1. The e-mail
“My name is Ellen: I earn my money taking pictures and I am not a foul. I’ve done thousands of them all along my career but I can promise that these pics I am going to talk about got stuck in my retina and my memory forever. This is an image, they are three, this is only one: they are the story of a woman, unknown then, who appears all of a sudden in the lens of my camera during one of my uncountable promenades along Hazerswoude channels in winter 2006”.
I receive that text in inverted commas in an email, with an enclosed image. The sender was Ellen Kooi, a well-known Dutch photographer who was the object of some articles I had written for the newspaper I work for. According her words, I’ve been the only one above all critics that was able to get the soul of this image. She enclosed her phone number and asked me to get in contact as soon as possible so she was in need to talk with me. Ellen Kooi was in Barcelona those days and it was a perfect time to meet each other. I did agree. The reason and the mystery were floating in the air.
I recognized the picture immediately: it took part of a collection based on Dutch channels displayed in Barcelona three or four years ago and I wrote some paragraphs about. I could take a meticulous look over the picture: its resolution was high and there were some details I’ve forgotten. It’s true that the face of the woman in first term shocked me specially the contrast between the warmth and cleanliness of her gaze, the burning hair that illuminated the room with these black winter channel covered by snow. I also could remember me thinking about these two women, trying to get the meaning of the hidden message: are they the same women or not? Reason could not explain all that I could see but my intuition leads me to understand this internal, feminine universe full of desires, dreams, waits, and solitude. This is the way I wrote my article: for me, it was an unfinished work. And there was the water, always water in her pieces.
Time is water, said the authoress in an interview for El País. We always go back to the water.
I felt that the person who took the image was the owner of the keys for the message: the secret of these women, of this woman, of these moments. Finally, the truth was come out.
Two months after my interview, I published this story at her request because I was told that she had a lot of difficulties on doing by herself.
2. Women of Hazerswoude
Ellen Kooi the photographer, involved in a new project, is travelling right now with the aim of get a good illustrated report of people living next to the channels of Hazarswoude. The set could not be better: the beauty of this place –when she promised herself to come back- and the brand new light of a grey winter morning. This winter of 2006 it has been hard and the remains of the snow are lying over the road.
Ellen drives with caution through the chosen place when suddenly, a little house attracts her attention: its simplicity, transparency, its light. She comes closer, parks the car reasonably far from there and, with no intention of been seen, enters into the property with her camera. According her method, the photographer tries to capture people interacting with the landscape, spontaneously. Nobody must notice her at work. If the work finally success, she introduces herself and ask their consent about the pics to be published. People always agree: her fame is well known and the photos are excellent.
This house has big windows showing the channel and you could mistake water for crystal. It’s no easy to realize when the windows start and the channel finishes. The light, the water, the trees, snow and the grey sky are perfectly mixed over the transparent walls of the house as they take part of them.
She approaches the house and pays attention to her camera: it wouldn’t be he first time than both fall down and crashes when searching the best plane. She can’t come closer because it is a very uneven piece of a land so she stands up and prepares the lens when, all of a sudden, meets Sofie Drescher for the first time.
The surprise before the obstinate look of this woman fixed in the lens disconcerts her in such a way that, scared, he moves back sharply. Sofie was looking at her and the half smile seemed to confirm that she had discovered his intentions, which seemed to be completely impossible given the great distance to whom was of the house and the local frondage in the one that she had hidden. Probably the most correct thing had been to approach to give the pertinent explanations and apologize for the interference in the intimacy of her home but the scare makes her to leave of there rapidly: she needed to go away and take a breath an then to think about what was happened. She was not capable of understanding the mixture of attraction and fear that she had just experimented in a few seconds before this unexpected presence.
There were had passed after that day and Ellen was not able to separate that woman of her thought. Scarcely it had had time to perceive his physical aspect though, the great observant she was, already had registered it as a species of red-haired dressed Gioconda of green shining between the subdued and neutral colours of the environment.
In the days that follow the encounter, she had continued realizing works in the zone but always he avoided to approach the house of crystal, that is the way she named it whenever he was recalling the anecdote with someone of her colleagues: they were insisting that she had got obsessed with the red-haired women and that she had to return to clarify everything, introduce each one and make new photos that, with complete certainty, would be excellent because the interest and the mystery were served and the look of her own camera was already determined to catching something very special.
Today it is the great day: Ellen is ready to visualize the works of last weeks. It is not in the usual way to do up to giving for the article finished, another habitual strategy in the artist to avoid to determine his later captures and that had given her very good results. The aim is not avoid that the taken images that day could react on those taken of the following one.
The first one that the publisher loads paralyzes her: it is she, the girl of the green garment, and she looks at her the same way as that day. She did not remember to have taken this photo, it is more, she was sure of not having done it. The same look of complicity, as if she was waiting to meet her. Sitting, with the arms relaxed in the lap, illuminating the stay with her hair and with this half smile of big mouth and thick, distended lips. She needs to do a zoom on the green of her eyes to check that they are not a brilliant reflection of the colour of his garment. It is not. If she had these eyes she also had chosen this colour for her clothes. Ellen has the same sensation of scare, of having being discovered.
In the photography she is not alone, though she does not remember that there was nobody any more this day, everything was so rapid. There appear other two women of aspect very similar: the three dress the same colour, the three avoid to gather and to brush their long reddish locks.
On the second plane, standing, with uncovered, another woman sticks her hands and her look to the large window looking for the sky. She cannot avoid compare her with my Gioconda: her attitude is less relaxed: Ellen notices in her position the tension of the longing, of the desire, of a dream, of a wait. Certain melancholy. Out, close to the channel across the crystal there is another one, a bit more wrapped up warm woman, the feet sunk in the snow, embracing herself, shy, we do not know because of cold, of sadness or both things.
The emotional tension grows as the planes move away and the feminine figures diminish in size at the time that his uneasiness increases. The relation that could exist between these three women puzzles Ellen, who finally decides that she will appear in the house any of these days to apologize and known some more about them.
There are waters throughout: the black ones of the channel, the snowy and solid ones of the soil, the condensed in the sky on the verge of breaking in clear and transparent rain. But the one that more calls her attention is the one that they guard inside the house in these two containers of crystal: it is clean, still.
Nothing has very much sense. There is certain incoherence in everything what she sees. There are no furniture in the stay except the armchair draped in white in the one that rests, waiting for her, her Mona Lisa: the face turns out to be so familiar. The reddish soil receives stones and brush as it happens in these abandoned houses where the nature penetrates without knowing how in spite of having all his closed orifices, this abandon contrasts with the long radiator of a very up-to-date style.
It is eight o'clock in the morning; she applies certain retouches to the image that they give an almost oneiric environment, according to her style, save changes, turn off her computer, puts her coat on, her walking books, takes the camera and the keys: she goes away.