In 1981 I was a suitably conventional and boring 39-year-old man. My idea that sex was principally for procreation ( I had learned this in 4 years of a Catholic boarding school education in Austin, Texas) had been disturbed years back when my very sick 59-year-old mother, a couple of months before her untimely death, confessed to me that at her age, too many years of not having known a man had deeply depressed her and that she felt bitter.
In 1981 I ordered D.M. Thomas’s The White Hotel from the Book of the Month Club. It was in this novel that I first began to understand a woman’s mind and imagination and that they were not to be found with the ideal woman I had placed on a Dorian plinth.
It was also in 1981, when processing some film in my Burnaby basement darkroom, that I received a call from a young woman poet called Diana Hayes. She wanted to have her picture taken. She told me she was researching an article on exotic dancers and wanted to know what it was like so she wanted me to photograph her as if she were one.
I had photographed a few exotic dancers so I had a distorted belief that only women of that profession had an interest in undraping for a camera. Miss Hayes’ request had me a tad confused. Nevertheless I did anticipate with a small amount of pleasure my appointment with her at her Kits home.
The photograph (top) is perhaps the only one of that first session that I can safely publish here. It hints that underneath a pristine, innocent appearance, lurks an imagination that is much richer and daring than that of any man, or at the very least, of this one. In our photographic relationship of many years, Miss Hayes constantly pushed on my photographic boundaries and the only force that thwarted her was my poor and slow imagination.
I just finished D.M. Thomas’ Charlotte — The Final Journey of Jane Eyre and it led me to wonder what Diana Hayes was doing with her imagination. Her new webpage shows she has not rested on past laurels.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.