Nathan had been the senior hospital photographer for eighteen years and knew every employee. Since I was to eventually succeed him as hospital photographer he asked me to help out in his studio so that I would gain the benefit of his experience. The following year was spent listening to his life story.
He told me that before the war, he and his wife lived somewhere in Poland and they would photograph the bathers at the beach on the weekend and then stay up all night processing the film and returning the next day to sell the pictures. He told me of Germany’s invasion of Poland, how he watched his wife and child taken away on a truck to a concentration camp, how he joined the partisans, how after the war he ended up in Russia trying to get permission to enroll in the state cinema school but how his friend who was now a General thought that he could best serve the interests of the state as an informer, so he told him to fuck off — eventually ending up in East Germany living with some new found love but it broke up because they were “politically incompatible” and finally making his way to Canada and being offered the deal of a lifetime— that in return for working at the hospital for half pay, he was permitted to operate a private business from the studio. The “deal” was a gift and for the next eighteen years he made passport photos, photographed weddings and bar-mitzvahs, listened to classical music in his darkroom with the phone off the hook. After his experiences, probably the least important thing that he could think of was photographing cadavers for the medical profession.