First of all, thank you so much for your kind words about my photography. I appreciate it.
I am also pleased to learn about your excitement, studying black and white photography in school. I started my photographic education in High School, and went on to major in photography in college. Some of my fondest memories are of the excitement that I discovered in the darkroom during my beginning photography courses. I was fortunate to have excellent instructors, and learned a great deal from them.
The magic of seeing a print emerge in the darkroom was my first inspiration in photography. As I mentioned above, the information and inspiration provided by my photographic instructors fueled my desire to learn more and more about photography. During a college photography class field trip I first saw original photographs by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Wynn Bullock. Seeing those original prints truly changed my photographic life - and it is safe to say my life in general.
I hope that you will continue to pursue your love of photography, and try to visit as many exhibitions of original photographic prints as possible. It sounds from your description as if you may not be too far from the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. I would strongly recommend visiting there to see their fantastic collections.
There's no substitute for seeing an original photographic print.
Wishing you the very best with your photography,