There is something very special and rare about the kind of photography that I do. I realise that I would say that because of how important it is to me and how much of myself goes into it, even if few other people ever see quite how much.
Photographing models is a very personal and intellectually intimate process one that in almost all cases, no matter the specific genre, is a collaborative and shared experience between me and the people I am working with. This is never more true than when I am working on nudes, and this is at its zenith when we are shooting outside, whether in nature and wilderness or in the heart of an urban locale.
The relationships and experiences I have collected by creating this kind of work with some truly fascinating, talented, expressive and beautiful men and women are precious and delicate and are honestly very hard to describe and even harder to have them understood.
More often than not people misunderstand – they are put off or flat out disgusted, or they assume that there is something furtive and / or sexual about what is going on, or they are just confused by it simply because both posing in this kind of way and being the photographer both represent completely alien ideas in their experience of their lives. I am not here to defend the artistic, emotional and human truths of what I do and what both I and the people I photograph hold so dear. I am going to say, just once, that it means something, in fact it means a lot, and unless you are a liberal minded person who is comfortable with the idea of nude art, or you are someone that is involved in the creation of nude art you are either going to have to take my word for it or not, and that is ok by me as long as you are prepared to save your judgement for another time or place.
Stephanie Dubois was a true artist, in every way you or anyone else can imagine. A model, a photographer and a writer and on top of all that a happy, friendly, open, generous soul who was loved by so many, models and photographers alike, and I am truly saddened that I will never see her again.
We met “online” as is pretty much par for the course amongst creators in the photography and nude art world these days, having friends and associates in common and a shared view of the creative process. We got on pretty well, swapping comments and chatting a little and quickly arranging to work together in my home area, which was at the time Strathard in the western reaches of the Trossachs. This was a really special shoot for me as Stephanie was the first model I was able to shoot in the landscape around my home and I will treasure these photos forever as the start of what I hope will be years of building a body of work in and around Strathard.
The day of shooting with Steph was a true joy. We shot all over the place, from the glen below Glen Arklet, to the shores of Loch Katrine to the hillsides of Glen Arklet, the shores of Loch Arklet and indeed the immediate area around my home along Arklet Water, the burn that runs past my house and separates it from the road. Clearly some of the time was spent dodging the rain in my car and in the Pier Café at Stronachlachar, and we talked and shared stories and the combination of simple fellowship and creating together left me with a real sense of the kind of instant friendship that I have often felt and found through my photography.
My home in Strathard is fairly remote, so the whole day had been predicated on letting Steph bunk down in my spare room for the night after giving her a meal, and so after we finished for the day I made us some drinks and we chatted while I made dinner and Steph chatted to my wife and became fast friends with my kids. It all added up to a perfect day of creativity and fellowship, and the next morning over breakfast my daughter gave Steph a cute little snowflake charm and was distraught when told that Steph had to get going as she was expected on Skye that afternoon.
I drove Steph back to her car and we wished one another goodbye and I promised to be in touch with some images and I waved her off for what turned out to be, from what she told me later, a really great time on Skye.
We stayed in touch, and though we did not work together again we planned to, and we followed one another’s work and it certainly felt to me that we were present in each other’s lives; not best friends, but people who gave a damn about one another and were looking forward to an opportunity to see one another again and make more art together.
When Steph emigrated to Cyprus earlier this year I made a promise to myself that I would get out there for a short visit to see her and to work together, and I even mentioned it to her in passing and as I expected she was pleased that I was thinking that way, that I felt we had more to do and that I wanted to just hang out as well.
She passed away, a few days ago now, after a brief and totally unexpected illness and it has taken me a few days to get over the whiplash. Here was this bright, talented, vivacious woman that I had great respect and fondness for that I had simply assumed I would see again and now I would never see her again. It all feels and felt so random and senseless, and at the same time there was this sudden appearance of a very sad Steph-shaped whole in my World. I can imagine that the weight of her loss is far, far greater for her parents who I know from her were a really important and large presence in her life, and for the people in our community that knew her far better than I, and my heart goes out to all of them. If I feel this sadness, I am sure that their grief is far greater and deeper – I do genuinely hold them all in my heart and wish for their pain to pass into the joy that they had her in their lives, as it will that bit faster for me.
These photographs are my monument to her, that and knowing the she carried my daughter’s snowflake charm with her for the three years between making these photos and her horribly untimely death, because every time we spoke she asked me about my kids and told me that the charm was still going everywhere with her.
Farewell my friend, the World has lost a bright and joyful presence with your passing – Rest in Peace and Power and I am sure you are making Art wherever you are and lighting up every room that you walk into.