Nearly 20 years ago, Caryn B. Davis left a television career as a producer, scriptwriter and editor of documentaries to pursue her lifelong passion, photography.
“I always wanted to be a photographer. I always loved it, and I always wanted to do it,” Davis says. “But I got out of college and got a job in television and that is what I did.”
While building her portfolio, specializing in architectural and landscape photography, home décor and yachts, Davis also enjoyed taking pictures during her travels in the United States and 50 countries.
About three years ago, Davis, who lives in Chester, heard of an opportunity to photograph Christmas traditions in Connecticut for a new book to be published by Globe Pequot Press. She says she jumped at the opportunity to have her work published in a book.
During the last two years, Davis drove around the state photographing holiday festivals, villages, light displays and decorated private homes, churches and inns.
She took thousands of pictures. “I visited about 40 towns statewide, from seaside villages to tiny hamlets, to large cities.”
Nearly 400 of her photographs are included in the newly published 224-page, A Connecticut Christmas: Celebrating the Holiday in Classic New England Style, which celebrates the diversity, spirit and continuity of local Christmas traditions in Connecticut.
Accompanying Davis’ photography are essays by author Eric D. Lehman of Hamden, who is also director of creative writing at the University of Bridgeport. Davis kept detailed notes about the places she photographed and shared them with Lehman.
“Eric wrote a fascinating narrative full of fact, humor and history that gives residents and tourists a lot of information about each location, traditions specific to our state, and how some of these Christmas traditions came into being,” Davis says. “It was very hands-on. We worked together on the chapters, selected which images to use.”
Davis thinks of A Connecticut Christmas as a travel book and a historical guide that provides background information for some of the state’s time-honored traditions.
For example, Davis says, the 238-year-old Griswold Inn in Essex, a destination for seafarers and land travelers alike during the 1700s, now prepares game dinners at its restaurant throughout the month of December. In addition to information about the game menu, the book also describes the Griswold Inn’s connection to the past, when Essex, situated along the Connecticut River, was a shipbuilding hub during the American Revolution.
At Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford, the medieval Boar’s Head Feast is re-enacted each year during its three-day Boar’s Head Yule Log Festival. A Connecticut Christmas provides information about Asylum Hill’s festivities, including a gala reception with a boar’s head and mince pie, as well as historical information about the Boar’s Head Feast.
Davis also calls the book a testament to the places represented in the book. “I think I did a good job of capturing both the expected and the unexpected, to paint a lush picture of how we celebrate Christmas in the Nutmeg State,” she says. “It is really a good overview of what makes our state so special at Christmastime and throughout the year.”
To purchase a copy of A Connecticut Christmas: Celebrating the Holiday in Classic New England Style, or to see a schedule of book signings by Davis, visit carynbdavis.com.
Karen A. Avitabile is a freelancer based in Plantsville.