Barry Ollman's Imogen's Lament

Barry Ollman Songs

Imogen's Lament

Imogen's Lament

  • Words and music... Barry Ollman
  • Vocals... Barry Ollman and Graham Nash
  • Acoustic and electric 12 string guitars... Barry Ollman
  • Bass... Mike Olson
  • Accordion... Taylor Mesple
  • Drums... Christian Teele

  • +  Imogen's Lament Lyrics

    Way back in those 1970's my brother, Arthur, became friendly with one of the great photographers of the 20th Century, Imogen Cunningham. Later, as the founding Director of the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts, he also worked with Ansel Adams, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Arnold Newman and many other masters of the art. Anyway, a few years ago, Arthur described a phone conversation that he had had with Imogen that quickly inspired this song.

    It's only loosely based on my impressions of Imogen as I've used artistic license and taken liberties with various details of her story. (Think... Paul Simon's So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright). For example, she passed away well before the easy availability of digital photography which was only in its most nascent stages toward the end of her life.

    In this song, I imagine a true artist watching with some reticence as the art form that she mastered over a long life time, approaches a period of great and unimaginable change. There are other little details that I used only to suit the song, such as the image of her throwing her "35" over her shoulder when Imogen herself famously used large format cameras. In that sense, the song is not to be taken literally but as an affectionate homage...

    I took Imogen's Lament into the studio and sent an early demo of it to my friend Graham Nash, a great photographer in his own right, as well as a long time noted collector of important photographic works, and he was more than encouraging. He offered to sing the song as a duet with me and on numerous occasions told me not to finish my record until he had sung on it. As a fervent fan of his music, my answer was essentially "Yes, Sir!"

    In June of 2012, Graham happened to be in Denver working on a Crosby, Stills and Nash video editing project which he invited me to help out with. He had a flight out of town booked for a Sunday night, but kept saying that we should get into a studio and record his vocals for Imogen's Lament. On Sunday afternoon, as we were finishing up the editing for the CSN 2012 DVD, he said "find a studio for tonight and I'll change my flight to tomorrow".

    I immediately called Nick Forster and asked for his studio suggestions. We had no luck reaching a Denver studio on a Sunday night. Then he called me back and said that James Tuttle would meet us at Airshow Mastering in Boulder in an hour. Graham was as cool as ever and didn't complain at all about the 45 minute drive up to Boulder.

    Of course, on the way there, I missed a turn and got us hopelessly lost. As we drove, Graham had a song idea that he invited me to write with him. The song that came out of that trip is called "Exit Zero" and that's a whole other story. I will say that hearing Crosby, Stills and Nash playing a song numerous times on their 2013 tour that I am a co-writer on, has been one of the high points of my musical life!