Back about 1982 or 1983 I was teaching a workshop in Rockport, Maine for David Lyman at the Maine Photographic Workshops. Lyman created the Maine Workshops in 1973 and ran them for about 33 years, during which I often came up to be one of his teachers. Those were interesting years when one could cross paths with colleagues one might not see often otherwise. Some of the other instructors were Arnold Newman, a wonderfully generous man, Ernst Haas, Jay Maisel, Larry Fink, David Alan Harvey, Sam Abell, George Tice, Mary Ellen Mark, Sally Mann…..and many, many, others. It had a neat spirit in the early years and the area hadn’t yet been inundated by people with cameras.
As was common for a Maine Photographic workshop teacher, I gave an evening presentation during my week there that year, when ever it was. The workshop instructors traditionally gave evening presentations, most of them attended by many students from other workshops given during the week, but also a by lot of non-photographers, locals and people who were vacationing in the area but enjoyed seeing the work of many well-known and highly regarded professional photographers. The workshop auditorium/theater was usually filled to standing room only.
After my evening presentation I was in the back of the theater and saw a young woman descending from the staircase leading down from the balcony from where she had evidently seen my pictures and heard me speak. I thought she had a very interesting face. Full of imperfections but strikingly attractive. She was also rather statuesque–not sure I’ve ever used that word before–but she carried herself well. I stopped her, introduced myself, and asked if she’d consider letting me photograph her sometime during the week if she were going to be around. I can’t remember if she were alone or traveling with a boy friend. I think there was a boyfriend but don’t really remember.
Anyway, she said she would pose if I wanted her to. We set a day and time, it may well have been the next afternoon, and we met at a house the workshop had that was basically vacant; some empty rooms, no furniture to speak of as I recall, just a bed frame and a mattress in one room. Adequate window light to work in, only the basic things I usually look for: a room, at least one window, an accent of something on the window or perhaps a color on a wall or a door, almost anything to start with. After that it probably comes down to the subject and the chance of making visual contact in a way that might be right. It doesn’t necessarily take a lot. I wouldn’t know what to do if I found myself in an actual studio. Just give me a room with potentially interesting light, maybe some nice angles even if it’s of emptiness.
I think I asked her right away if she’d be willing to do some nudes and she didn’t hesitate but was rather jocular about it. She removed her blouse and bra and her skirt; I had her keep her slip on as it had a kind of gracefulness to it. She had brown hair and blue-gray eyes. We didn’t make a lot of pictures. I’m not sure where all the outtakes are now, although I should. But I should know where a lot of things are that I don’t and it’s depressing to think about that so I try not to. But I do know where my “selects” from that brief session are. They fill perhaps one-fourth of an 80-frame Kodak Carousel tray that is back in my writing area in Virginia. (I’m writing this while in Montana.)
Of the ones I selected I favor a fairly tight, from the waist up portrait of this young woman. She was sitting on the edge of a little alcove by a window, she’s slightly bent over, her face turned and tucked into her shoulder and she’s looking directly at me with her blue eyes and her expression is difficult to describe but there is a connection that I think reaches the viewer. Her breasts are bare but it is her face that dominates this picture.
The picture is the one seen above, although this one has been cropped into a square.
Here, however, is my dilemma:
I have no idea who she is. I don’t know what her name was or is. I don’t know where she lived back then. I don’t have a clue. I’m hoping someone out there may know her.
Why, oh why was I then sometimes so of the moment and not thinking beyond? I’m sure I must have written down her name although I can’t be sure and I may well not have. I probably didn’t tell her I’d send her any pictures. It was almost like a kind of exercise she willing submitted to without thought of payment or pictures. I don’t think I got an address from her. How I wish now I had because I like that portrait a lot and I think she would have liked it then and now, these many years later.
I have recently printed that picture and have included it in an exhibit I have from my on-going project called Her Picture in a Frame. This exhibit was last shown at the Leica Gallery in New York City in March of 2010. Ralph Gibson came to that opening at the Leica gallery, the second time Gibson had come to an opening of mine at the Leica gallery and, unfortunately, the only two times our paths have crossed. Gibson looked at the portrait of this young woman and commented on the connection. I’m probably paraphrasing but he commented on my exhibit pictures in general and that one in particular, saying, “You know, you really see a connection here…” I took that as a great compliment.
Part of that project also appears as a chapter in my new book WILLIAM ALBERT ALLARD: Five Decades. But the picture of the young woman in question is not in the book. Because of the partial nudity I didn’t think I could publish her in the book without her permission.
So. now I’m asking anybody out there who might read this: are you the one or do you know of anybody who, while in Rockport, Maine in 1982 or 1983 (if I had the tray with the original Kodachrome transparencies right here I could easily check the specific year but they are in Virginia and I am in Missoula, Montana, which is not all bad), was photographed by a workshop teacher? Do you know of a woman who might have mentioned she was asked to pose for a photographer/teacher who saw her one night in Rockport, Maine and asked if he could photograph her? It’s probably a million-to-one shot I’m hoping for but I’d sure like to connect with this person if possible. I owe her at least a picture and I think she’d like it. As I say above, this is her face. Does anyone out there know her?