alida rose

02/13/13: I wrote this essay almost two weeks ago but for some reason I couldn’t put it up online. I’m not sure what stopped me? Alida is great. I think about shooting with her almost every day. I wonder if that’s the problem? Or maybe I wasn’t ready to let Alida know what I’m thinking? I have no idea? The last year and a half has been so intense with my muse project I probably need to give my brain a rest and spend more time thinking about what I’m going to do with the photographs I’ve already taken instead of taking thousands more. If I continue with Alida I certainly will be taking many thousands of pictures of her. Alida’s face is perfect for my photography and I can’t imagine giving her up. So it’s time to push forward and here’s the essay.

self-portrait with alida and rebecca at the bethesda arcade

02/01/13: I’m eating a Costco hot dog. Yumm! I guess that means I should be writing. This sterile dining room usually inspires me. It’s not happening today. So I’ll write about someone who does inspire me. Alida Rose.

As I said in my last essay, Alida is a Facebook connection. A friend of a friend of a friend. Someone who in real life I don’t remotely know. Alida sent me a nice message asking if I would be interested in photographing her. Lily Balogh, Daryen Rubin, and Hillary Ramos all came to me that way. As with Lily, at first in Alida I didn’t see a face that inspired me. Her attitude seemed “too sweet”. Even the younger girls I photograph have a kind of deep spirit that attracts me and makes me want to photograph them. Looking at Alida’s Facebook page I didn’t see it. Alida seemed too normal.

one of the first pictures i took of alida alone

Considering the amazing success I had with Lily and the other Facebook contacts, I understood I should be patient and follow her page for a while. After some Facebook stalking, I decided to photograph Alida together with her best friend, Rebecca Demi. Just in case Alida wasn’t my type, at least I could do some mirror portraits of the two women together. I knew those pictures would be great no matter what. Unlike Alida, Rebecca’s pictures on Facebook blew me away. She has amazing energy and will hopefully become a future muse. I let Alida know my decision and we agreed to set up a shoot.

alida by windowlight

One day I was daydreaming about my upcoming shoot with Alida and Rebecca but couldn’t see the pictures in my head. I asked Alida to take a quick snapshot of herself and email it to me. I used the pretense of wanting to know her hair length so I would be better prepared when we shot together. Really I wanted to see how she would look in a spontaneous simple photograph, unprepared and with little thought. It would show me the real Alida. (Ha, ha Alida. Now you know the truth!). I got the picture that night and the second I saw her snapshot I knew there was something special about her. Beautiful. Raw. Natural. I wondered why that didn’t come through in her Facebook pictures? After seeing Alida’s self-portrait, I wondered if I had made a mistake. Maybe I should have set up a shoot with her alone. Too late for that.

Being the crazy person that I am, I set up our first shoot in Central Park, at night. I met Alida and Rebecca at 72nd street and Fifth Avenue and it was obvious they were a little nervous about heading into the park. I took them down into the tunnel below 72nd street near Bethesda Fountain. The Bethesda Arcade is a beautiful place but at night it’s dark, silent, and deserted. I wonder what they thought of me?

alida as my georgia o'keeffe

The Facebook pages didn’t lie. Alida was reserved and professionally dressed while Rebecca was the expected ball of energy. But then I started shooting and something happened to Alida’s face. The sweet young girl became a stunning woman, full of emotion. I can’t explain my thoughts at the time. Amazement initially. I did expect something good after seeing the snapshot Alida sent me a few nights earlier but nothing like this. If I had to give the definition of a muse, it would be Alida’s face at that very moment. She was better than human. After a minute of shooting I was already thinking about the next 10 shoots I wanted to do with her.

I’m not quite sure I’ve ever photographed a face like Alida’s. Maybe my early muse, Sara Jean, would have become that if I had been a better photographer 36 years ago? Yes, I know you’ve heard me praise my other muses and they are all special. Still, there is something different about Alida and I can’t put my finger on it. She’s an enigma. I said in one Facebook post that Alida could be my Georgia O’Keeffe. I’m not kidding!

alida in the sheer black tube

Two days later I took Alida back to the same location in Central Park. Before we began shooting, I told her about the wonderful feeling a photographer gets when they take one of their own iconic images, a picture they’ll love for the rest of their life. I don’t think I believed I’d take one of Alida that evening but it happened. I sometimes wonder if she’s really a dream?

We’ve done five shoots now and I’m not sure I know Alida any better than when we first met. I do feel that’s about to change and can’t wait to see the pictures I get when the walls come tumbling down.

alida wearing my favorite sweater

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