The Autodidact

A cliché: he read avidly, Everything he could. Spotting someone reading a book on unfamiliar, offbeat subjects people sometimes ask, “Why are you interested in that?” To which, for an autodidact like [William] Gedney, there was only one reply: because it is interesting. He amassed and hoarded knowledge and then, if something caught his eye-a potential photograph-he would bring to bear on that instant or incident everything he had learned and read. It didn’t stop there, though, because his ideal of self-sufficiency was underwritten, naturally, by self-generating curiosity. The more he saw, the more he wanted to learn. The more he learned, the more he saw. It wasn’t enough to train himself to see; he had also to understand what he saw, to become more articulate in the language of sight.

‘William Gedney’ by Geoff Dyer

William Gedney Photographs and Writings
Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library