When I was a senior at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn Heights, I was one of the editors of our school yearbook. We used the school darkroom to print every photograph in the book by hand, a massive task. My fingernails smelled like chemicals for months, and my eyes, I was sure, had permanently adjusted to the dark. There were eight of us, six girls and two boys, whom we called the “sex toys,” as if any of us had ever seen such a thing. Saint Ann’s had (and continues to have) the reputation of an artsy school, and we did our best to keep it that way. We divvied up the tasks with the guidance of our photography teacher, Heather, whom we trusted because she sometimes snuck cigarettes in the school building after hours.
Somehow it fell to me to take a photograph of our founding headmaster, Stanley Bosworth, for the front of the book. The picture I took of Stanley was unremarkable—he is leaning against the building, looking slightly off into the distance. He’s wearing a plaid sports jacket, and the frames of his eyeglasses are tinted. He looks like an owl crossed with the hero of a seventies French film, and that’s just how Stanley was. He had founded the school in 1965 and had been its fearless leader ever since. I printed the photograph on the same paper as a photograph of the school building, so that the building and Stanley would be together forever. I certainly couldn’t imagine one without the other. The limestone lines of the beaux arts building zigzag across Stanley’s plaid jacket, and come to a point over his head; he is the mermaid on the prow of the ship, hands behind his back, always at ease.
Stanley loved the photograph. One evening, when I was alone in the darkroom, Heather passed me a piece of paper, told me it was top secret, and that she would take it back when I was through reading it. It was Stanley’s letter, which was to run opposite the photo in the yearbook, and it was addressed to me. Read More