The Hot Black SandsSaturday, November 27, 2010
I don't use my body to seduce, no. I just stand there.
Until recently it was anathema to opine as I did above. If you were to be politically correct you had to talk of other things like a woman’s imagination, her mind, her sense of humour. And even then you were in troubled territory when your opinion might hint that women were in any way different from men.
In the late 70s, 80 and into the 90s I was an avid admirer of the ecdysiast art. I knew many practitioners and even had the opportunity to take their photographs. It was with them that I learned to photograph the undraped female body. Of course I made many mistakes but these women were patient while being demanding. I learned lots.
I remember that I shared the show with two other photographers whose theme was also the undraped female body. I remember one telling comment that someone wrote in the guestbook, “Thank you Alex for showing their faces.” In the late 80s the feminist movement was very much against the idea of glorifying women by the sum of their physical parts.
When I was going regularly (to my wife’s chagrin) to Wreck Beach in the late 70s there was a young man with very long hair and long fingernails who took photographs of many of the women lying on the beach. He was very polite and he always asked. Most of the women (in an age before the image ubiquity of facebook and Flickr would make them and us all that more cautious) were unconcerned. Yet there were rumours (and I am sure they were only that) that the young man filed his photographs under parts such as legs, breasts and so on…
By the time of the mid 90s my intolerance to cigarette smoke and poor tolerance to the alcohol content of beer made my sojourns to Vancouver strip parlours a rare thing. I occasionally went to the Marble Arch to chat with owner (and my friend) Tony Ricci. There was a Mexican barman called Jorge and I would sit at the bar and he would always serve me soda water which I could never pay even when I tried. We chatted in Spanish. Going to the Marble Arch was a social activity in which I felt much like Humphrey Bogart living the low life of the city. But every once in a while I was invited by a group of city architects and two journalists to share a table at the Arch. One of them smoked lots and I had a hard time. They drank pitchers of beer (but never to stupefaction) and I had my free and bottomless soda water. There was one day, memorable for me in which one of the architects said, “Let’s go. It’s getting late.” One of the other architects said, “Let’s wait to see her tits and then we can go.”
I had heard such statements many times before and they had never affected me as this one did this time around. I was shocked and disgusted and I told myself that I was never going to return to a strip pub. And I haven’t. It had all to do with the crass glorification of a woman’s parts using a crass word I have never liked or used. It seemed (and I may have been wrong) that the mention of the woman’s breasts in some way diminished her humanity.
But consider what I wrote in the first paragraph. Is there room now in our contemporary language to point out that a woman might have nice breasts, beautiful legs and wonderful hips without insulting them? I believe so particularly in this age of blatant internet pornography, the statement, “Let’s wait and see her tits and then we can go,” doesn’t sound that offensive to me anymore.
It was in one of my days at Wreck Beach where I used to admire a voluptuous red haired woman. Her body was unlike any I had ever seen and now in retrospect I can assert that her body was like none I have seen since. I got to know her. Her name was V.R. At the time of my first sighting she had just posed as the first red-haired Canadian Playmate for Playboy. Her voluptuous body was a result of all natural genes that hailed from the Baltic Republics.
Not only did I get to know Ms. R but I had the thrill of being able to photograph her not once but many times. It was with Ms. Reid that I learned more, than with any other woman, how to understand how the body functions in movement and how to capture those moments in movement and in rest that are both attractive and erotic. At all times during our photographic sessions Ms. R showed patience and tolerance for what I did. And thanks to her I got better at it.
One of those sessions involved going to Wreck Beach on an extremely hot summer afternoon. We headed to a place that we all called The Black Sands. These were very close to the back of the Museum of Anthropology and the cliffs had eroded and made the black sand look like lava that poured down a volcano.
Ms. R applied some very heavy makeup and told me it was supposed to be primitive looking. I have to admit that I was a perfect idiot in not understanding her motive. I though that the makeup made a beautiful woman ugly. I said nothing and took several rolls of film including some with Kodak b+w Infrared Film and others with the extremely sharp Kodak Technical Pan Film.
I looked these pictures in detail last night and I was amazed at how good they are. I am unable to place pictures of Ms. R's full body without sacrificing my efforts to not show too much in this blog. I've had to nip and snip here and tuck there to place the pictures here. You will have to believe me that when Ms. R stood on the rocks by the water or lay with black sand all over her on the hot afternoon cliff that she looked much better that Raquel Welch or Ursula Andress ever did. There was a much more primitive (that fantastic makeup!), primal, sexually primal look about her as I saw her then but didn't, but I see now, really, for the first time. I was so lucky and how unlucky you folks are who may feast on Ms. R’s cropped images. You will not appreciate the colour of her hair (well this batch were shot in b+w), the high slope of her generous breasts, the narrowness of her waist and her voluptuous but not too wide hips and those deep set eyes that beckoned like a lighthouse during a storm. Would the ship be wrecked on the rocks or saved just in time? I was too blind then to know of any potential trouble. I just took pictures.