Snappy-san in New Mexico

Reader, sometime in the year 1983 or 1984, Snappy-san met L in the rare book room of the library. This was fate. The story takes place in the Zimmerman Library, Special Collections Division. We had work study jobs, which for Snappy-san entailed (for a while) removing staples from old correspondence. It also entailed reorganizing the rare book room’s photo collection, which was significant and quite incredible. (Example: black and white snapshots of the Hopi Snake dance, in which the Hopi danced with and held in their mouths, rattlesnakes.) Snappy-san does not remember what Ls first tasks were. But as happens sometimes, things happened fast. But also? Things did not happen at all. More on that later. For now, let us talk of photography.

The great photo historian, Beaumont Newhall taught at UNM, and Snappy-san was lucky enough to take the last History of Photography class he taught before retiring. By then Newhall had pretty much seen and done it all, and he had a satchel full of great stories. Taking the place of professor Newhall, was Dr. Professor Hans Puttnies from Germany. He had wavy hair, gleaming white teeth, and double-breasted suits. Prof. Dr. was on a first-name basis with Henri Cartier-Bresson.

If memory serves correctly, (and does it ever?) Snappy-san remembers Prof. Dr. Puttnies introducing Harry Callahan by saying, ‘Today we are going to talk about a stupid man.’ Prof. Dr. was also gobsmacked by how beautifully Ansel Adams could write, and given his prodigious literary gifts, he insisted on taking pictures in zoos, by which Puttnies meant National Parks.

Beyond Newhall and Puttnies, here are the names that Snappy-san remembers from those days. Bill Tydeman, Thomas Barrow, Betty Hahn, Gwen Widmer, Joel Peter Witkin.

New Mexico was glorious (that light!) and it was also a bit of a slow-moving horror. Snappy-san went through some tough personal times in New Mexico. He got married to K on Christmas Eve, while he was in love with L, who (surprise!) showed up to take pictures at the blessed event. Around the same time, he also met L2, with whom he would later, sadly, conduct a troubled love affair.

{Side bar: Joel Peter Witkin, was a regular at the Australian Bakery Cafe, where Snappy-san’s wife, K, worked. When JPW learned that K’s husband was studying photography at UNM, he recommended a book. Something like How to Promote Yourself As An Artist.}

Snappy-san bought a motorcycle and was regularly seen zooming through the streets on his way to class, or flying down route 14 with K on the back as he dreamt of a life with L. For a while, Snappy-san lived in a state park in a tent. He may have thought this was romantic, but it was mainly terrible. While Snappy-san lived in the state park, his new bride K threw all the pottery he’d made in pottery class down the cellar stairs and destroyed it all. No photographs exist of Snappy-san’s pottery. Some of it was quite good.

Some of the highlights of Snappy-san’s time in New Mexico.

Meeting L. Taking a class from the writer Max Kozloff, a New York based art historian, writer and photographer. Snappy-san remembers that Max was quite taken with Duane Michaels. Snappy-san was in a juried show in Albuquerque, but he cannot remember the venue, or anything else about this, other than his parents were visiting at the time, and for a hot moment, it looked like maybe this photography thing might just work out.

Then there was the night that Snappy-san ran into John Szarkowski at a lecture on Eugene Atget, (a Snappy-san photographic hero) in Santa Fe. L was there. So was his wife, K. Also there was a co-author of this book, seen above.


{The great photographer of Old Paris, Eugene Atget, by Berenice Abbott.}

And then there were the photography shows that Snappy-san curated at the special collections library. With L. Shows about Edward Curtis, Laura Gilpin, Ansel Adams, and others.