Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Margaret Salmon's best shot / María

Photo by Margaret Salmon

Margaret Salmon's best shot

'I just find her compelling. I love how she's bathed in white, with that innocence'

Interview by Leo Benedictus
Wed 7 Feb 2007

I met this woman, Maria, at a playground in Rome; I guess you might say I picked her up. We both had kids playing. She spoke some English, while I spoke a little Italian, and we hit it off. I convinced her that I had to film and photograph her for a project I was doing on new mothers, and in the end she gave way. She was really funny, because she didn't understand why I wanted to film her at all. She kept saying: "But why do you want me?"

I arrived the day before this picture was taken and spent some time with Maria and her family. The next morning she was still in her pyjamas, had given her daughter breakfast, and was starting to clean the house and make the bed. In this picture, I'm on the balcony, and she's just on the edge of the sunlight. It was just so serene, yet the moment was ironic, because she had a one-year-old running around, and the environment was the opposite of what you'd think.
I was using the first camera I ever owned, bought when I was 16. It's just a basic 35mm Pentax K1000, which they don't make any more. In the past, I've used all sorts of large-format cameras on tripods. But when I had my own daughter, I started using my Pentax again and taking portraits of her, being much more free, and I love it. It's so light and flexible.
A portrait like this is really all about the face and the expression, so a lot depends on the person - I just find her so compelling. I love how she's bathed in white, with that Madonna-like innocence, and yet there's a sort of frown; she's looking very serious and intense. That captured the contradiction I felt being a mother. You're not quite what you used to be, and there's also a certain darkness you have to embrace.
Maria hasn't seen the picture yet. I'll have to let her know so she can check it out, but I'm sure she'll hate it. She'll say: "I look terrible!"


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