Daniel Ezra Caldwell died at home on May 24, 2014, after six years with cancer. He was cared for by his wife Hillary and other family and friends, with the support of the hospice team from the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.
Born in 1973, Ezra grew up in Putney, Vermont. As a boy, he moved from one passion to another – juggling, acting, rock climbing, building crossbows and puppets, making constant use of his fathers’ woodworking shop. From the age of eight, he spent much of each summer in northern Vermont with the Bread and Puppet Theater, performing as the baby gorilla in their annual circus. After graduating from the Buxton School in Williamstown, MA, he lived the village of Santa Marta in El Salvador for a year during the post-conflict reconstruction, working in a woodworking shop with ex-combatants.
He attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, first focusing on art and design but then making an unlikely switch as a complete novice to the modern dance department. After graduating, he danced for Momix and Gabriel Masson Dance, then spent a year in a masters’ program in dance at Bretton Hall, part of the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. Here he began to use video and persuaded an entire institution that there were two of him, the twins Daniel and Ezra, as documented in abundant footage. One of them attended the masters’ program; the other was a chef in a local Thai restaurant. His cooking benefited from the year as much as his art. He left without completing the degree, stubbornly determined that a written thesis should be unnecessary for an arts degree.
On returning to New York, Ezra choreographed and performed with his own small company, at times collaborating with his musician brother, Thomas Bartlett. He had work commissioned by universities in Belgium and Holland, performed in festivals in Europe and the US, worked as artist-in-residence at Sarah Lawrence, and at dance workshops in Lima Peru. For almost ten years, he taught at DanceSpace NY, later Dance New Amsterdam, gathering a following for his athletic and demanding classes.
In 2007 he moved away from dance and teaching, turning back to the involvement with fabrication and design that had preoccupied him since childhood, and which had been refined during summers and other stretches doing construction and cabinet making. He had for a while been assembling bikes from components, putting them together for friends and family and dance students. But now he learned how to weld and quickly became a respected custom builder and designer, turning out his elegant Fast Boy Cycles in a shop in his brother’s basement next door.
In 2009, Ezra was married to Hillary Nanney in a fisherman’s church in the La Have Islands, Nova Scotia. Ezra had been visiting the islands every summer since he was a boy, and he and Hillary spent many weeks over recent years kayaking, mussel gathering and exploring with their beloved dog Putney Sue.
Ezra was always, in one way or another, a performer and an artist, but he was happiest when his creative impulses locked on to the practical side of life. Beautiful bikes met his needs better than fine art. He liked performing more as a cook than as a dancer. He created and enacted a rich, unique life and death and he never lacked an audience.
Ezra decided a few years ago to forego further treatment for his cancer, and spent most of his remaining months deeply engaged in the things that mattered most to him – making bikes and other objects, mountain biking, photographing the world around him, cooking, playing pool. As his capacities diminished, he seemed always able to adapt and find new ways to satisfy his passion for productivity and mastery. Courageous, independent, opinionated and stubborn to the end, Ezra amazed, delighted and exhausted his family and close friends. At the same time he entertained and inspired thousands of people through his blog, which demystified cancer, chemo and colostomy bags with flair and humor.
Ezra is survived by his wife Hillary, his brothers Zachary Caldwell, Sam Caldwell and Thomas Bartlett, sister Mary Bartlett, parents Sheridan and Edward Bartlett, nephew Gunnar Caldwell and grandfather Alexis Nason, as well as numerous cousins and other relatives.
In lieu of flowers, if you wish to make a donation in Ezra’s name, the family asks that you consider one of the following:
Recycle-A-Bicycle’s Earn-A-Bike program is a school-based program that teaches students basic bicycle mechanics through RAB curriculum. Students then volunteer time after school and earn hours in exchange for a bicycle frame. Participants build bikes for themselves, friends, and family members, too.
To donate please visit: https://secure.qgiv.com/for/rec and click on “Ezra Caldwell Memorial Fund.”
Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) is a not-for-profit home health care agency that provides direct home care by physicians, nurses, rehabilitation therapists, psychologists, and more. For the last year of his life, Ezra became a passionate advocate for palliative care, due largely to his experience in VNSNY’s Hospice Program, as well as the Palliative Care wing at Mt. Sinai Hospital.
To donate online, please visit: www.vnsny.org/community/support-vnsny/donate; by phone, call: 212-609-1525; or by post, send checks to: 107 E. 70th St. NY NY 10021 (Make checks payable to: Visiting Nurse Service of New York; memo: In Memory of Ezra Caldwell).
June 1, 2013
- For the last several weeks I've been lamenting the death, or at any rate complete identity change of flickr. For many years, flickr has been the only internet social media that I engage in. I always liked it because it wasn't ugly.. it wasn't busy and full of distractions or ads. It was a place that you could show photographs and know that people might actually look at them, maybe comment on them. A real community developed there in the early days, not a group of serious photographers so much as a group of regular people documenting and sharing their lives. I have very close REAL live friends that developed out of that community.
I think in a lot of ways flickr really helped my photography! It gave me an audience, a reason to shoot. When I started to build bikes, I already had a built in audience from flickr and I never once needed to advertise! When I got sick, I had a built in network of support. Flickr has become ugly, though. A cluttered mess. I know that some people don't mind it so much, but I can't take it. I don't like the way photos look on there. So I've stopped using it, and it makes me pretty sad.
Lately I've been pretty weak. I've got a broken arm, I get tired easily, I'm in a certain amount of pain, and I'm on a certain amount of pain meds! (in both cases, that 'certain amount' is considerable). I'm really not able to work in the shop anymore. But for me, the need to make stuff is a driving force and doesn't go away. An urge that I can't ignore. Lately I've been feeling the urge to take photographs. To make people's portraits. To document what sound like they'll be my last weeks.. months. It has been a REAL pisser to me lately that flickr isn't an option.
SO. I made a this website. My thought is that I'll populate it gradually with photos from the past, and with new photos.. day by day as they accumulate. Just a simple clean space to be able to look at the photographs without any busy distractions. It'll take a little while to work out the bugs, and massage it into just the site I want it to be, but I'm going to try to shove it up here onto the web as is, and let the fixes happen when they do, simply to have a place to put some pictures!
The Teaching Cancer to Cry blog will continue to be the place to get information and updates and thoughts on the progression of my cancer. I'm finding, however, that a lot of the time I'm at a bit of a loss for words. I think that I'm likely to post a lot more often if I allow myself simply to post a photograph from the day. Maybe a few words, or a whole post, but maybe just a picture. And perhaps I'll make it so that the picture itself is a link to a gallery of photos from the day. There won't be any tags, or any favorite-ing.. any way to comment on individual photos.. (sadly there won't be a way for me to follow other people's lives the way I did on flickr, either!) But there WILL be a nice clean environment to look at pictures, and I hope you will.
Thank you, as always, for being an audience. For witnessing what I feel has been a most beautiful and lucky life that continues to unfold in magical ways before my very eyes!
I suppose that an about page on a photographer's website should probably say a thing or two about how he got into photography.. why he shoots.. what equipment he uses, etc. If that stuff actually interests you, the gents at Photgraphic Journal did a very nice interview about a year ago. Read it HERE.