I always think back to my days at Morehead State University whenever I look at this picture of Harry Chapin. He did a benefit concert at Morehead State, a beautiful college campus in the hills of eastern Kentucky. I was a freshman at the time.
My love for photography really began with this concert. I was a photographer for the public relations department at Morehead State and I was assigned to shoot this event. I liked Harry Chapin’s music, so this was a real treat for me. He did not bring a band, only his guitar.
My first concert to photograph was The Spinners. I did not do very well. They kept moving around too much. Harry just sat there on a stool…so much easier. I did manage to get some good shots and I realized the power of the camera and how you could produce an image that evoked feeling.
After the concert, I walked with Harry Chapin, just he and I, out the door of Wetherby Gymnasium into the cold night air. I remember thinking how cool this is and not because of the temperature. We talked about the possibility of sending these photos to him (actually I talked about it, he seemed deeper in thought about something else, probably how to get rid of an annoying teen age photographer who thinks he is better than he really is). Anyway, as we were standing beside his rented Plymouth Duster with him holding his guitar, I knew then I would always remember this moment. Then he asked me that all important question I will take to my grave, “How do I get back to the Cincinnati airport?”
Harry Chapin was actually very pleasant on that night after his show. I was very saddened when I heard of his death. I will always remember the night when a big-time singer/song writer was kind to a young man from eastern Kentucky.
It’s funny how some things always stand out in our memory. I can still smell my freshman dorm room at 212 Alumni Tower, and no, not because of a stench of two eighteen year-olds living together in what could be a small walk-in closet.
I remember lying in my bed with a high fever wishing I was delirious instead of listening to my roommate and another friend argue over my lifeless body as to which was the best remedy…freeze the fever out or keep me warm. It looked like a bad comedy routine with one friend opening the window to let in the frigid January air and the other closing it and piling another blanket on me…repeating this dance over and over again.
I remember turning in my first Comp 1 paper.
At the sacrifice of hours of carefree college life to write our papers, we strode collectively up to the instructor and laid our finished work upon the altar. When I placed my paper on the pile, Mr. Morrow peered up at me over his glasses. After seeing the title of my paper, “The Baseball Life of Hank Aaron”, he said to me in his very southern drawl, “That is uh mighty schahluhly subject Mr. Nickell.” (That word is scholarly for you Yankees that don’t understand Southernese.)
I walked out of the room and down the hall, feeling quite pleased with myself. Then suddenly I felt the cold sting of higher education sarcasm. As I opened the door of the Combs building, with the crisp autumn afternoon hitting me in the face, I looked up into that bright blue eastern Kentucky sky and felt the pride and satisfaction of eliminating my first career choice…writing. After all, that is what college is about– finding out all of the things you ain’t good at.
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