I met Valeria at the Incanto restaurant in Amsterdam where she works as a waitress and sommelier. When she came to our table my friend and agent Dick Kits said, “Don’t you think she could be one of your Belle?” I showed her my website on my phone and she was enthusiastic right from the start.
That was during the non-summer of 2012. Valeria isn’t Dutch, but southern Italian from Puglia. Like so many well educated Italians she has had to emigrate to find work. Once emigrants were poor, now like her they are mainly graduates.
It took me a while to come up with an idea, but I had a hunch that she would make a beautiful addition to the Metamorphosis series. We finally organised the shoot for a freezing snowy day in mid-March 2013. The studio was Dick’s office, not very big and not very high, but with a wide angle lens big enough. The set couldn’t have been simpler.
I brought my make-up artist Simonetta Baletti with me from Italy. Make-up is the Cinderella of the creative team. In fact one make-up artist became so fed up with various photographers taking all the credit for his extraordinary creations that he bought a Hasselblad and started taking pictures himself: Serge Lutens is my favourite living photographer.
Possibly as a result of visiting Holland regularly I am going through an aquatic phase. I set out to take just one image, Medusa, and yet when I got back to Italy a friend of mine was looking through the shots and she thought the ‘question mark’ looking images seemed interesting, so largely as a result of her intervention I started working on the second picture which reminded me of a seahorse. This image was to become Metamorphosis .
I wonder if I have other neglected images lurking somewhere in the depths of Lightroom waiting to be given the treatment?
The idea of Valeria metamorphosing into a sea creature came to me as I was manipulating the image in Photoshop and I realised that for both artist and model the act of creation is a form of metamorphosis. Rather like Gregor in Kafka’s story, neither of us that morning realised quite how she was going to be transformed.