I don’t know how many chambre de bonne there are in Paris, but I must have lived in half of them. One day, I saw a young man standing on the rooftop of the building across from mine on rue d’Aumale. Maybe he was meditating, or maybe he had just gotten out of jail and was taking in the vast open space, but I was getting worried about what the one horrible thing that people do from the top of a roof.
“Ca va?” I shouted at him.
“Ca va.” he answered.
He stood frozen for a minute or two, long enough for me set up a tripod and snap a picture. When I looked out of the window again a moment later, he was gone.
I was relieved to see him back on the rooftop, at the same spot, a couple of weeks later.
After several years of complications with three publishers, Robert Delpire published my first book in 2006. I had met Bob in 1998, when I first arrived in Paris, through Annie Boulat. Annie was the one and only contact I had when my feet touched French soil, given to me by a friendly Italian photographer at a party in New York just days before my departure. Bob was a hard read at first. I wasn’t sure whether he liked my work or not, but when he pointed at a picture of a stuffed Felix the cat in a toy store in Korea and said, “I’d like to put this in a book I’m doing about cats…is that OK for you?”
I saw Bob once every couple of years after that, bringing a box of small prints of new pictures to show him, trembling inside that he would tell me that they weren’t very good. He generally didn’t said much. “Continuez… Il faut continuer à faire des photos.” was what he always told me as I left his office. He used ‘vous‘ with me back then.
Gerhard was a German from London. We shared a single room occupancy hotel room on 99th and Broadway for a few months. Both of us were holding on by the skin of our teeth to survive in the rough jungle of the Big Apple. He had worked at the Ritz in London and was looking for a similar job at a 5-star hotel in New York. In the meantime, he worked occasionally as a waiter for a temp agency. He got me in on the action and sometimes we would take the subway all the way out to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn to a synagogue for wedding receptions. The long trek was worth it because it paid $15 an hour and back in the late 80s, that was good money.
Snuck up on this beautiful white horse having dinner on the island of Schiermonnikoog in Holland. He was too busy chowing away to notice me encroaching him ever closer. The lens was wide open and I think the shutter speed was 1/2 a second or maybe even a full second. The sound of the shutter clicking startled the poor bugger and he moseyed on over to another spot to dine in peace.
Having a beer, or two, with the great Anders Petersen in a bar in St. Paul sometime in 2003. I got to meet this master Swedish photographer during the brief time that I was with Galerie VU. Fiercely intense and uncompromisingly dedicated to his art, coupled with incredible kindness and generosity, Anders is one of rare artists I’ve met whose humanity is on par with the greatness of his work.