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


French Woman With Log
Monday, January 11, 2010

When Rosemary really nags me (and she did yesterday) to pick up all the unknown envelopes in my basement room floor, where I keep my photographic filing cabinets, I go down and file for a while. She is absolutely right as I have not vacuumed the room for a long time. It is impossible to navigate around the photographs, the envelopes and the unidentified negative sleeves. Filing can be an adventure and a surprise when I find stuff I had forgotten about. Or it can be depressing when I find material that could be defined as a failure. It is particularly sad when I cannot remember the people in a strip of negatives or a sheet of slides and I throw them away. By throwing them away I am relegating these forgotten people to a final death. I have always thought that if you have the names of the people under old pictures in family albums those people are somehow alive. When we can no longer remember the woman sitting by the ferns in a Victorian sitting room and can only guess that she could be a great-great aunt then her existence inexorably fades and is no more.

One of the envelopes I found last night was indentified as French Woman with Log. I know I took the pictures on Wreck Beach and I know the period of time to be somewhere in the late 70s or very early 80s. It was then that I was obsessed with the way skin was rendered by Kodak b+w Technical Pan Film.

I remember that the woman was indeed French and that somehow she and a man had come from Paris and knew someone I knew. Rosemary and I took them to Wreck Beach. In some of the other frames I can discern a bikini on the French woman. I don’t remember anything else except that I was struck by her profile as that is all I took, profiles except for the one below. When I took it I remember telling her that with her eyes closed there was a passing resemblance with Napoleon's death mask.

I will file her in my nudes section (even though I was much too shy to have asked her. What an idiot I was!) and the file will be named, as it was, French Woman and Log. I will linger for a while in life and some day someone will look at a picture of me and not know it was me. But I do know, at least for now, that I am the man who photographed the French woman and the log.


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