A Remarkable Woman

Whether we know it, or not, we are all remarkable souls.  Individuals with stories, tapestries of individual beauty. 

Over the years I've realised that each individual carries so many stories inside.

I started moving house when I was 21 and newly married.  Over the years of the first marriage we moved at least 12 times.  And I remember watching and wondering, as we drove by old homes on the road between wherever we were living and 'home', about the people who might have been forever inhabitants in those houses ... wondering what their stories felt like.

I see people as beautiful stories, like books with their own individual covers, and I enjoy the privilege of 'reading' a little when we work on a portrait shoot or simply spend time together.  Some try to tell me that their lives are so ordinary but lives are never ordinary.  It's as fascinating to listen to someone who has lived their entire life in one place as it is to listen to a person who has traveled.

Like wine, we all have our own flavour, our own ageing-process ... depth, maturity, character are all words that can be applied as much to humans as to wine.

Back in Genova, I spent two days with Diny and it was an incredible pleasure.  The tapestry of her life was beautifully woven.  I can imagine her laughing as she reads this but it's less about perfection and more about the deep beauty of being real and present. Of being honest.  Of embracing life in a way that left me admiring her intensely.

And she gave me permission to post one of the photographs I took of her while we worked. 



Etel Adnan, a Remarkable Woman

Etel Adnan was born in 1925 and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. Her mother was a Greek from Smyrna, her father, a high ranking Ottoman officer born in Damascus. In Lebanon, she was educated in French schools.

She studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, Paris. In January 1955 she went to the United States to pursue post-graduate studies in philosophy at U.C. Berkeley, and Harvard. From 1958 to 1972, she taught philosophy at Dominican College of San Rafael, California.

Based on her feelings of connection to, and solidarity with the Algerian war of independence, she began to resist the political implications of writing in French and shifted the focus of her creative expression to visual art. She became a painter. But it was with her participation in the poets’ movement against the war in Vietnam that she began to write poems and became, in her words, “an American poet”.

In 1972, she moved back to Beirut and worked as cultural editor for two daily newspapers—first for Al Safa, then for L’Orient le Jour. She stayed in Lebanon until 1976.

In 1977, her novel Sitt Marie-Rose was published in Paris, and won the “France-Pays Arabes” award. This novel has been translated into more than 10 languages, and was to have an immense influence, becoming a classic of War Literature. In 1977, Adnan re-established herself in California, making Sausalito her home, with frequent stays in Paris.

In the late seventies, she wrote texts for two documentaries made by Jocelyne Saab, on the civil war in Lebanon, which were shown on French television as well as in Europe and Japan.

Extract, the website of Etel Adnan 

Searching for information about Etel Adnan also led me into an interesting world that left me wanting to stay and read a while.  And there was another book too, Sea and Fog.

I took this photograph of her at the TASWIR Exhibition.  I was off to one side, taking photographs while she was interviewed.

My camera was filled with interesting people during those months on the project.