Pam McCartney PDF
Written by Alex Waterhouse-Hayward   


When Pam McCartney walks into my studio I am walloped visually. She is an asymmetric delight that I am not quite accustomed to. This is because I have always suspected that our attraction to symmetry is innate. To begin to appreciate the lopsided view, we often have to turn to visual arts. One of the last bastions of symmetry is the car. Cars, except for small details such as the gas tank flap, are the same on both sides. American designer Raymond Loewy pointed out that with the steering wheel on one side, cars have always been asymmetric already.


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I first realized I was dyslexic 30 years ago while watching a TV program on the subject. Instructing my subjects to move their left arm or right hand when I am taking their pictures is tough for me. I joke with Pam that she's easy to work with: all I have to do is tell her to move her arm here or there.


It is because of my dyslexia that I am partial to Winslow Homer's Right and Left. In this painting (I have gone to the National Gallery in Washington, DC many times to admire it) there are two flying ducks which are askew. Only when you get close do you see a man in a boat and see the two red flashes of the shotgun's right and left barrels. I can never remember the name of the painting. Is it Left and Right or Right and Left?


"Right and Left" Winslow Homer


With Pam I deal with my dyslexia in a playful manner. I asked her if she was left handed or right handed. She did not know. By doing the shifting finger in front of one's eyes-trick, we determined that she is right handed. Below, in Left and Right, I flopped some of the negatives around to blur the issue of what arm it is she does not have.




Pam's asymmetry does not stop with her one arm. Her hips are asymmetrical. She has a narrow waist and voluptuous hips. And with her smallish breasts, her torso has a direct parallel with the temple, tomb carvings and statues of Akhenaten (a.k.a. either Amenophis IV or Amenhotep IV) the monotheistic Egyptian Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty (1427-1400 BC). When Pam puts her hair up, the combination of her forehead, which slopes upward, and her long neck combine to make her a dead ringer for Akhenaten's wife, Nefertiti.




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Such is Pam's enigmatic charm that when she was posing for collaborative work with my Argentine artist friends Nora Patrich and Juan Manuel Sanchez (in their living room), Juan did not give his sketch of Pam his usual stylized South American aboriginal nose. This time around we worked on our ethnic Madonna series and posed Pam by Argentine painter Victor Pissarro's nude. In a future project Juan wants to paint Pam's‘"missing" arm on her body.







Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
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alexwaterhouse-alex-self-2 Alex Waterhouse-Hayward was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1943. His photos have appeared in The New York Times, The London Times, The Daily Telegraph, Esquire, Vanity Fair, Spin, Time, American Photography, Interview, Stern, The National Post and The Globe and Mail. He has photographed Bob Hope, Audrey Hepburn, Candice Bergen, Liv Ullmann, Kenneth Branagh, Vittorio Gassman, Martin Scorsese, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Annie Leibovitz, Elliott Erwitt, Mario Vargas Llosa, Leonard Cohen, P.D. James and William F. Buckley.



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