It Has Been Done Before - Batesonian WisdomThursday, April 17, 2008
My friend Ian Bateson used to drive me crazy when I would show him what I thought was an original and well taken photograph that I had taken recently. Invariably he would look at it and say, "It's been done before." He had me frustrated for years until one day I saw the light. I showed him a photograph and he said the predictable. This time I countered with, "But I have not done it yet!" I may have shouted this at him I was so excited at finally arriving at this piece of photographic wisdom. Since then Bateson has become a most supportive fan of my photography. I hope he understands how instrumental he was in my progress.
At least a decade ago I had two successful gallery shows. One featured a woman, Lisa Montonen holding different hosta leaves from my garden. I took them all in one afternoon in my studio and used only one light. The other show were portraits of women in tubs, all taken from the same angle and revealing nothing that would offend anybody. The lighting was much more complex but I knew what I was doing, or at the very least I knew what I wanted.
The testing, with all its mistakes of lighting, shooting angles and lack of direction, I imposed on brave women who posed for me in previous years to those shows. They knew I was experimenting with lighting schemes and approaches and patiently posed while I blundered. One of the most patient and one of the most calmingly beautiful was the late María de Lurdes Behar. Here you see my early examples of shooting a woman with a hosta leaf. But she did manage to be around to be part of my tub show. It was so charming to photograph a woman so tiny that she could easily bend into a fetal position in a very small tub.
The above is an explanation on how all photographers must go through a transition. They all must put their hand into the fire and feel the burn. Advice from others will never do. Photographers must experience it themselves. By their mistakes they will learn what not to do. When those mistakes become accidental successes the photographer, if methodical can track back to see how the mistake happened so that it can be repeated!
My photographs in yesterday's blog represent a transition in my approach to taking pictures of women. For my 21 first century tastes they look much too glamorous and devoid of substance. I would never photograph anybody in bed smoking. The romance of the woman smoking in bed is long gone. The pictures of Vantana are not too revealing because I have pledged to keep my blog at a standard that it should not offend my granddaughter Rebecca (even though she has seen most of my nudes) or any of her friends. In one of the photographs posted yesterday I actually removed all traces of an "offending" nipple.
In order to photograph those pictures of Lisa Montonen with my hosta leaves I had to first experiment with the mottled lighting that I used on María de Lurdes Behar. It was too difficult to use. Depending on how the mottled lighting fell on her face it made her cheeks look big. Lisa Montonen had very blonde hair so I was able to separate her from my dark background without having to use a "glamorous" hair light.
Vantana's photographs were such a transition. They almost make me cringe when I look at them. But such was her beauty, her long legs, her high cheek bones, that my ineptness and innocence luckily did not carry the day.
Four years ago Rebecca, Rosemary and I went to Buenos Aires. I saw many ads of women in bikinis advertising everything from tootpaste to Fiats. The ads looked to this proper Canadian, obscene. I commented on it to my relatives. My rugby playing nephews thought I was insane and questioned my manhood. I tried to explain the concept of political correctness. I asked them exactly what the connection, between a beautiful woman in a bikini holding tootpaste, was with tooth decay. In the end I gave up.