Back in the late 1980s I had a show at the “Helio Gallery” in the East Village where I was living. I walked in one late Saturday afternoon to see how things were going. The gallery owner told me that a man came in, looked around and was interested in one of my images. He wanted to trade. He described the man as elegantly dressed and was walking two dachshunds. He wanted me to deliver the print to his studio when the show was over. He handed me a piece of paper with the man’s name and address. It was the famous portrait photographer Hans Namuth.
When the show came down, I called his studio and set up an appointment. I arrived at the building and went up the elevator to his studio floor. An assistant took me into a room where I waited. I noticed many well known images on the wall. I can recall seeing one of Ralph Gibson’s images, possibly one of Harry Callahan’s as well.
Hans came into the room and we chatted. I gave him my print which was matted and framed, fresh off the gallery wall. He showed me some prints that I could choose from. I told him I was interested in one of his images of Jackson Pollock. He reluctantly brought some out. I picked one, which he agreed was fine for the trade. I noticed that it was unsigned and I asked him if he would sign it. He said no. I was surprised at his refusal. I explained that while I may not be famous, he was getting a framed, matted, and signed print. It was complete, ready to hang. He said he would only put his stamp on it and that was it. I felt totally disappointed, but I agreed.
Afterwards, he showed me some of his collection and how happy he was to add my image to his studio wall. He looked at me and said, “Well, you’re young and have much time yet. How old are you?”. I told him and he got quiet. He said thanks and I left feeling a bit incomplete about what transpired. I was disappointed, feeling old, naive, and wondering if I will ever “make it”.
In a way, I did.