what price beauty mono

I was walking past the Shelter shop in Raeburn Place when something caught my eye. In the middle of the window display was a vintage mannequin bust. She was naked but for a string of pearls with a price tag hanging from them. Her head was bald, her maquillage only slightly faded. But the most striking thing about her was her beauty and how lifelike she was. I looked at her from every angle I could, pressing my nose against the window (never be self-conscious about these things if you’re serious about photography!). Eventually I found an angle that would give scarcely any reflection. The sunlight fell on her slightly upturned face and threw the rest of the display into shadow.

I took only a couple of shots and this was one of them. In colour, she was beautiful but unexceptional. But in black and white, the starkness of her beauty shone out. Her eyes seemed beseeching, her cheekbones as sharp as a whetting knife.

Out of all my photos, this is probably my absolute favourite. I never gave the mannequin a name, although I know that her owner does. I’ve since seen her dressed in many different outfits, but never to me did she look more beautiful than the day she was clad only in pearls at a price.

Martine peeking

Martine was a French lady who came to visit friends in Edinburgh for a few weeks each summer. My French is terrible these days and she didn’t have an extensive grasp of the English language, but we nodded amiably to each other – Ca va? ~ Ca va bien, merci. She had a wonderfully mobile face and I knew I wanted to capture some of her facial expressions.

In the small back room of the Gramophone Emporium in St Stephen’s Street, there was a hubbub of conversation which Martine was struggling to follow. Suddenly, someone asked her a question. As she leaned forward to listen, I took this picture. The light in the room was very bad, not to mention being so crowded, my elbows were welded to my sides as I lifted the camera and I wasn’t sure I had caught the moment.

When I showed her this photo later, she was amused – C’est moi! Oh! – and didn’t mind a bit.

My grateful thanks to the manager of the Shelter shop for his inspirational mannequin.

All Photographs © Rachel Cowan

, ,

Comments are closed.