You wouldn’t think the man in dirty work clothes is a descendent of Peter Stuyvesant and John Jacob Astor. Richard Aldrich (Ricky) is a graduate of Harvard and the Johns Hopkins School of International Relations and speaks five languages. He is the eldest of three children who inherited Rokeby Estate in Dutchess County, N.Y. when he was in his twenties. As a tenth generation descendent of the Livingstons and the Astors, Ricky represents one of the last original family owners of a Hudson River estate.
In order to photograph Ricky I had to follow him around as he attended to his numerous chores, sometimes riding on the back of his tractor. We went on numerous trips to the hardware store, visited all of his tenants, squeezed under a crawl space, and even stopped in the middle of nowhere to leave a note inquiring about a hay miser. This collection captures Ricky’s daily activities; his relationship with his land; his fascination with machines; and his willingness to get his hands— as well as the rest of his body— dirty. The artist/subject relationship evolved into an artist/apprentice relationship as I passed him a wrench or helped push his ice boat.
Ricky introduced me to some of his favorite things: gas, oil, ether, and WD-40. He explained that WD-40 means water density and forty indicates that they perfected the formula after the fortieth try.
The first photograph I took of Ricky was the summer before my senior year of college. I was driving down on the narrow dirt road that leads to Rokeby Estate when I was stopped by Ricky’s battered old car that was parked in the middle of the road. Ricky was sitting in the trunk of his car holding court with several people around him. This illustrates Ricky as a cultural paradox. I did not have my camera that day—so I used my iPhone to capture the moment. I never left the house without my camera again.
A writer once said that “Ricky would give you the shirt off his back, but who would want it?” You might not want his dirty shirt, but you would welcome his company, as I did over the year that we worked together.
This collection of photographs focuses on Ricky, a loving, caring, humble, generous and hardworking man with boundless curiosity and enthusiasm for life! Click here for Historical Background
Ricky's Sacred Text A manual for his tractors hydraulic systems.
Overwhelmed Every day Ricky is overwhelmed by requests from his neighbors, friends, and family. In this photo a family member was barraging him.
In the Trenches There was a leak in a water pipe and Ricky and a neighbor had to dig under two feet of snow and then another two feet of cold mud.
Paranormal Sludge Thats how Ricky described the mud that day.
Checking the List He has amended his list so it is written on both sides. The light shining through reveals both editions and gives the impression of stained glass.
Building 12 Ricky, and his good friend Tatyana and I were at Williams Lumber in Rhinebeck, NY in search of a double-casement window for Tatyanas house. Here he is looking out the window for someone to help us. The lighting reminded me of a Vermeer painting.
Daily Start Ricky is very resourceful and inventive. He owns a maroon 1987 Mercedes Benz diesel that requires a spray of ether to jump start in the coldest weather.
Listening Ricky had just returned from a funeral of a close friend.
The List Every morning Ricky writes down his chores for the day on his manual typewriter.
Fooling around with Grandpa Ricky and his grandson, Shlomo in the kitchen of the big house (the mansion).
The Chariot Ricky is barreling down the driveway to rescue the charter bus that got stuck in the mud just prior to leaving for the NYC Village Halloween Parade.
The Chain He was chaining an old metal table to the bucket of the tractor. Later he would bring it to the edge of the woods where he stores his scrap metal.
Riding the Rocket Ricky, his grandson, Shlomo and a bunch of my friends went down to Red Bank, NJ to ice boat because the Hudson River was still covered with two-feet of snow. The Red Bank Yacht club proudly displayed their large newly restored iceboat, originally built in the late 1800s. Ricky in typical fashion was inspecting it and trying to figure out how they constructed it.
The Clubhouse A friend of Rickys forgot to take his cabin cruiser out of the water before the river froze. It survived the winter and while the ice was frozen it became the Rokeby clubhouse.
Inside Ricky's car
The Ritz While taking a break from dirty work Ricky was talking on the phone waiting for the moment he could eat his Ritz cracker. As much as he washes his hands they remain stained with permanent grease.
This is Richard Aldrich It is hard to track Ricky down most of the time. His cell phone
cannot be heard over the loud rumble of his tractor that announces his imminent arrival.
Polite Inquiry Ricky had seen a hay miser for sale a year earlier. Ricky inspected it and was satisfied that it was a good piece of equipment. We went to the house and no one was there. Ricky left this note in the door and placed the chair in front of it to keep the door from flying open.
The Importance of Earnestly Gasing Up Rickys pose reminds me of a classical Greek sculpture.
Impish Grin Stone Soup a café in Kingston, NY reminded us of the pleasure and charm of cafés all around the world.
Red, Right and Returning A sailor term to let other boats know you are on your way home. In this photograph Ricky is returning home and wearing his red jacket. Ricky is a sailor all year; from the winter iceboating to summer sailing.
Two Work Horses Ricky with Abel, the horse who lives next to Rokeby.
Ode to the Hudson Valley This is the view of the Catskill Mountains from the mansion. I was struck by the contrast of his forbearers and his current status. Ricky has a rusted stove collection by the edge of the woods. En route some of the pieces fell out of the bucket of his tractor. Here we see Ricky carrying two heavy pieces that fell off. He said, I might be able to use these someday.