I like old black and white movies, films with Humphrey Bogart or Simone Signoret,
Alfred Hitchcock, you name it. Beautiful actors with characteristic faces, all in well balanced shots, classic movies
. Sometimes when I walk downtown Amersfoort, I see people with such characteristic, wrinkled faces. They could easily fit into an old black and white classic
Bram is a nice example, a giant of a man and hands as big as a shovel. I stopped him to talk to him, explained about my portrait photography and asked him to pose for me. When I was finished he answered and I heard Marlon Brandon from The Godfather ‘Yes, ok. Let´s give it a try.”
We made an appointment and I went with my Mamiya C330, tripod and black cloth. Bram worked as a plasterer and did very well – a bungalow-like farmhouse, stables where he kept pigs and other animals for a hobby and the freezer, a nice BMW. But his wealth had not changed him, still that hardworking man, not needing much for himself.
Bram waited for me in the large kitchen, sitting at the kitchen table.
First there was coffee, we talked about this and that, he had typical wise expressions – Marlon Brandon ?
Then Bram showed me the stables.
Next was photo time, we went back into the kitchen where Bram sat down in his usual place at the kitchen table. He lit a cigar and looked at me and what I was doing. The black cloth was difficult, high sealing and spacious kitchen. When I was ready Bram was still sitting in a relaxed pose, waiting for what was to come. I adjusted my camera and only asked Bram to take a puff from his cigar.
A simple “click” and it was done – well I took 4 more to be sure, different times and different aperture. I remember well that Bram was amazed about all “the junk” I carried along for something that wasn´t that special. Next day I developed the film and made a print for Bram, he liked it very much.
A few months later the photo was in a selection of “Wintersalon”, now called “Fotonationaal”, a few national photo magazines and even a German photo magazine.
I brought copies of all articles to Bram, who was very proud.
Again a few months later local television called me. They had seen my photos in an exhibition and wanted to get to know the photographer and asked my corporation in a small, 15 minute documentary. The documentary also needed me at work, was that possible too? The camera crew was 7 people. I said yes, only realized later what it meant.
We needed space for this documentary and I remembered Bram´s kitchen, spacious. I visited him again – Bram was sick – I explained my visit, he didn´t say ‘no’ but it had to be on short notice. The kitchen was full with people and equipment, a lot of lights and it was clearly visible that Bram was not well. I simulated working.
It´s a fine documentary, Bram had his copy right away. Actually Bram had the leading part in the documentary, as he deserved. The camera crew recognized what I saw that very first time that I met Bram and why I took his portrait.
The evening the documentary was broadcasted Bram and the entire family were sitting in front of the television (I heard later).
Not long after Bram passed away.
How sad it may be, the family still has that wonderful documentary to remember him.
I´m sure that by now Bram will have plastered the gate to heaven a few times. Resting now, enjoying his cigar and with that Marlon Brandon voice saying “they still don´t have enough of that face of mine?”
The photo was made in 1992 Mamiya C330, 135 mm lens, F5.6, T 1/15, TMAX 400, natural light Developer TMAX 1+4 and printed on Ilford MGFB1k in Amaloco developer