THROUGH THE LENS – TWO WOMEN LINKED BY PHOTOGRAPHY, FILM AND OUR FRIENDSHIP

 

IN MEMORY OF:

JOSEPHINE POWELL –  ETHNOGRAPHER, PHOTOGRAPHER AND KILIM SCHOLAR   1919-2007

and

EVA MONLEY –  FILM PRODUCER    1924 – 2011

Eva Monley

Josephine Powell

I had an email last week that an old friend Eva Monley had died  in Nanyuki, Kenya of complications from a chest infection.  Eva was 88 years old.

Five years ago another friend Josephine Powell died also at 87 years old from emphysema or COPD.  The death of Eva has made me reflect on the loss of both these women from my life.

They never knew one another; lived and worked in different parts of the world; Josephine for a large portion of her life in Turkey and Central Asia and Eva often in Africa.   Their shared characters imprinted on me when I first met them in my mid forties. Together they shaped my perception of who I am as a woman and what life holds for me as woman who holds life.

Eva was a film producer; Josephine an ethnographic photographer.  Both women had backbones of iron, determination, fierce independence and a work ethic that would not end.

Early morning walks with Eva in Hyde Park in central London were our time to walk and talk as Eva was out early morning rain or shine enjoying the park.  If I was in London I never wanted to miss a walk with Eva because it meant being fully engaged by a mind that was clear, focused and never still.  Her memory was prodigious and life had brought her no end of experience, challenge and insight.  She had loved fiercely and had a loyalty that was unwavering.

Eva’s flat was on the corner of Knightsbridge and Ovington Gardens looking towards the lighted outlines of Harrods – her ‘grocery store’.  Valerie’s, a neighborhood bakery a few doors away from her flat was the source of her indulgence; croissants, but only the ones that were crisply browned.

Josephine on the other hand had a penchant for lemon meringue pie which I would pick up a piece (or two) for her en route to her flat in Cihangar, Istanbul.  Our time together often were at her flat.  Like Eva her work surfaces were stacked with piles of papers and images as she was never without several projects on the go at the same time. Josephine was strong minded, curious and
relentless when following a train of thought or developing a new idea.

Both women were recognized professionally in their fields with Eva receiving in 1988 the Lifetime Achievement award from the British Film Institute and Josephine receiving The George Hewitt Myers Award in 2006 in Washington D.C at the Textile Museum recognizing her exceptional contributions to the study and understanding of the textile arts.  The honors were deserved but it was their lives that not only moved me but informed me about living fully.

Well, old friends, go well.  I am deeply aware of the richness of my life that has been fed by both these women in attitude, deed and support.

Be it photography, kilims, film, LIFE these two women left their mark on me and I am grateful for our shared lives.

 


13 Responses

  1. joanne duyker says:

    I was really touched by your comments . My life has been
    shaped and blessed by many women and I am also very
    grateful.

    • Catherine Mortensen says:

      Joanne – When you think of the points of connection that you and I have had over the years with some of the same individuals even though we live in different cities it is amazing. I saw Jill B the other night and she was mentioning you to me. I agree, it is great to be in strong communities of both women and men. Wonderful when our lives intersect in significant ways.

  2. Leah Mortensen says:

    Mom, if it wasn’t for your unique relationships with these two incredible women my life might have gone in a different direction. By grasping their example of how live your PASSION for life, you have taught me how to live mine! Their examples of going against the norm and fully living life to the fullest regardless of what society says a woman should do, say or believe, you have all paved the roads less traveled so that I can follow in your footsteps. For this I am grateful!

    • Bob Jones says:

      Hi Catherine,
      Bob Jones here. These are two women of whom C.S. Lewis would likely call in his book The Great Divorce, ‘a Bright One’ or ‘Solid One.’ The closer to the Real and the realm of Eternal Fact the more real and substantial-we too become-these women have weight. Thanks for honoring your friends in this way.
      The peace of the Lord,
      Bob

      • Catherine Mortensen says:

        @ Bob – I remembering reading that book but have not thought of the image of ‘light’ and ‘weight’. Definitely these women were substantial. I am thankful to have shared a part of my life with both of them. Go well….

    • Catherine Mortensen says:

      @Leah – I am incredibly grateful for your life and the woman that you are. Live wisely and keep your eyes open for the Josephines and Eva (of any gender) that come along. These people add such weight to our lives by their example and focus. Thanks for your affirmation, I am VERY appreciative…
      Check out what Paul McG has to say in his comment on this post; I really appreciate his insight.

  3. Paul says:

    It’s a real attribute to be able to look back and reflect on the situations, people and places that shaped one’s life. It’s an even greater attribute to be able to identify those influences as they are actually occurring. The greatest attribute of all is to seek out and create the circumstances in which these influences can occur in the future – you become the shaper.

    • Catherine Mortensen says:

      @Paul – Thanks for your reflections on this process that I was writing about. I can look back with absolute clarity and know the value of these friendships. In the midst of these friendships I knew I was experiencing pure ‘gold’ and was totally engaged. Your thought about seeking and creating these relationships is challenging as I have always trusted them to land in my lap. Thanks for making me think about this… all the best to E

  4. Jack Mortensen says:

    I clearly remember my times with these two amazing women; dinner with Eva in New York (our first meeting) and tea with Josephine in her flat in Istanbul. They were both “a force”! Neither of them “suffered fools (or men) lightly” BUT nonetheless I enjoyed being in their company as they were indeed women of substance! I will too will miss them. Jack

    • Catherine Mortensen says:

      @Jack – cannot imagine not have being able to share these friendships with you J. We are both the richer for their input into our lives.

  5. Carolyn says:

    I had the privilege of meeting Josephine with Catherine and Jack in her flat in Istanbul and was awestruck by this tiny, frail woman who had travelled extensively by horse, camel, motorcycle or by foot and lived a fearless life of adventure and simplicity, despite what was the norm for women of her time. What an amazing woman! Here’s to Josephine and Eva!

  6. […] used to tell me stories of the nomadic tribes of Turkey and their culture and weaving traditions.  Josephine would speak of the life in the summer camps as the people settled in the high mountain pastures for […]

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