In 1969 I lived for a time over a barber shop near the corner of Wellesley Street and Yonge Street in Toronto. It was an empty space and I had nothing but my Leica M4 (which I still have) and a Leica Focomat 1C Enlarger (that I no longer have). Well, I also had a few things like a sleeping bag and some darkroom stuff, some nice buckskin boots, jeans and a jean jacket along with some tee shirts. Oh, almost forgot, a really cool Triumph 650 motorcycle. I wanted to be an artist. I never quite made it.
I ran across some negatives a while back that brought back memories of that place and time. I was very serious about doing something very revolutionary in fine art photography. As Nathan Lyons spoke in a workshop I attended the prior year (while I was a student at R.I.T), a photograph was not a “picture of”, but an “object about”. Those words stuck in my head. I scoffed at photographers that did things like “take photographs of authors”. No. Photography as a fine art should be about the photograph, not the person being photographed. What about the “common man”?! Realism!!!
One day a friend of mine brought a friend of hers to my space at 6 Wellesley West. Her name was Lilita. She was a tall, quiet Latvian beauty. I say quiet because as I recall she didn’t say a word. Her friend did all the talking. It was a cold, gray day in November in Toronto. Her friend informed me that she wanted photographs of herself in a bathing suit. She intended to somehow transmit these photographs to a male individual with whom she desired to establish a relationship. (Have I been obtuse enough here?) She took off her winter clothing to reveal a two piece bathing suit that, it was explained, belonged to her mother. Her friend (the talker) was driving me nuts, so I moved Lilita into an empty room, grabbed my Leica, 21mm f3.4 Super Angulon and a roll of Panatomic-X and locked the door behind me. She parked herself next to a window and wouldn’t budge. Probably scared to death at this point. As I said it was a gray day with an east-facing window. The snow outside made for a nice soft light. At f3.4 and 1/15th (the slowest speed I could handhold) the negatives are a bit underexsposed. When the shadows fall right on the toe of the D(Log E) curve, you are really living on the edge and you get the sweetest mid-tones and skin tones. I really miss Panatomic-X. Using it with D-23 after a full roll-film zone-system calibration was really fine. I tuned out the noises (her friend banging on the door, street noises, etc) and ran through a 36 exposure roll and it was over. She was done and so was I. The door was opened, winter clothing was put back on and they were off.
As I said the negatives were a bit underexposed, but I did my best and made a few 8×10′s. Next time I saw her friend, I gave her the prints to pass on to Lilita. I heard later that she thought the photographs were awful (hey… I don’t work for Playboy!) and she hated them. So sorry Lilita. We were both on a mission that day, and it looks like I got what I wanted but you didn’t. Should have gone to “Glamour Shots”. Oh well. I hope you got the guy you were after… probably did and he probably turned out to be a real jerk and treated you like crap. That’s just how those things usually go. It was 40 years ago. You are a middle aged lady now, but your youth is preserved in the emulsion of that roll of Panatomic-X and just like a Hollywood movie star, you will live on… at least on this blog page.
Did I mention that I really miss Panatomic-X?