Jeanette And Vanille East Village, Avenue A near 13th Street……. I met Jeanette and Vanille my first week back in this neighborhood. I’ve been gone so long it’s a completely new experience. They’ve been here 43 years. She has, anyway….Vanille is twelve. They both have that aura that speaks volumes to me, and it’s something that isn’t easily described or found with regularity. I’ve come across it in people in odd and unexpected places, usually when I’m rushed or angry or distracted or otherwise focused on something else. People appear suddenly, and I’m always surprised afterward at my lucky meeting. Sometimes it only lasts for a few minutes, and when I see the person again the magic has left. Other times it’s real and lasting and forever captivating and I’ll rearrange my day, miss appointments, forget where I’m supposed to be and blow everything and everybody off to take advantage of my good fortune. I’ll sometimes spend hours listening, taking pictures. These experiences are unforgettable, and can at times stay with me for a while afterwards. Jeanette is French, and Swiss, and says she is gypsy royalty way back. Her body is very painful now, and here she sits, holding court with Vanille, with a smile for everyone that passes. My portraits of her and Vanille will follow, with a few bits from her I hope…..she lives to write, but thinks no one cares. I’m telling her that it only takes one person, and that she should write, and tell, and make sure that her unique and haphazard and beautiful existence doesn’t go unrecorded.
Every time I see her, she seems a bit more fragile. Vanille too….today was spent in a partial stagger, migrating from shady spot to shady spot while Jeanette actively sought full sun, sweating profusely. I think it’s hyperhidrosis of some kind, and it’s the first thing you notice about her. It took me a bit but now I ignore it completely. Initially it was almost a concern–is she alright, I wondered….should I do something?? So much sweat, beading and falling and whirling and dripping that it’s hard to focus on her words. But now I know that it’s her body’s way and I’m less aware. She is entirely unselfconscious, and loves to sweat out what she considers impurities. The crystal clarity of the sweat as it lays in droplets and rivulets beckons me….I want to do a very tight portrait. I will….soon. It has its own beauty, this copious moisture. The dead don’t sweat and she is here with us still, 81 on November 9. Her sweat and her frailty mix magically, and I want to do it right or not at all.