Lisa Montonen & Ambivalent ThoughtsSaturday, January 06, 2007
At one time I was going to write a book 1001 Photographic Mistakes & How To Avoid Them. I pursuaded myself that this was a bad idea as I kept inventing new mistakes every day. I would have endless revisions. With film on the wane there are now brand new methods of guaranteeing you will get home with no photographs to show for your efforts. Most of these mistakes involve electronic failures that can happen silently without you ever knowing. These failures (corrupt storage cards and files) are far more complex than the innocent one of opening a processing tank with the lights on. For years I have attempted to avoid failure by using consistent methods that never varied. My Mamiya RB will not function without film in its film backs. The motor drive of my Nikon F-3 has so much torque that there are various ways in which film will not advance (film will jump the sprockets or the gears will tear the sprocket holes) and I have taken 36 pictures in the same frame. After repeated failure with the F-3, I was always extra careful.
In spite of it all I have had my successes and none can beat my collaboration with Lisa Montonen in 1991. I photographed her twice. In my first efforts I concentrated on using Hollywood glamour lighting of the 40s. I toned the photographs with a chemical blue toner and varied the colour by using a very hot hair dryer.
These tricks were the only tricks of an age before Photoshop. The second session involved taking pictures of Lisa with my hostas.
When I look at these photographs I have ambivalent thoughts. I know I can never take photographs like those anymore. Lisa now lives in Los Angeles and I don't plan flying there. They were perfect photographs for me then when I approached (with an innocence of youth) my female subjects as remote but beautiful godesses. It was some time after taking pictures of Lisa that I came to realize that goddesses, they were not. They were like I was.
Now I avoid glamour and much of the clothing, if not all of it. I am interested in exploring what it is that attracts me to the undraped woman even after I explain to myself the attraction and the virtue of gardening, reading, eating, listening to Pandolfi or Corelli, and sharing time with my wife, granddaughters and cats. I can think of only one answer that begins to satisfy me, even though there are many more questions that are still unanswered.
From early prehistoric cave dwellers, to painters, sculptors and in the very beginning of photography the nude has always been an obsession with us all.