Bronwen Marsden - Madame XSaturday, August 25, 2012
I often tell people who ask me why I became a photographer, that even though the money was never that good (plumbing would have been a more lucrative choice) my present and almost extinct profession does have its moments.
Consider that some years ago when I was part of a group that met at the Railway Club for lunch on Thursdays we were fascinated by a beautiful woman who liked to dress in black. She had obviously bleached blonde hair but every thing else about her was a delight. We made up all kinds of stories as to what she did and why she dressed so elegantly in little black dresses. Fortunately my friend John Lekich (one of the habitués of our Railway Club group) had a sturdy heart so he was able to take the blonde vision in black with a studied and casual aplomb. Lekich is the kind of man who will associate little black dresses with deftly made martinis and instantly transport you to some bar in Manhattan or Paris.
Since I was not a plumber or a carpenter I was able (after one more fortifying Tío Pepe) to go up to the blonde and say, “I would love to photograph you undraped.” She looked at me and said, “Fine.”
No, I never charged her for my pictures nor did she invoice me for posing. This sort of thing is simply the bonus that we photographers have to compensate for the low returns on services rendered.
In a few days I will hit that barrier that is 70 years. It was only a few weeks ago that when I was chatting with my rheumatologist Doctor Alfonso Verdejo that I told him that I had to get up three or four times every night to do my business. He smiled at me and in his wonderful Mexican Spanish he said, “La enfermedad de los viejitos.” (the disease of little old men).
And yet I am still able to conjure beautiful women to pose for me and help me satisfy an impulse which I no longer fight and just accept. Artists since art began have delighted us, shocked us and in some cases repelled us with their visions of the erotic. While I do not consider myself to be an artist (in Vancouver that is a dangerous folly) I do accept my imperative to photograph beautiful women.
I have photographed many of them undraped and at my age it is almost (not quite!) boring. I prefer the clothed woman with just the right look and then with light, a camera and silence (or a little talking) to collaborate in making an image that convinces me that gaskets, faucets and copper pipes are stuff that I should leave to professionals. They make the money but I have the fun.
When Bronwen Marsden posed for me on Wednesday night and when I took the picture you see here (a preliminary Fuji Instant b+w print) I immediately thought of Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau otherwise known as Madame X. Madame X is a portrait of her painted by American John Singer Sargent. Madame X and Bronwen Marsden probably have nothing in common for anybody who might compare my poor photograph to the lustrous and almost shocking Sargent painting.
I would disagree. There is something internal (not seen in Sargent’s painting as Madame X is in profile) in Marsden’s direct gaze that is unsettling and to me most erotic. She is a Madame X for the 21st century.
Bronwen Marsden - Actor