by Kevin Gray
At the point where the careers of acclaimed photographer Bill Hayward ’65 and author Geoff Gehman ’80 meet lies passion for art, beauty, and expression. This fall, Gehman curated Hayward’s Human Bible exhibit at Martin Art Gallery, Muhlenberg College. The photographs were a preview of Chasing Dragons, a career retrospective book to be published by Glitterati in fall 2014.
“The entire process, which I call portraits of the collaborative self, is predicated on a conversation, during which the subject reveals an unexpected truth,” explains Hayward, an English graduate.
In 2002, Gehman became intrigued by a Hayward image. “It’s a photo of a costume designer who created an outfit that can only be described as a Pope in a sauna. I thought . . . I’ve got to write about this guy.” Through their connection as alumni, Gehman reached out to Hayward and penned an article in The Morning Call, where he was arts writer. A decade later, Gehman interviewed Hayward for Psychology Tomorrow, an online magazine for which Hayward is resident photographer.
Hayward, in turn, captured images of Gehman and several classic locales on Long Island where Gehman grew up. The photos are published in Gehman’s recent memoir, The Kingdom of the Kid.
“I wanted to continue our collaboration, so I asked Bill to let me curate a show of his photos,” says Gehman, who visited Hayward’s Manhattan apartment to view slides and confer on which works to include from the American Memory Project series and his book Bad Behavior. Hayward completed two residencies at Lafayette in 2002 and 2004 during which students and staff had the opportunity to participate in the medium of portraiture that Hayward pioneered in which subjects transform their backdrop using paint, paper, and other materials.
“The most important part of my Lafayette years was reading into the literature and gaining a greater appreciation of language and the word,” says Hayward. “Ever since Lafayette, it has been part of the equipment.”
For Gehman, a psychology graduate who was features editor of The Lafayette, president of the College Choir, and wrote for Lafayette Magazine, Lafayette has played a bigger role in his life. He has been writing stories for the College’s magazine and website for more than 30 years.
“It’s a great way of giving back and spreading the news about an increasingly progressive, socially minded institution.” He notes that the school has grown better and better since his days and especially since those of his late father, Clarence Harvey “Larry” Gehman ’44.
“But, the absolute best thing that happened to me on College Hill was befriending June Schlueter and her husband, Paul,” he adds. “I was in her very first class at Lafayette, Modern Drama. I liked her right away when she brought the wrong notes to class and then winged it with aplomb. After that, I became a regular visitor to their home and the first of many surrogate Lafayette children.”
These collaborations have strengthened a friendship cultivated by common passions. “We’re united by creativity, language, love of female beauty, justice, courage, and acting outside the box with other people. He gets me, and I get him,” says Gehman, adding, “I don’t think I’ve met anyone who loves words more than Bill.”
Indeed, the photo captions are bolstered by Hayward’s idea to include lines from Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, and other poets. “With Geoff, there’s an understanding and trust,” says Hayward. “He’s very much about possibility, too, and there aren’t many people who are.”