Life is on your side: My last week with Harold

So come, my friends, be not afraid We are so lightly here It is in love that we are made; In love we disappear.  - From Leonard Cohen's Boogie Street, photo © Michael Lloyd June, 2015
So come, my friends, be not afraid
We are so lightly here
It is in love that we are made;
In love we disappear.
– From Leonard Cohen’s Boogie Street, photo © Michael Lloyd June, 2015

Harold signing prints, June 19, 2015
Harold signing prints, June 19, 2015
Harold passed over on June 20, 2015. He lived a beautiful and vibrant life until his last day. He was a man who woke up laughing and went to bed with gratitude. Each and every morning he would sit at the breakfast table and say,

“Well, I guess I’m just going to have to resign myself to another happy day.”

He thanked me every night for taking care of him as his health faltered. The truth is that nothing ever brought me more pleasure. No one ever brought me such joy. He was an exceptional human being filled with a wisdom about and a reverence for life that flowed from him. You would be mistaken to take these words only as the love of a grieving wife. For 28 years I was witness to the scores of friends, particularly former students, who found in this person a source of inspiration and beauty that was unique by any standard.

During the past several years, I would sit with Harold and a voice recorder and interview him on a variety of topics, many of which will continue to be shared through this blog — which was one reason for doing it. Several days before he died we had a number of conversations, which I taped. I put together this 3 minute edit from a longer piece and have posted it on YouTube. His inimitable and organic reverence for life prevails. Please take a look by clicking on the image below.

Life is on your side:
A conversation with Harold on June 17, 2015

Sometimes after breakfast he would scribble on stickies one line poems. I would collect them and stick them up around the kitchen. Here is one of the many…

A note from Harold June 16, 2015
A note from Harold June 16, 2015

There is a
note that transcends
all others;
It is the note
you were not
listening for.
Trust it.
It will
leap from the
nowhere
of ecstasy.
— HF 6/16/15

Harold was a man of the people. A brilliant and inspired artist and photographer whose creations flowed seamlessly from an unstoppable impulse to pay tribute to this life, which he did repeatedly day in and day out. It was a constant joy to be with him — a huge hearted, free-spirited, generous human being. A one of a kind. He is and will be sorely missed.

13 comments

  1. Barbara

    Dear Judith,
    Thank you for writing this most beautiful blog about dear Harold and for recording and posting the video and all the other inspiring words from Harold. Our lives have been so blessed by knowing you both, one of the greatest marriages of all times.
    We love you !

    • Judith Thompson

      Thank you Barbara…I so appreciate your words. Yes, our marriage was blessed. And, the extent of that love is, alas, the extent of my grief. It balances out. Hard time and look forward to seeing you next time you’re here. Love to you both

  2. Anne Parsons

    Every morning, when I awake, I look at his work and say, “Thank you, Harold, you are my inspiration for today.” I treasure the times I spent in his company and I follow his mantra, “wander in wonder.”

  3. Barry Briss

    Many years ago, I met Harold while staying at and inn on Cape Cod. It was a chance meeting as we sat across form each other while having breakfast. Although my time with Harold, in his home in Arlington, lasted only a few relatively short months, they were most pleasant times. We talked about my work of course, but much of what we did when we were together was to talk about life. To hear his voice, once again, was simply wonderful. Some of what he said on this little video was exactly what he said to me during our meetings. He had the gift! I will always remember him and consider it to have been a privilege to have known him.
    Barry

  4. Bett Butler

    Beautiful. Thank you so much for your love and care, and thank you for sharing.

  5. Rhina P. Espaillat and Alfred Moskowitz

    Judith, what a gift this is, the images, your comments on Harold and his life, everything! We feel lucky to have met both of you and had the privilege of sharing some time and conversations with Harold, a remarkable man and an artist destined to be remembered. The photograph of his smiling face tells it all: it says love of life, and acceptance of–no, better than acceptance–pure delight in the world. Thank you for sharing all this with us.

  6. Shirley

    What a lovely tribute to a lovely human being an amazing photographer. He will be missed. I hope you are doing OK. I so wish I had been able to be at his memorial.

    Hugs!

  7. James D'Ambrosio

    When I think of Harold, I think of Tony Bennett with a camera.

    New York born and raised when New York was in its hey day of sprouting seeds that would shade the world with glee, that infectious smile, that gratitude of having an audience to touch, that magic that would transform a Standard into anything but, Harold Feinstein sang his own tune like nobody else ever would, or could, ever.

    And, like Tony, Harold didn’t make what was popular. He made what he felt, and that became popular, not just for a moment, but for all time.

    Both are men of the people, and ever present to the moment.

    Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. Harold left his everywhere else.

  8. Sandy Farrier

    It was truly a privilege to host Harold’s presentation at Endicott College. The students and faculty were as captivated by his personality as they were by his work, and he and Judith left us all with a distinctive impression of a loving partnership and of a life well lived. Fine man; fine couple.

  9. Michael Dvorak

    I didn’t know Harold personally, but I enjoyed reading his blog posts and perusing his photographs. I am a black and white film photographer and Harold’s images have inspired me for years. I sometimes teach and I include him one of the masters of photography. I was very sad to hear of his passing, I would have liked to have met him. It is rare to find someone with such talent and an even greater heart.

  10. Michael Dodd

    Mrs Feinstein,
    Today, in the most isolated capital city in the world (Perth, Western Australia), I received in the mail Harold’s Retrospective from Nazraeli Press. In fact, I have it next to me now as i write.
    I just wanted to let you know that his work and ideals reach across oceans, continents, generations.
    I am a photographer. Inspired by him and the others.
    I will try to trust that note. And keep shooting just for the fun of it!!
    My deepest sympathies to you and your family. They always leave us too soon.
    Regards
    Michael

    • Judith Thompson

      How kind of you to write Michael. I’m so glad Harold’s imagery is able to reach across the ocean and touch people everywhere. He was as wonderful as a man as he was as a photographer. I miss him more than words can say. Enjoy the book. It’s a wonderful one.

  11. J. Schnapper

    I met Harold, in the 1060s. I traveled, from Philadelphia, to New Hope Pennsylvania, where he was teaching. photography. His courses, were always interesting, & I learned, much from him. He will be missed.

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