My Personal GiocondaFriday, September 02, 2016
I believe I took this photograph in Vancouver around 1978. Until then I had this Mamiy RB-67 6x7 cm format camera with only a wide angle (in that format) 65mm. This portrait of Cheri was taken with my then very new portrait lens a 140mm. Since this was before the age of Photoshop and Photoshop’s awful skin pore remover Diffuse Glow we photographers had different tricks to flatter the females of our age.
One was to stretch a woman’s stocking over the front of the lens. A b+w stocking did not remove the contrast. A white stocking did. Another trick was to smear a clear filter with Vaseline and smooth it out with your fingers or a Q-Tip. I have no memory for which trick I may have used here. I do know that I had not yet purchased a soft focus filter because the best (the B+Ws) were very expensive.
When I showed this picture ( a 16x20 inch print) to a friend he marvelled at the fact that Cheri’s eyes followed you around the room.
Some may note that da Vinci’s La Gioconda does exactly that. I did some research and I found this site. But the answer (simplified) is that in any portrait or photograph if the subject is looking straight ahead (and I would add with focused eyes on one spot at about eye level) this will invariably happen and the person in the photograph or painting will follow you ever so uncannily.
Of Cheri I have to write about her (and I have before). She was perhaps my first subject where I experimented with a studio flash system (and Ascor) and with an umbrella. I had no idea of what I was doing. Cheri was gracious and patient.
Until I first spotted Cheri dancing at the Drake Hotel (at the time the best place to see exotic dancers) my former experience with exotic dancers (called strippers when I saw my first one in 1966 on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. I wrote about it here.
There was something about Cheri’s very long legs and the way her hair moved around while she danced. I became an instant fan.