A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Ona Grauer, Beautiful Design & Why I Am Not A Plumber
Tuesday, July 03, 2007

When I first met Ona Grauer who was working behind the bar at Uphoria I knew I had to find a way of taking her photographs. Luckily I wasn't a plumber and I didn't have to lure her to watch me fix a sink. I could simply say, "Two photographers, Ian McGuffie, Patrice Bilawka and I are working on a project. Would you like to be part of it?" She quickly replied, "Yes."

She came to my garden and I took a photograph of the four of us. I warned her that if at any moment, during our individual sessions with her, we were to ask her to undrape she was not to object. She told us that she had no problem.

The idea was that the four of us would not be together again until our one evening show at my studio a month later. We were to be abslutely secretive on how we were going to photograph her and she was not to hint to any of us how she was being photographed.

I had a session with her in my studio. The first picture you see here is from it. After that I decided on using Joe Cohen's collection of armour and broad swords.

I had no idea on how to combine the sword with my wish to photograph Ona in my garden. The day of one of subsequent many shoots in my garden she would parade without clothes and I kept telling her that even though the garden was sunken in relation to the street, pedestrians just might see her. Her comment was, "I am naked. So what?"

In my 30 years plus in Vancouver I have photographed many undraped beautiful women. In most cases Rosemary accepted it all with a resignation that I have come to admire and respect in her. But in the case of Ona, Rosemary developed a keen affection for her and understood what I was trying to achieve (even if I didn't).

With Ona I learned my paces on figure photography. Ona was always patient and faced my camera with an almost unsettling equanimity. Sometimes I thought she was the Sphinx. She always smiled and her good mood was constant. Just out of curiousity I asked her if she ever threw dishes at her boyfriend. She answered, "And why would I want to do that?"

A lot has been written of late about intelligent design versus Darwin's evolutionary theory. I would like to offer here a third option which I would call beautiful design.


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