Archive for the ‘The Vanishing Vermonter’ Category


Peter Miller, peter@petermillerphotography.com 25 August.

We Vermonters who work for ourselves are suffering. Let’s put it this way. The average Vermonter has very little disposable income. State, town, school taxes and fees, property and school taxes, the 5th highest electrical rate in the country, above average costs of fuel oil, propane and gas make us downright poor. Our state government is spending more than it takes from us

Vermonters who have read my book, A Lifetime of Vermont People, email or visit. “We love Vermont,” they say, “we have family here, but our pension is too small.” Some sell, some can’t find a buyer. Younger people leave the state looking for decent paying jobs.

Vermont statistic trackers say enough new comers are moving in to balance the disenfranchised that are leaving. The head on this Forbes article, from last April, says it all: Tax Happy Vermont Becoming A State Where Only The Rich Can Afford To Live.

The rural Vermont culture of self-government, earning enough to get by and that inner sense of being a Vermonter is being replaced by a homogenized, wealthier, more sophisticated “transplant”. Some of these new Vermonters adapt beautifully to our Vermont Way, as I have. Many, though, carry their home state on their backs when they arrive. They want dirt roads paved and fancy sport facilities. The need dog parks and larger police department that will respond to calls when somebody they don’t recognize walks near their home.

They have deeper pockets than the self employed Vermonter so they buy homes and tear them down to put up larger and more expensive structures. They apply for town positions or are elected to the state legislature and create new bills to raise the cost of living. A new culture is nudging out our rural way of life. Long time residents from New Hampshire and Maine who have stopped in my Waterbury gallery say that is also happening in their state. .

I am a writer and photographer and my professions have been mangled in this century by the digital revolution. I started an Airbnb and decorated the rooms with my photographs and installed a photo library. Even so, I had to borrow to pay my property tax, the first time since I have been filing in this state since the 1950’s. And you know, I prefer writing and photography to being a chambermaid!

I have a new book project because of comments made to me by stressed-out Vermonters.. The Vanishing Vermonter, The Loss of a Rural Culture, will be published in the spring of 2017. So far I have interviewed and photographed nine people who expressed their thoughts on this “new” Vermont. How will I pay for it? I will crowd fund and put up on my blog sections of the book as I write them. (www.petermillerphotography.com).

Paul Hannon-7

Paul Hannon, master mechanic and owner of his Irasburg Garage for 30 years.

Paul Hannon is a mechanic who for 30 years has owned a garage in North Irasburg. He is the first person I interviewed for The Vanishing Vermonter. When we ended our interview he said, with a sigh,

“I am losing hope”

Vermont is a bellwether state. Our canary in the cage is gasping, our lead sheep is bleating. The hope and pride of my people has become fragile.


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Carroll Shatney“I had no idea,” says Peter Miller, author and photographer, that my book A Lifetime of Vermont People, would have such an effect on its readers.”

The book is a collection of 62 written profiles with black and white photographs of Vermonters taken over the last 60 years.

The author wrote a summary of those years and the changes he noticed—The interstate, gentrification, the banks, the direction of the legislature and small changes, such as posted land, the Vermont accent, and…the end of a classless society. Most of the comments and letters received by the author, discuss their inability to cope financially and a rising anger about the legislature and the state government.

“They are not out friends anymore,” said a cleaning lady and she practically shouted it.

 “I feel violent,” said an auto garage owner when thinking about the direction the state is moving towards.

 “Our pensions don’t cover our costs,” said a recently retired couple, we would like to leave but can’t find a buyer.”

 “We have given up on our dream of building a house on our land in Walden. The state legislature’s two bills concerning a carbon tax are what really scared us into that decision. I don’t see how the older population in Vermont will survive the push for more wind and solar farms and the costs associated with migrating off fossil fuels. We just wanted to live out our retirement years in peace and quiet, staying warm, enjoying nature, family and friends. Looks like we’ll be doing that in Maine.”

“I cannot tell you how much your new book (A Lifetime of Vermont People) means to me. I was moved to tears after I bought a copy in St. Johnsbury and pulled over at a rest stop and began to turn the pages. This sudden release of emotion surprised me and when I thought about why, I think it was because of who and what we have lost here in the state I call home.”

Some Vermonters now realize their home is not an asset but a liability because of the property tax, student tax, and the cost of energy and upkeep.

And it is ironic that Vermont will welcome refugees from other countries but there is no comment about the Vermonters who want to leave Vermont. They are refugees from one of the most expensive states in the union.

I have spoken to so many that I plan to do a book called the Vanishing Vermonter….An Endangered Species. I will interview a bunch of them and let them tell their story. I will also have a section where Vermonters can comment about what to do about bringing Vermont back home.

The more I think about this anger the more I realize it is about the cost of living, for sure, but embedded in their souls is that foreboding anxiety that we are losing our way of living—the culture—that has made our state so unique.

The book A Lifetime of Vermont People is available at independent Vermont bookshops and at Peter Miller’s website, http://www.silverprintpress.com.

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Readers of my previous blog( about my book project on the plight of the vanishing Vermonter (our way of life and our skinny pocketbooks) would like to pre-order books to help pay for the production of this book. So I have a price:


You may have read my previous post about setting up crowd funding for my new book project, The Vanishing Vermonter.

In a nutshell it will include interviews and portraits with about 25 Vermonters who say how the change in Vermont’s culture and its high cost of living has affected their lives. There will also be a number of comments without photographs from other Vermonters who have moved away or emailed me.

In the front of the book will be an essay by me about what happened to our state summed up by the reflections of the people I interviewed.
In the back of the book will be interviews with economists, politicians and those with common sense about how to reset the course of our state.

The Vanishing Vermonter will be a hard cover book, about 8×10 with black and white photographs. About 130-40 pages. t should be in book stores next June.


The price is $29.95 plus sales tax. The book will be mailed to you. Each person who orders here will receive a signed, limited edition copy. It will be limited to the number of people who have ordered a book or donated. Large donations will be rewarded also with a signed print.

Send a check to The Vanishing Vermonter c/o Peter Miller, 20 Crossroad, Waterbury, VT. 05676.

Use Pay Pal: peter@petermillerphotography.com

Later I will set up a shopping cart. Status of the fund will be
posted regularly on my blog and Facebook.

Don’t Forget: Include your mailing address!

Any questions, email me or phone, 802.272.8851.

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Peter Miller self portraitI mentioned in my last post that I am creating a book project with the working title The Vanishing Vermonter…An Endangered Species.

This book will be a witness to how our state is being reshaped. The Vanishing Vermonter is your book—you the Vermonters who made our homeland what it is with your hands, mind, humor and morality.

Over the past year the concept of The Vanishing Vermonter simmered in in my mind. The idea too shape one afternoon as I reflected on the email, telephone calls and conversations I had with folks who had read my latest book, A Lifetime of Vermont People.  After heavy taxes, energy and food costs, and so many fees, these Vermonters have little expendable income, if any at all. Recently retired Vermonters find their pension does not cover their monthly budget and younger Vermonters know that career jobs are as rare as a catamount sighting (they are a few in Vermont-jobs and catamounts).

Many Vermonters have migrated to other states where expenses, especially taxes, real estate and energy costs, are so much lower and good jobs are available. Sometime this “forced migration” splits up families. The other factor is that the last two winters have been cruel with dipsy-doodle temperature changes. Vermonters don’t like the idea of having to wear cleats to prevent an unwanted trip to the ER.

The undercurrent rippling beneath these financial woes is how our culture is morphing. Vermonters by tradition are frugal. As one veteran of the legislature in the 1970’s recalled, “The legislators were often from farms and small towns. They treated every bill as if they were spending their own money”. There was no need for fancy houses, trespassing signs, public tennis courts and hockey rinks, new civic buildings.  They were not familiar with the term “politically correct”.

No true Vermonter would think of replacing the sacred purity of our ridgelines and mountains with 300-foot tall wind turbines and large solar farms, all built in a hurry to garner rebates. These state and federal rebates brought in out-of-state corporate carpetbaggers eager to play the energy market.

The usual suspects for our high cost of living are the towns and the state legislature for over appraising and taxing and  perhaps being too green in their attempt to lower energy costs. There is over-gentrification, many claim. Trust funders and financially comfortable people have secured political positions and are more at home with lawyers and lobbyists than they are sitting down in a garage or country store and discussing the issues with average Vermonters. So people tell me.

We are finding our homes can become a liability due to the high property and education tax and maintenance expense.

“We have no life line left,” one Vermonter said to me, who runs a small business and has several real estate properties. He could not get a loan from his bank. A resident in the NEK had a lumberman cut trees down on his property so he could pay the property taxes. Then he received a higher property appraisal because without the trees, he had a better view. “You just can’t win,” he said. “Can’t win…”

What I am saying is that a number of Vermonters, some native, some who moved here, who made this state what it is, who brought such integrity into our mountains and valleys, do not feel they belong any more. The Vermonter replacing them are often well funded and well versed in working the political system. Are we becoming a state of glitterchucks, or woodcharles? I personally believe some gentrification is good for I know of wealthy people who have given generously to their communities. Even so, Vermont is on the edge of a cultural shift towards homogenized living. I never have seen Vermonters so furious at our government. Let’s lay it out. Vermont is changing and not to the liking of the average Vermonter.
All of my books tell stories through photographs and interviews. My job is to interview and photograph Vermonters, listen to what they have to say about their state and communicate to others their opinions.
The Vanishing Vermonter is their book—more than any other book I have published. I have divided the book into three sections:

A. How did this happen to our Vermont? This is an essay I would write based on my interviews and research.

B. The core of the book will be photo portraits and interviews with maybe 25 Vermonters. I already have a list—a garage owner, book store proprietor, doctor, restaurant owner, retired couple, someone who has moved out of state, farmer, newspaper editor, legislator, economist and others I will include a subsection without photo portraits but with quotes from people who have written about how this change in Vermont has affected their lives. And sure, I would run comments about how the changes in this state are good for all of us.

C. A series of interviews with Vermonters who have the expertise (or I should say experience) about what can be done so our state can regain its equilibrium. I will talk to politicians, economists, business people and just plain, common sense Vermonters.

This book is a Muench scream about saving what is dear to our hearts—our homes, our state, that sense of being a Vermonter.

1. Hard cover about 8×10 although it could be square.

2. It will be designed with photographs and text and airspace, similar  to my other books. They say a photograph is worth 10,000 words. I disagree. The photograph is a key to entering a person’s inner space; writing reveals how they shaped their lives. Yes, the book is political. Yes, it is also a book about Vermonters struggling to retain their culture.

3. Those who pre-buy The Vanishing Vermonter or make a donation will receive a signed and numbered book with a photograph. This edition will be limited to those who pre-bought or donated to help publish this book. The other copies of the book will not be limited but offered through bookstores, at events or through my website. Those who give most generously will receive a large print of one of my photographs.

4. The Vanishing Vermonter will be sold through independent Vermont bookstores and directly by my website, gallery and at events. After the book is published I will set up a speaking tour that includes a light show of images that illustrate what this book is about.

I hope you will help me shape this book. I need to fund raise to pay for the book (In the past my photography that was licensed internationally by agents covered most of my publishing expenses. Now, due to business practices and the digital revolution, that stream of revenue has disappeared.).

I have set up a bank account solely for book sales and donations at the VSECU. The account is called The Vanishing Vermonter. The money will be used for:

A. Transcriptions of interviews. I find hard copy is best for editing and also for archiving.

B. Design of the book. My usual attempt at simplicity will be to balance photographs with airspace and text.

C. Postage.

D. And, most important—raising the capital for the initial printing.

When those costs are met, then overhead and royalties for the author (me) will be paid. I have to say that with all my books I have covered expenses but little has slid into my pocket. You could say that I have a calling to do these books; it is my responsibility in my lifetime. I have now written, photographed and published four coffee table books on our state.      Yes, I work alone on this project, I don’t even have a Webmaster. I need your help. I will post  photographs I have taken, and portions of interviews I have written. You can comment on them on my blog and I hope you do. As I said, this is your book.

To Preorder The Vanishing Vermonter or make a donation:
1. Send a check to The Vanishing Vermonter, c/o Peter Miller, 20 Crossroad, Waterbury, VT 05676. You will receive a receipt concerning your gift.

2. Use Pay Pal: peter@petermillerphotography.com

Later I will set up a shopping cart.
Status of the account will be posted on this blog and Facebook.

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