Pole WinnerWednesday, October 14, 2009
Peggy’s story as I see it from a thick file of photographs, began in August of 2001 and ended (photographically) in an emotional session in my studio in January 2004.
It was in August of 2001 that I received a most interesting assignment from the Straight’s art director Annette Waurick. In retrospect Waurick was the best they ever had. She was let go and ended up doing just nicely for Homemakers in Toronto. In those days the Fall Arts Preview was a big thing at the Straight. They insisted on original photographs (no handouts, please from the arts organizations!) and they would get very upset if any picture in the Straight somehow appeared in the Vancouver Sun.
There was a nice aggressive competition that suited me fine. Waurick’s request was that I “rip off” Man Ray’s famous photograph of Kiki with f-holes on her back and to somehow adapt it in colour to reflect the arts. This meant that I needed a subject who would pose undraped. I immediately called Cori Caulfield as she had and has a most beautiful back (and everything else). I liked the idea that my subject would reflect one of the arts, in this case that of dance. Cori was apologetic. “Alex I would love to pose for you but I am extremely busy. I am going to send you one of my best ballet students. She is 21.”
Peggy arrived. By then I knew she had a green tattoo of a frog on her right shoulder. I had told her to have her girlfriend draw the f-holes with a green marker. My Argentine painter friend had lent me his brushes and I had purchased at a pottery sale a mask to represent theatre.
Man Ray had placed a piece of paper on the right hand bottom of his picture with his name and date. I did the same. Working with Peggy was a pleasure. She had never posed for a camera before but she was a natural and told me that she liked being photographed and wanted me to photograph her again. This I did most willingly.
At the time she had an abusive boyfriend who did not seem to understand all of Peggy’s facets. Peggy had studied to be a kick boxer. “Alex (Peggy’s boyfriend) does not understand my career as a ballerina and never attends any of the performances. He does not understand how I can be a boxer. He is aware that I am sexy but has no idea of my sensuality. About all I do that he agrees with is our mutual interest in boarding. I am not getting along with them. Today we broke up.”
So I took five pictures of Peggy (September 2001). One as a ballerina, one as a boxer (alas this one has some nudity so I cannot show it), one as a sensual woman (the one with the rock and it has been cropped for propriety) and one as a boarder. The fifth one was all my idea. “I am going to photograph you as yourself. You are going to pose nude from head to toe and I will photograph you from the waist up." She posed, hid her breasts behind her arms, looked at my camera and began to cry.
I had a show at the Simon Patrich Gallery a few weeks later and the pictures were up. Peggy arrived with Alex. They had reconciled their differences. But that was not to be as Peggy later told me that the police had placed her on a restraining order as she had beaten up Alex in a confrontation. It was all over between them.
In August 2002 Peggy came back to my studio and I photographed her mostly undraped. I was particularly happy with the pictures showing how graceful as you see here where I used a mosquito netting to hide all the “stuff”.
In December of the same years, all pretenses of using clothing went out the window and I took nudes. I was particularly happy in making use of Peggy’s flexibility to advantage in taking pictures of her foot ever so close to her face. Peggy was cheerful and a delight to photograph. I had lots of fun.
Her cheerfulness almost disappeared the last time I photographed her in January, 2004. On the phone before we made our shooting date she told me, “Alex I am no longer dancing ballet. But I am dancing.” I knew. She had become a stripper. She had moved to Vancouver Island and had a large dog. I explained to her that I wanted her to bring all her ballet paraphernalia plus all the new stuff like red pumps and her dancer clothing.
I instructed Peggy to put on her ballet outfit and then once I had my light ready I told her to take it all off slowly, beginning with her pointe shoes and then to dress up in her new outfit. This was a tearful experience as she went from her ballerina past to her exotic dancer present and future.
Not too long after my friend ecdysiast connoisseur Sean Rossiter and I went to see Peggy perform at a club in New Westminster. It was a strange place as the club had a hermetically sealed room (all glass walls) in which the smokers could watch the show. Peggy was the best pole dancer Rossiter and I ever saw. We saw her again at the last days of a club in Port Moody. We had a nice chat with Peggy after she confirmed again her expertise with a pole and with a dancing style that had no equal except for my memories of having scene jazz dancer trained Jackie Coleman at the No 5 Orange Street in the late 70s.
After that performance at the Port Moody club I did not see Peggy again and she disappeared. Even then she was not computer savvy and even though she told me she was going to try to learn she was off my map.
I found her today. She is convalescing from an accident where she tore a tendon in one foot and is unable to work. I am not a liberty to disclose here how it happened. Since that last time I saw her she decided to improve on nature’s bounty and had her breasts fixed. This procedure brought some complications that almost killed her. But Peggy is all cheer with her dog and she is quietly living in Victoria.
As soon as she gets better she told me that she will come to Vancouver and pose for me. The idea is comforting to me; almost as comforting as having found her. She may not be computer savvy but she did respond to an e-mail of mine with her Blackberry and even sent me a snap she took with it.
I find it hard to believe that the young girl that first came to my studio at 21 is now 30.