Toward the end of those tumultuous months, I went after an administrative position that opened up at a school where I’d begun yet another adjunct teaching gig. It was one of the few full-time college-level photography jobs in New York City, and it included health insurance for the whole family and a modest pension plan. It looked like a path to the teacher-artist identity. And I could walk to work. I was elated to get it.

The job was engaging, so much so that I was soon there sixty hours a week and bringing massive amounts of work to the loft each night and to the country house every weekend. Eve was starting seventh grade the fall I got the job, and she and I would head out in the morning to our respective schools, me walking fast next to her on roller blades. Despite that morning togetherness, the job in sum took me away from my family in a way I’d never experienced. It wasn’t like travel, with a clear start and finish. It was day after day, with no end in sight. I was no longer able to eat lunch with Mary Ann, I wasn’t there when Eve came home, and I was often out at school events in the evening. As an administrator, I was expected to work through the summer. Eve called it “the job where Dad disappeared.”

—Rock In A Landslide

Eve called it ‘the job where Dad disappeared.’

Still, my new life was stimulating. My boss and I immediately set out to redesign the four-year photo curriculum; I joined the committee that chose what to exhibit in the gallery; I had drinks every Thursday at the Gotham Bar and Grill with the college gallery director and an assistant dean [Tim Gunn was the assistant dean, well before Project Runway; that’s about as close as I’ve come to celebrity]. In my own department, I had a built-in community of 250 students and sixty part-time faculty. Both constituencies were skeptical of the school’s priorities and saw me as part of the administration: the teachers thought they weren’t being paid enough, and the students thought they weren’t getting their money’s worth. Both were right, both thought I should absorb their resentments, and both held the magical belief that I could make things better. They saw me as their fixer more than as an artist mentor or peer.

My prior identity, magazine photographer, had faded as quickly as the next issue came out and the old one got thrown away.

—Rock In A Landslide

Kelly Nowels