Scene VI: Contemplation of Master Quyen
>> Italian version available here
Scene VI: CONTEMPLATION OF MASTER QUYEN
The scene in the poem: After killing the Parthian guard who had raped her 13 times, Mother Anh settles for the night in the carriage used to transport her to the Kingdom of Bithynia. She inspects the gold coin, dropped by the guard, that he received from a local agent while selling Mother Anh as a slave. She gives thought to her conversations with the wise Master Quyen, her slave master from Vietnam who was killed by Parthians upon their arrival on Arabian shores. Mother Anh’s respect and admiration for Master Quyen dominate her thoughts that night; she reflects on his statements about the importance of women in society: “...man has power, but it’s useless if misdirected. Thus, man shall consult with the calm foresight of his good wife, else he is sure to veer off-course or suffer unintended consequences of his strengths misapplied.”
The image: A candid view of Mother Anh during her first night in Nicomedia. Because of the horrors that she recently endured, that moonlit night was “not one of sleep, but rather of a thousand thoughts and dreams, doubts and regrets, fears and questions.” She expresses a solemn and introspective mood while taking a close look at the gold coin she has just acquired. The bloodied dagger she used to kill the guard rests close-at-hand on the edge of the carriage, symbolising her strength and recent victory. The unsecured chains draped over the edge of the carriage represent Mother Anh’s breaking away from her torturous conditions in slavery. The image shows in the background several passageways through the trees in the forest that symbolise various paths her life could take from this point forward. What direction would her life now take? Did she have any control over her destiny?
The making of the photograph: This photo was taken in the same place as in the previous scene, in the Emilia-Romagna Region of Italy. Shot during late afternoon, we underexposed the shot for the ambient light and set up flash lighting off the left side of the image to simulate moonlight which traces the edges of the carriage with light and creates three dimensionality of texture and flow in Mother Anh’s costume. Costume detail is an important visual element in many of the photos in this project, inspired by representations in ancient art that create a wonderful sense of tactile volume and flow of fabrics. This was mastered in many ancient Greek and Roman statues, and later in classic paintings. A most influential and original example is the sculpture of Aphrodite, known as the "Venus de Milo", on display at the Louvre.