Qué extraña escena describes y que extraños prisioneros, Son iguales a nosotros.
Platón, República, Libro VII
What a strange scene you describe and what strange prisoners, They are the same as we.
Plato, Republic Book VII
The last page of José Saramago’s 2000 novel The Cave ends:
En breve apertura al public de La Caverna de Platón, atracción exclusive, única en el mundo, compre ya su entrada.
Soon, open to the public Plato’s Cavern, an exclusive attraction, unique in the world, buy your ticket now.
Ever since I first heard of Plato’s Parable of the Cave from my philosophy instructor, Ramón Xirau in Mexico City in 1962 I have been fascinated by the story in which Socrates has a dialogue with Plato’s older brother Glaucon in Plato’s Republic. We do know that Socrates never wrote anything. What we know about the man is through his disciple Plato who championed his teacher’s views by perhaps “inventing” dialogues.
In the Parable of the Cave, men inside the cave are chained to a stone bench. They face the wall. Behind them there is a flickering fire. Behind the fire there is a tunnel that leads to the world outside. When stuff happens outside the scene is broken down by the fire and reflections appear on the cave wall. Plato says that human reality is that. One day one of the men is able to escape and goes outside. At first he is blinded by the intense light. When he adjusts he is able to discern and figure out that the reality he and his companions saw on the cave wall was a sham of reality. When he tries to tell them about this they try to kill him.
Plato here puts forward his theory of a World of Forms and Ideas. These are perfect. We humans are only able to see them with our faulty senses.
This Platonic philosophy has obsessed me through the years. Once in 1967 at a Jefferson Airplane concert in San Francisco I observed a woman sitting at a corner looking closely at a little glass of crème the menthe. I guessed she might have been under the influence of LSD and that she was staring at the Perfect Green.
Early in my marriage to Rosemary in 1968 we would drive to my mother’s home in Veracruz. On the way as we were going down from the Mexico City altitude we would hit the city of Córdoba, Veracruz that was all tropical green. To me the green was greenness approaching a Platonic idea of a perfect green.
Only in the last few weeks have I finally connected the idea that a Platonic friendship is called that at it one that is imperfect and does not include sexual benefits.
Throughout my photographic career I approached portraiture with the concept of somehow getting a bit of my subject’s intrinsic nature of being who they are and nobody else. For me a smile or a laugh somehow clouds my probing into my subject’s nature. Sometimes I achieved this by finding a common ground to share. Sometimes (rarely) I insulted.
All the above brings me to the purpose of this blog. I have photographed countless women, famous and not. I have photographed, in the hundreds, women undraped or with little on. I began this pursuit with my Rosemary whom I photographed with our first daughter in 1968/69 not wearing a stitch.
Since my Rosemary died on December 9 I see her presence everywhere in our house and garden. I see it in the eyes of our two cats. This presence, is it in my memory a hint of the perfect essence and nature of who she was?
It was Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. who told our class in Austin, Texas in 1958/59 that all humans are born with an intrinsic quality he called human dignity. No matter what any of us ever did (for good or bad) he said we could not unload it. Could this have been Brother Edwin’s idea a Platonic perfection in all of us?
So invariably when I want to look at my extensive files of women I take out the one called Tarren. I have photographed (perhaps?) more beautiful women. I have had a few girlfriends with whom I shared intimacies. Tarren was always on the other side of my camera. Her body, as a whole, was as perfect as I have ever photographed.
What led me to photograph her from 1980 until about 2010? What kind of trust did she have to have posed for me so many times and so freely?
In trying to nail down some sort of answer I wonder if somehow Tarren’s nature of being a woman (a difficult topic to deal with in this 21st century) had something to do with her womanness. I don’t think that word exists but I want to equate it with my idea that a live cat has in him a catness inherited from other cats. Roses of different colours somehow all have a perfection in my mind that I call roseness.
Is there such a quality that I would call Tarrenness? What would Plato say?