It was 1955 and I was in the 6th grade of the American School in Mexico City. For Christmas our teacher showed us ho to make some waste paper containers out of cardboard that we painted and then the four sides and the bottom we stitched together with string. On one side we pasted and then varnished over an image of La Giaconda. Until that moment I had no idea of the ubiquity of Da Vinci’s portrait of Lisa de Gherardini.
Now in 2013 her images have been buried by selfies and cat pictures (mostly terrible ones). Our 6-year-old 18 pound cat, Casi-Casi has a problem with having his picture taken. Perhaps it was his former owner who deposited him at the SPCA until we liberated him a couple of years ago. If you point a camera at Casi-Casi he runs away. I believe Casi-Casi is smart.
I wish I could convince some of my fellow friends from social media to give cats a rest. One of the worst offenders is a friend of mine who in her prime showed off her cat with not a stitch on (her, not the cat).
There was another friend of mine, a most beautiful one who would come up to me, and with her unwavering look would ask me, “Alex, are you happy?” I really never knew how to answer except with a stuttering, “Yes.” She had that power to unsettle me.
It was this week that I faced a similarly beautiful woman who after looking at my pictures, many of Bronwen’s said, “I cannot figure out how you get your kicks.”
That statement floored me. I had no quick answer. She was 26 I am 71. Had I been 30 would she have made the same statement? Is there something about my age, which makes my pursuit of the undraped female on photographic film and most recently on the X-Trans CMOS Sensor of my Fuji X-E1 camera somewhat questionable?
I have no ready answer and even though I am no artist I might have told her that a legion of painters and sculptors besides the Mexican photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo pursued undraped women until the very end of their careers.
I am careful not to offend the perhaps not prurient sensibility of the viewers of this blog with photographs that exceed their comfort level. In this age of pornography I think my images are tame. I hasten not to use the word tasteful (I despise that word) and would hope that my photographs are elegantly voyeuristic. Can voyeurism be elegant? I think so.
As this year closes I must give thanks to Bronwen Marsden. I often call her up and ask her if she will pose for me. Sometimes I tell her that I am surprised that she answers my phone call. Her ready answer is always, “If I didn’t want to talk to you I wouldn’t answer you. And if I didn’t want to pose for you I would say so.”
And we are off for another exquisite set of pictures in which I explore all forms of photographic techniques with different cameras, small one and large ones. I use the former high technology of instant film which is no longer instantly available and defer to the good taste of my friend Grant Simmons at DISC who knows how to interpret my digital files with his beautiful giclées.
So how do I get my kicks? Do I have to answer? Is it not obvious? Technical Info: I took the picture of Bronwen with a Nikon FM-2, a 35mm F-2 lens and Fuji Superia 800 ISO colour negative film. I also took pictures with the camera shown, a Mamiya RB-67 Pro SD loaded with Ilford 3200 b+w film.
I cannot avoid using mirrors when I see one.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.