My GalateaThursday, December 01, 2016
Pygmalion (/pɪɡˈmeɪliən/; Greek: Πυγμαλίων, gen.: Πυγμαλίωνος) is a legendary figure of Cyprus. Though Pygmalion is the Greek version of the Phoenician royal name Pumayyaton, he is most familiar from Ovid's narrative poem Metamorphoses, in which Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with a statue he had carved.
If there is anything I learned from working as a magazine photographer beginning in 1977, it was the idea that my photographs had to illustrate, go hand-in-hand and even reinforce, elaborate and perhaps improve the story of the writer in question.
|Pygmalion - Jean Raoux - 1717|
The procedure is that I would be called by an art director who would show me the manuscript. In later years these were faxed, mailed or emailed. In some rare cases the editor would be present and both the editor and art director might agree or not on the avenue to pursue. On some rare occasions I was given the delightful instruction, “Do as you please.”
In many situations strong art directors acted as editors. I remember Vancouver Magazine’s Art Director Chris Dahl telling Editor Malcolm Parry, “Alex has taken a really strong shot I want to use it as a two-page spread. Can you shorten the piece by 350 words?” Many writers I collaborated with never found this out! At one time writers were paid per word.
When I started writing my own stories I was in a direct and ambivalent conflict with myself. What was more important, what I had written or what I was going to photograph?
Now in my dotage without having to be under the thumb of editor or art director one of my most pleasant endeavours is to look at a picture I may have taken in the past, stare at it, associate it with something in my head or a poem in my memory and write as I am doing now.
When I looked at this picture of Linda Lorenzo with a projection of a statue in the Buenos Aires cemetery of La Recoleta the first thought was about Pygmalion, the Ovid story. Then I thought how my mother took me in Buenos Aires as a little boy to see Pygmalion with her fave actor Leslie Howard and now one of my fave actresses Wendy Hiller. I then thought of the Calle Corrientes bookstore Pigmalion (with an i) where my mother bought her books in English as I did in my 20s when I was stationed nearby as a navy conscript with the Senior American Naval Advisor Captain Onofrio Salvia USN. I further thought that Jorge Luís Borges was a frequent customer of Pygmalion and it was there that he was befriended by a clerk called Alberto Manguel. Manguel then became a reader for Borges as the poet was a blind man. It is most remarkable that as a blind man Borges was the head of the Mariano Moreno National Library for many years. And now Manguel is head of the same institution.
All the above by just looking at that picture of Linda Lorenzo. And then when I think about it after having photographed her for a year with my artist friends Juan Manuel Sánchez and Nora Patrich she was my Galatea.