Sometimes entire worlds can be captured on a single frame.
Today, cell phone cameras and computer filters are ubiquitous. Digital images can be created, altered and shared instantly yet technology can’t replace the artist behind the lens. Internet companies can place cameras atop sedans and take timed panoramic snapshots of every street in a city but fail to find its essence. Every moment in time is a unique experience but it is the truly gifted photographer’s eye that sees these moments like rain drops suspended in air. When an artist is present, the flash of the camera can result in an image that transcends time itself.
In 1937 a young man named Paul Freedman waited for his brother in his new Oldsmobile in downtown Torrington when a beautiful young lady named Muffy began crossing Main Street. He took out his brownie camera. She saw him and smiled as he took her photograph. In that instant, like the lightning strike of souls wordlessly connecting, that image captured their world. It is said that Mr. Freedman knew he “would marry this girl” and fortune favored him. They had a family and grew to maturity together. That photograph captured the world of the Freedman family that was started in that brief, wonderful fraction of a second in time.
Years later the photograph was donated by the Freedman family to the Torrington Historical Society and was utilized as the first framed poster to represent the Torrington’s Main Street Marketplace. The poster was on display for sale at a location close to the spot where the original was taken and it caught the eye of another young man. He turned to ask his wife if she liked the photograph too. With some surprise, she said she did, for the subject within the frame was her Aunt!
All who view the 1937 photograph of Muffy today are there at that moment in the Five Points corner with Mr. Freedman. It is such a stunning portrait that some may wonder whether Mr. Freedman was an amateur photographer or artist. I believe love that makes artists of all. If a person before a camera is viewed through the eyes of love then the image preserved is not simply the image of the subject; it is a preservation of the love sent through the lens and that love is art.
My first time seeing the photograph was nearly a year ago. In September 2012 I took a random day off from work specifically to visit the Torrington Historical society, something I had never done before. In the exhibit featuring the photographs of Main Street throughout the years, the Muffy Freedman photograph was prominent and compelling. After my visit, I was still thinking how perfect the photograph was while I walked downtown. As I crossed Water Street at the light with Main, the jarring sight of the Google car drove past me and snapped photos of the intersection.
Four days ago through an internet search, I looked up the intersection and found my blurred image crossing Water Street. Behind me a section of 41 Main Street building was being painted and would soon be christened “The Arts Desire” art store and gallery, complete with a logo of an artists’ palette shaped as a heart. Behind them, the Artwell Gallery would take its rightful place on Main Street after many years north on Water. In front of me, The Five Points Arts Gallery was generically called “ARTSPACE”, a fine enough name but used elsewhere and did not have the same ring that the “Five Points Gallery” name currently possesses. Within the span of less than a year this corner was dramatically changed and a new vibrant hub of artistic expression emerged. The image before me on the screen was of an intersection I recognized and yet it was nothing like the world of the Torrington I knew.
What is our world of Torrington today? It is a place where artists can achieve a creative spark, where new restaurateurs take chances like those who gave us “Lates” or “Simply Seafood”. It is a place where we can build something new, watch it grow and grow to maturity with it. I believe Edward Cannata and Bill Haygood of the Arts Commission had it right when they selected it for the first poster to represent Torrington’s Main Street Marketplace, a photograph that transcends time.
Torrington is and hopefully always will be the beautiful young woman crossing Water Street being viewed through the loving eyes of Paul Freedman.