I have always been haunted by images of certain artists, namely Bill Brandt, Frederick Sommer and Manuel Álvarez Bravo. All use photography that lends itself perfectly to surrealism more so than any other medium. It’s almost like the camera was invented for surrealism—making reality more real than real.
I was haunted by a photograph of a young girl looking over an iron balcony. I saw it on a poster in Rome. At first, I assumed it was a poster for a film. It turned out to be the work of the Mexican photographer Bravo.
Exploring his work, I found an image of a woman wrapped in bandages lying on the ground next to cacti. I could never get or understand why this seemingly simple picture bothered me so much. It is pure surrealism. Not the commercial ’70s idea of what it should be, but something that is just unexplainable.
If Bravo had offered me an explanation when I was fortunate enough to take his portrait, I would have turned him down.
I want to be haunted by his image. I don’t need an explanation. Like the meaning of life, I’m not sure I want to know.
Don’t ask an academic who needs a reason and cannot accept that some visuals cannot be neatly explained. Maybe the only way for me to understand was to make some bandage pictures of my own. I shot a lot on an 11×14 camera to slow the process down. It gave me more time to consider what I was trying to find out about Bravo’s view. I failed, I’m pleased to say. It is just an enigma.