Because We Can
“La memoria es individual.
Nosotros estamos hechos,
En buena parte, de nuestra memoria.
Esta memoria está hecha,
En buena parte, de olvido”.
J. L. Borges (1979), El tiempo
Memory is individual.
We are made,
In great part , of our memory.
This memory is made,
In great part, of oblivion.
Memory is something that is always in my mind perhaps because like my writer hero Jorge Luís Borges I am constantly shifting into my past or roused into the present by a jarring memory that through association I connect to the now.
The photo you see here represents that association.
My career as a magazine photographer in Vancouver, which began around 1977, is one that depended on always being ahead of the pack. It helped that a couple of art directors, Rick Staehling and Chris Dahl (both at Vancouver Magazine and other magazines) pushed me to try the different. They refused (and I am glad of it) to pigeonhole me into this or that. In fact Staehling, an expert on film and film history used a process he called cross-casting. He assigned me to cover a SOCRED convention because I had never done such a thing. I knew nothing of sport photography but Dahl assigned me to follow and photograph a local, female rugby team. Staehling also assigned me once to photograph sewing machines.
While I was a bit late into the digital camera era I was early with using email and finding stuff in Altavista. I believe that through my digital guru Tim Bray I may have been one of the few in 2006 when I started my blog to know what an RSS feed was and its usefulness at the time.
There is an off-colour statement that I will not repeat here in its entirety that states that a dog can …. because it can.
It was around 2001 that this fact came to my attention in a brutal way. I wanted to participate in an erotic show and I needed a woman to pose with roses from my garden. I called a friend who ran an agency and also a business I was completely ignorant of. He was to find me my subject.
I went to an old building in East Vancouver that was beautifully remodelled inside with stainless steel. I was escorted to a large room. There was a sign that said, “If you are going to use oil, when you finish with the towels place them here.” The business in question had lovely women in different rooms that self-videoed while chatting with customers on line who paid lots for the privilege of talking to a real and undraped female. In another room full of computers and monitors there was a young man who was in charge of “flaming” any customer who exceeded the basic rules of how to talk to his subject.
I brought different roses from my garden and my subject (her name was a very rosy Victoria Lace) posed with each rose hiding what was behind. The resulting photographs were lovely and few understood the location or what was behind each spectacular rose.
This business of my friend happened simply because the technology of the time permitted it. My friend was also involved on on-line offshore gambling.
About 7 years ago I was taking photographs of a woman who was posing in front of a mirror. My image was on the mirror, too. But what made the resulting image different was that she had a small digital point and shot in her hands and my photograph showed her image on the back display. So this was a double self-portrait or perhaps a triple. It was made possible simply because of the technology that her camera provided even though I photographed the setup with my film camera.
This brings me to the photo illustrating this blog. Nina was one of the best of the patient models that posed form me and also for my Argentine friends Nora Patrich and Juan Manuel Sánchez in the beginning of this century. After three years of very special collaboration Nine skipped town and moved to a little village in Spain.
Recently she contacted me to tell me that she was bored and isolated. I informed her that was practically my case. She asked if there was some way that we could continue with our photography sessions. Her idea was obvious once you discounted that there was no way that the vast geographical distance could possibly result in a face to face shoot in a studio. An added incentive (for me!) is that Nina is now 51. Her body has changed as has her approach to life. She is now a very good yoga teacher which makes her even more flexible than she ever was.
In Argentina the arts that involve painting, sculpture and architecture are called “artes plásticos”. Plastic here means flexible and moveable. Juan Manuel Sánchez had the highest compliment for Nina. He would say that she was “muy plástica.”
We could only do what could be done. And technology today has come through. What you see here is a preliminary step. Nina is a fine photographer in her own right. She has a little studio in her house with hot lights.
In my preliminary shots I have used either my iPhone3G or my Fuji X-E3 and Nina and I are connected via Facebook Messenger. On my end I have a cathode ray tube monitor with a separated video camera that sits on top of it and Nina has a very good cell phone. With her phone she is able to pose for me either vertically or horizontally.
While some may see it the scan lines on the iPhone3G as a flaw I like them. But I am able to avoid them with my digital camera by using a shutter speed of 1/30 or 1/15 of a second so that my Fuji will not “read” the scan lines on the monitor (also not noticed but there on TV screens).
In future sessions Nina might pose by a window or use her lights. I will be able to give her instructions. But the nature of the geographic separation will mean that the results will truly be a collaboration.
I believe that our mutual boredom and isolation will disappear like the image on a badly fixed photographic print of the past century.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.