It happens slowly. So you don’t often notice it. But every now and again you look in the mirror and there’s a moment of quiet dissonance. Inside, you’re still that same young guy you’ve always been. Same belief in your ability to do things. Same yearning to go on this trip or head out on that adventure. Same everything.
So who the hell is that fifty-something guy staring back at you?
Charis Wilson died a few weeks ago. She was the young woman who once took up with Edward Weston, the renowned 20th-century photographer, back in the thirties. She was 28 years his junior. She was sexually adventurous. And he immortalized her in a bunch of his images.
When I watched Eloquent Nude, the documentary of their relationship, I had a hard time seeing the young woman I’ve so long thought was so sensual… inside the face of that 93-year-old woman in front of the camera.
But she was in there, I’m sure. Wondering what the hell happened.
She was a smart young woman. And she wrote with a polished intimacy that is a pleasure, these many years later, to read. It was her words, not Edward’s, that got him the Guggenheim grant in 1937. And it was her descriptive passages that graced the pages of California and the West, the book chronicling their 2-year road trip to get the images allowed by that grant, and which lead to that book.
Published in 1940, it’s been out of print forever. I found an old copy, a bit the worse for wear.
It was a very different world back then. And, yet, you read her words and you look at his pictures and suddenly you realize… it really wasn’t that different after all.