Name: Beth Burstein
Where do you live? Upper Montclair
When did you move there? After living in Berkeley, CA for 11 years Montclair was the only place in NJ that felt right.
Where did you grow up? Brooklyn, NY and then Aberdeen, NJ
What is your everyday passion?
I’m a photographer, and have been at it since I was 15 years old. Most recently I have been creating bold, colorful photos of peonies, many of which have been shot in Montclair and other parts of New Jersey. I exhibit them and also sell them as note cards (which I’m happy to say have been popular since people are hand writing letters again), and prints. I’ve just begun to print them quite large which brings them to a whole new vibrant and wonderfully graphic level.
Photography has always been a way for me to tell a story, whether it be about flowers, or one that is closer to home. I studied to be a documentary photographer and currently some of my personal projects have focused on my own history and the theme of memory. In the recent past I created an exhibit and published a book entitled, The Legacy: A Daughter’s Experience of the Holocaust, which is about being the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. In my most current project I document growing up with antique dealer parents and always being surrounded by collections, lost craftsmanship, nostalgia, and the history of objects, even today as the shop is still in business.
Coffee, tea, or… ? Coffee in the morning, black or green tea in the afternoon.
What is your idea of a perfect weekend day?
Breakfast at home, followed by a walk in one of the many green, wooded spaces in Montclair or beyond, such as Mills Reservation or Jockey Hollow Park in Morristown. My boyfriend and I recently discovered the Montclair Hawk Watch. It’s a great place to sit awhile and see our area from a different perspective. During the pandemic our options for weekend cultural outings are minimal, but we so appreciated being able to see the great Frederico Uribe installation that was recently at the Montclair Art Museum. Back home to play NY Times word games or Cribbage together, which are new pandemic favorites, followed by a weekly Sunday afternoon meditation & catch-up with my small, close-knit women’s meditation group (via Zoom right now.) The day usually ends with take-out dinner from one of many favorite restaurants in Montclair, followed by a film or a streaming series on TV.
What is your favorite local restaurant? There are many, but at the top of my list are Marcel, Le Salbuen, Zeugma (their mushroom Manti are heavenly), Samba, Ani Ramen, SLA…
What’s on your night stand?
My phone, several rocks and shells from my travels, a water bottle, a book of Mary Oliver poems, and Patti Smith’s book Devotion which I received several years ago at her reading/performance at the Montclair Literary Festival (another great thing about our town).
What are you listening to?
Lots of podcasts while driving. While working on photos on my computer I need low key music. I’ve recently been drawn to female singers: Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, First Aid Kit Band, Gillian Welch, Eileen Jewell, Haley Reinhart…. Phillip Glass is also a go-to while editing photos – his music immediately helps me focus on what I’m doing.
What are your current indulgences? Talenti Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip Gelato. Dangerously good.
What talent would you most like to have? I’d love to draw much better than I do. And speak Italian fluently.
What’s the worst-kept (or best-kept) secret about Montclair? The Avis Campbell Garden. It’s the prettiest little oasis in town. I also love the handful of small, traditional shops in Upper Montclair such as Montclair Stationary and the News Plus newsstand. They remind me of stores I went to as a child and they give Upper Montclair a small town feel. I’m sure they can REALLY use our business during the pandemic.
What do you hope they say about you at my funeral? She lived a meaningful life…and accomplished everything on her bucket list!