For quite a few years I have been delighted in mating my images with excerpts from the novels of Nuwyorican writer extraordinaire Jerome Charyn. Currently I am illustrating every one of the thirteen stories from his Bitter Bronx — Thirteen Stories.
Charyn’s friend and companion Leonore Riegel tweeted me, “What about the giant?” She thinks that the story, Dee, about a female photographer who is friends with a Jewish giant might stump me. She is almost right.
For starters Dee is a thinly disguised ( Deeyyan as Eddie Carmel, who did exist called Dee) Diane Arbus. The only photograph in my files that could possibly illustrate Charyn’s story is my slide of wrestler and actor Andre the Giant. I could certainly not get away with using any photograph that I might have of a female photographer. The closest would be Annie Leibovitz and she is not Arbus.
What has saved me and I hope this will please Riegel is that the story is about one of Arbus’s few failures. The story is of her inability to capture the essence of the big man who happens to be her friend and who also can compose poetry on the spot only with Dee as his inspiration.
Every photographer (and I am one) can blurt out his failures. I have had many. Uppermost in my mind was my failure to break Candice Bergen’s tough, thick wall. And this one was almost a failure but became one of my personal and major successes.
Perhaps only a photographer can understand what led Charyn’s Dee to frustration in her inability to find an image in her camera or one that she took with that other one (not a twin Mamiyaflex but one with her twin and very green eyes.) On the other hand Charyn does a fine job in explaining it to my satisfaction.
Dee clicked. Eddie stood there in his wrinkled pants while Mrs. Carmel was in a daze and Mr. Carmel struck his own pose, with a hand in his pocket, distancing himself from all giants and his son…
One of the art directors she’d worked with had called her a huntress and she probably was. She’d found what she wanted — it was as if the image itself had pressed the shutter. Some of her compassion had fled after that click. She wouldn’t photograph Eddie Carmel again, and now she was trying to distance herself, the way Eddie’s dad had done. But she couldn’t. Eddie Carmel clung to her bones.
Dee from Jerome Charyn’s Bitter Bronx — Thirteen Stories
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.