A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.




 

The Hosta Lady Revisited Via Polaroid
Tuesday, April 05, 2011


The blog for today is about the story behind this photograph below (a scanned 8x10 from my files) which I took in 1992. Of all the pictures of Lisa Montonen posing with a hosta leaf this is my favourite and the favourite of most who see it. The pictures that follow (all Polaroids) lead to it.



In the heels of yesterday’s blog on the wonders of Katheryn Petersen who I must say not only had a fantastic imagination and presence, there was (and is) an air of sexuality in her that seemed to scream to me, “I am a woman,” with an underlying theme of an animal of the female kind. When she looked at me in the eye I felt the equivalent (but male) in me.


Lisa Montonen &  Hosta plantaginea


Lisa Montonen who became my hosta lady in a show I had in 1992 called Shade Fanfare (the name of a particularly fine hosta cultivar called Hosta ‘Shade Fanfare’) was as beautiful as Petersen but in a different way. I saw Montonen less as a woman of the sexual animal kind but more as a remote woman of the feminine kind.




I watched her once at a beauty contest which she lost. I knew her enough by then that she cried in my presence in disappointment. I understood exactly why she had lost. Her competition consisted of sexy, striking and pretty girls (with that emphasis on pretty). Montonen was not pretty (and this I told her) she was beautiful in an unearthly sort of way. I don’t think she understood but I immediately told her I had a project.


Lisa Montonen & Hosta 'Hyacinthina'



Brian Lynch who in 1992 was the head of the Exposure Gallery on Beatty Street had called me to tell me that a show planned for that summer had fallen through. He asked me if I could put on a show in two weeks. I told him I could.



I explained to Montonen that I had this favourite plant in my garden called a hosta and that their cultivar names (Hyacinthina, Shade Fanfare, Tiny Tears, Krossa Regal, Cynthia, etc) might suggest poses if I brought some of the leaves into the studio. We did the whole shoot in one day (I had brought many leaves and a big vase of water to keep them in). I would tell Montonen, “This hosta is called Blue Boy. What do you think?” In some cases she suggested the pose and in others I did. For every leaf corresponding to a particular hosta I would take a preliminary Polaroid (mostly b+ws ). For simplicity I used only one light a 3x4 ft softbox. My camera was a Mamiya RB-67 Pro-S and the lens was the 140mm macro lens which is very sharp. For film I used Kodak Plus-X in 220 (twice as long as 120) which I processed in Kodak HC-110 in a 1 to 39 dilution at 20 degrees Celcius for 4 minutes and 45 seconds with a reciprocating rotating drum.



Our day in the studio wasn’t long but I do remember that it was extremely hot. She was much more comfortable than I was since she had nothing on. I cannot recall exactly when it happened but CBC arts reporter Paul Grant showed up. On the phone he had told me (unlike other CBC radio reporters before him and since) that yes radio and photography could work together. He watched part of the shoot and he then interviewed Montonen (who was wearing nothing) and then interviewed me. The story ran on the radio and my show was a success.

Lisa Montonen & Hosta plantaginea


Lisa Montonen married a plastic surgeon (who must have seen her as a model for perfection) and she lives happily in Los Angeles.



As an addendum I would like to point out that the Polaroids, in some cases they represented that first shot, have that wonderful quality of being what they really are, one of a kind. Sadly that type of Polaroid is no longer available and photographers now content them with the little screen in the back of their camera to check their setup and exposure. But can you hold it in your hands? Scanning them involved removing a bit of the dust that always adhered to the emulsion surface. But aside from that what you see here is what I saw then. And what a sight it was!



Lisa Montonen & Hosta 'Cynthia'




Lisa Montonen & Hosta 'Hyacinthina'




More Lisa Montonen
Jeanne Moreau's lips
A Face



     

Previous Posts
Don't Purse Your Lips

Angélica de Alquézar

The Adirondacks - Not Quite Yet

Studied Carlessness - A Duo Of Three & A Trio Of F...

No Money, Nor Fame, Anytime Soon In Spite Of Those...

A Point Of View

Chips & Roast Beef

Qwerty Welty & God's Cellist

Celia Duthie - A Down-To-Earth Reader & Dryocopus ...

A Glorious Gloria Revisited



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