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New York photographer Bill Hayward ’65 pioneered the medium of portraiture two years ago with his book, Bad Behavior, in which he invited his subjects — various kinds of artists — to transform their backdrop in any way they wished. Some used the backdrop to create landscapes or write words or phrases, while others chose to transform themselves as well through body painting and clothing removal. Selections from Bad Behavior are on display in Skillman Library through December.

Hayward is scheduled to return to his alma mater Nov. 18-20. He will give a performance in conjunction with his exhibit 4:15 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, in the all-night study lounge of Skillman Library. He will spend the rest of his residency, which is sponsored by Friends of Skillman Library, creating his signature images for his “American Memory Project.” He will photograph a mix of students, faculty, and staff in Farinon College Center and the Williams Center for the Arts. There will also be an opportunity for others to participate through sign-ups at Monday’s presentation, which will be held as part of Lafayette’s annual Fringe festival.

An English major at Lafayette, Hayward had a network of writers to use as his initial subjects on Bad Behavior.

“The most important part of my Lafayette years was reading into the literature and gaining a greater appreciation of language and the word,” says Hayward. “Ever since Lafayette, it has been part of the equipment.”

Over the years of doing portraits from Ronald Reagan to Bob Dylan, Hayward’s creative approach to portrait photography stemmed from his frustration with traditional methods.

“I started with writers and a bucket of paint, a brush, and paper. Basically, we just played,” he explains. “In the end, it was a collaboration between myself and the subject.”

The American Memory Project has taken Hayward all over the country to historical sites large and small in exploration of the “consciousness of America in the 21st century.” He is also videotaping the sessions with his subjects, which he plans on making into a documentary. The project has taken him to Bunker Hill, Independence Hall, the former World Trade Center site, Gettysburg Battlefield, Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Kennedy Space Center, Las Vegas, Wounded Knee, and elsewhere.

Hayward says that every time he does a portrait in this style, it’s more than just the subject coming in and sitting for him, it is a “real encounter. [These are] portraits of the collaborative self — the subject and I look at it on Polaroids as we go along. The end decision is theirs; it came out of their psyche.”

He notes that it is sometimes difficult to allow the creative process to work.

“I have absolutely no agenda about what I’m looking for — the challenge is to go beyond preconceived notions. The whole process is really an exploration; anything can happen. Given enough paint, paper, and possibilities, there’s no telling where you can end up.”

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