Humphrey Bogart a camera and me.
I believe there are serendipitous moments in life where observing something for the first time can stop you in your tracks, changing your thoughts and interests, creating passions and idolisations without you even realizing.
Sat on a tea chest at 8 years old, in a photography studio of the local art school where my father worked, I remember vividly the lingering slightly vinegary smell and a group of students who were ultra cool (I thought so) with long hair and weird clothes. I am not sure what I was doing in the photography studio since he worked on the lower floors.
It was 1970 something! They were putting the final touches of their photo shoot together. The buzz and rush of excitement held me captive, black dusty backdrops hung heavily around a bashed up armchair. It was dark, but a bright light was shining on a girl who seemed to have forgotten her clothes! Her legs draped over the arm of the chair although she did have her shoes on! At least her hair covered the bits you weren’t supposed to see!
I thought the whole thing was bizarre, but I loved the craziness. She must have been cold and I assumed the cigarette she was smoking must have been keeping her warm! One of the students was called Sam. Everybody was laughing and shouting “Play it again Sam”! This was even more bizarre! What was he supposed to be playing?
Scattered around the chair were photos of a man. He looked old, like a film star, like a gangster. Sam passed one to me.
“Do you know who he is?” he asked. I had no idea.
“He is Humphrey Bogart”. Sam exclaimed.
The student with the camera shouted “It’s a wrap” and they all clapped, disappearing into a dark room, another bizarre thing! I wondered why they would want to go into a dark room! Sam called over his shoulder that I should come back to see the pictures.
I have just returned with my youngest daughter from a university interview.
As we wandered through the various studios and the lingering smells, I was instantly eight years old again, sitting on a tea chest watching a girl lit with moody lighting that had forgotten her clothes, holding on for dear life to a dog eared black and white picture of the “film star” Sam had given me.
The picture of Humphrey Bogart is and has been for many years, taped to the inside of my photography portfolio. That iconic era and style that he represented is something I have studied intently and strive to capture in my own images.
As for the local art school it is now the university where my daughter is hoping to study fashion photography.
I never did see the final results of the shoot but the visuals have remained with me for a lifetime.