Me and New York

I was born in Brooklyn like a lot of people.  My second father’s mother objected to my parent’s plan to build a house on Long Island.  “Too far away. We’ll never see you.”  Instead, they moved to California.  There I got a new name – Bill Albright – which I kept through grade school, high school, college and the Navy.  When I was in NY at P.S. 100, I liked it and worked hard.  When we got to San Diego, I coasted.  Thought I could always catch up.  Didn’t.  Got bogged down for years until I met some art students at San Francisco State College. Went with one, Carol Loughlin,

Me and NY, Carol PS

to Mexico on her student loan and got out of sequence with my graduation class, losing my draft deferment.  I joined the Navy Reserve to avoid being drafted, finished my last semester and graduated.  With my diploma, I got into Officer Candidate School, OCS, jumped through all the hoops and was ready to marry Carol Loughlin and move to Guantanamo Bay as a supply officer, when I was demoted to a swabbie

Me and NY,  ensign PS

and sent to the fleet because of my left wing family.   Traveling from Rhode Island to Taipei to get my ship took over a month.  Had to go to Japan and the Philippines first.  When I finally found my ship, which was about to bombard Vietnam, there was a discharge letter waiting.  I protested saying that I needed to get back to the States to challenge the discharge.  After 3 days, they put me ashore and sailed off.  Back in Oakland, California, I accepted an honorable discharge.  I tried to go back to my old life, but I couldn’t.  Carol moved out and got a job as a stewardess.  Everything had changed.  I went looking for a new name and realized I was born Bill Arnold.  At the officer school, photography saved me.  When I got out, as Bill Arnold, I signed up for a class with Jack Welpott at San Francisco State, but he was in love with his assistant and preferred spending time with her than with students.  I heard of a teacher at the San Francisco Art Institute who taught “hand held” photography.

Me and NY, Burchard PS

Me and NY,  Self-cone PS

Jerry Burchard introduced me to photography and to Phillip Perkis, who lived in New York.  One night at Jerry’s, Phillip handed me The Americans by Robert Frank.  I was floored.  After a couple of summer workshops with Perkis and other photo teachers, I quit a teaching job at S.F.A.I., wrote to Perkis asking him, if I could help him in some way in New York.  A few months later the letter came back undelivered.  During that time I met Elaine Mayes, who had a photo job in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Elaine in a Rocker

Perkis seated H  PS

I checked a U.S. map.  It looked like Amherst was close to New York.  Four years later, Perkis got me the chair of photography at Pratt Institute.  Elaine and I took a sublet on 18th off Park around the corner from Max’s Kansas City,

Me and NY, 18th St. Apt. PS

but we didn’t know anyone.  For 2 years I drove the 1968 Volvo to Brooklyn.  4 days in New York; 3 days in Florence, Mass. and then back again.  Started having chest pains.  Withdrew back to Florence, where Jack Johnson introduced me to Punk, which took me back to New York.

Arnold 18

Camped out with friends until my marriage with Elaine collapsed and my mentor, Sam Wagstaff, died.  Dove into my work and the music.  My beloved Aunt Margie (she gave me my first camera) met me at the Unitarian’s B+B at 33rd and Madison.  Thereafter, I would bike from Florence to Amtrak in Amherst, lift the bike into the baggage car and pedal from Penn Station to 33rd.  A little pricey until I got a tenement sublet on Mott.  Reasonable including the $100 cash to the guy down the street.

St. Patrick on Mott 001

You could get on the roof and be in the middle of it.  My friend turned sweetheart from Maine, Lisa Whelan, would meet me in this tiny apartment.

Me and NY,  Lisa, Biking PS

But there was no honeymoon.  Her ex-boyfriend went into a rage.  And the building sold.  Back to my studio and then swing dancing, where I met a vibrant, idealistic, healthy woman, Teegrey Iannuzzi, who unfortunately didn’t know where Brooklyn was.

Me and NY,  Teegrey PS

After years of no communication with Elaine, we talked at Jerry Burchard’s funeral.  She was living on the coast of Oregon, but kept an apartment near Wall Street.  I offered to split the rent.  It worked for a while.  It was great being way downtown and near the bike path.  But the arrangement with Elaine became too complicated for me.  I packed my New York stuff and withdrew to Florence.  My father mentioned his brother’s place off 14th and A.  My uncle and his wife traveled a lot.  I left a bike there.  I got to explore another neighborhood.  Coincidentally, a painter friend of mine, David Moriarty, had rebounded close by.  When his lease was up, we got a place in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

Me and NY,  Moriarty PS

Back to my ancestral home.  I liked everything about it and would have been there still, except David’s girlfriend moved in.  Once again, I packed everything up and drove slowly back to Florence.  That was April 2015.  Mimi Gross told me of a place available in January.

Me and NY,  Mimi Drawing PS

That’s where I am now, on Varick a couple of blocks below Canal.


View from Varick Street

Me and Cars

I asked my aunt why my mother married my father. She said, “He had a car.” Before he left, he taught my uncle to drive, which enabled him to become a truck driver, a Teamster and eventually a high muckety muck in the union.

My mother went out with a man who had a hardware store in Queens. He drove a Ford coupe with a shelf under the rear window big enough for me. When we left the City, I looked up and out. When we came back, I slept.

My second father’s father had a 1932 Desoto sedan, which, before the 55 mile drive to Mastic Beach, he would clean the sparkplugs, gap the points, adjust the timing, add brake fluid to the master cylinder, oil to the crankcase, transmission and differential, grease the fittings, pump up the tires and wash the car.

Father #2 rebuilt a 1938 Oldsmobile straight six that he and my mother drove from New York to San Diego, taking the southern route preferring rain to snow. The windshield wipers worked on vacuum. When you stepped on the gas, the wipers stopped. When you let up, the wipers sprang back to life. In Texas, the muffler went. While waiting for a new one, they were invited to stay. “Plenty of work.” They continued to California.

In San Diego, my parents bought a 1948 Plymouth 4 door with spotlights. A lemon. They traded it for a light blue ’49 Chrysler with fluid drive. It was very stately, but could peel rubber.

My mother’s sister’s husband, Kenny, though born in NY always wanted to be a cowboy. He homesteaded 120 acres of sagebrush in Sparks, Nevada, where he had a Model A Ford without a windshield that I could drive.

When I was fourteen, tall for my age, I went into every car dealership on Van Ness Avenue, the auto row of San Francisco, gathering brochures and telling stories. My father was interested in a new sedan, my uncle a truck, my aunt something small and foreign, my cousin a sport’s car. I had no story to tell the salesman with the Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gull Wing. He just let me sit in it.

My grandfather had a ’55 Lincoln 2 door hardtop with a button on the dash that greased all the fittings underneath. When he drove fast, I got on the floor in the back.   Making a quick, tight turn over railroad tracks, he rolled it.

Just as I was about to graduate from junior high (10th grade), my parents moved. They gave me a choice. They would pay for bus fare for 6 weeks ‘til graduation or I could take that money and transfer to another school. I took the money. Three months later, we moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area.

While at my new school, my grandfather on my mother’s side sold me a black 4 door, 8 cylinder Buick that needed a timing chain. My mother objected, saying that me and my friends looked like hoodlums in it. With the profit I made selling it, I bought a 1938 Plymouth businessman’s coupe. You could sleep in the trunk. It had a crank out windshield. I spent my senior year rebuilding the engine, but couldn’t keep it running. I sold it for $30. The new owner added a second carburetor and burned rubber from my front door to the end of the street.

My graduation present from high school was a day’s rental of a new, lime green, 1959 Cadillac convertible. After I took my date home from the senior prom, I drove around all night, dropping off the car at the airport and walking home.

From the money I made working as a carpenter’s apprentice on tract houses with my father, combined with my savings from “Bank Day” from elementary school and the “bus money,” I bought a 1956 VW Sunroof. A couple of years later on a date in junior college, Celina said, “Is this a new car?” The odometer had just rolled over showing all zeros.

The VW got 30 miles to the gallon and never, not ever, a problem. I traded it for an Austin Healey Sprite with a roll bar that had been raced. It was thrilling, but mostly broken.

I got an unlockable, red pickup truck from a plumber with “Hoyt Water Heaters” on the doors. I could park it any place and never get a ticket.

My father got a new VW pickup and gave me his 1955 Chrysler work car. When I sold it before I went into the Navy, I showed the new owner how to move the gearshift until it caught and how to pump up the brakes. She never drove it. It was towed.

Carol, my almost wife, and I drove a “drive-a-way” in winter East. On a miles- long uphill in the snow in Colorado, I stopped to ask a guy if he were in trouble. He said, “No, but you are.” No traction. I couldn’t go forward. Had to back down that mountain.

On one of the times that my mother went crazy, she told me that neighbors were moving their windows to direct the sun into her face. I said that would be a complicated computation, all the angles from a moving sun to the different houses to her house. Just then a car started up the road, the sun reflecting off the windshield. When my mother saw four nuns in the car, she realized her mistake. Nuns were too stupid to do all those computations. She didn’t have to go to the hospital that time.

One New Years, my friend convinced me to get a dog. I sold my motorcycle and bought a Dodge Dart. It was a little long in the tooth, but it was fine for the dog, until she got shot.

Elaine, through a deal with her uncle, got a new ’68 Volvo in 1969. We drove it from San Francisco with 5 cats to Western Massachusetts. When we divorced, I got the Volvo, she got the house.

After being away for a while, Elaine and Gene met me at Logan airport. Gene drove. And we made love.

While doing a workshop in San Francisco, I accepted the job as Chairman of Photography at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. But I had just bought for $100 a 1960 Jaguar 3.8 sedan in pretty rough shape. I flew to Brooklyn. Paul drove the Jag. It took 30 quarts of oil. After restoring it, as they say, from the ground up, on its maiden voyage, the main bearings melted.

A friend of mine gave me a VW identical the one I had in college, except it needed work. The $1500 I gave the mechanic to get it in shape wasn’t enough. So, I gave it back to my friend.

I had a racecar engine put in the ’68 Volvo. I drove 40,000 miles to Maine to see a painter.

When my mother died, my father bought a Nissan 300ZX, which I borrowed to go to a party in Pasadena. On the way back north, I stopped at Hearst Castle outside of which was a temporary road sign saying, “ROAD CLOSED 50 MILES.” Closed for 50 miles or closed in 50 miles? For the next 50 miles I was the only car on the road. Blue skies, golden hills, the ocean, top down, driving slow.

With Vinnie, who has had 16 cars, I found a mint condition, 1991 Toyota Celica convertible in Pennsylvania. The best thing about that car is the sky.

My grandfather put all his vinyl records and a trip to Ireland on cassettes. When he died, I got them. When I’m under my car (I have a floor jack and jack stands), I hear his music and sometimes his voice.


Volvo Door Open Cornfield copy







1960’s Photo History

Theatre House, 1970, Museum of Modern Art

In the spirit of Marcus Aurelius, i return to this Blog.

We know of the era labeled the Renaissance and also the Enlightenment. What will our time be called? The Photographic Age.  Photography is now everywhere, all the time. Everything that is sold is photographed. Interviews must have photographs. The supermarket check out stand is mostly photography.  Cell cameras, dashboard cameras, security cameras, drone cameras all making pictures. At least 250 million photos are posted each day on Instagram. “There is something happening and you don’t know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?” Bob Dylan

When I started making pictures in the 1960’s,  creative photography was a wild west side show to the main events of music, cars and politics. It attracted unenlightened, unsophisticated, passionate loners. Women could do it just as good as men.  With extra film in your pocket, you could make pictures any place.  You had only to look for that place where Cartier Bresson said “the pulse beat a little closer to the surface.”  You had always to be looking.  When you felt you’d found it, stop, push the button.  Most of the time, there was no picture   But you could only know that after hours in the darkroom.  And if you thought that your new picture would stop traffic, what could you do with it? There were no galleries, no museums, no reviewers, no collectors, no magazines, no rules and no money. The art gallery dealers who sold real art counseled that as long as you had the negative, you could make hundreds of copies, thereby making any one copy worthless.  But more and more students wanted to learn creative photography.  Prior to this wave of interest, photography was taught in trade schools, where students were encouraged to buy expensive cameras and studio lighting equipment.  These new photographers didn’t want to make pictures for clients.  They wanted to make pictures for themselves.  A second hand market popped up.  The photography industry had introduced the 35mm, single lens reflex with interchangeable lens, claiming that it would give you precisely the pictures you wanted. It was a hoax.  These large, heavy, slow, noisy cameras became albatrosses around the necks of tourists everywhere, while the old small, light, quick and quiet range-finder cameras became cheap.  The 1933 Leica lll had a telescoping lens, which got wobbly after repeatedly being pulled out and pushed back in.  By carefully wrapping the barrel of the extended lens with layers of string, the lens could be stabilized.  A great camera cheap.  In the 1950’s the Japanese started making knockoffs of German cameras.  By the 60’s, those cameras trickled down to the student market.  The 35 mm still camera was an offshoot of the 35 mm movie industry.  There was so much of 35 mm movie film that still cameras were designed to take the 35 mm format.  In a movie camera, film moves from top to bottom.  In a still camera, film moves from left to right.  Both have sprocket holes on the edge.  The difference is the light sensitive coating. When the photography boom started, Kodak made 35mm film available in 100 ft. rolls that you had to roll into cassettes yourself.  The cost was a penny a shot. By showing your camera, you could get in pretty much everyplace.  As one of my teachers, John Collier, the FSA photographer, said, “the camera is a passport.  I takes you places.”  People sought these new photographers to do publicity shots or weddings saying that they would be willing to pay for the film and paper and “think of the exposure you’d get”.  Nonsense.  Photographers did it for the challenge to make original pictures in  hackneyed situations.  One of my schoolmates, Annie Leib, figured out how to make original pictures and money at the same time. The rest of us went into our darkrooms and disappeared. I knew a guy who would leave his pictures in the developer for an hour, while he had lunch. Normal development time was 2 minutes. I knew another guy who abhorred black or white in black and white photographs. His pictures were only shades of gray. There was a woman who photographed street people as if they were in a studio. Free from the possibility of success, these new photographers were free to get the shot.  But it wasn’t long before a few curatorial/entrepreneurs realized that money could be made out of this craze.  it just had to be cleaned up, organized, rationalized and throttled.

Insert Portfolios


DSC07827 copy

Paper Roll

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Route 2W into N. Adams

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David Moriarty Painting

Because more and more people are getting their news from smart phones and computers, fewer businesses are advertising in the newspapers.  Fewer ads, less revenue.  To attract more ads, the papers have lowered ad rates, especially insert rates.  Inserts are generally those cheap fliers that get inserted into the middle of the paper and which most of us immediately discard.  Last Spring, I wondered if I could insert a portfolio of my photographs into the local newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette.  I didn’t know what I was doing and as helpful as the Gazette was, they didn’t know how to do it because no one had done this before.  On September 27 2013, 10,000 of my portfolios were inserted into subscriber’s copies of the Gazette.  The response was thrilling.  By piggybacking in a newspaper, my portfolios wound up on thousands of kitchen tables.  On December 13, 2013, I had 20,000 portfolios of scenes from New York inserted into Brooklyn subscriber’s copies of the New York Times.  Again the response was intoxicating.  Within a few days, 2,500 “visitors” had viewed thousands of pages from my website.  As with the Gazette insert, numerous people e-mailed their heartfelt appreciation for the “surprise” with their morning paper.

How do I pay for these inserts?

The major source of support in 2013 was print sales.  My dealer, Joseph Bellows of La Jolla California, sold 8 prints to collectors.  I hope that prints I made in the 1970’s will continue to fund this unique way of showing my photographs.  Newspaper insertion rates per 10,000, 12 page portfolios vary from $300 to $2,000.  It is the cost of printing the inserts that I am attempting to reduce.  The more work I take on, the lower my costs.  I am considering doing the folding and stapling, as well as getting my own press.  I would like to continue putting inserts into newspapers in our major cities.

Why do I put my photographs into these inserts?

When my pictures are hung in galleries and museums, those venues, in effect, certify that my pictures are valuable, interesting, art.  When my insert portfolio drops out of a newspaper, the viewer has to determine if they are looking at more detritus or not.  Is this little booklet valuable or not?  They decide.  When I have a show, maybe a hundred people see the work.  When I make a portfolio insert, thousands of people discover my work.  I like to have my work seen because I believe that it is accessible.

I can’t believe that people from the following countries have visited this website, seen my pictures, but they have.

Bosnia and Herzegovina
Cote D’Ivoire
Czech Republic
Hong Kong
Korea, Republic of
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
Palestinian Territory
Russian Federation
Saudi Arabia
South Africa
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States

Summer in the Mill

Mill River



I know a guy whose book-reading wife died.  Now, he’s with a woman who watches TV 12 hours a day.  UH HUH

I knew an independent, self-employed guy who leveraged and lost half a million dollars in stock.  Now, he works for a corporation.  WELL

A friend of mine bought a late model car with a gas pedal that got stuck once, but that was months ago.  OK

I know a guy who always wanted to have a hardware store.  He has a hardware store.  When he goes to New York, he visits hardware stores.  RIGHT

A cannoli loving diabetic friend of mine died with one foot on.  I SEE

I knew a policeman, who drank vodka and beer on the weekends.  He dragged himself three miles in the desert after crashing his motorcycle.  He was never the same.  AH

I know a lad whose parents taught him to swim before he could walk.  He got a four-year scholarship to high school for swimming.  I UNDERSTAND

I know a guy who, when he was twelve, beat up his father to stop his father from beating him up.  UH HU

I know a guy who taunted a football team until they took him behind the bar and beat him to a pulp.  I SEE

I knew a conscientious teacher turned congressman, who went to Jonestown and got shot.  REALLY

I knew a guy who met a cute girl who agreed to sail to Hawaii with him.  As soon as they cleared the bar, she was sick all the way to Hawaii.  OH DEAR

I knew a woman who fell in love with a guy who promised to leave her alone.  They married, had a kid and he died.  HUMM

I knew a teacher who had three lovers.  One at home and two at school.  UH HU

I knew an abuse counselor who was advised to shot off the legs of the husbands who came after her.  HUMM

I know a guy who always loved to fix cars.  He still fixes cars, but he has ten people to help him.  WELL


Mill River, Look Park