July 14, 1999

Victoria, the Alberta Portfolio XI (Mountain View, Alberta)

Since Victoria's arrival in Alberta, the days had grown progressively cooler, and this day's dawn brought drizzle and mist from across the plains. I had hoped to use the day to begin working with the mountains, but with the cloud cover to the west even denser, I resigned myself to waiting to work with western peaks as a background another day.
4"x5" film
As the morning progressed, the rain moved off, and Victoria and I decided to risk a trip down into the coulee, as we couldn't tell if it was warm enough, never mind dry enough, for her to model. After a walk down the steep slope, we discovered that down by the river, the wind present up on the plains was barely more than a whisper, and while the air was not pleasantly warm, it certainly was not going to present a problem during short periods of nudity. We began working, photographing as we progressed up-river towards an abandoned shack on the floodplain.

When we reached the shack, we found an added visual bonus; inside the shed someone had hung a deer skull to dry right beside an old window. Coming so soon after our first images of Victoria on the black cloth with the skull, we both agreed we had to work with it. Initially, I had thought to make an image of Victoria standing next to the skull, but the floor inside the shed was rotten, forcing us to instead work outside. The final image of Victoria with the skull has a drama to it which I suspect would have been missing from my initial idea; the worn wood and black window against which the Nude and skull are set provide a rich, yet appropriate backdrop for the two.
4"x5" film
The final image from the shack is strongly related to the bridge Nudes I have produced in August 1998 and April 1999. While the floor was rotten, the ceiling timber in the building were intact, and I asked Victoria if she'd climb up and work in the beams. Normally somewhat hesitant about heights, Victoria set aside her fears and went up the ladder, knowing full well her images would share a website with those of the intrepid Ingrid.
35mm infrared film
After walking back up to the edge of the coulee, we turned to see the clouds clearing over the mountains, and the sunlight breaking through them. Not wanting to pass up this serendipitous chance, we stopped and made a number of photos of Victoria standing on the coulee ridge, with the receding valley behind her. The drama of the light, and the soft elegance of the pose is uncommon in my work, but it is one of the few images I made in Alberta which gives a sense of the coulee as a whole, most of my other images focus on small, refined elements of the space.

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