May Day 2

May Day

Friday Inspiration – William Gedney

William Gale Gedney was born in Greenville, New York in 1932. During his lifetime, Gedney received several fellowships and grants, including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship from 1966 to 1967, a Fulbright Fellowship for photography in India from 1969 to 1971, a New York State Creative Artists Public Service Program grant from 1972 to 1973; and a National Endowment for the Arts grant from 1975 to 1976. He also taught photography at Pratt Institute and Cooper Union in New York.

Bill Gedney was an immersion photographer. He jumped into and shared the lives of his subjects to a level of intimacy that few photographers would dare to risk. Bill’s most recognized work stems from journeys he made away from his native Brooklyn to ever-further locales, documenting through his eyes those lives he shared if ever so briefly. Kentucky, San Francisco, and India — these were the three stops where he completed some of his most haunting work.

In 1966, Bill received a Guggenheim fellowship to photograph “American life”. Gedney left Brooklyn and drove cross-country to the West Coast, and ended up in San Francisco in October, 1966. He spent the next three-plus months in California, taking several thousand photographs of the people he met and the activities that he observed. As he did earlier when he traveled to Kentucky (in 1964) Bill lived as close to his subjects as possible. In Kentucky, he moved in with a coalminer family. In San Francisco, he moved in with a crash pad family. He followed this group of approximately six young street people as they moved through the Haight Ashbury. Through these experiences, Bill was exposed to the street life as no other photographer did.

William Gedney died of AIDS in 1989 in New York City and is buried in Greenville, New York, a few short miles from his childhood home. He left his photographs and writings to his life long friend Lee Friedlander.

Thousands of Gedney’s images are online at Duke University.