La SeñoritaMonday, November 30, 2009
In 1974 my wife and I decided to sell our house, quit our jobs as teachers and move, with our two young daughters from Mexico City to Vancouver. It seemed like a perfect plan except that we had not counted on the problem of not having anybody buy our house. It was not a detached house and it was part of row of houses in the outskirts of Mexico City. Suddenly we had a house we could not sell and no money to pay the mortgage.
So I launched my career as a portrait photographer of the wealthy with an Asahi Pentax S-3, a 55mm (Auto-Takumar F-2) lens, a 28mm lens and an 85. I had a home darkroom and I mounted the photographs I took onto cardboard using mounting tissue and an iron. It was fashionable at the time to mount pictures on thick wood and paint edges black. I had no money for lights so I used Kodak Tri-X. My use of an oval brass frame to give my pictures and old look (accentuated with toning my pictures in smelly Kodak Sepia Toner) gave me lots of clients word of mouth from one to the next. I was doing so well that my neighbours suggested I give Mexico another chance. We did not. We finally sold the house and moved to Vancouver. Through the years when I try to compact my files (to borrow computerese language) I throw my negatives away. It was perhaps 10 years ago that I decided that all those Mexicans I had photographed in the posh districts of el Pedregal de San Angel and Las Lomas de Chapultepec had to go. I had some pangs of guilt but I threw the away anyway. I kept the little leather-bound portfolio I used to secure work and I have always been charmed by this señorita with the beautiful chest and the enigmatic face. I remember nothing about her, not even the circumstances that led me to photograph her, so well dressed, leaning against a sofa of a living room.
You can see the ravages of time on my print. Stains (sometimes called fixer staing) are appearing on the picture. I do hope that the pictures la señorita purchased are in better shape and that she is a happy woman who has learned to smile.