Fact or Fiction ? — A Woman Who Never Was - Helena Brandon de González-Crussi
This story from my daily blog (every day since January 2006) has many facts and a lot of fiction. I had fun doing it and since it originally appeared in one of my daily blogs a personal blog for myself I did not reveal the fiction. The trick is to mix lots of important sounding facts (real ones) with important conjecture. My subject for the photograph is Caitlin Legault. I used a very large softbox mounted on a boom in my garden (with a backdrop) to imitate as best as I could Mathew Brady’s mid 1860's skylight portraits. I shot it with Ilford F-P4 film in my Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD.
One of my favourite essayists is Mexican-born Federico González-Crussi. He is a retired pathologist. He began his career in 1967 in academic medicine in Canada, at Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario), and moved to the United States in 1973. He was a Professor of Pathology at Indiana University until 1978, when he relocated to Chicago; there to become Professor of Pathology at Northwestern University School of Medicine and Head of Laboratories of Children’s Memorial Hospital until his retirement in 2001.
Gonzalez-Crussi, writes in precise English (his books are then translated into Spanish) and I have three of them: The Day of the Dead and Other Mortal Reflections, On Being Born and Other Difficulties, and On the Nature of Things Erotic.
González-Crussi was born in 1938. His father was friends with pioneering Mexican photographer Agustín Ignacio Casasola (1874–1938). Casasola started what really was the first ever photo agency and recorded and catalogued the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920). Perhaps since one of Casasola’s sons was called, Federico (Casasola Zapata) González-Crussi was named Federico.
Last year when I visited Mexico I ventured to Pachuca in the state of Hidalgo to the Fototeca Nacional at the Exconvento de San Francisco. While pouring through the Archivo Casasola I spotted this strange photograph of a woman who did not look Mexican. Her name in the files was Helena Brandon de González-Crussi. Attached to the photograph was the date 1915 and nothing more.
I have in my memory that wonderful photograph taken by Mathew Brady in the 1860s called Mrs. Brandon. There is no other information on who she was or why she would have posed for Brady in his New York City studio. It would be too much of a coincidence to connect her to Helena Brandon González-Crussi. I am also curious as to how Helena was related to the retired pathologist/author. Perhaps I will never know. In the museum of the Fototeca I was able to purchase a nice sepia-toned print of the woman and here she is. Note the eyebrows on both women.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.