Looking Back Into My Latent Past
Photographs — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
Yuliya in my studio, Nikon FM-2 Kodak B+W Infrared Film My wife keeps harping at me that I live in the past. I did ask her a most personal question for which I knew the answer in advice. In her almost 70 years of existence she has lost her father and mother and a favourite aunt. Because my Rosemary is very shy she has made few friends on her own through the years. Many of her friends who have died have also been my friends. One of them was my mother whom Rosemary loved lots and the feeling was mutual.
But to be accurate here in my comparison, I have had many friends ( I photographed many of them) and a much larger family. I did not come from a small town like New Dublin (where Rosemary was born) so my exposure to people was greater.
As I look at my last yearly agenda (2010) at least half of the names in the address book are of people who have died or disappeared. I think of them all the time. That is why Rosemary says I live in the past.
In one of those marvellous moments when you finally find something to rebut Rosemary’s argument about my sinking all too much into my past I found a wonderful quote. Unfortunately she was asleep as I read this passage from George McWhirter’s lovely (and erotic) book of short stories The Gift of Women The passage is from the story Sisters in Spades about a young grade 11 girl from Mississauga who is being pushed back to grade 10 in a nun’s school in Ireland.
“Don’t feel that you are behind Jean. The Irish are always ahead of themselves in their educational standards because of their reputation for being backward, but then, the Irish always see their way forward by looking back.”
“Sounds like everything slips into reverse, here!Even common sense,” I say before I can stop myself.”
Film was always expensive and more so now. But I shot a lot so I have hundreds (thousands, in fact) of negatives that have never gone past the contact sheet that I always make in my darkroom before I decide on which of the individual exposures are worth enlarging. The one you see here is from a short strip of six shots taken with Kodak b+w Infrared Film. There are others taken with conventional b+w film with my medium format (6x7cm) Mamiya RB-67. In fact as I was so stunned by the beauty and look of the picture taken with that camera that I simply lost interest in looking at any of the others.
Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD I took some pictures of Yuliya wearing a stretched fishnet pantyhose (and nothing else). Those will not see the light of day here. Then Yuliya said, “Alex I want you to take this picture.” She sat by my studio table (you can see another of my Mamiya lenses and in the infrared film version you can see the tripod with the Mamiya on the left side). I knew she was right and I snapped and snapped some more.
Looking back I could not have foreseen giving up my studio nor the pleasure in writing here on how right Yuliya’s idea was. I might not have realized what a wonderful moment it was when the shutter of my camera went at (1/8 of a second, I have that kind of a silly memory) but I do so now. Feeling wonderful now is the only way I can somehow rebut my Rosemary. And I know that the knowledge of the feeling and mood of this photograph of Yuliya in my long gone (the building was demolished three years ago) studio today will push me to take something like it in a near future. McWhirter is right about the Irish even though I am no Irish.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.