Mamma Lena times have changed for us all. My “Watermelon Girl” has grownup, and is now carrying her own child. Welcome back girl!
Esperanza came into my photographic life when she was 22 years of age. She was a little firecracker of a young woman just entering her prime. So full of herself, willing to play, had that confidence only youth can bring. After that first shoot she came back to my apartment to have a bite to eat, and to talk more. She was the wife of a friend of a friend of mine, trying to find what she wanted out of life. Later as we did more shoots we went out for lunch after. She’d take my arm going into which ever restaurant we had decided to go to. All male eyes, and not a few female eyes were riveted on her, I felt so special to be the man who had her on his arm.
She was among the first women to tell me that shooting gave her all the benefits of an affair without all the compilations. She’d try different personalities to see what they looked like to others. It was fascinating to watch her as she changed from one personality to another. Like most of my models, she came without eating anything so she’d keep that slim profile. But when that alarm sounded, we had to get her fed ASP.
Even after I moved to New York City, I’d let her know when I was coming into town, we’d setup a shoot. I’d try new lighting setups I’d seen in my work with other photographers on commercial shoots. Because she loved to play, we’d try different things…, but she was hesitant to shoot completely nude. I did get a few shots of her in the all together, but her heart wasn’t into it. To this day I don’t understand her reasoning as she always had a terrific figure made for photography. But I accepted her wishes, warned her when she was showing more than she want seen.
I feel that it is important to work with the models limits, not to cop those shots the model is unaware of. In return she has the confidence in our works to give me carte blanche in using the images we have shot. I also feel that its the right way to go, to have that trust that you honor in all my dealing with my models.
Oh to my delight plans for the new series have a rival, one of my models is expecting. As man and photographer, I am thrilled. When I was younger, friends often didn’t want to share the experience of being photographed, or breast-feeding. Time, values have changed as I have as well, older I’ve been blessed to witness the event from beginning.
First as a lowly floor cleaner, I befriend the interns at the teaching hospital I work at. They in turn checked with the doctor, gave me the all clear so I got to watch all sorts of operations. I saw people die on the table in addition to being born, saw people’s bodies stripped of parts, the gift of life, or sight for other patients. Once over Christmas, I was asked to shine the spotlight as the doctor operated on a patients brain. A truly miraculous experience all because I could talk.., think, and had a curiosity for life.
A few years later, I again returned to work in a hospital, there I made friends with the doctors as they did rounds. My photography was the deciding factor to get me in the room as the patient was worked on. Not that my exploits went unreported to my supervisor who was not my biggest fan. My supervisor was actually rubbing her hands together as she walked me into the director office. I was going to get mine, and she would be witness. Imagine her delight as the director said I had been spotted going into the surgical suite to take pictures.
Very calmly I replied that the situation had been cleared by the doctor, and any question he had could be answered by the doctor. Further, I said I was on my own time, and had violated no hospital rules…, I got up and left. It was very hard not to smile at their crestfallen looks, my dressing down hadn’t gone quite as planned.
I learned early the “the best defense is a good offense”. I had learned the hard way, to be a chameleon in dealing with people, my own parents taught me well. As much as I could, I tried to blend in, to pattern my behavior to please people. Only when confronted would I go into “good offense” mode…, that either work or got me fired.
Quite the way I deal in business, try to get along, but never show fear. In my assistance days I worked with a number of highly charged photographers. Driven, prone to a manic depressive outbursts…, the better the photographer the higher the manic in charge. Never show fear, know what you are doing or suggesting. Hold your ground, believe in your skill and knowledge. Once I corrected a photographer of his error…, long pause. Did I go too far? I challenged him about something he said. Then the exhale, “what I hate about you is that your right!” I patted his leg, said “always, remember that”. And then the winning smile.
You have to believe in yourself for all to work to your advantage. And for your sake, learn to play, not take life so seriously. I chose life, as in to have a life, to enjoy all that came my way with excitement, and joy. I chose to leave the camera home most days, so I could experience life as a participant rather than the observer, worried about f-stop, shutter speeds, and what not. This is the only life I’ll have as far as I know. Chose life for all its joys, for all its sorrow, and surprises.
What a wonderful feeling after so long a wait, to be able to buy film. Not that the things holding me back have eased, not so much, but I have enough to work on. One of my first model’s to begin working with me on what has developed into the new series. I’ve know this woman for thirteen (13) years now, (seen on FaceBook) the boyfriends come and go. Never ever thought the both of us would still be involved with each other lives this long. Like so much of my art it has evolved over time, organic, the friendship has deepened. I’ve invited the model to my shows, or tell them when a magazine has picked our work to publish. I love educating new model to the world of art, how our work fits into the show.
So too has my relationship with my other models has grown over time, the nature of our work, what to submit to magazines, websites that handle art. Those models who wish to be involved are welcome, those that do not want to be bother, I let them be. With this new series I have someone who I work with, not everyone is so open to the type of images I want to make. I keep my options open, always welcome back models who have worked with me in the past. I welcome new models, they work with what they are comfortable with, I never require models to pose in ways they are not fully behind. Trust is key to my work, something that can only be built by getting to know each other, how we think. It’s the only way I work.
I find myself in a wonderful position, two (2) models, two different ways to pose. Each with a rhythm of their own, different set of values: its exciting. So return to the subject of film I need to buy, how my choice of film, model…, each bringing their personality, moves, and desires. Then I get to the real artsy stuff, expired film, those unpredictable colour shifts. Maybe a cross-processed roll of slow film for the movement, mystery, the flying by the seat of the pants feeling. The wait for real film to return from the lab. Part and parcel of the magic of film, exposing it for results hoped for, not for the faint of heart, or of imagination.
A return to the old days, the old ways, waiting to see if the magic has stuck, or a near miss. I love the suspense, the anticipation. I’ve spent decades work with these films, I know how they work, how they are supposed to work, then with the broken rules what you should expect. Now long out of date, the unknown…, what will I get, how will my model react if nothing shows up, least not model portfolio wise. That is the magic, the curse of my art, the great unknown is the way I work, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Checked the film vault, an old Tupper-ware container I have kept for many years now. Oh want delights! Film I had purchased in my N.Y. days, slower ISO that’s why it survived so long. All color film, all way out of date, oh the colour-shifts.
I was talking with a friend the other morning over breakfast, I told her how much I enjoys treading the needle. I want to produce a new piece from the current series, that is FaceBook pure. I do not support censorship, I will not show my work with a black bar, defused area because some white male is uncomfortable with the human body. So jerking a few chains does not bother me, I push boundary.
I moved into the new apartment towards the end of summer 2005. I finally had an apartment big enough to have a small studio, in addition being old enough so I had some interesting features to work in. I set about making my home/studio easier to work in, sheers on the windows. I kept the living-room/studio free from clutter, like any comfortable chairs to sit in. But I had my space to grow older, to pursue my art, and I finally had my office. Life looked very good for me, I was pleased with the plans I had, looked forward to my first shoot over the winter holidays.
That October I had the stroke that laid me low. The deal I made with my self-destructive side, take your best shot at taking me. If…, if I survive, then get the hell out of my way. Little did I count on having to try to reverse the effects of stroke. All strokes are particular to the patient, mine was a blockage in the left side of my brain. Right side of my body, flaccid, absolute paralysis. Confined to a wheelchair, only left side of my body could move. Only one side of my brain was functional, I was in deep shit.
So the deal with the devil was made, I kept to the bargain, doctors, nurses were telling all my visitors not to get too excited about any progress they saw. I on the other hand, not knowing what they thought they knew, I went ahead to try and reestablish the me I knew. Took the better part of twelve (12) years, fighting for every return to body, and mind. Now the harm to my body has healed as best it can, my two sides are now out of balance. My mind…, my mind too has healed as best it can, I count on the plasticity to seek out those pathways back to me. My brain is still injured deeply, that’s where the damage still haunts.
So the new series came as a blessing, both for mind and creativity. I have worked hard at getting the creativity back in as good a shape as possible. Enter model, muse, friend, to save me, to give me hope. It demand a model who knows me, trust me, believe in my vision…, and believes in me as a man. This my first attempt at a series of found objects in nature, and very private spaces on the female body. The working title “Natural Curves”, a juxtaposition of bark, seeds, pods…, wherever I can find in nature with there wonderful curves, set next to the bodies curves. The whiteness of her body, the darkness in the object. The play of light, darkness, enticing curves of the most intimate nature.
So with this as my background, I began setting up my home studio. It was the easiest setup I ever done, called on all my years working with the professionals. I had the depth of my living room to set the muslin background complete with a sort of drop shadow, taken from endless product shoots. I fashioned a comfortable table for my model to try different poses for the areas I wanted to use. Those areas had been determined by a test we had as to feasibility. This setup for the main event, the actual shoot where she has to hold the pose, and the object in place. We shot film as well, for the lighting, and background.
I’ve had to curb my model from posting these test shots. Next comes the hard work of the actual shoot which will be so much better, but for a test these look so good . I have to curb my own enthusiasm, more as we progress.
My latest background, and model Ruby, from the Farm Shoot. First time working together, took her to an old farm some friends rented. I warned my model that I didn’t know what we would find when we got to the location. First time I had used the farm as well, not sure as to how much privacy we would have; so we might end-up having a nice lunch with cold wine to wash it down. Let them know when I was on property, that we’d say hello after.
Ruby and I set to work, getting comfortable with each other, and the way we worked. I was very pleased, relived to find she had very good poses, and looked terrific in motion. Funny how this was a “still” shoot, yet her movements were wonderful. That’s something I work hard to capture, that playful exuberance only the young have. We played with each other, or rather she played for the camera, I was just attached. I will upload them as I find the time to give each one the attention it deserves.
A word or two about the backgrounds, in a break from traditional plain white matts for each print. I craft a unique background matting for each print, or you can have that plain white border if you rather. The image was created using real film that was scanned to PhotoShop, with the traditional techniques in the handling. The backgrounds are a product of PhotoShop, and are crafted to compliment my images.
I try for a certain balance, a zen like feel; Ma the Japaneses words for, “it is the thing that takes place in the imagination of the human who experiences these elements”. Like an old friend, seen in the mind-eye wearing their favorite outfit. Get to know my works for who they represent, the creative mind behind the images.
Still north of Toronto, she had never posed before for this kind of photography. She had a natural way of moving and thinking. Shortly after I ran head on with a pile of problems, most of my own making, we never got the chance to work together again. Huge loss.
My lovely friend Ms James again, I do owe her a debt as a friend, and as an artist in trouble. About 2 years after my stroke, I was wondering if I still had it in me to do my art anymore. She came down to work with me to give me the chance to have a live model working with me. I was rusty as hell, and the issues with my hand control was not what I wanted it to be. But, I was a gracious host plying her with wine in abundance, and food so she wouldn’t have any unfortunate meeting with law. Friend to friend she was there for me, and that meant the world to me. Thanks Ms James.
B&W Image of a girl in a white shirt by the family plot. Two (2) gelatin silver process made by hand with pre-stroke signature. 4 1/4″ x 6 5/8″ matte 101/4″ x 15″ shrink wrapped.
This girl was a difficult sell from the first, then she decided to pose. We had a couple of good shoots then I gave some fatherly advice, I have a father you know, then it went downhill from there. Still hasn’t forgiven me yet. But still I got some good shots of her. M