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


The Four Faces Of Pam
Thursday, October 16, 2008

They seek him here, they seek him there,
those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in Heaven, is he in Hell,
that cursed, elusive Pimpernel.

Watching Leslie Howard and the dazzling Merle Oberon in Harold Young's (1935) The Scarlet Pimpernel with Rosemary this afternoon did little to dissipate my depression a day after teaching my editorial class at Van Arts. How can one teach such a course with the reality that editorial photography is moribund? Half in jest I would even suggest that it is far harder to find an editorial job these days than for Raymond Massey's Citizen Chauvelin to find that cursed and elusive Pimpernel.

Looking at all of Leslie Howard's disguises to thwart the evil Citizen Chauvein I thought of an assignment for Vancouver Magazine in 1996 that gave me lots of pleasure and did involve a woman with an illusive and complicated personality. She was not one but four women. Pamela Swanigan a journalist and staffer for Vancouver Magazine came up with the idea of putting four different descriptions of herself in the personals of a local Vancouver newspaper.

The responses were astounding and varied. She wrote of her experience for Vancouver Magazine and art director Anna Belluz hired me to photograph Swanigan in her four different descriptions. While Belluz was pretty serious and always at what seemed to be the proximity of a nervous breakdown she did give me the chance to have some fun. I immediately asked her to hire stylist and makeup artist Gitte Axen. Axen worked for movies so she accepted the assignment (and the obvious low editorial rate) simply because she knew we would enjoy ourselves. This we did.

Each of these photographs matched the description that Swanigan put in her classifieds. The pictures here are in that order and they are as follows:

Physical Me: 38-20-38. 5'3", 120 lbs. Cute face, brown eyes, curly hair, sensuous touch, full lips. Seeks great kisser with slow hands, 25-40

Spiritual Me: Strong-minded, soul searching Acquarius woman, with affinity for animals, ocean, night sky. Would love to meet sensitive, insightful man, not too flaky but spiritually evolved, 25-40

Active Me: SF, early 30s, likes board games, long walks, good conversation, watching sports. Musical tastes from ABBA to Chaka Khan. Lowbrow film tastes. Reads Harlequin Romances, Derek Wakcott, T.S. Eliot, children's lit. Seeks kind affectionate, articulate man, 25-40.

Basic Me: Pretty SF, ND.NS, 32. White/black/native ex-californian, extremely smart, direct, curious, passionate; caustic sense of humour. Financially and emotionally stable. Seeks intelligent, introspective, loving man, 25-40.

I haven't heard of or seen Swanigan since 1998. I wonder if she ever found a man and which one of her was the one that did it? Would the moribund magazines of today consider such crazy and fun ideas?


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