Aaron and Fred
The blog is back, after a break of ten days or so to work on adding new series to the site.
In the mid 70's I was a few years out of graduate school and living north of Boston in Manchester (sometimes referred to as Manchester-by-the-sea). I was married and struggling to find my way as some sort of wage earner and also creatively. I was working for a couple of architects photographing their designs and teaching a few evenings a week at Northshore Community College in Beverly.
At one point I heard that Fred Sommer was going to be at RISD (RI School of Design) in Providence so drove down to see him. By this time I'd had him as a teacher for a few weeks while studying at RISD but hadn't yet had the top of my head blown off when visiting him in Prescott, AZ, where he lived (see Fred Sommer, which continues as Parts 2, 3 and an Addendum). That would happen a few years later.
At any rate, the presentation was a "conversation" with Fred, Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan. It took place on the 2nd floor of Benson Hall, where the Photo Department was. Aaron and Fred and Harry sat at a table in the front of the room and students and guests sat in fold-up chairs facing them. My memory is vague from so long ago but I'd guess there were maybe 25 of us in the room. Some students, maybe a couple of faculty and a few people like me who'd heard about it and returned to the school to listen to these three old friends reminisce about their times together.
I remember they did just that, with Aaron telling a story now often repeated about how he and Fred went photographing together in the Southwest at one point and Aaron shot several rolls of film only to return several hours later to where Fred was to find that Fred had made just one picture.
As the time together drew to a close I made one poorly exposed picture with a Leica of Aaron showing Fred where his new pacemaker was and how it regulated his heart beat.
I love this moment between them, two old friends reunited for a brief time, sharing in the effects of growing older. Sometimes we glorify our heroes and forget that they too are human. I think it is good to remember that they had lives apart from their art, strengths and frailties, tragedies and successes, just as we all do.