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


The Gangster's Moll - The Mona Lisa - The Virgin Mary
Monday, March 10, 2008

I have known Maddalena di Gregorio for 34 years. I have not seen her since she moved to Milan about 12 years ago. But we keep in touch via email. With my recent blogs on voluptuous Latin women and how I have almost been jealous when I read Edward Weston's Day Diary I have been thinking a lot about the Montreal born, Italian heritage Maddalena. I went into her files and found a treasure of photographs, some of which I can show here without offending potential youth who might accidentally discover this blog.

Maddalena first faced my camera in the late 70s when I was shooting photographs for Ron Langen's gay publication Bi-Line. Langen had the idea that I take two handsome young men and Maddalena to a forrest in Surrey in late November and photograph them nude as a trio in paradise before the fall of Adam.

The story was about two Adams and one snake, Maddalena. My subjects kept warm with a bottle of brandy and the pictures were a success. The photograph of Maddalena from the rear is one of the pictures (but cropped!).

For the next shoot we added one more woman, my friend Inga Vollmer and shot it inside an old railway parlour car that I got from my friend Harry Atterton. He was a PR man for Air Canada who happened to own a few railway cars on the side.

Through the years I photographed Maddalena lots. I would run into her at alternative band concerts at the Commodore and we would set dates to take pictures. With her and with the Reid sisters Virve and Julia I learned all I know now about the photography of the undraped female.

Unfortunately Maddalena left for Toronto about 16 or 17 years ago and the photography stopped. One year she came back and insisted I photograph the new hard bodied Maddalena wearing black lace gloves, etc. It wasn't exactly my cup of tea but I obliged. Maddalena never saw the results (the last three here are from that session) but with the ease of use that comes with a home scanner I am sure that today she will be looking at them from Milan.

Looking at her pictures I can see that I could have done a series on Mary Magdalene. I could have photographed a contemporary Mona Lisa. And there is more.

My friend Jim Christy has always been interested in Catholic saints. He has an extensive collection of images and statues. One of his favourites is one of the Holy Family in which Saint Joseph uncharacteristically places his hand on the Virgin Mary's shoulder.

Until recently the idea that Joseph would touch Mary was strictly verboten. In the last few years I have taken a few ethnic Virgin Mary's (fully undraped). I have a Vietnamese, a Chilean and an Argentine Mary. But Maddalena's interpretation of the Virgin Mary would make Mary a real woman. A real woman which I have no doubt Mary was.

Addendum March 10, 2008

Dear Alex, you did get a smile out of me. Quite amusing the association to Monalisa, the Virgin Mary and the not so virgin Mary Magdalen.
A series on Mary Magdalen or Monalisa would have been right up my ally.
I have only been in Milan for 7 years, although it feels like a lifetime, but I imagine it's at least 12 years since we last ran into each other in Toronto.
Been a while since i stood in front of a camera except for some self portraits along the way. I have attached a couple of self portraits I took 2 years ago. A contemporary interpretation of Mary Magdalen..... and a penitent Mary Magdalen.

Thank you Alex.



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