Some photos by (and of) Bob Stepno

String section

Hartford's New England Fiddle Contest in the 1970s left me and thousands of listeners with great memories, and I was glad to hear it was coming back in 1999. The backstage jam on the left became my most-published photo. The Hartford Courant, where I was a reporter, not a photographer, bought a copy to accompany an article about the next year's contest. Then I gave a copy to the Peace Train Foundation to help promote the contest, and they printed up a boxfull, complete with my name on the front. The New York Times used the shot two years in a row as a Peace Train publicity photo, as did several New England papers and magazines (generally with no credit). However, with the revived fiddle contest back in action, organizer Paul LeMay not only requested the picture again for his press kit and history of the contest Web sites, he also saw to it that the Times gave me a credit line on the photo, one of several it used to preview the year 2000 contest, 22 years later! (Thanks, Paul!)

Another shot from the same afternoon -- of a young fiddler learning a tune from one of his elders -- was published in the now-defunct Pickin' magazine as part of a photo contest. My prize was a set of how-to-play-the-banjo instruction tapes that my 1980s neighbors may still regret. I've never come close to the wizardry of Roger Sprung, the backstage banjo virtuoso in the jam session photo. And I don't even have a picture of myself playing the banjo, but, for the record, the photo on the right is a portrait of the photographer with his oldest guitar (a Martin from 1924) in front of his oldest computer (an Osborne1 from 1982).

Wind section

While I'm in the ancient archives, on the left is my Dad's photo of me on the scene of my first hurricane, in Westerly, R.I., in the 1950s. Dad was another photographer named Bob Stepno (someday maybe I'll make a Web page of his World War II photos), but I seem to attract more hurricanes.

My storm photo-wreckage experience was Hurricane Bob, which blew in a few decades later, piling up boats along the Southern New England coast when I worked for Soundings, the boating newspaper. One day I was covering the Fools' Rules Regatta, with people putting together homemade boats on the Jamestown, R.I., beach; the next morning some much more substantial yachts were piled on the sand.

The first pictures ran in Soundings' Trade Only, a special edition of the magazine for people in the boat business. The hurricane was a disaster for boat owners, but actually may have helped some struggling boatyards by giving them repair business during an economically rough year. And, ill wind or not, the pictures from Jamestown gave a headline writer a chance to put my name in bigger type than usual.

That was enough of hurricanes for me, but I moved to North Carolina in time for Hurricane Fran to chase after me 100 miles inland to Chapel Hill. I didn't take a single picture.


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