The Green Frog

Ten, maybe fifteen years ago, Maryhop Brandon, a friend of mine, sent me a book called "On Reading," a collection of photographs by Andre Kertesz. I turned to the page she had marked. There was a photograph of me outside my mother's store, The Green Frog, a children's clothing store on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. The photograph dates from 1962. I'm sitting on the stoop reading a book. (It had to be a Nancy Drew.) There's a smock with Portuguese embroidery hanging in the window and a big rag doll wearing another one of my mother's dresses. I still have the Portuguese smock and yes, I also still have my entire collection of Nancy Drews. I was thrilled to have the book and, of course, it brought back lots of memories of the store and of Christopher Street. There was the deli on the corner where my sister and I got to order hero sandwiches on weekends. There was The Gingerbread House. a toy and bookstore run by Mrs. Springer (the source of many of my Nancy Drews) and there was Little Portugal, owned by Bill Ramos. Bill and his wife Dorothy were two of my parents' best friends who had the most amazing roof garden on Gay Street. (This was before roof gardens became popular.)

Only someone who knew me when I was little would have recognized me in the book. And I had known Maryhop, well, forever. Maryhop lived with her parents in New York where her father Peter was an actor and her mother Janie was my sister's godmother. They moved to California when I was around ten so I didn't see Maryhop all that much as I got older. She's now an artist living in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which I guess partly explains why she was leafing through a book of Kertesz photographs.

I was happy to have the book and didn't think that much about it until this November when I was checking out the calendar section of the Washington Post. I saw that the Academy Art Museum in Easton, Maryland, was going to exhibit the On Reading photographs. My mother was turning 85 and I thought it would be a nice surprise to take her to the exhibit on the Friday after Thanksgiving. It's hard to surprise my mother -- she'd read the Washington Post so I think she knew exactly where we were going.

This story ended up in Art Daily

A few days later I opened up my email and found a letter from the curator of the Andre Kertesz estate. He told me that Andre Kertesz would have loved this story (which he would have called a "little happening") and he remembered Andre Kertesz talking about the photograph many years after it was shot. Robert Gurbo had assumed the picture was posed but Kertesz assured him it was not. I like thinking that Kertesz remembered the moment.