Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Trains Leaving and So's My Photo Backdrop

A group of institutions and individuals, including the venerable Virginia Museum of Transportation is preparing to move those rusting old steam locomotives and, frankly, I have mixed feelings about it. You can see the complete story on my sister blog moreFRONT here. That'll give you the who, what, when, where. I'm more concerned about me.

I've used these old train castoffs for years as backdrops for some of the best portraits I've ever taken. Take an alabaster-skinned young woman, park her in a 1930s outfit (complete with beret and suitcase covered with destination stickers) on the sideboard of one of these old rustbuckets and Voila! art.

My favorite model was a young woman named Bonnie Pivacek, who worked as a baker at my friend Steve Hartman's On the Rise Bakery on Roanoke City Market. Bonnie was a pretty good photographer (I used her photo of me for two of my books), but a better model. She was not a classic beauty, but she had a long neck, great skin and strikingly defined features in face. Her face and that train were made for each other. The photos looked like 1930s studio stills for a great movie star.

There were others, too (Sybill Barrett, who owns a coffee shop in Roanoke; Sara Honer, a dancer and writer from here; Emily Paine Brady Carter, who has spent a lifetime collecting other people's names and played a sort of Blanche DuBois for me), and none had to take off her clothes to make a strong sensual statement. The trains themselves talked of raw power, undulation, stimulation, beauty and ... well, you get it.

Whereveer the trains wind up, they will no longer be available as they have been--I never asked permission and I suspect the railroad people would kill me if they knew; they're pretty touchy about anybody getting next to their damn tracks--and I'll miss that the next time somebody comes along who looks like a great model. Monica Novicki Frick, a lovely young woman who's writing for us over at the FRONT would have been great in front of the trains. But she won't get there. Too bad.

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