Dana Fotera & Graham GreeneMonday, December 11, 2006
I am often asked what person that I have not photographed would I like to, if I had the chance. For many years my answer was always the same, "Graham Greene." After reading my father's copy of Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory (William Heinemann Ltd. London) I read every novel, short story, travel essay and movie reviews he ever wrote plus his two-part autobiography. I had hopes that somehow I could swing this until April 3, 1991 when my favourite author, ever, died. I have treasured Paul Theroux's obituary/essay and its magnificently evocative title An Edwardian on the Concorde even after Theroux bitterly cut up his mentor V.S. Naipaul author of that delightful A House For Mr Biswas.
Since 1991 I have discovered the pleasure in taking pictures of people nobody knows who just happen to be very interesting. One such person is Dana (a.k.a. Dana Fotera and alas I have never gone to Madrid to photograph her) who is a 26 year-old Madrid photographer/model. When she is not teaching kindergarten she specializes in documenting young female gymnasts. But it's her more unusual interests that interest me. She has this obsession of being photographed in the most beautiful locations in Spain by the best best Spanish photographers (above right by Jesus Cabrera). She does this without a stitch of clothing. The other talent is that she is a far better (than all those Spaniards) photographer of herself (much like Bunny Yeager) and her self-portraits are breathtaking. A few days after Christmas 2003, we became friends when we both contributed to a Spanish photography on line forum. Ever since she often sends me pictures and we exchange comments on the ones I send her.
On January 27, 2005 Dana had a heart seizure and was taken to hospital where she almost died. The doctors advised that a pacemaker be implanted. Dana almost died again on the operating table, before the knife even nicked her, by her body's ill reaction to the anesthesia. She made the decision to take her chances as is. It was about that time that she finally was able to leave home. I never understood how she was ever able to explain to her conservative and Catholic mother of her mysterious week-end trips to other cities of Spain to visit friends. Nor I was ever able to figure out how she could share her father's computer without him seeing her photographs. She now lives with acomplished photographer Teco ( Pablo Salto-Weis, photo, above left) and they shoot together. But I must again stress that the best of the photographs of this athletically built young woman, who has millions of freckles and the greenest of green eyes, renders herself best (self-portrait below). I argue (we seemed to have reached an impasse on this) that too many of her Spanish photographers treat her as a body in landscape and use flat lighting. I would like to see more dramatic lighting which just might reveal more of her obsession and her delight in being alive.
I have a new post-Graham Greene frustration. Will I ever get to Madrid and be able to see if I can outdo Dana at her own game? Perhaps if I can find as good a Rocinante as Greene's Monsignor Quixote to get me there.