third of a century of photos not only of Rutland but he was also the Herald’s state editor starting in the early 1940s so he was photographing people all over the state, VIPs, presidential candidates, sitting presidents – it’s just a huge document that he has in this archive."
(Keck) There are photographs of Ronald Reagan, Bette Davis, John F. Kennedy, Norman Rockwell, Grandma Moses and Robert Frost. But those walking through the Chaffee Art Center, like Rutland native Bob Carboneau, seem most struck by the black and white images of old friends and neighbors, many of whom are long dead.
(Bob Carboneau) "This picture I just happened to walk up to when I came in and instantly recognized an ex classmate of mind form Mount St. Joseph. It’s a wonderfully warm memory."
(Keck) Kendal Wilde, former managing editor of the Rutland Herald, worked with Aldo Merusi for over 20 years. He says Merusi had a wonderful way of putting people at ease. He remembers Merusi taking photos of a couple celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary.
(Wild) "So he set up his cameras and everything and he said to the wife, he says this picture may end up in the newspaper. Would you have any objection if it showed you sitting next to this man? And of course that kind of made them laugh so that relaxed them."
(Keck) Exhibit Curator Richard Brown says besides knowing how to approach his subjects, Merusi was a master of composition and took great pains to stage and frame his shots. For a journalist Brown says some might argue the photos are too staged, but he says Merusi’s skills are obvious when you walk through the collection. Brown shows me his favorite.
(sound of walking into room)
(Brown) "So we’re here in the railroad room. These are all photographs of the steam age in Rutland and personnel.
(Keck) Brown points to a photograph dated November 1st 1940. It’s of Rutland‘s Railyard after the first snowfall of the season. There are long lines of boxcars and puffs of steam and smoke from locomotives in the distance.
(Brown) "And then further back lights of Rutland – It’s quiet, it’s almost cinematic, it’s poetic and I think it’s one of those great photographs."
(Keck) Each of the Merusi photographs on display will be sold by a silent auction when the exhibit ends February 6th. Proceeds will benefit the Chaffee Art Center.
For VPR news, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.
Photos courtesy of Rutland Herald Aldo Merusi archive