My Ann Arbor; A Recent Visit to My Parents' Alma Mater, U of M

This entry is a bit of a personal one mashed up with professional. I spent all of last week at a symposium for the University Photographers Association of America (UPAA) of which I am a member as a staff photographer for Boston University. Every year the symposium is hosted by a different university, and this year was a special one for me because it was at the University of Michigan, which is where my parents went.

The conference was great. I relearned a lot of things I forgot about, made some new friends, had some interesting conversations about our field and the challenges within it.

Simultaneously, I got to know the place where my parents met. During the spare time we had between lectures and clinics and shooting competitions (photography, not skeet) I wandered the campus and found the places my parents lived when they were here in the early sixties. I experienced something I have never experienced before; sentimentality on someone else's behalf. I felt an emotional pull to Ann Arbor somehow. The campus was beautiful and it's downtown alive and peaceful at the same time (of course it is summer time and the student population is down, so there's that!).  I visited the sorority house my mom lived in and could see her in my mind, walking out the door with her books in her arms, heading up the walkway to class, many years younger than I am now. 

One of may favorite pictures of my parents is from their time together at UofM. It's black and white and dreamy and they lounge on a lawn together, my mom in her sixties bob hair style and my dad laying in the grass looking cool holding a cigarette. It was taken by my uncle Billy when he was visiting them from Switzerland as a teenager. 

I told anyone at the conference who would listen about the picture and how I wanted to try and have my photo taken in the same spot. Anyone Who Would Listen was very nice about me going on and on about Mom and Dad, and one shooter even joined me wandering the main campus trying to find where, exactly, photo was taken (thanks again, Peter!). We even tried asking at the grad student library but no one was sure where it was taken. So, no reinactment took place (being a photographer and not a model, I was OK with that).

Before I left for this trip, I also asked my dad where he lived, and so I headed to Mary Court where I introduced myself and told the young woman sitting on the porch "My dad lived here in the sixties!"  She thought this was very cool. Since spring semester was done, I asked her if she was in a summer session. No, she told me, and continued on about how she was soon leaving to teach english in South America, and her roommate, who was just inside, would be leaving that afternoon herself. "It's sort of a sad day for us" she shared "we've lived together since freshman year."  I told her that if she'd like I would take their portrait. She beamed and went inside to collect her roommate and I photographed them together on this porch where I could see my dad sitting playing his guitar.

The other thing I did was visit my mom's childhood home in Detroit. I was relieved to find her neighborhood in good shape, and sad to see so many other surrounding neighborhoods not doing too well. I approached the house, nervous, thinking about all the stories Mom's told me about growing up on this street so long ago; the field at one end where the kids played all sorts of games, and about the one mean kid who taped his guinea pig to his train set, how many great memories she had of her dad who died too young and so on. It was a modest home, and when I approached, the owner was very skeptical. I had a photo of mom in my hand which I'd brought along, and I explained what I was doing there and asked if I could take a few photos. She smiled at my story and my picture of my mom with her birthday cake and two dolls, one in each hand, and said of course I could. 

So, below is a collection of my favorites from my trip. To learn about what's going on in the photo, just scroll your cursor over the picture and a cutline will come up.