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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.