I have been waiting to show my images of Eileen Kramer until after I did a presentation at Pecha Kucha. That was last night. If anyone knows me well I am an introvert and standing in front of a crowd is rather daunting to me. I was a ball of nerves but apparently it didn't show. I think my friends are just being nice :-) I really wanted to show these photos and hope I inspire people when they see them. It was really one of my best experiences in my life meeting her.
Eileen turned 103 in November 2017. I friend had shared a news clip about her turning 103. Dancer and choreographer at 103! My mind did little somersaults and before I thought about it too much, I got in touch with her and asked if I could take pictures of her for my dance project when I visited Australia in March this year. She said YES! And then I started googling her and discovered she is considered a National Treasure and is the ambassador for Arts Health Institute in Australia. She has also done several music videos for artists and on top of that has choreographed her own shows for the last few years.
We finally met with Eileen on the last week of our holidays in Sydney. I had been so stressed about finding the perfect moreton bay fig tree. I actually don't remember being so stressed about such a small detail, but that is what I had in my head for months before the shoot and that is what I wanted, nothing less. So somehow I left it to the day of the shoot to go and find that tree. We were heading for the Botanical Gardens and I suddenly changed my mind and wanted to go to Centennial Park. I found my two trees in 30 seconds of parking the car! So I knew this was the place.
When we met with Eileen her back was not so good. She was using a walking frame and she didn't really want to leave the nursing home and wondered if we could do the photos there in the gardens as it was rather windy and she was worried it was a cold wind. My heart sank. What about my trees?
I somehow convinced her it was a very warm wind and she agreed to go to Centennial Park. We found an outfit from her suitcases and I had borrowed a gorgeous kimono from a wonderful 50's boutique, Faster Pussycat.
The photo shoot was amazing! It was so much more than I had hoped for and I will be forever grateful for meeting such an inspiring woman. Geoff, her assistant held her up around her waist while hiding behind the kimono. She radiated elegance, beauty, sensuality and youth. She doesn't like the word old "I like to say I've been here a long time." Her hands are her instruments now for dance. Her body might resist but her soul truly emanates.
I asked her to sit a few times during the shoot and she sat on one of the roots of the fig tree only for a moment before she started striking a pose again. I told her she needed to rest but she refused.
The reason why I wanted fig trees in the photos was something I find hard to explain but I saw similarities to age and skin and beauty. So I googled and straight away found a poem written by DH Lawrence which describes perfectly what I was trying to convey! Here is a exert from the poem.
Bare Fig Trees - by DH Lawrence
FIG-TREES, weird fig-trees
Made of thick smooth silver,
Made of sweet, untarnished silver in the sea-southern air--
I say untarnished, but I mean opaque--
Thick, smooth-fleshed silver, dull only as human limbs are
With the life-lustre,
Nude with the dim light of full, healthy life
That is always half-dark,
And suave like passion-flower petals,
With the half-secret gleam of a passion-flower hanging from
Great, complicated, nude fig-tree, stemless flower-mesh,
Flowerily naked in flesh, and giving off hues of life.
If you are interested in getting in touch about my photos of Eileen, please send me an email.