The Exploration of Woman

Photograph — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

My friend Ian MacGuffie often repeats something that fills me with nostalgia for those days. He cites the photographers who would walk around Stanley Park in that last century. Some may have had Nikons or Pentaxes hanging from their necks. The more financially enhanced would perhaps have Hasselblads.

Then this is what MacGuffie says that rings so true in this age of proliferating images that are not here or there.

“We don’t know if these photographers were good or not. They had few opportunities to show them anywhere.”

That 20thcentury was also one of black and white, not only in photography but in other aspects of life. It seemed to be a century of absolutes with no strange and confusing grounds.

I have an acquaintance (one I hope with with I will have a friendship) who is a man who has changed her body. She has breast augmentation and perhaps she may have had modifications below the belt. At one time, in that other century I would have called her a drag queen. Now I am unsure as to the correct nomenclature. Obviously it is not black or white. It has to be another “colour” in-between or to one side or the other.

In that past century when I was a young man I could emerge from the confessional feeling elated and purified. That would not happen to me now. My beliefs have changed.

But there is one aspect of my life that is unchanged. Not only that, it seems to be stronger, more in my face. My taste buds are failing and there are few foods that please me. Of music I can only state that I do not want to ever listen to Bach’s Double Violin Concerto. I am done. I am done with it.

What is one of the few aspects of my life that is now enhanced and ever present?

This is my admiration, attraction, confusion, depression, amazement, wonder and many other emotions in how I relate to my visual impression of the women that surround my life. This could be the women that I know but also women who are strangers.

I am repelled by the Kardashian Factor which I define as my reaction to a banal perfection of beauty that as soon as it begins to fade surgery and other methods are used to freeze it.

I am instantly drawn to cleavage while being aware that I am admiring a concavity that has no material existence. I am looking at a curved space as difficult to fathom as Einstein’s space.

What is it about a leg or a pair of them that draws me to stare? Why is it that those legs below a mini skirt are so much more attractive (a beacon of sorts) than those seen in their entirety when the woman in question is wearing a bathing suit?

And my attraction to women is not only of women much younger than I am. I see beauty in my Rosemary even though I can remember those legs and everything else about her that I first saw 50 years ago.

To me it is obvious that this attraction is genetic. It is a genetic factor that makes the sexual organs (the exterior ones) of a woman so fine and their male counterparts so repulsive.

Are women less prone to the factors in that previous paragraph?

My Rosemary and I plan to travel more this 2019. Curiously we want to return to some of our favourite places like Mérida, New York, Buenos Aires, Guanajuato. Madrid while we have new interest in places that only Rosemary has been to like Rome, Florence and Venice. Could it be that there is pleasure in the predictable surprise of the surprising? There is no possibility we will ever want to go to Ulan Bator or Delhi. Is cleavage while much less complex than a face different and new every time?

Could it be that my attraction to the female form be still with me because I have good vision, and a memory that has yet to fail? I can remember that scene in To Catch a Thief, where Cary Grant in a hotel corridor spots Grace Kelly and that beautiful neck.

I can remember being 15 and going to newsstands in Mexico that had magazines showing Brigit Bardot’s cleavage. If I had enough pocket money I would buy them and smuggle them in back home.

I don’t have to ask myself why it was I liked to ride buses in Mexico City in those days of my youth to spy on women who crossed their legs.

In brief I don’t think I am abnormal or different from other men.

What does make me different (and this is where the crunch lies) is that as a photographer I can capture (this 21stcentury photographic term has a good fit here in this usage) these memories and make them the realities of the moment of women who may pose for me in my Kits studio.

I can thank my proto-feminist mother, and my wife Rosemary) that I would never take a photograph where the woman posing is not in control or doing something I have persuaded her to do against her will.

In all these years where I have followed my star that is the beauty of woman I have never really felt all that frustrated about my photographs. I have shown (physical photographic prints printed by me in my darkroom) prints to friends. I have shown in the many galleries that existed in Vancouver before they became politically correct, shy and safe.

Now with friends that have died or disappeared or even because of a mutually fading friendship, my opportunity to show what I do has been diminished.

As the years in front of me become certainly short ones all I can do is to look at my filing cabinets, know what is in them (my memory has yet to fail me) and consider that I have had a life that is unique in what relates to the exploration of woman.

Link to: The Exploration of Woman

Originally published at



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store


Into Bunny Watson. I am a Vancouver-based magazine photographer/writer. I have a popular daily blog which can be found at: