The Photographers

Nancy Crampton ’56

By Vassar Quarterly


My “A Day in the Life of Vassar” day began with a visit to Betty Daniels ’41, the 89-year-old college historian who holds forth in the Aula, busily expanding her online archive of Vassar activities and anecdotes. My indispensable helper for the day, VC publicist Emily Darrow, and I gave Betty a hasty haircut so that she wouldn’t have an excuse to postpone our session! (A further example of Vassar ingenuity: not to be daunted by a shift in her eyesight a while back, Betty had simply switched to a special bold keyboard for her Mac.)

Since taking Art 105 and spending my junior year in France, I have always loved art museums, and so I was looking forward to visiting Vassar’s. At the Art Center I found myself bowled over by the stylish and enthusiastic curator of photography, Mary-Kay Lombino. In my college days, alas, photography did not seem to be on anyone’s radar. It would be many years before I stumbled into the field and found a calling.

Among my personal sins of omission in those bygone days, I never studied music. During ADLOV I arranged to drop in on a Model Counterpoint class in Skinner. It was unexpectedly exciting to see students composing on the blackboard, and then bringing their work up, one by one, for Professor Richard Wilson to play on the keyboard and discuss.

Afterward, hearing Professor Wilson and Todd Crowe alone at the piano in Martel Recital Hall, I was moved by their love for music—the same love I first felt for literature. To have the opportunity to learn from teachers like this is priceless.

Come evening, I found myself in Main having an impromptu family photo session with one of the house fellows, Marc Michael Epstein, along with his wife and cherubic toddler, who was “practicing” at the piano. Marc was continually excusing himself to receive a stream of student callers—an impressive reminder of the remarkable accessibility of the Vassar faculty.

All of the students looked beautiful to me. But the single most beautiful sight I saw on campus was the library in the early evening, brightly illuminated from within and subtly from without, by a full November moon.


Nancy Crampton, a New York City resident, is a third-generation Vassar grad. An English major, she was inspired to become a professional photographer while on a safari in East Africa in 1967. She got her start freelancing for the Washington Post and the foreign press, covering cultural affairs; she now specializes in photographing artists and writers. For the past 20 years she has been the official photographer of the Unterberg Poetry Center at the 92nd Street Y. Her bookWRITERS: Photographs by Nancy Crampton, the subject of a traveling exhibition, features 100 writers along with their statements about writing.

View additional images from Nancy's "Day in the Life of Vassar" shoot.