Griffin in Person
It is all very well to look at the exquisite photographs, and to peruse the biographical facts, but this still leaves unaccounted for the presence, the charisma, the visible lust for life that has packed ninety unrepentant years onto Arthur’s trim 5 foot 9 inch frame. The frame jiggles up and down, slightly, even in repose, tremendous with energy to hasten on to the next task, encounter, or, on the golf course, stroke. I have known Arthur most extensively on the golf course, his beloved Winchester links, where he beckoned me years ago, on a (false) rumor that I could help him land one of the prizes in a summer member-guest tournament. One year, thanks mostly to our skilled teammates, our foursome did finish in the money; heading toward my car and the hazards of negotiating Route 128 in the twilight, I directed Arthur to spend my share wisely, and he bought me a pair of pink-plaid polyester golf slacks that only he could wear without mortification. The odd thing is, they fit very nicely – they feel good – but I dare wear them seldom. When I do put them on, I abruptly know, for the second before natural embarrassment sweeps in, what it feels like to be Arthur Griffin. It feels like a lightning rod just after being hit by lightning, and still tingling.
Being Arthur Griffin would prematurely age most anyone else, but for Arthur it has been the passage to eternal youth. Who else, well into his eighties, would preserve through the bureaucratic brambles of small-town conservatism in order to bestow upon Winchester a gristmill filled with photographic treasure? Who else into his tenth decade would be cooking up this opulent album, this brimming yet inadequate record of his feats and flashes of photographic inspiration. Still cooking, that’s Arthur. His inner tingle translates into an outer twinkle, a ready glimmer of good-humored excitement between the frosty goatee and the bill of his jaunty Greek captain’s cap. When he speaks, there is sometimes a blur around a consonant or two, produced by excessive electricity, and eagerness to get on to the next utterance. On the golf course, there isn’t a cart fast enough for him, and in an age of ponderous Nicklausian mediation Arthur would be for younger golfers the ideal model of dispatch. No sooner has he hopped out of the cart than the ball is scuttling up the fairway; no sooner has he assumed his putting stance than the ball is speeding toward the hole. If he sometimes takes a lot of shots to get to the green, it is no doubt because fewer would have left him with all that energy still to burn up; there should be in Winchester two golf courses, one on top of another, so he could play them both simultaneously.
And I should add that Arthur can write too. More than one contributor to Arthur Griffin’s New England: The Four Seasons noticed how much livelier than his own essay was Arthur Griffin’s laconic yet vividly factual account of when and where and how he took the picture. God is in the details, they say; certainly photographic excellence stems from attention to details. That, and a willingness to seize the moment. At seizing moments Arthur Griffin is a veteran expert, and here are some of those he has seized. He has caught on film the New England we all would like to think we live in; but perhaps only he really has lived in it, with a friendly fury that has rendered him ageless.
March 7, 1994