Photograph by Martin Rabeno
For many years I was fortunate to have shared the friendship of another talented individual, Martin Rabeno. I attended a high school with a specialization in the arts, mostly due to his influence and support. I was always a "lost soul" of sorts, certainly this was the case during my high school tenure. I seemed to have frequently suffered a bit from the "Rodney Dangerfield Disorder", arriving in the right place but usually on the wrong day. I can still recall much uncertainty and confusion while attending high school. At least two important teachers I encountered helped me get through, together with my love for photography and a suddenly inspired interest in English and writing.
I started working on the yearbook as a photographer and spent much of my time shooting the architecture of the building and the gargoyles that surrounded it. Perhaps it was not accidental that I was required to read and became fascinated by Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.I perceived myself to have much in common with Quasimodo.
Constantly seen with a camera in hand, I searched everywhere for clues to the meaning of life. The above photograph is a one-of-a-kind image taken by Martin in his home. It was likely created in the the early 1960's. I can still vividly remember hearing about John F. Kennedy's assassination as we walked toward his house. People were shouting through the streets in disbelief and running home to watch the news.
By the time I graduated from high school I wanted to study and learn more about photography. Instead of attending "college" like most people my age, I decided to attend a vocational school in Manhattan for a while. It was actually quite inspiring, the format replicated the experiences of an internship with a group of professionals. Unfortunately it was not an "accredited" school and concerns about the draft became paramount. I started searching for schools (no available internet back then) and located a possibility on the West Coast. A recently acquired used car, a few hundred dollars worth of clothing, and a little "pocket change" and I was off for California. I remember the long drive as I heading out West, I was full of excitement, uncertainty, and an unfortunate lack of confidence that would haunt me for most of my life. On the second night after having driven a multitude of miles, I reversed charges and called home. Not certain what to expect, my call was answered by several family members simultaneously. Each pleading with me in a "Greek Chorus" to return home and attend college nearby. Suffering from a deficiency in confidence and an undeveloped autonomy, I decided to return home. This was the major "U-Turn" of my life, I combined two days of driving into one and returned from Chicago to the East Coast in one day non-stop.
My first cameras were an 8mm Keystone and a great big box containing a tiny Kodak Brownie "Holiday Flash" and all the equipment necessary for lighting and film development. I recall jumping for joy when I viewed my first self-processed image including fingerprints, dust marks, and faded grey edges! The joy of my chemical darkroom work had begun!