My hope for every young photography student is that there comes a point when the need to do the work overrides the desire to do well in school. This happened for me in earnest when I was in graduate school in 1984. I liken this moment to a first kiss; you get only one chance, and with some luck it’s not squandered.
Following Garry Winogrand’s memorial service in March of that year, and a freak New York City snowstorm on that warm spring day, I took the RR subway into Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to visit my high school teacher, the artist Len Bellinger. As usual, I had my 8X10 camera and holders in a backpack, tripod dangling off to the side. Being a diligent student, I took the opportunity to photograph at my alma mater, a largely Italian-American Catholic high school for girls. I was immediately struck with a rush of recognition and terror. I returned to make pictures many times during the following months, knowing intuitively there was something important for me to unpack. Only a few years earlier, within these walls, I had lived my life as a teenager, a time of intense joy and unfathomable grief. Without hesitation, that spring day I jumped off the cliff. I was in love.
This book includes the Brooklyn work, as well as photographs made at that time in two New Haven Catholic girls’ schools. All of the work is produced with an 8X10 camera and printed in platinum, a practice I still employ. Evident is the influence of photographers whose work I was devouring, particularly August Sander and Diane Arbus. The seeds of my future projects are all in this book. With the Catholic girls I launched an obsessive lifelong work habit that I might not wish on anyone I care about. Looking back over these forty years, I don’t believe I had much choice. I remain most grateful to everyone who has supported me through the decades, including the incredible girls who generously offered their time to be photographed in 1984.