Something Different By David Alan Harvey
When we heard that David Alan Harvey was doing a book on women, it didn't
seem like a surprising subject. A photojournalist with over 30 National Geographic
stories to his credit, plus several books, we imagined that in the course of
over 30 years of travel and photography he'd have many compelling images
from which to choose. Not to mention current assignments that would undoubtedly
give him the opportunity to add even more. What we wondered about was the hook,
the framework, the unifying theme. In other words: women...and then what?
"Fiction," David said.
"Okay, what happened on this project was that when Amanda Renshaw, the
publisher at Phaidon Press, was working with me on picture selection for my
book, Divided Soul, she said, `David, you've got all these beautiful
pictures of women here.' She was kind of making a little joke of it, and
started laying out the photos on one part of the table. And I said, `Yeah,
I guess so,' because I hadn't really thought about it. I didn't
think I had any more pictures of women than I did of anybody else. Then she
said, `You should think of doing a book of just your portraits of women.'
But I had maybe 10 pictures there, which a book did not make."
But when a photographer has an idea, things start to happen. "On a teaching assignment in Tuscany I used some of the people I was spending the week with," he says. "I never did find any professional models--it was always women I knew, my son's girlfriend or teaching assistants at my workshop, somebody who I could hang out with. That's how I started building this project."
"That was the key idea," David says, "because it keeps the
book from being a collection of my favorite pictures of women. My question to
myself was, how can I do a book on women that's politically correct, artistically
significant, and not something taken lightly or misinterpreted? The first thing
I did was show the pictures to women--I wanted to know how they would look
at it. Then I got around the whole politically correct thing by completely hiding
behind fiction. The book is going to be called You Made Me Leave, and there's
a love story that's a significant part of it. So it's going to be
a narrative with 15-20 photographs of women. The idea is you'll have to
read it to figure out the role the women in the photographs play."
The format gives him a lot of freedom with the photographs. "The pictures themselves are not storytelling pictures," he says. "They are suggestive of the situation. There has to be a particular look to them; they have to have a moment of flirtation, of connection, for them to work in this love story, but they're not literal to the storytelling."