Canadian Sojourn Part 4

To continue doing something with determination or resolve despite difficulties or an unlikely chance of succeeding.”


Latnia young womam, sitting in window, black  hair, head and shoulders, Black and White images.

I want to speak about my van in the manner of John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charlie”. It was a VW van that had been outfitted by the previous owner from a camper he had found. It came with a closet, pull out bed, another seat/storage area, and a water-tank/refrigerator. I had packed my foot trunk with all the things I would need for my new life. Some years before, during the Cuba Missile Crisis my father bought a camp stove, I had gotten a sleeping-bag, and a survival inflatable boat. Of course I had packed my cameras, and all my other photo gear so I was all set for my trip/new life. The van was outfitted with Wonder bread polka dots curtains.

Black and White image, young Caucasian woman, closeup of her face, sitting in a window.

My only real decisions was did I have the determination to make the move to Canada. The only thing I knew about the palace was in Montreal had a world’s fair that year. I figured that I would learn French at the very least if there is were I’d settled. Part of my cover story was I wanted to see some of my country before I was drafted into a war that I didn’t support. I had made up the cover story to cover my tracks if anyone asked about my reasons for going. I knew that if I did this there was no turning back once I cross that border, that I’d be stuck in my decision for possibly the rest of my life. At twenty-one (21) there was a lot of years left to me so I had to make an important decision.

Black and White image,full length shot of a young Caucasian woman wearing a grown.

As I prepared to leave Virginia Beach I assessed the time I had to get to my next stop. The bulk of my trip was done in the hard driving I had survived. The remaining state were compressed so that I had some time to explore site I had noticed in the area. Top of my list was a telescope array I had seen, I figured it had something to do with NASA. So down a lonely road I drove to a site that was ripe with these dishes that were point up in the air, no trespassing sign abound. I walked around the fence tried for a better view, but then it occurred to me that I was probably doing something that would bring the cops down on me. As I headed back in the direction I had come a jeep full of soldiers came driving up to give me the once over. But they didn’t stop me and soon I was back on the highway heading north.

Again this was back in 1969, the Democratic Convention riot had just happened, the city of Philadelphia was not high on my list of places to be. Neither was New York city, I was intimidated to drive there. So I figure that Trenton was okay because I knew I’d have a place to park my van at least. There were two brothers who were family friend who had a place there, they were kind enough to put me up at their motel. I stayed for about two (2) days to rest and relax, I remember getting a packet of Oreo cookies and milk. I attempted to try New York, but all I did was buy gas for my van and drove on to Rhode Island.

Black and White image, young Latina woman, sitting in window light, tight shot of face and hair.

Providence was a sleepy little seaport town then with cobbled streets and narrow roads then. I drove around to reconnoiter, drove past the church and on out of town. Found a park were I could walk around and a place to park were I wouldn’t be disturbed. Made some dinner and settled down for a good night. In the wee hours of the morning I heard tap, tap, tap on my side window, a voice call “You can’t sleep here”.

Canadian Sojourn Part 3

To continue doing something with determination or resolve despite difficulties or an unlikely chance of succeeding.”


Next morning I woke to clear sky so I made a leisurely breakfast coffee. Because I was safe from the cops, I took my time getting started, had coffee and set my little home ship shape before I left the camp. I had read John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley” a couple of times to make sure I had the rule of the road down pat. In my own travels I mean to follow I-10 into Jacksonville, then highway A1A north, back then in 1969 it wasn’t much a road, but it followed the ocean right up where I mean to go as my jumping off point.

B & W image, late 1960's, high school friend, abandon night club, golf course, female model, white pants suit.

So off I drove into the future, I took a left at the junction and found the blue line roads of fame. Though small towns America I drove with a vengeance, stopping only for fuel for both the van and me. By sunset I started looking for a spot where I could grab some rest for the night. Virginia Beach has some picturesque spots on the beach, so I was hoping to hear the ocean all night. But before I could settle in a cop pull in and informed me that sleeping there would get me arrested. So off I drove in search of a place for the night and fuel for the van, seeing is how I had good luck in New Orleans. Luck held and the owner said that I could park the van for the night just off his pumps.

After I wonder at my luck with gas station owners, it wasn’t until later I found out from a mother that I reminded her of her son who was off traveling. She had the idea by helping me just maybe her son would find help from good strangers as well…, pay it forward it became to be called. I would later find in National Parks all sorts of kind people willing to help me out in all my endeavors. I became the living embodiment of the lost sons everywhere, of course I did not tell a soul of my real intentions.

Black and white image, late 1960's, female model in white dress.s

Even though the real south where I expected trouble, I found kind people. That may have been because I was not staying, just passing through. The late 60’s was a horrible time in America, sort of like the time we are going through now. In Alabama I found, you guess it, a kind gas station owner who warned me off filling my water tank that the water he offered had a bad sulfur content before I filled my tank. In Georgia and again in Florida I saw my first chain gangs with only black inmates. I knew then that I didn’t want to spend time in there, luckily I was passing through and made no contact with the local police. As I was on a mission I had places to be and people to see, I could not tarry.

My next stop was in Trenton, New Jersey, with some friends of my mother who own a small motor court where I would rest for a few days.

Black and White image, late 1960's, female model, swims suit, on a log. 

Canadian Sojourn Part ll

To continue doing something with determination or resolve despite difficulties or an unlikely chance of succeeding.”

Young, dark haired, night gown, old house in the countryside, overgrown weeds.
In the college l met a young woman who wanted to work on her modeling. Slim and hard working.

A sense of elation…, freedom greeted my passage through Houston as I saw the last sign announcing at I was leaving the city. As I opened a cold brew I was already drunk on my sense of freedom. I was entering the unknown, the furthest I had ever been from home. Now without a doubt I had entered an adventure. That adventure lead me to New Orleans late at night, I pulled into a gas station. I asked the station attendant who turned out to be the owner if there was a safe place to pull into to get some sleep. He very kindly told me that I could sleep there, but to be gone by morning. July was hot and muggy, filled with mosquitoes for a sweat drenched fit-filled sleep.

Next morning I found a lovely park where it was cool from the night air. My plan was to make coffee and hit the road, but a big burly cop pulled up and told me the park was closed. My water was just starting to steam so I told him real nice if I could make my coffee first and he would be welcome to the first cup. He sort of smiled and said I’d better not be there on his next round and left. Thus started my relationship with road cops all there to enforce the local rules, I would ask politely for their help then move off. All done in a self-serving spirit of not wanting to provoke a search, or other encounters. My greatest fears of the road was cops and bigots. Here I was a Mexican driving on their turf far from home. I was also twenty one (21) with a van that had some pot and a wad of hashes I had been given as a going away present. So I was always very pleasant and easy to deal with in all my encounters.

Black and white image, young dark haired model, wearing a shirt, overgrown weeds.
She was very open to my ideas and we work hard on our collaboration.

As I was on a short time fame to get to Rode Island for the folks festival and driving through the south, I knew that I would be in for some hard days. My next stopping point was in the panhandle of Florida at a state park I saw on a sign. I pulled in from a hard rain late in the evening, there I had the luxury of a place to sleep undisturbed, and bathrooms. I remember going to the washroom in my poncho, seeing myself in the mirror. Like a young medieval monk I looked back at myself in the bathroom mirror. Dripping water I could hear the thunder and see the lighting as I washed up for the night. My first real wash in two (2) days and nights. I fell into a deep sleep with the thunder as my background.

A word on the gear I had taken from home for my journey, I had a camp stove to make my coffee and hot meals. It was a two burner with flaps to keep out any wind, it served my purpose very well on my trip and beyond. Coffee became my peace maker, I’d offer fresh hot coffee to any official trying to run me off, or to buy a little time. Even served as a measure of common humanity to make it apparent to all that I was just like them in this regard. Just leave me in peace until I make and get coffee poured.

Black and white image, silhouette of a woman, abandon house, overgrown weeds and sky.
Sadly my escape to Canada cut short our work.


Rest with Peace at Last

Young red haired model, white top, against a old wooden barn.

It was with great sadness and shock I learned of the passing of one of my model. I will always remember her as a very talented, and bright person, I thought she had a great future. When I met her I really had to sell myself as a photographer for her. Over coffee I showed her my book, told her in general term what I wanted to shoot with her. I was amazed what a difficult sell she was, though I knew she was worth any trouble.

We agreed to shoot at a friend’s farm, the old milk barn. On the drive over I told her that I didn’t know if anyone would be there visiting. I told her that we might just end up having dinner that I cooked because I did not want to put on a show for anybody’s benefit. We took our time to warm up, for her to be comfortable with what I was shooting. Went the sun was the right position for the light that I wanted we started at the barn. I got her in the transparent dress that I had just bought for this shoot. At one point I had moved in for a tight shot, asked her to lean back against the barn. She just let herself drop back against those rough boards. Without thinking I reached to grab her, she was so tall I grabbed her lower back and buttocks. She shot me a dirty look for having touched her without asking, I told her quickly “it’s the dress…, I’m saving the dress! We both started laughing over that, and all was forgiven.

 

Black and white image, wooden fence , young model, leather belt, boots, wooden fence, other worldly, looking into camera.

 

Then over a vegetarian dinner I had made just for her we met the boy’s that lived there. They were on their best behavior, and drunk on moonshine. It was so funny to watching them both so impaired, yet so formal with her. But Taz the dog just wanted a taste of what I was serving.

About a month later we had a second shoot out there in the family graveyard with the lovely old wooden fence. The setting really appealed to her, we worked really hard to get the shots I wanted. We worked with a man’s shirt for the most part, I got her down to boots and a belt at one point. Dressed or not she carried herself very well, and with a fluid motion. Not shy in the least she carried herself with a grace and pose that belied her few years.

We had a falling out over some advice I gave her, she told me that she already had a father. I figured that after she had put on a few more years we’d manage to become friend’s again. But she never communicated with me again, over time I tried less and less. Then last weekend I was just curious to see what she was up to now. I expected great things from her in business and beyond. It was great sorrow I learned that she had taken her own life, then it all made a kind of sense. While very open about parts of her life she was very guarded about other parts. Those parts that caused her hurt and pain that I couldn’t comprehend.

Big City Model’s

 

My shooting life in Manhattan was split between commercial work, and shooting my own personal work. I love working with women models, my fondest day at the studio was have “go see” days. I would call the agency’s and ask for them to sent over there models to have a look at their books. Then all the up and coming models would show up our door. The photographer I work with had the pull and the studio to get them there. I’d lead these young kids back to were the interviews happened. We’d talk and tease with them, and have a great time of it.

I was able to get some of the women to pose with me too. Nudity wasn’t a big deal back then, after all this was New York, the big city. The willingness to get nude was sort of a prerequisite to shoot if asked. Many of these models had a willingness to get nude as long as they were treated with respect, and their personal bounds were met, not so much different than today. I for one did my part in meeting these bounds, I treated them with dignity, and respect…, I had wine and treats to eat.

So one evening I was working with a really excellent model, young and lithe. We shot some clothes stuff firsts, she was very fit and had movement to her body…, naturally I asked to show her figure off. She had brought a wonderful necklaces that served her body well. I remember her saying that she had decided no more nudes, and here she was nude. At the time I didn’t give it much thought, just showed her the Polaroids I had shot, told her how marvelous she looked. Quite like an Amazonian warrior I said about the necklace one.

Later after the film was processed and the contacts made I invited her over to see our work. I was so proud of the shots, and how she came across. She refused, said again how she had promised herself that no more nudes. No matter how I begged and pleaded she would not come over, and just see the work.

So these works are not for sale, they are meant to show what we got, I am very proud of this work. I have some hope, however vain it maybe, that she will see these finally. How she come across with dignity, and respect that I could put into these shots. To me her beauty, the way she carry herself with dignity make these images what they are.

Long Ago, Far Far Away

 

From the series, “Long Ago, Far Far Away,  this image is from out adventure a little north of Toronto. A cement blockhouse way out in the middle of nowhere. One of my favorite spot to work, a small complex of building that in its heyday made cement products. I took a number of models out there, I say models, usually nurses I’d met at the hospital we work at. So remote that privacy was assured, bonding was sure to happen.

Some of the “models” work out, some did not, hard to tell how someone will work. Still we had a great time out in the wilderness.

Long Ago and Far Far Away

Way back in my younger days, days when I was finding who I was…, what I wanted to be when I grew-up…, there was a girl. Her name, details about her are not important except that she was a lovely young woman, very kind. Ultimately we wanted a different sort of lives and loves. When we first got together she knew that I, at heart, was a photographer/artist…, I am not sure she understood all the baggage that entails.

She was adamant, if I wanted to shoot nude models she was more than willing to pose for me. I took her at her word, she became my live-in muse. All the ideas I had, but had never found a willing model she was up for. So I tested out my ideas, then tested them again till I got what I was trying to capture. Many long hours of getting her into position, getting the light just right…, and the dark. Always the dark, dark side of me, dark side of my life, and my art.

Once after posing for hours, I told her she could get dressed, I thought I had what I wanted. She looked up at me, said that I could shoot all the nude models I wanted to. I was so surprised I almost dropped the piece of gear that I was putting away. Not wanting to look a gifted horse in the mouth, I had to ask how come. Because you weren’t looking at me as a woman was her reply. No I said, the angles, the light, the darkness…, I tried to explain how I was seeing her, but not HER. She stood, patted my arm, kissed me on the cheek and said to enjoy myself.

So I did, I got a studio, brought women to the house to pose. Even got a couple of her friends to pose. I kept my part of the bargain, I was in it for the art of what I was trying to learn. All was fine for a few years, then they weren’t. We started bickering, then all out arguing…, we were no longer the people that we had started out being. I started to miss the life I had lived, the single life, then I found someone.

My muse and I decided we needed a break from each other to clear our heads , to think about this life we had together. She booked a room downtown, I stayed at the apartment, each of us were closer to where we worked for the week. By an unspoken agreement we each did out own things with who we wanted. For me it was that taste of freedom I’d wanted, a few nights with the new woman.

This woman I’d met didn’t want a commitment, she had plans for her life. She was content that I had a live-in girlfriend. I was perfectly fine with that…, except that it wasn’t fair to the live-in girlfriend. At the end of the week she came back. Then came the hardest talk I have ever had with a woman I once loved, still did in my way. It may seem cruel, I said I wasn’t leaving her for anyone else…, that I was leaving for me. That we weren’t happy and I didn’t see how we would ever be again. I was honest in that I missed my freedom, that I just didn’t want to be in a committed relationship anymore.

I was reminded of this phase of my life while listening to Sam Smith’s Midnight Train. How do you tell someone that you still love, that you do not love them in that way anymore. Which way is less cruel, staying with someone you don’t love,or to tell them why you are leaving them so they can move on with there lives?

Anyway, this image is from better days with my muse. Days in which I did love her, still do in my own way even after all these years have passed. I hope the life that she wanted turned out well for her. She still has a special place in my heart and mind. This image of a lovely part of her anatomy I always thought was very pretty. To be shared and not sold, just a special part of her that I was allowed to capture.

I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” Maya Angelou

Mamma Lena and Grace

 

My friend Lena, fetus in tow was to come back for another shoot in the next month or so. Baby Grace had other ideas, how could she project her best side when I couldn’t even see her sides? Mom and Grace, who came into this world at 1:30 Friday morning are both doing well, I wish them only the best. Both will be down for that shoot when she feels like traveling. Welcome to this world Grace.