by Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
1943 the burst of a photographer’s magnesium flash in a
Buenos Aires hospital recorded the birth of Alex Waterhouse-Hayward.
He knew then that someday he would be a photographer. But it wasn’t
until 1975, after teaching ancient and history and algebra in
a Mexico City high school, when he moved with his Canadian wife
and two Mexican daughters to Vancouver, B.C., that the ‘flash’
became a fact.
as a stills photographer for variety shows at the CBC, Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
eventually decided to focus on editorial and magazine photography.
In what has been thus far a prolific career, he has shot and written
for most Canadian magazines and national newspapers. His work
has appeared on the cover of Time Magazine, in the New
York Times and several European magazines and newspapers
including Stern, the Guardian and the London
Times. For 13 years his photography has been on permanent
exhibition in Vancouver at the Simon Patrich Gallery, Exposure
Gallery and Presentation House Gallery. For the last four years
he has been working on collaborative work with Argentine painters
Juan Manuel Sanchez and Nora Patrich.
“Gillian”, (first reproduced in Saturday Night in February, 2001).
too long ago a young woman came into my studio and had me tie
her up and lock her hands behind her back with police cuffs. She
then lay on my studio couch, which I had purchased from a retiring
psychiatrist, and asked me to photograph her. Tied up as she was,
she wasn’t able to hide her nether parts. I told her, “I
feel sorry for you in your helpless and precarious pose.”
She retorted: “You have it all wrong and what you have said
has taken all the fun out of it.” At the time, I had no
idea how right she was, and I must admit that, to this day, I
have no fetish for fetish.
her comment provided the incentive to try to find out if there
were a pattern, or repeating motif in my photography. And sure
enough, I discovered that I am indeed normal and I do have a weird
side, however this so-called ‘weirdness’ is not by
any means unique.
“Carolina en la Tina”
(“Carolina in the Tub”), 1989.
was in the mid 70s that I learned about an interesting facet of
some Canadian men. I had a friend who was a color negative printer
in a very large commercial lab. She showed me a book (of photos)
that she and her co-workers had compiled. The material was certainly
illicit and I told her so. She told me that this was a most innocent
activity as these books were routinely scrapped and superseded
by new ones and that it was a favorite pass time in many labs.
any case, I learned that many Canadian men photograph their wives
nude while pregnant; apparently around the 8th month they suddenly
feel compelled take pictures of junior. My friend’s thick
scrapbook was proof that many pregnant wives agree to be photographed
in shower stalls and bathtubs.
started taking tub photos in 1978. While I never did photograph
my wife pregnant in a tub, I did manage to photograph one pregnant
woman. In 1989 I had a show of tub portraits that included, among
others, both my daughter Ale and a young redhead Joel. Joel called
me up in 2003 to photograph her again, this time pregnant. It
was strange to have her in the same tub again. While she was bigger
her smile had not changed. I know it’s only a matter of
time before I return to my beloved tubs.
“Jill II”, 1979.
My interest in tubs and bathrooms goes way back to my childhood
in Buenos Aires. I was fascinated by the very large convertible
buses called bañaderas (bathtubs) zooming through the streets
with happy tourists. It was in my own bathroom where I noticed
a contraption my
mother called a bidet. It could squirt water and hit the ceiling
with enough force to punch a hole. I was severely punished for
playing with it and I can only guess that my obsession with bathrooms
and tubs began then.
Photographically there are three very good reasons why tubs work
so well. First, even without water (especially without water)
the sides of a tub reflect light back and forth and provide the
human figure with good modeling light that has almost no shadows.
Second, water counters the effects of gravity on a body and that
curious flattening effect, which is ever present when you photograph
people on their back, is minimized.
And the third reason which is also the most important, when I
was looking for suitable models for my 1989 tub show, I would
call up my potential candidates and ask them if they would pose
in my tub. I had a 100% success rate which I can only attribute
to the fact that, while it was understood that they would be nude
in the water, I didn’t have to stress (or even use) the
IMAGES FROM THE 1989 EXHIBITION
“Madonna en la Tina”, 1989
“Inga en la Tina I” (“Inga in the Tub”), 1989.
“Inga en la Tina II” (“Inga in the Tub”), 1989.
“Katheryn’s Tub”, 1989.
year ago I met Dana Moreno, a Madrid photographer, in a Spanish
photography forum. We compared notes and exchanged photographs
by e-mail. I told her about my passion for tubs. I must have been
persuasive as she sent me a delightful self-portrait. While the
photograph arrived without comment, Dana might have been implying
that my passion
for tubs is a desire to return to my mother’s womb. Maybe
not. That Madrid tub is awfully small.
“Dana, self-portrait”, 2004.
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