I rented Valentino: the Last Emperor from Netflix because it was on Blu-Ray and featured fashion and the fashion industry. It was just the thing to watch this morning. Uncanny and freaky-unpredictable, events sometimes come together, the outside world with the inside, the dream with the jogging reality. After Coty emailed me to say he was ready for a photo shoot, the energy shifted direction. When I mentioned that I wanted to shoot him with a female model, he volunteered that he knew a couple who might be interested. Jacqueline has consented to shoot with us. After ten days being energized by video, days feeling focused on writing, words and how to combine them efficiently and beautifully, now I am thinking and dreaming images and photography.
The movie tells the story of Valentino and his lover/partner, Giancarlo Giametti, whom he met in Paris 45 years ago (at the time the movie was made), and Valentino’s last collection in 2008, five months after he announced his retirement from an industry that had left him behind. I was interested in the relationship between the two men, artist and business manager, but what got to me the most was the fabrication of beauty in women, a lifestyle of creativity, and the rewards that came when one is driven by the passion to create.
I’ve shot more men models than women. Women’s images are more complicated, more of a challenge. Men’s beauty is straightforward, clean and easy. Between the two is a great divide, like the sweet pond of your childhood and the immense Pacific. For whatever reason, the image of women in Western society is complex, driven biologically, sexually, romantically, and now politically but photographing it is all about beauty and how beauty moves us. I’m more familiar with women’s psyche than men’s. I had two sisters and grew up surrounded by women my father, a mysterious appendage, an afterthought. Maybe I wanted to distance myself from what I knew. Familiarity breeds contempt but in attempts at art is deadly.
At the gathering at my house last Sunday I accused a friend of having champagne taste. Champagne is okay especially when you throw in money to spend but one’s lifestyle does not have to be so materially endowed. In the 1980s I discovered Buddhism and Zen and since then have found simple the most daring form of beauty. What we lust after fades quickly after attaining its avatar and we are hungry again. Simple is as tough, maybe tougher to find than the byzantine excesses lust conjures for our pursuit. With moderation, one can have both sensual and simple and that’s the path I have to discover.
Balance, always: the elusive goal. When the Lord God in Jewish scripture ordered light to appear he did not destroy darkness. Between black and white is the array of colors that if judiciously employed can do the imitation of life to which we aspire.