Monday, July 17, 2006

When his card arrived inviting me to visit him at his studio I could hardly believe my good fortune. Andre Morgano was the most reclusive of modern photographers, admired and worshipped in circles of aesthetic appreciation, yet never had he spoken in public or granted an interview. Nor had anyone ever succeeded in locating one of his models for the garnering of second-hand insights, those visages of haunting beauty and expression that go under the skin. Andre had an amazing eye for his models. I was apparently the first to be allowed a visit, and all on the crazy whim of sending him a printout of my own photography accompanied by a roundabout request for his opinion.

He was of ageless appearance, slender, black hair with a hint of gray, and a week-old beard that clashed somewhat with his gentle, reflective expression. We sat at his table, sipping wine and looking through the prints I had brought along.

"Your photography shows promise," he told me. "The images remind me of women who have caught my eye."

I blushed strongly at his compliment, and knew nothing to say except, "Thank you." I had shown him portraits of an unknown woman I had spied at the market, face captured in moments of deep reflection that hinted at mysteries far removed from the surroundings. She was completely unaware of my camera.

The conversation turned to exhibits and he had a few amusing stories to share. Officially he was never present at showings of his work but he often appeared in disguise to observe the candid reactions of those present. I inquired about his next exhibition and he offered generously to show me a selection of his latest photographs. "Perhaps you will find pleasure in them," he ventured modestly.

I began paging through the sheets he lay before me, reserving my judgment until I had seen the last, but I could feel him studying me, filled with expectation at what I would say. These images struck a chord of magic in me. They depicted a young woman of dark-haired, dark-eyed loveliness, intense ideas swimming in her gaze. To me her eyes were the windows into a vivid dream that she was living out with the observer. There was a tangible sense that she was not aware of the camera, but that she was acutely aware of me viewing her image, and responding directly to me.

"She's magical," I told him finally, "a demonstration, I dare say, of love at first sight."

"Thank you very much," he answered with sincere gratitude in his eyes, then lowering his gaze, "I have fallen in love with her."

"That is the prerogative of the artist," I said with some certainty, having in the past imagined my own love of my photographic subjects. "If love is felt in the moment of artistic creation, the work will be so much more."

"You state that so self-assuredly, as I once might have. But what sadness and emptiness, when that adoration cannot be returned!"

I could see that this model had affected him greatly, and feared that my statement might have troubled him, as well, reminding him that she did not reciprocate his emotion.

"Do you have more photographs of her?" I inquired, changing the subject slightly.

"I will have, soon," he replied. "I intend to create more this week. I have not yet begun to capture her beauty. I am far from finished with her, even if she can never love me..."

"But perhaps this is not healthy for you? Perhaps you should engage a new model?" I suggested, concerned at the same time that my advice might have been too intimate.

"No," he stated bluntly. "I think you should know, it is not as simple as all that, not as simple as the cancellation of one appointment and the designation of a new one with a new participant. Nothing I could delegate to a model agency." He said this to me, but I was uncertain as to its significance.

"I'm afraid I don't completely understand."

A hopeless look accompanied his reply: "This young lady whose photographs you have marveled at does not exist!"

I gasped. I wanted to refute what he had told me. What, indeed, were the implications? Yes, I knew of the manipulations of digital photography, but to create an entirely new person, as realistic and as alive and as possessive of nuance as she was, was a complete impossibility. Every imitation I had seen failed on its own sterility. To manipulate slightly what was there, yes. But to create from nothing, never! These were the thoughts stirring through my mind in the moment I gasped at his statement. I knew then that I was in the presence of genius.

He explained: "It was harmless at first. At some point I realized that my models, though they came close to my ideal, never actually achieved it. I wanted to photograph them as they had never been seen, capture that moment when the soul is accidentally unguarded and in plain view, a moment as rare as a blue moon on the summer solstice. So I began painting imaginary women, pixel by pixel, on a computerized easel. I was mystified at first. These are faces and anatomies I have never seen before. I do not know their source. Are they forgotten glimpses of someone real I have encountered once, long ago? I cannot say. Sometimes I feel I have painted into them some hidden quality that cannot exist in a woman. And the question arises, have I created goddesses? I fear I will never know with certainty, but it alarms me that I have begun to depend on them, to commune with them, to love them: deeply, completely, and intractably."

He paused and there really was no response I could give that would do justice to what he had related. His confession quite shook me.

"I wanted to share this with one person," he continued, eyes fixed vaguely in my direction. "I saw by your photography, by what had caught your eye, that you might understand. Now I must excuse myself. I must return to my work."

And so ended my conversation with Andre Morgano. A few weeks later I received the distressing news that he had taken his life. His letter of farewell, a confused missive found in his studio, fuelled speculation in art circles of an unrequited obsession with his latest model, a dark-haired beauty never identified by name. My meeting with Andre was not a matter of public record, so no one had the idea to question me. And I decided not to volunteer what I had learned.

Story #366

Thanks to all who contributed and who may still contribute their own stories to the above photo!

16 comments:

The Clown said...

I realized I was going blind for the first time when I started seeing things in the dark…. Things that couldn’t have existed….. Like a figurine of love, a dead eagle on my window-sill and myself in the mirror. It was a matter of time until I lost my sight.

When light came back on earth I went searching for a blind man. I found a woman, instead.

“Teach me blindness”, I told her. And thus, in a grey, cloudy afternoon our lessons began.

“Blindness is nothing but an alternative to the world you live in”, she told me. “You believe your eyesight is the best gift you have….. But you see, you never know what infinite options you have. Your eyesight is a limitation to your pursuit of these options.”

“What do you mean?”

“Eyes attach properties to objects. Blindness removes them. There are no particularities in blindness. As a blind person, you can see anything in as many ways as you wish. Tell me about your experience when you felt for the first time that you were going blind.”

I told her about the figurine of love, the dead eagle and myself in the mirror.

“Do you remember seeing them before your attacks of blindness? See, that’s what blindness gives you: Freedom of sight.”

When I returned home that night her words kept returning back. I remembered the number of times she used the word “see” in her words. It sounded pretty awkward in the words of a blind woman. But I couldn’t understand her purpose of using the word: Was it a mockery or enlightenment? I couldn’t understand the meanings of the things I saw in the attacks of my blindness….. Or if they had any meaning at all. Only my complete blindness could help me find answers to those questions.

The next few days, I kept waiting eagerly for blindness.

But the woman came back to me before blindness did. I told her that I was confused.

“Well, all of us are, sometimes”, she said taking my hand in hers.

I found she was looking into my eyes, constantly, without her eyes blinking even for a second. It took me some time to realize that she was blind. But aren’t blind people meant to see better than people gifted with eyesight? Wasn’t she seeing into me much more clearly than any normal person would do?

“Are you in love with me?” I decided to ask her.

She left my hand as I asked her the question. And moved a little farther away from me.

“What makes you think so?” she asked, a little concerned.

“You were looking into my eyes in such a strange way.”

Even though she was standing turning her back towards me, I could see her leaving a deep breath.

“Maybe, you should stop imagining things.” She said, as she tried to leave in a hurry.

“Why are you going away?”

“Because….” She shouted; then, fell silent. At last, in a much calmer tone she said, “because it’s fearful how you….” She fell silent, once again.

I waited for her to finish. But she never did.

“….Is it how I see into you? Is that what you were trying to say?” I asked.

“Not me, but everyone….. everything.” She continued, “Let me tell you a secret – We can see ourselves in mirrors. You don’t exactly need to go blind for that. It’s true that blindness assures freedom. It’s true that blindness is much, much more powerful than eyesight. Blindness in never dark, as the popular belief goes, but is capable of colors unimaginable by a common man. Only blindness gives you access to spaces intangible….. But you see it’s very, very difficult to come in terms with the fact that you are blind.”

“But I don’t think it would be difficult for me to come to terms with the fact when I do go blind. You’ve already taught me so much.” I said, hoping that I was able to understand what she tried to say.

“No. It’s you who taught me all these.”

Unable to understand I kept looking into her eyes, vaguely.

“The doctors did indeed, find you blind from the very day that you were born”, she completed.

And she reminded me what the world always would, that I cannot go blind ever again.

[I started thinking from one point and then reached another.... and I'm not sure right now if that story connects with the photograph any longer. Given a chance I'd like to name it 'THE WORLD'..... but really that's irrevelant. (This keeps getting longer. My sincere apologies to all posters who had to scroll down by miles to post). By the way, Indie, I thought that last story of yours was excellent. Keep breathing and bring us the fragrance of the places you've been to.

Indeterminacy said...

I'm awestruck. That's an incredible inspiration you shared here. I time now online to write down all my impressions - I#ll just say, there must be something about this photograph. My story is probably just as long, four handwritten pages.

Antonia said...

Teach me blindness is something wonderful to think the whole day about,like listening to silence....and wnderful eyes has the girl...
hope life has been kind to you, Indie.....maybe one day we'll get that Tucholskything finsihed...

Doug said...

I.O.U.

Lynsey said...

“Yep, he also said, Religion is an illusion and it derives its strength from the fact that it falls in with our instinctual desires.

Jin leaned forward. “Freud said that? I get it. So after humanity tested the existence of God with World War I, and completely proved his non-existence with World War II, there was a gaping void; and the entire multi-billion dollar psycho-babble industry neatly filled it. No wonder these wankers try to drape it in scientific respectability.”

“He also said, No one who, like me, conjures up the most evil of those half-tamed demons that inhabit the human breast, and seeks to wrestle with them, can expect to come through the struggle unscathed.

“Wow – very ‘deep and meaningful’. What a great father-figure for the psycho-charlatans. Truly, you can see why he was the Dan Brown of his day. Now, let’s think about this – we have to come up with a religion based on the known, but just off the edge of the familiar, with mothers and fathers…money, lots of money…hmmm…”

The Clown said...

Indie and Antonia, thanks for the compliments.... I wasn't sure if any of you would ever like it.... Keep smiling.

The Mushroom said...

Marissa wondered why she was the only 14 year old girl in the #teenlove IRC channel who actually was a 14 year old girl. All the other 'kids' were adult males, when you got to know them. She sighed and pensively watched the dialog evolve on her screen, thinking "it's no wonder women are in the minority in technology -- it's so hard to find a real girl online, so it quickly becomes boring." She typed her usual "hugglez <3" closing, went back to the #linux and #microbiology channels for a few more minutes to renew her faith in technology being good, then signed off for the night.

Indeterminacy said...

The Clown: There are many wonderful inspirations and ideas in this story. A fable, a fantasy, a parable, a mystery all in one. The clown is often the wiser of us all. You're a master. Thanks again for sharing.

Antonia: I have Tucholsky stuff with me and just have to type it in when I get some more computer time.

Doug: O.K.

Lynsey: I think that's right. Most of our modern religions revolve around money. Somehow I never got into Freud or Adler, but I think Jung is still cool.

Mushroom: My niece who is 11 has been going into the chats as 14, but I think her parents gave her chat-verbot. I think the new trend in the chats is to give your age as 100.

Psychobabble said...

that is an inspiring photo. She looks so sad, so serious beyond her years. As though she's seen too much.

Indeterminacy said...

Psychobabble: I'm happy you saw something in the photo. I am not always sure whether I am the only one who thought something was there.
Now I'm away from the Internet until next Friday, when I'll post the next photo. When I'm back home, I'll catch up with all your blogs.

averagedrinker said...

your story is creepy. maybe Andre really felly obsessed not only with you but with your work as well. it's just so sad that he took his life because of it. i can tell that your liking for him is more of like an obsession. can you be in love? i think so. but you have more chances of walking along a decent road if you meet and chat with men on webdate. there are artists there too,you know.

The Mushroom said...

> My niece who is 11 has been going into the chats as 14,
> but I think her parents gave her chat-verbot.

So she's been talking to herself? :-D

Which is different from chat-verbotin, and all the more reason why anyone would lie about their age.

The Clown said...

Your story just made me realize that photographs are three dimensional.... and the third dimension that's just like the girl in your story - it doesn't exist, is the longest to cover.... or, perhaps, recover.... thanks for the lesson.... but I'm just as afraid as you to use it. Smile.

Frances bo bancess said...

when i first looked at this picture i wondered whose hand is proping up her head. it seems at a too odd-of-an-angle to be the same as her own right arm. so it kind of makes sense that she is not really real, a pixil-ated master piece. or she could just me more flexible than i. awesome story indie. the clown's 'the world' just blew me away. it's an incredible read.

The Clown said...

Frances bo bancess: Thanks. It's Really very sweet of you to remember the name I had longed it would have. Smile.

Indeterminacy said...

Averagedrinker: Thank you for your first comment here (I believe). I intended the story to be somewhat disturbing, describing a truly unnatural relationship. I don't identify with Andre, though I probably identify slightly with the narrator, as he and I are both hobby photographers. I think there may be something slightly arrogant in Andre, when he describes how his models did not meet his ideal. It's possibly a wild variation of the story of Dr. Frankenstein, crossing the line and playing God. That would seem to justify his (Andre's) fate. But I don't really know what went on here. Theses characters took on a life of their own.

The Clown: I enjoy imagining and wondering about the photos I find. But day dreams and reality are two separate things. Andre lost that distinction. Thanks for sharing your insights from the story. I know that each person reading will have different impressions. I thought that this story was somehow related to the story you contributed for the previous photo: an obsession in which reality and memory could no longer be distinguished.

Frances: Thank you for stopping by and commenting. The Clown's story was truly amazing. And I'm glad you liked mine, too, against such competition! We had completely different impressions of the photo. To me there was nothing unreal or unnatural about the pose. For me it was so real, that I somehow got the idea to contrast that in the story.