Evelyn Lau In BedMonday, April 09, 2007
When the phone rang before 9 a.m. in the late 80s I was generally prepared for an urgent request for a photo of Vancouver writer Evelyn Lau to be sent pronto by Fedex (this was well before the press & send digital revolution). Those requests came from publishers and magazines in London, Tokyo, Copenhagen and once even from Sao Paulo.
Those lucrative awakenings began with an early-morning call from Toronto literary agent Denise Bukosky in December 1988. I was to photograph a 17 year-old girl, Evelyn Lau, for the cover of her book Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid. Based on a diary she started at 14, it details her experiences living on the street and her struggles with drugs, prostitution and attempted suicide. Nancy Flight, her editor, was to be my local contact.
When I met up with Flight in February 1989, outside Evelyn's rented suite, Flight's demeanour was glacial. Flight had called me a week before to ask for my studio address. I had replied, "I am going to photograph her where she lives. She will be more at ease. And I'll pose her on her bed. I's sure she has a young girl's beadspread." The silence on the line was eloquent. It didn't seem to help when I explained that I had a daughter of the same age and that I had photographed her on her bed. Flight stressed, "I'm going to be there."
Although the poised 17-year-old Lau seemed to be an adult (much more so than my daughter), she didn't think twice about my request. After all, she was also a teenager. I wasn't disappointed; her beadspread featured red balloons. Although another photo, not on the bed, taken later that day was ultimately used for the cover, I still treasure that first exposure of Evelyn on her bed with her dark-rimmed glasses.
She was to pose for me many times and here is one of my favourites as a mature woman (1990) who is most womanly and feminine.
Evelyn Lau, Elmore Leonard & John Lekich