Saturday, November 26, 2011

Triggers of Imagination for Writer


What's my favorite photo?


That's hard to say, the answer changes from moment to moment. I had prepped a certain picture to write about, but I look up, and there's my father in a relaxed pose, his weight on his left leg, he is leaning against a door post, his shirttails out, hands in pants' pockets, pipe in his mouth. This must be a photo of him I've studied the least. I've got to get up from my desk and take the garrrish framed picture (why on earth did my mother chose such an ornate molded metal design?) from "Papa's Chest" —most of the inherited furniture I've shipped across the ocean has similar possessive descriptions— to take a closer look.

No, I was wrong, no hanging shirttails, he's wearing a light colored, 3/4 unzipped jacket on a white tee-shirt and dark slacks. From the sheen and cut, I take it the jacket material could be a lightweight suede, but it could also be a gabardine. The trousers still have the high waistband, the buckle of his belt is positioned under his midrif. I like his shoes, are they suede? He looks trim and tan, he has a short moustache, and his hair is short, but growing out.

At first glance it seems he's standing just outside the door of a shop, behind the store's window you can see frames, is it a frame shop? The brick wall brings to the surface another photograph though, one where he's seated on a chair of a rustic terrace set, he used on the porch of his beach front house in Zandvoort. No, no, no. Stay with the first picture!

There's a small plaque on the door jamb, underneath that a simple white on black push bell. this could be a store or a home, I don't know and most likely will never know. My father was born in 1898 and died in 1969, his contemporaries are all dead. Still, I try to fit the pieces of his life together, bit by bit an image of a man I only new for a short time, appears. This framed photograph is the one my mother chose to have out in the open. Illness, old age and death took that man away from her, and yet, what remains is the memory. This may be how my father looked when my mother first set eyes on him. And so my story starts ...

Writers are often told to write what they know, but don't we really write to discover what we don't know? I for one am always searching for the hidden message, whether it's truth or just a figment of my imagination.


This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Friday, November 25, 2011

Remembering Photos From Lost Album



My friend Anastasia Ashman has made use of Storify to deconstruct the logo of Global Niche. Great idea, I write to her, I'm going to do the same for the cover of my book Creative Acts of Healing. I head for the shelf in my husband's music room, where I know our photo albums and boxes filled with slides. I've got to find the photos Milka Henriques de Castro shot, a whole series of me drinking coffee from forest green, gold rimmed cups.

In 1993 I photo copied and blew up one of those photos for a collage in which I combined the echoscopy of our unborn child, the only live picture we would have of our baby daughter. I can't find the album. For days I'm in distress. I wake up twice thinking about the album, I wake up seeing the cover, a graphic design in shocking pink, turquoise and yellow, and vividly remember some of the pictures, images of my past.


The missing album was the first I filled with photographs made with the first camera I could call my own, a Ricoh 500 GX. I'm thinking of the photos that are lost with the album, and try to remember them. To my surprise many exist in my memory.

  • My friend Anita Löwenhardt at Terrace of Scheltema or de Swart in Amsterdam.
  • More pictures of Amsterdam street life.
  • The 500-year-old Huguenots "mas" of Annie de Rot Hazard's in Les Baux, and her dogs, water reservoir on the roof, unimagined luxury behind centuries old walls of what looks like humble dwelling, the rest is hacked out into the rocks of the hill. Walls of natural rock, all windows barred, the faucets in the bathroom gilded.
  • The dark haired smiling olive seller, who flirted with Annie and me at market in St. Remy, de Provence.
  • A metal bowl the seller filled with vegetables I chose at his stall.
  • The juggler in red leggings, and long sleeved tee shirt, decorated with stars, a cap on his head, at a market in Arles.
  • Man on stilts
  • Woman with chicken in crates.
  • The park steps leading to street on higher level.
  • Plaque about Van Gogh.
  • Poster on ancient stone wall patched with cement, about the bull fights.
  • Picture of the arena (I visited again with Gary in 2002).
  • Interior of Mas at Les Baux
  • Narrow and winding steep streets, more corridors between rows of buildings, of Les Baux
  • The courtyard of Annie's L'Herbier de Province store, in St. Remy, de Provence, picture perfect with the table, chairs and baskets filled with hand-milled soaps.
  • The mute boy in the house of Pat Pringle's mistress on Fomenter (from slide?)=
  • The olive grove I slept in, near Ingie Pringle's summer dwelling (from slide?)
  • Ingie and friends and children plus me in the woods, hippie chicks (from slide?)
  • Parasols on beach in Majorca (from slide)
  • Railing of (empty) cruise ship Mediterranean, I was the only traveler.
  • Exhibitionist on bluff (no photo, just memory)
  • Majorca stormy weather, hotel room, sunstroke
Black and white photos I developed myself:
  • Olav in flat on Ferdinand Bol str. with broken leg
  • My black cat Spooky Tooth at Olav's home, in easy chair (upholstered in pink velvet in my memory)
  • Judith in Olav's kitchen behind stove in Guernsey sweater holding Dutch oven.
 Again color prints:
  • Christmas at Jeannette's with children, Simone, Niels, Han + my collapsed coffee soufflé
  • St. Nicolas at Jeannette's with Robert van der Hoop
  • John Leerdam playing chess with Niel's friends
Black and white photos made by photographer Marjan Schelvis

  • The Turkish actor and me, modeling for Marjan Schelvis on the roof terrace at 3rd  Wittenburgerdwarsstraat in Amsterdam. So young, so fun, me in shopping cart, dressed in sweat pants and tee-shirt, my hair a mop. The PROOST sign of the paper factory in the background.

Days go by and I'm still thinking of the album, more images and memories in black and white surface.
  • Mamado in door opening between kitchen and dining/living room, with soup cup on saucer, Papa's wood carved chests in sight.
  • Sophie at a bus stop somewhere, dressed in her leather 3/4 coat
  • Judith in vieux rose, padded winter jacket without a hood, at the same bus stop.
It occurs to me that I have the same look of concentration on my face in regards to the Dutch oven in the kitchen at Olav's home, as my mother carrying that cup of soup to the dinner table.
Me, My mother, myself, I, a memory mixture of a book by Nancy Friday I recognized myself in, and a song by Joan Armatrading I listened to over and over.

The best photo I've ever taken may be lost with the album, it exists in my memory.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License