Readers of this blog may know that I’m a big fan of the British science fiction show “Doctor Who.” The lead character, the Doctor – a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey - is one of my two heroes of British television. The other, an old chap by the name of Victor Meldrew, is the main character in the hilarious Britcom “One Foot in the Grave.”
Victor is forced into retirement when he’s replaced by a machine and he is now at war with the world. One of his favorite phrases, which he utters (rather frequently) upon encountering something mind boggling, is “I don’t be-lieve it!”
Well, I’ve written all of that to preface the fact that I recently had a mind boggling, “I don’t be-lieve it!” kind of moment myself. In reviewing the photos that I’ve posted here on the blog this year, I saw that I’ve posted just one – one! – outdoor nude photo up to this point. Pretty much half-way finished with the year and just one outdoor nude – and that was done five months ago. Conversely, I’ve posted a bunch indoor nudes, most or all studio work.
This may not seem very earth shaking, were it not for the fact that I definitely prefer to photograph nudes outdoors than in some studio. Outdoors to me is the default setting for photographing nudes, and I will only work in a studio when the weather is too cold to photograph a model outside or I don’t have an outdoor location. Unfortunately, living in New York City, the weather is too cold for outdoor work most of the year and even when it isn’t, I don’t know of any locations here that are interesting and afford any kind of privacy for nude work. (I am really not partial to what I call the “hit and run” school of photography, especially as I often need to use a tripod that takes a long time to set up.)
Thinking back over the past year and a half, the only outdoor nude photos I’ve done were an hour spent photographing two models out in the snow under horrendous lighting conditions in Ohio this February (two and a half rolls of film, and two still need to be developed) and the two day workshop I attended on the Oregon coast last year. That’s pretty much it. Otherwise, I’ve been stuck inside a studio – mostly the one I set up in my living room that’s pretty restrictive.
This won’t solve my problem of how to photograph outdoor nudes in the future, but as far as the blog here is concerned, I still have plenty of film from the great outdoors that has yet to be scanned and/or posted. I just need to find the time to scan and edit them. The photos you’re seeing here, made two years ago at Joshua Tree National Park in California, are among that horde and were recently scanned. The two models are Amber Gangi and Candace Nirvana (or, as I like to think of them, “the Bobsey twins” of the art nude modeling world).
Hopefully, it won’t take me another five months to post some outdoor nudes.
I’ve written in the recent past that I’ve seen a bunch of different Picasso exhibits at galleries and museums here in the New York area. Even in Japan, at an open air art museum in Hakone, I saw a lot of Picasso works at a pavilion dedicated solely to them. Then, I attended one more Picasso event yesterday that should be the culmination of them.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there was a series of three lectures about Picasso, followed by a film showing the artist at work. I didn’t find the first lecture, about Picasso as a poet, to be terribly interesting. His poetry, which he began writing in 1935 – in Spanish, then in French, and then again in Spanish - is rather convoluted to say the least, though I suppose that does say something about him.
The third lecture, mostly about the collecting of Picasso works in the United States, was much more interesting. The greatest surprise was to hear that two people who were very pivotal in bringing Picasso to America were Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen! Yes, that’s right. Stieglitz and Steichen – a couple of photographers!
I knew that Stieglitz, with his Gallery 291 in New York, tried to get photography accepted as an art form. What I did not know was that in 1911 – two years before the famous Armory show – Stieglitz mounted a show of over 80 Picasso works at his gallery in an effort to bring new art to America. Steichen’s role was as Stieglitz’s lookout in Paris for things of interest on the continent.
Stieglitz even tried to convince the trustees of the Met to buy the entire collection, but of course the trustees balked at that idea. He did, however, buy an important cubist drawing of a nude woman for himself, and that drawing was later donated to the Met by Stieglitz’s widow, Georgia O’Keefe.
Still, the most interesting speaker was the second one, Francoise Gilot. A well regarded artist in her own right, she is nonetheless perhaps best known as Picasso’s mistress from 1944 and to 1953 and as the mother of Paloma and Claude Picasso. (You can see her here cavorting on the beach with Picasso in a famous photo by Robert Capa.)
When I saw this event listed on the Met’s calendar several months ago, I knew that I wanted to go. I was thinking of staying home as I hurt my back a week ago and it was still bothering me, but I didn’t want to use that as an excuse for laziness. It was worth the effort of going just to hear this lecture alone.
I thought she’d talk about her life with Picasso, but instead she gave us an illustrated overview of Picasso’s artistic output, speaking as the artist that she is and punctuated with anecdotes that only a person with her relationship to Picasso could give. Some of the most interesting comments, not surprisingly, were about paintings that Picasso made of her. In one of those paintings she’s seen in profile, and standing as she was at the podium in profile to my view, I could see that years later she’s still identifiable as the woman in the painting.
You can click on the photos with the projected artwork to see them much larger. She is depicted in both paintings. The painting of her as a flower, she said, was inspired by Henri Matisse. When Picasso introduced her to Matisse, after convincing her not to go to see work by Pierre Bonnard – an artist whose work she still loves – Matisse said he wanted to depict her with a blue body and leaf green hair. I guess he didn’t do it, but Picasso evidently did!
Just to finish up, the film was Henri-George Clouzot’s 1955 film, “The Mystery of Picasso.” I thought it would be a documentary about Picasso at work. What it showed, in fact, was the process of Picasso creating pictures, filming a translucent ‘canvas’ from behind while Picasso worked on it with markers and inks. Fascinating stuff, but perhaps best seen on video with the ability to take breaks between the pictures, as seeing it all at one sitting can be a bit much.