In early 1990, while I was a student at the Maine College of Art (then known as Portland School of Art), I was introduced to John Preston by his friend and fellow author (and my English professor) Agnes Bushell. John had been looking for an assistant to fact find for his comprehensive resource guide for gays and lesbians, which was published as The Big Gay Book. Pre-internet, this was a consuming task. For weeks I called bookstores, bars, AIDS resource networks, and authors to confirm addresses, phone numbers, correct spellings, and on.

I was just beginning to take classes in photography, so John asked me if I was interested to try my hand at photographing him for his press release. I was thrilled by the opportunity. One photograph in particular stood out, which showed John sitting with the completed manuscript on his lap, his cat on the manuscript, and in the background a shelf filled with copies of his publications. That photograph was also used for the Hometowns dust jacket credit.

We spent several afternoons around Portland photographing in various places. I ruined two rolls of film by overexposing them and running the processing at a high temperature. He was patient and gracious and took the time to indulge my student fallibility. So we spent more time in the field. When Hometowns published he invited me to his party at the Copley Plaza, and while it was a low-key party I met many interesting and well-known writers and performers.

I saw John very little in the years between 1992 and his death in 1994. I was a student consumed with my studio practice. I visited John in the hospital shortly before his death, and then he was gone.

Read more about John Preston’s life as well as his literary contributions in the Bangor Daily News and The Bollard

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