A Ballerina — An Essence

Lauren Stewart, July 6 2017 — Photograph — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

My 15-year-old granddaughter reluctantly brought along the ballet outfit she wore to the Arts Umbrella Dance Company’s finale here in Vancouver a few weeks back for her portrait. Her face showed no passion. She just wanted to get it over with. She came into my studio with her hair down. I told her that ballerinas always dance with the hair up. She countered that she had no ballet pins for her hair. I showed her some bobby pins. She reluctantly did a pretty good job and told me, “It will be fine as long as you don’t take pictures of the back of my head.”

She posed and I snapped. She, like her older sister Rebecca, has gone through this ordeal so many times that she knows how to pose her hands and reacts instantly and accurately to my hand commands to tilt a bit to the left or to the right or to put her nose a tad up or down. I told her to go serious. I told her to hint at a smile. I told her to look seriously scary as if I were a boy in school she does not like.

At the end I shot two Fuji Instant b+w film shots. I deemed them perfect and told her so. I scanned them and I became even more excited. They are here.

I asked Lauren, “Do you think you dance well?” She answered, “Yes.” I then told her that other people’s opinions were not important as long as she knew inside that she was a good dancer and that she had passion for it.

This was my attempt to explain that every time I take a very good photograph that I think is a very good photograph and others simply nod when I show them, that one must ignore it all. One knows in spite of the silence or criticism from others.

I may have lost her when I attempted to explain to her my love for that ancient Greek philosopher Plato. In my youth I found him confusing. In my old age Plato is constantly in my thoughts. I am always trying to see the essence of a thing. I want to go above the mediocre copy that we as humans (in that Platonic cave) see blurred, indistinct and incomplete. I told Lauren that when I take a photograph I do whatever possible to remove what is not necessary to make what is left the essence (as close as we humans can approach that impossibility).

I told her of the pretty young girl I saw back in 1967 in San Francisco at a Jefferson Airplane concert I had attended while living with my friend Robert in the Haight-Ashbury district of that Ramparts time. She was sitting on the floor at a corner staring at a little glass of what to me must have been Crème de Menthe. I believed that she may have been high on acid and that she was staring at the essence of the colour green.

A Ballerina — An Essence

I finished my little story by telling her that my photographs of her were of the essence of what a dancer is. It is the essence of a person that I pursue in my portraiture. I can never achieve the perfection that Philippe Halsman executed in his portrait of Bobby Fischer.

I can try.

Link to: A Ballerina — An Essence

Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.