In the deep fall, the body awakes,
And we find lions on the seashore—
Nothing to fear.
The wind rises; water is born,
Spreading white tomb-clothes on a rocky shore,
Drawing us up
From the bed of the land.
These lines come from a poem Robert Bly wrote about Stephan Brigidi‘s Angels of Pompeii.* They return to me now, in the company of Women & Rope, because in both series, the “deep fall” wakes the body “from the bed of the land.” Hence the angels. But there are lions too—call the lion what you will: the eruption of Vesuvius, the serpents of Laocoön, or as Brigidi recognizes below, the emotional impotence we sometimes struggle to escape. There’s such strength in these images. Something bound has been loosed, which is the only difference I can imagine between an angel and a lion.
The origins of this small group of photographs, comes from a 16mm film I made in 1975 called Le Sacre. The 7-minute film was based upon a man who was not connected to his own feelings. I presented a rather detached man, who was unable to express himself in any emotional way. I realized this as a common male plight, where so often his feelings are internalized. The man remains impotent to his own experience.
One sequence from the film presents two women in a playful tussle of temptations with each other, a rope binding them together, or binding them apart from the man who is incapable of any attachment to the sensations the women evoke.
Later that same year, I spent about five months in Rome, working and teaching. I became well acquainted with Gian Lorenzo Bernini, master of human form and gesture. The Greek sculpture Laocoön is another archetype that influenced my work. I then traveled to Paris and visited with August Rodin, who imbued in me a deep provocation and appreciation for the body’s inner psyche. I knew that my still photography would build from these examples.
My work became a three-month continuous study of the two models with a lengthy rope, amounting to a thousand negatives made and considered. Women & Rope culminated in a short suite of eight prints that spoke to my curiosities of human form and the enigma of human emotion.
I have always admired women for their natural ability to emote and connect together. We men have much to learn from our sisters.
* Robert Bly and I collaborated on a portfolio of prints and poems called 8 Angels of Pompeii in 1991. We later produced a small book together simply called, Angels of Pompeii published by Ballantine Books 1992.