When a man who has photographed Andy Warhol asks if he can photograph you and your rabbit, you're going to say yes (even if photographing Warhol is the least of his accomplishments). And that's how it happened, nine months ago. My friend, Arthur Tress, brough his Hasselblad over. He had some ideas about photographing me with my fourteen-year-old rabbit, Celeste—a rabbit of incredible spirit who had been fighting seizures and a brain tumor. I didn't know how much time she had left.
The best light was in the apartment stairwell, down half a flight, where a skylight acts as a soft box. Arthur tried a lot of different shots, following his trademark surrealist approach. There were props from my apartment. He would ask me to "look" a certain way, hold the rabbit while holding a book about magicians. In between these I would clutch Celeste close, kiss her head. I was stubborn. These were the shots I wanted. He would relent.
He shot some more. Celeste was patient as hell. Arthur remarked that in rabbit years she must be about 104 (true). I paid attention to any signs of fatigue, fear, or discomfort from her. She just clicked her teeth, happy just being close to me, just being involved in things (something she's always liked). She was always curious about the world, happy to be in new environments. This was no different. I was really proud of her that day.
I love Arthur. We get together every couple of weeks. I look at contact sheets from his most recent shoot. He asks me for advice on making books. He criticizes my work, telling me sometimes that while I have great interest in techniques, he can't tell how I feel about anything. We go back and forth. "But Arthur," I say. "Think about Andy Warhol. You never know if he felt anything."
Celeste passed away this week. The brain tumor was finally too much and her breathing became labored and uncomfortable. She couldn't even swallow medication. She had to be put down.
I love this photo and it just strikes me has funny. Here, you know how I feel. But it's not my work—it's his. Still, he got it out of me.