4 Dead in Ohio


In the fall of 1981 I went to graduate school at Ohio University to study towards an MFA in photography. Since I considered myself as a newbie to photography, having studied and practiced graphic design in a former life, I was looking forward to filling the gaps of my photographic knowledge and perhaps become a  more proficient practitioner of the medium. I was still pretty young, I was still pretty naive as to how things worked in the world, but I thought this would be a great adventure and a great time of growth. I would meet great fellow students, we would collectively do great things and our faculty would lead us on. We would have inspirational discussions in the class room, and talk of  great things to achieve. And afterwards we would go out for a beer and talk about it some more. I thought that’s what would happen.

The first meeting of the MFA grad students was in a parking lot. We were going on a picnic. We didn’t know each other from Adam. There were 7 of us. Me, Joe, Nancy, Barry, Steve, Richard and Thad. We all chatted a bit, we were all newbies of a sort, we were all perhaps anxious about the immediate future. I don’t recall who I spoke with first, but I recall some of my first impressions. Richard was a tall, gangly guy from New Jersey and I liked him. We would become great friends.  I had no read on Thad, he was younger than the rest of us and right out of undergraduate school. Barry was a very soft spoken, intellectual with a great vibe. I immediately thought we might be best friends. Steve was from New York and seemed to talk a lot about nothing. Joe, well I thought he was flat out crazy and figured he would be gone after the first quarter. And Nancy… well she had me at hello. But I guess that is another story.

So where are we now.. more like actually then. Well Thad dropped out after the first quarter of study. Since he was so much younger than his peers, it was rumored that he was intimidated by his fellow classmates, Too bad, I am sure he could have kicked things up a notch. Barry was the wise sage of the group, though we never became best friends. Crazy Joe became my best friend… go figure… and Richard was our cohort in crime. We were thick as thieves. Steve always tried to be a part of our very small group, but he kept playing the “I’m from New York” card and that didn’t go over very well in Ohio. And Nancy, she had me at hello…

So where are we now…now…

I have no idea where Thad is, though I hope he is doing good things. Last I knew Steve was was working in an ad agency in New York.  Barry, perhaps became the crown jewel of our class and is a professor at Cornell University. Richard is in Boston, last I knew. We lost track of each other, though later reconnected via Facebook, but then later he unfriended me because I supported Barrack Obama. And Joe lives in Tucson and we are Facebook friends as well, though we don’t talk. He did visit me last here in Seattle in 2001… I recall that because it was just before I got my first cell phone. And Nancy lives in the Boston area and we still communicate. She was probably the best artist and scholar of our group. She was the best of us all,  she really was. And most likely still is. She still teaches, she still makes art and from what I know, has a lovely life.

And about our faculty at Ohio University?  We never had those beers, we never talked of great things we would achieve and I can only say they remind me of a Neil Young song.