July 17, 1999

Victoria, the Alberta Portfolio XVIII (Belly River Coulee, Alberta)

After the exhausting previous day, Victoria and I decided to stay closer to Annie's ranch on this day, walking down to the coulee and working with the trees and riverbank. It was a little cool, but there was the promise of sunshine, and warmer weather in the air, so we proceeded with optimistic hearts.
35mm infrared film
Often, when working with a space that hold great potential, it can take some time before a model unwinds and become in tune with the surrounding, a process which can be crucial in finding the right poses for a particular place. This particular morning the first images were stiff; both Victoria and I trying too hard, and even at the time (I didn't see the negatives until over a week later) I could feel that the images were forced. Then, between images, Victoria paused to put more sun-screen on. As she bent over, applying the herbal salve to her legs, I looked over and instantly asked her to pause. Working quickly with my 35mm camera and infra-red film, I made a number of images, all strongly referring to Degas' dancers and nudes from a century before. The grace of the line, from Victoria's legs to her shoulders, is what pulls this image together, with a show focus separating her figure from the surroundings.
35mm infrared film
From then on, the session went swiftly, we moved through four different locations with a fluidity that pointed out how stiff and posed the initial images were. With the infra-red, we explored a low tree/high bush on the coulee floor, setting Victoria within the spreading trunks and against the brilliant glow of sunlit grass.

The best series of images made on this day were created with Victoria upon a fallen cottonwood tree. A swift-growing deciduous tree, the cottonwoods are especially vulnerable to the high winds on the prairies, and with every wind storm, more split and crack, some lose branches, while others fall to the ground all together. This particular tree had fallen totally over, its three diverging branches presenting a perfect platform to work on. Using my wide angle 75mm lens on the 4"x5" camera, I made four images, all working with the strong lines generated by the tree and the body upon it.
4"X5" film
While the images in the coulee do not ring with a sense of the unique landscape of Alberta, they are none the less a strong component of the project as a whole. Perhaps the most restful of our days since Victoria's arrival, the hours we spent in the coulee neatly wrapped up the potential I had seen previously, but have been unable to address.

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