Ukraine is in the news. Besides what you read in good newspapers like the NY Times (Thomas Freedman in particular) and on TV (when you trust the broadcasters and I trust a few) the rest is of questionable content. But then I could be wrong as Freedman in his dead-on essay We Have Never Been Here Before destroys the concept of the fog of war. This is a war that is being observed and heard in real time. All the stuff on social media, at the very least, has created a world-wide awareness of events in a place which until now was ignored. Ukraine was as remote to manyof us as Patagonia and deemed unimportant.
There is little that I can contribute to that above mix except what is in my heart. I am lucky to state here that I have two Ukrainian friends who live in Vancouver who have inspired me to take photographs that are not only beautiful but to also (to use that cliché) help me push my envelope and in a few cases to a tad past my comfort zone.
The idea that two women could be my muses is a questionable term in this century even though I well know that the original 9 muses were indeed women. I will allow myself then to stress that word – inspiration. These two have inspired me.
Yuliya I first met around 2005. She posed for my class, The Contemporary Portrait Nude at the photography school Focal Point now sadly gone. She was a fabulous model who had a little bit of an attitude. The one thing you could say to her that would enrage her was, “I understand you are from the Ukraine.” She would almost scream back, “Ukraine, not the Ukraine!”
In our many photographic sessions she quickly revealed to me that she was a professional dominatrix. While she might have received good money for being nasty to men she has a sweetness about her and a real smile. She is a friend.
Olena is a beautiful woman who while having been born in Ukraine moved to Colombia and married a Colombian doctor. The two and a daughter live in Vancouver. Besides having an unusual presence, Olena is an expert in makeup and best of all, for me, we converse in Spanish.
When my magazine and newspapers assignments disappeared with the demise of journalism, knowing these two kept me on my photographic toes.
Rosemary liked both of them and had no objections to them coming to our house and garden to pose for me.
Ukraine is in the news, so now I know that its national flower is the sunflower. My Rosemary and I had an intimate connection with this plant. In 1968 soon after we were married our friend Andrew Taylor photographed us with a big paper sunflower.
And furthermore our Lillooet daughter Alexandra grows sunflowers well and every late spring she brings us small plants which I plant in our back lane garden. I love to scan them.
The unfortunate events in Ukraine have made me curious about the country. There has been one wonderful find. This is Ukrainian artist Marie Bashkirtseff born in Gavrontsi, Ukraine in 1858 who died in Paris in 1884. She was going to be a singer until an illness took her voice away. But she wrote a diary and her paintings are reminiscent (she came first!) of Andrw Wyeth. Her portrait of the young girl under an umbrella made me think of Wyeth and how Rosemary and I went to Seattle a few years back to see a show of his.
|The Umbrella -1883|
|Marie in Ukrainian folk dress|
|Marie Bashkirtseff - foreground centre - 1881|