A Presence In SpadesThursday, September 30, 2010
My granddaughter Rebecca danced for six years. I have watched many dancers in the last 20 years and I have seen the best. One of them was Evelyn Hart. I believe that a dancer must be beautiful (if ballet she or he must have a classically shaped body), must dance well and then there is a third quality which perhaps is the most important. This I call presence. Without presence a dancer is nothing.
I have seen many young violinists and pianists. They have mostly been experts in technique but few have had the real passion that comes with experience. Perhaps the passion in a musical performer could be equated to the presence of a dancer.
When Rebecca stopped dancing, the head of a very good local dance school told me, “What will it take to get Rebecca to stay. If it is a scholarship, I will give her one.” In the end it was determined that Rebecca at a young age was much too young to choose a dancing career. Both the head of the dance school and I knew that Rebecca has that hard to define but so easy to see presence.
I have photographed countless women and men in my life. I have photographed great actresses and actors, directors of note and dancers. I have immediately known which of them had that impalpable quality that I call presence. My forays into fashion photography have been limited but even in that I was faced with models that had it and those that didn’t.
I called up my granddaughter’s home around noon last Saturday to request they bring dresses for some fall photographs. Rebecca chose the one you see here. At around 4 on that day I told her to get dressed. It took her an hour. I looked at her hair and I noted to her that she had somehow flattened it a bit and it did not look as good as it had a few hours before. Rebecca’s hair if she has been swimming and if she allows it to dry slowly will result in a glorious look. She has the hair.
Rebecca came down with hair up in an almost flapper/Penelope waiting for Odysseus look. I could not say anything. Then she casually draped the bottom of her dress over her shoulder and looked stunning by my fall fading hydrangeas in Rosemary’s kitchen bed. By five, light at my Ektachrome’s 100 ISO, had to be exposed at f-8 at ¼ second as my Mamiya’s lenses (and particularly the 140mm and the 90mm that I used here) do not go beyond f-4.5. I hate shooting wide open.
There is only one other woman, besides Rebecca, that I have ever photographed that when I think how she should move, they will do so by some sort of intuition. That other woman has been Carole Taylor. But then Carole Taylor has presence in spades.
It has been exactly one year since I let go of my Robson Street studio with its high ceiling and my boom lights that I could move at will. Shooting my granddaughters at home and in the garden has made me look at simplicity of style almost by necessity. It could also be a little bit of laziness of not wanting to bring out the big boom light and plug in my studio lights to the garden sockets. The light here was late afternoon light. One I would have lit this since it is my formula and style to light just about any picture I take. But thanks to my granddaughter’s and the fact that the younger one might not be as patient, I find I have to work quickly. All this has me working on my toes and I think I am enjoying it very much.