My loft in Soho was in a small building with just 10 units that were supposed to be occupied only by certified artists. It was a little community of creatives. Across the hall from my loft door were Sol Resnick and June Manton who became very close friends. Sol was called “Rush” (short for “Russian”) because he had been a communist after he came back from fighting in Europe during WWII. He was a super talented artist who met June when he worked as a freelance illustrator for Gimbels Department Store where she was the art director. He would do hyper-realistic pencil drawings for the newspaper ads. When he was on the front lines during the war he would use the quiet time to draw the scenes of Army life and death. But his passion was making abstract sculptures adorned with gorgeous surfaces. He would find objects with fascinating shapes in the trash, bring them back to his studio and transform them into lucious sexy sculptures. He was using recycled materials long before it became popular. And he had very high standards for his art and the world around him.
When I was working in my darkroom I would knock on Rush’s door to show him my work for his thoughts. He was an insightful critic who helped me see my own work more clearly. Often I would show him a final photogram that I thought was really successful. He would look at it, stroke his prodigious mustache and then gently burst my bubble of pride with his thoughtful and helpful suggestions that I go back in the darkroom and improve my piece that I thought was already finished.
Another artist in the building was Todd Watts. He was a master printer and darkroom wizard. He made gorgeous large silver-gelatin prints for other photographers and himself. He designed and built specialized equipment for his processes. He made the large Berenice Abbott prints for the Commerce Graphics editions. Abbott became his mentor and friend. Todd and I bonded over our shared love of the darkroom and technology and our commitment to photography.