Zoe, San Francisco, April 2008.
I've been photographing my daughter, Zoe, since she was three or four. She has become accustomed to the intrusion of my camera when she awakes, walks, eats. She obliges me with her camera face and she has learned how to catch her light. In my company, she knows that a barren wall or a luminous shaft of light would mean having to stand against it, be blinded by the light, or appear silly to passers by; but she indulges me.
In the process of being model and muse, she has picked up the camera herself, learning to shoot with it manually before discovering that she didn't have to. She also learned about Iturbide and Balthus, Björk and Almodovar, the people we have made homages to; exposure, aperture priority, rule of thirds, diagonals. She likes her pictures dark and is a killer at Photoshop. When she photographs, as she did for her school yearbook, she is fearless and demanding.
I love my daughter's face. Her downward gaze telegraphs sadness unknowable for her age. Her grace and poise preceded her dance training: calm and stillness before the lens inhabit her naturally; hers is a face that changes its essence with the slightest movement of the eyes or the angle of the chin. She has maturity beyond her years that she projects for my benefit. As easily as she puts on "the look," she would remove it, like a mask, the moment I say "all done," and she is a child again.
She is fast approaching her teens, and as I contemplate the gift that she has given my work and the beauty she has lent to images that I shall treasure always, I give her my own: from William Butler Yeats' "A Prayer for My Daughter." I know she will read this and hope that she fathoms its meaning. It is my own wish for this beautiful child of mine.
"May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger's eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking-glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beauty a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right, and never find a friend."