Well, school once again was not happening. I was on my way home and just got off the subway. I saw a guy with a Nikon F on his neck at my subway stop. I walked over and introduced myself and he did likewise in turn. His name was Bill. I told him I just got kicked from Antonelli’s and he laughed. He said the best thing that could happen to you. Bill told me he went to Antonelli’s and didn’t graduate because he was a fine art photographer and not a wedding shooter. For the first time in ages, I felt a connection that meant something. We spent a lot of time making photos and he taught me a lot I already knew. One day Bill told me we were going to the Phila Museum of Art. I said to him, I am a soldier and have never finished High School or even thought about college. Bill was a graduate of The Phila College of Art. Anyway, we went to the Museum and he took me to meet a man. His name was Ding (Kneeland) McNulty, the curator of Prints and Photographs. Ding was very gracious and I was honored to be in his presence. He told me to come back anytime I wanted to. I was nervous for maybe the first time in my life. No joke. Even in Nam, I never had one nervous moment. 4 days later, I got a postcard in the mail of a guy on a donkey, riding into the sunset from Bill. I never heard from Bill again, even to this day.
It took me 3 weeks to muster up the guts to go to the Museum. I went to Ding’s office and greeted him nicely. He asked why it took so long for me to return. I told him I felt inferior and just didn’t know why I was even there. Don, listen to me. Bill is a trusted friend and he told me that, people go to college to learn what you know naturally. So we sat and he showed me some photos. My heart raced and my brain just overloaded. Do you know this photographer and his work? He showed me how to hold prints by the edge carefully. I answered, yes, it’s Paul Strand. He handed me another print, yes it’s Stieglitz from the Equivalent. Another and I said, Winogrand.
Don, I trust you and will allow you to handle even the most valuable photos. There was a woman that made the most remarkable photos, her name was Anne Brigman. I studied her work intensely. Ding told me, she was the true counterpart for Weston. I stayed with Ding for about a year off and on. He was curating an exhibition and the prints were laid out on the carpet and he asked me if I liked the sequence. For the most part, I liked it but there were 7 prints in the wrong place. I showed him and explained why and he laffed. He said, listen Mr, you are not getting my job. He hugged me and i hugged him and I knew, our time together was over. I never saw Ding again even tho, he is in my heart, mind, and soul and I name a camera after him always.
I’m told that I am baring my soul writing all this. Perhaps there is truth in that but I don’t recognize my Soul or the truth of it.