by Sue DeGregorio-Rosen, RN, CLNC, Contributing Editor
The Wistful Photographer. That’s what a few of my friends know me as. It’s a side kick interest.
I have always liked looking at people, seeing their differences, exploring their characteristics and nature through the lens of a camera. Photography, as in any form of art, allows time to stand still even just for a moment. It touches a spark inside of me that will never die as I look over some of my past work.
A place where the spirit and flesh meet, captured by a shot of imagination.
I was mentored by a man who taught me the importance of meaningful photography. I learned how my career as a nurse, a career that fosters compassion and empathy could give me the insight and perspective that would awaken the complacency that numbed me, to deliver the best care that I wanted to deliver to the lives I cared for. It became the music I could turn to when I felt sad. It beckoned me to the unknown, like driving down a road into unknown territory.
I used to venture to Zuccotti Park daily when we first crossed each other’s path during an Occupy Wall Street event. It feels so long ago. It was there that an experience changed me.
He followed me, watching me with interest as I took in our surroundings with my camera after a long day of caring for the emergencies that entered my area of expertise. I remember how I turned to him and asked him who he was.
Derek. And you are?
Sue. May I ask you?
Why are you following me?
He gave a brief synopsis of who he was – a professional photographer. And I caught his eye. We chatted. I realized I had seen his photographs at a local gallery. I admit I am a romantic and take risks. It seemed obvious he was also a risk taker.
May I touch your face?
I want to photograph you.
For a few brief moments I allowed him to trace my face with his hand and asked me if I would allow him to teach me how to embrace my talent. Of course, I agreed, I was excited with his invitation, I knew his reputation, and I was honored and curious with the mere thought of such a collaboration. I remember thinking that there are no coincidences, and I found the courage to trust this well-known stranger and accept this transformative burn that I was feeling.
And so we began, every day after my shift we would meet in the park on this adventure with camera in tow. We took so many pictures, photos of people walking idly down the streets of NY, photos of the homeless, of hurried workers, men and women of all shapes and sizes, some young, some who were aged. He was a master at his craft. He taught me all the right and wrong ways of using the camera to capture the effects of the souls we watched. There is no right or wrong way to take a picture because something that appears so clear holds so much mystery. It is a vibrant dance of imagination, beauty, of light and dark, a rhythm of pieces that come together.
I knew that such passion in this art would evolve into more, and I became his muse. It was so enchanting at first, he would photograph me when I least expected. Soon I stopped resisting that pull to this unfiltered dance. I let him rearrange my posture, my clothing, a few buttons on my blouse open to give a hint of the softness of my breast. A new discovered aliveness had taken me by surprise as I learned more about the importance of art. I learned to place the camera strategically and photograph myself in natural and playfulness.
And then came the day when he asked me if I would be comfortable wrapping my naked body with a white sheet. He was looking to shoot a series of the shape of a woman’s body that would give the viewer a black and white image, seductive and confident yet unafraid. He wanted me to be sexy, and wonderfully free. Of course, I would! I was learning a new freedom of becoming, a new me was born.
I stripped off my clothing and allowed him to take in my nakedness. He wrapped a white sheet around me, and he tossed my hair, transforming me into the image of a shape shifting goddess. We worked for hours and as we did so I relaxed with the spirit to reinvent myself into a flirty, fun loving creature, a keeper of mystery and the woman of his dreams.
And then during one session I dropped the sheet. Neither of us moved.
Do you want me to shoot you naked?
No, I want you to touch me naked.
I can’t do that.
Why not, I asked.
He said nothing, as I moved closer to him until we both felt the aura of the ground when it kissed the sky and mountains were formed, mountains drenched in mango juice, that cast a spell on us. His hands moved to both of my breasts, his tongue entwined with mine, he undressed quickly, never missing the tempo as my legs opened. I welcomed his hardness deep inside of me. We could taste the heat of passion between us. He whispered how much he had wanted me. This was the orgasmic pleasure that arrived with both uncertainty and anticipation……….
He was an amant dangereux, passionate, generous and warm, and I was his muse. Nothing more and nothing less.