It had always been the plan to become a portrait photographer.
My decades in the film industry in Los Angeles were adventures filled with constant surprise and many of the most astonishing faces I have ever beheld.
There was cross-pollination between my screenwriting and photography. Indeed, my affection for George Hurrell’s legendary 1938 portrait of Anna May Wong led indirectly to my getting commissioned to write a dramatization of her life, a so-called “bio-pic” of the first Asian-American superstar. I included a scene in the screenplay of Hurrell creating that portrait.
I had the good fortune to meet several successful photographers in the film industry while I was working as a writer and later a producer; they were all possessed of enormous technical finesse but few of their portraits felt intimate or sparked emotional response in me. This realization was startling at first. There was something homogenized and safe in their creations. It seemed intentional. It was not always thus.
I grew to believe that something sanitized and cautious was permeating the increasingly corporate management of the production of feature films. I had arrived in the movie world a little earlier in a time of upheaval, creativity, innovation, and generational change. I felt old recalling George Hurrell, my formative inspiration for portraiture, sensuously capturing the leading women and men of the Golden Era. His photos were always sophisticated yet charged, sizzling with emotion, intimate, vital.
When it came time to school myself in portraiture, the movie world was a memory and I found myself unable to afford a model.
I drafted my cat instead.
Why not photograph my cat the way Hurrell photographed people?
My cat’s portrait was featured in a Santa Fe gallery for three years.
Of course it changed her. She now talks about securing an agent and never removes her fur coat, even indoors.
Additionally, life in the Ortiz Mountains around the ravens inspired her to take up flying.
And friends began to ask me to photograph their cats.
My furry companion had started something.
Why not photograph wild animals the way the legendary portrait shooters had photographed people?
Not Wildlife Photography, but Wildlife Art.
So I determined to create a portrait gallery of ravens, which led to coyotes, which in turn is leading to, well, photographing people the way I photograph animals.
But that is another story.
Catty Wompuss, Companion
The Joy Of Flying