Woman reading to the sea

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Once in a while you have a day that feels like a prototype for the rest of your life. Today, for example. I got up early, had a video chat with my old friend Shereen back in Joburg, and then started to mess around with some new software gimmick that frankly I’ll hardly ever use (the Hydra HDR plug-in for Aperture, since you were wondering). Somewhat excited and inspired to try it out for real, I grabbed my camera and tripod and walked out into the soggy miasma. Duston emerged from the barn carrying a sculpture that she’s been working on for a few days. She “wondered” if I might like to take some photographs of it... Ah, intercepted. Again.

As it happens, though, these little interceptions always turn out to be completely amazing. It goes without saying that I practically worship Dus as an artist, but it mystifies, amuses and (ultimately) wildly flatters me that she takes me seriously as a photographer. No modesty (false or otherwise) here – she’s working full-time at her art, and these days I’m a sporadic schlepper in photography. I’m fine with that.

We set up next to the pool. The sculpture in question is inspired by a poem by our dear friend Lisa Williams – we met Lisa in Rome three years ago at the American Academy. The title of the poem is “Woman reading to the sea”; it was, in turn, inspired by a painting by Lisa’s friend Franco Mondini-Ruiz, who was also a Fellow at the Academy when she was there.

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I’m struck by the literalism of Duston’s interpretation. Look at it – it’s a woman reading to the sea. Simple. The words are spewing out; there’s even a word rising inside the torso of the sculpture, waiting to emerge. And already spoken words themselves lie on the surface of the water, spent.

What makes a day like this so terrific is the intensity and engagement of it. Rising early, shooting, sitting together and working the images. A house full of people. Some food, some wine.

It doesn’t get much better.