Year of the Black Water Snake

Happy Chinese New Year of the Black Water Snake!  Albeit we are a few weeks into the new year, how's it going for you?!  

This post is a three part story.  First, the gorgeous photoshoot with Claire and Fred, the friendly and well-loved Burmese Python; to shed some light on the history of the Burmese Python and raise awareness on the overpopulation problem in Florida; and finally share the year ahead based on the Chinese New Year of the Black Water Snake.

Claire came to me and asked if I knew of any snakes that could accompany her in her portrait session.  I happened to meet John Baker at White Memorial Conservation Center's Nature Day this past year and met, Irma from Burma (Burmese Python.)  She is Fred's mate and a bit larger and longer than Fred. My friend, Gerri Griswold put me in touch with Janet and John Baker and they graciously allowed Fred to accompany us on this shoot at Iconography By studios in Torrington.  Eric rented us the studio and provided just the right backdrop and helpful tips on studio lighting.
Fred the Burmese Python - 26 years old, 28 pounds and 11 feet long.  Fred is from Bangkok, Thailand.

Claire and Fred

John and Janet acquired Fred in Bangkok in 1988 when he was about a year old.  Fred was caught in the wild in Thailand.  The Bakers lived there for 10 years. They came back to the U.S. in 1993, after a second stint in the Philippines, and they brought Fred with them when they moved.  His mate, Irma, is U.S. born and bred, and they got her in 1994 when she was approximately four years old. They have been the healthiest pets John and Janet have ever had, and they've had a lot over the years! 
Both John and Janet are members of the Litchfield Hills Audubon Society and have continued to be officers or at least committee chairmen for the past 20 years.  Now that's commitment, but did you know Pythons in captivity with no known predators can live more than 30 years!

Speaking of Pythons, I was listening to NPR and heard a program right before this shoot and there is a $1,500 bounty for Pythons in the State of Florida.  At first I gasped.  Then the Bakers filled me in.  The Burmese python problem in Florida is very serious.  People buy Burmese pythons as a pet when they are a foot or two long. Then, they over feed them and the pythons grow into huge, unmanageable monsters very rapidly.  Guess what happens next, the pythons get discarded by their owners and are dumped into the Everglades - thinking they are doing the snake a favor. Well, pythons breed pretty easily, and each clutch of eggs is about 15 to 30 eggs, so these guys multiply pretty rapidly. On the other side of the coin, what do these snakes eat?  Birds, small alligators, fish, rodents - pretty much anything that will fit down their gullets. These snakes are not native to our world, and they are causing massive ecological problems, so killing them is about the only way to right the terrible wrong caused by uneducated pet lovers. 

As a responsible pet owner, knowing this situation has reminded me that pets are a serious responsibility and should not be taken lightly.  It's a lifetime commitment, just like a child.  Animals shouldn't be easily discarded when it's no longer convenient for a pet owner.  Know your facts before deciding on owning any animal. 

Natasha looking lovely in blue celebrating the Year of the Snake (also known as the little dragon.)  Dragons, Roosters and Ox get along famously with Snake.
To learn more about the Chinese New Year of the Black Water Snake, click here to see how it relates to your sign.


  1. I am enjoying the discovery process with you, vicariously, as you proceed through the agenda that this 52 week challenge provides. I am surprised that there are no comments as of yet if only because your narration indicates a truly open and entusiastic exploration of each subject. You have earned and deserve feedback:
    The first and the last images are riveting, although for entirely different reasons. The power and grace with which Fred is presented is both visceral and impressive. The background grey graduation is a perfect cool grey, (on my monitor) and it's soft, undefined nature accentuates the shocking color, texture and pattern of this bohemith mass of muscle coming right through the screen and threatening to land in my face. Even the spectral flare of the lighting adds to the super-real slick quality of his skin. BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBrrrrrrrrrr!(I shiver with fear)
    The last image is fascinating and I just don't know how to analyze it - it is just so fun and interesting and the patterns and colors establish just the right frame of mind to study the beautiful face of the model, Natasha. My imagination wants to narrate a story for this character! A wimsical and puckish take-off on Allistair Crowley, perhaps or some turn-of-the-century (last century, not this) mystic with a hidden agenda or some coquettish shennanigans in mind?
    The middle two don't work for me. Either I've been polluted with expectation by the Natasha Kinski image that Avedon made famous back in my boyhood (no not quite the turn-of-the-century). I suppose its the clothing. Any clothing at all seems contrived when paired with the natural charisma and raw physicality of Fred. But then she is gorgeous and I'm probably wanting to see her all the way down on the floor and twisting like he is.
    I am thrilled with your work and looking forward to following your progress throughout this year!
    Rusty Halverson
    Artist, Corona Ca

    1. Wow Rusty. Blown away by your feedback. Thank you so much for taking the time to provide such eloquent detail. Now I'm interested in looking up Allistair Crowley and Natasha Kinski's image. I'm almost sure I remember it. I agree with you about shooting a nude with the python. As an artist, clothes do get in the way and distract sometimes. However, I'm struggling with keeping images of women powerful without having to show off their nakedness. Too many women have been exploited and I would rather stay away from that arena. I'm looking forward to every week's 52 week challenge as well as coming up with my owned themed shoots. As spring unfolds in the Northeast, I'm looking for my ideas to blossom as well. Thanks again.


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