A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


The Enigma Of The Woman In The Dunes
Monday, January 14, 2008

In 1964 I saw in Buenos Aires Hiroshi Teshigara's film Woman in the Dunes (Suno no ona) about a young Japanese widow Kyoko Kishida traps a vacationing entomologist (Eiji Okada) who traps him in her sandpit house. This is the first film I ever saw where a woman was in charge from beginning to end and played a black widow to the hapless scientist. The lovemaking is charged by a woman who takes more than gives, yet gives more. The scenes confused my young, inexperienced and mostly ignorant mind. I wanted to look away but I could not. I was to experience this electricity years later, and sand almost had its role.

By the late 90s I had photographed many women, been married for over 30 years and had two daughters. I thought I knew a lot about women. I was to be proven wrong by my photographic association with Japanese/Canadian Helen. The more she opened to my camera in a startling progression of years, I came to understand that I knew even less about women than I thought I had. She was an enigma. She had eyes, whose colour to this day I cannot exactly describe. She had a way of looking at me and when I thought I would vaporize she would look away and I could feel a relief.

With Helen I tried all sorts of photographic methods including a pinhole camera (first photograph, above left). Helen always rose to the challenge of the difficult. I did not in the end rise to that challenge when she suggested we cart sand ( two floors) into my studio and replicate some of the scenes of the Woman of the Dunes. To this day I regret my stupidity but I am thankful for having been allowed a partial entrance into the unknown.


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