Oct 202016


Aussie Cyril

Cyril says this informal snap after one of our sessions is akin to fashion photographer Jeanloup Sieff’s personality-portraying nudes, contrasting to the sterile poses in which fashion models are typically placed. Like Duane Michals, Sieff also worked in fashion photography, which was very much about stylized, uniform ‘ideal types’. Sieff’s nudes, however, are exceptional because his photographs retain the models’ particular identities even when their faces are not shown – achieving ‘a perceptive feeling of intimacy’ (to quote, as always, the expert Peter Lacey).

It’s three weeks since you died. I am in the French Concession without you and am lost. In the sense of, unanchored. I could end up anywhere.
    I forgot to charge my phone overnight so I find it dead in the bottom of my bag, but even if it were not dead, I cannot check in with you like I normally would do; let you know my whereabouts. My touchstone, my protector, here in Shanghai.
    So here I am in a poky vintage tea-room, Edwardian-style: mirrors, chandeliers, oak panelling, deep plummy draperies and half-darkness. Once I’d stepped in to find out where the quaint entrance led to, I got ushered – so was too embarrassed to leave. So here I am, drinking lemon tea in place of lunch. A strange, absolute solitude in seething Shanghai.

Back in the flat I pick up Cyril’s latest email offering. Once sober, he is his usual docile, pedagogic, avuncular self.

Darling Suki, I do hope you love this snap of you as much as I do. It is après Jeanloup Sieff. Sieff and others started to look for and celebrate the model’s personality, giving a final ‘up yours!’ to the academic art world wherein the nude had always been elevated to the realm of the exotic, classical or sentimental; a realm in which the nude must never come across as “herself” – a real, individual personality.
    Your Great British Institution, Sir Kenneth Clark, once made the bald claim that the erotic is, and must always be, present in the nude. In the ‘sixties there were these two strands of debate going on: whether or not the erotic is pornographic, but also, more significantly, the contention of the establishment that photography did not and could not quite attain the level of fine art.
    But anyway these guys Michals and especially Sieff were at last, from the 1960s, showing the nude model “as she is”. Your thoughts?
    And can we please meet to talk about our future, since you imminently have to change abodes? Much, much love, Cyril xxx

Dear Cyril,
why did you take the colour out? Bel was really against turning photos into black and white. She said it was fake nostalgia. Have you seen the most expensive photograph ever to be sold? A dramatic landscape, reproduced in black and white, bought in 2010. As Bel said, in the end it’s just an arty special effect in Photoshop. Anyone can do it. Suki

His response, as always, is immediate. He spends his life waiting on me.

My dearest Suki. You had something special with Bel, didn’t you. You never explained… I am sorry for my lack of understanding. I am truly sorry for your loss.
If there is anything I can do… Well, you know.
All my love,
Please let us meet

Ping! A reply from Ilka!

Dear Suki – “need my independence”? Don’t you really mean, “incapable of committing”? Your problem is, you are incapable of submitting and letting the journey of a fellow-traveller alter the path of your own life. Oblivious to the needs of anyone you are with, you gallop on relentlessly (randomly, chaotically) on your so-called “quest”. You are all about your own survival. You are not able to support anyone else, because you just move on and on.
    Accept the marriage proposal! That’s my advice. Ilka

She’s right, isn’t she, Bel.

Dear Ilka, I cant look afta anyone. Emotionally. Or cooking. Am insensitive. Hav no intuition. Cn barely look after myself. All my life hav failed badly. Deep regret. Suki



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