My Dowager Queens
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
|Rosa 'Souvenir du Docteur Jamain' May 27 2015|
The first time I saw my soon to be wife Rosemary Healey in
Mexico City I almost died in a fit of passion and admiration. Rosemary had a slim
body, she was blonde and had legs
from here to there. In Early 1968 mini-skirts
were in fashion and Rosemary was fashionable, towards and inch or two that wasn't.. In record time I married her. I
would say, looking back in my memory (and through my photographs of her) that
she was a pristine beauty.
I remember the first time I convinced her to accompany me in my VW
Beetle to Veracruz
to visit my mother. I made sure when I got to the port city
that I had plenty of 3-in-One Oil to treat the hinges of her bedroom in Veracruz.
The rest is history. We have two daughters and two granddaughters and we have
been married for 47 years.
When I see her sans clothing in our bedroom I see a changed
body. I am sure the same applies to me when I parade in my birthday suit before
sinking into a nice hot bath.
All that has given me food for thought for quite a few
years. While men are allowed to age with character lines on our faces, those
lines on women are anathema. They are to be remedied with makeup, impossible
diets and Oil of Olay. If it comes to worse, then Photoshop Diffuse Glow
will rejuvenate the face, etc.
I gave up a long time ago approaching handsome older women
and telling them, “I think that your are remarkably beautiful just the way you
are now. You remind me of my fall garden, when my roses and the rest of our
plants are ready for winter. They are beautiful in their early decay. I would
like to photograph you nude.”
|Rosa 'Abraham Darby' August 19 2012|
I have never been slapped but the looks I have received have
been damning. My requests in writing have rarely been answered.
In Facebook there are many photographs (many are friends of
mine I have never met in person) of women past 59. They somehow manage to point
their phones in their direction and through filters they look obviously washed
out with no wrinkles. Comments are the usual “likes” but more often they are, “Amazing,
you blow me away with your beauty.” But the worse ones are the nasty (do people
know this when they write it?) “You are still
And these women persist in posting new pictures of
themselves. Most of them are truly awful.
Some 15 years ago two beautiful but young women came to my
Robson Street studio. I told them (I was
an idiot), “You are as young as my daughters. I am not in the least interested
in either of you beyond the photographs I will take of you.” Suffice to say
that they thought I was weird and they never returned.
I tell people that usually do not want to listen to me on the subject that I love
my wife and I am especially attracted to her because she is 70 to my 72 years.
I am attracted to women who are close to my age. The thought of being on a
desert island with one of those young things convinces me I would soon jump into
the sea and be food for sharks.
|Rosa 'Abraham Darby' May 27 2015|
In a later blog I will go into greater detail as to why I
consider my roses to be people and that we have many intelligent conversations.
But for now I will venture into the subject of my Dowager Roses.
I visit my garden every day and I notice the changes in the
garden and particularly which roses are about to bloom (this happens in May),
are blooming or are past it. This is when we usually communicate.
Not all roses look terrible when they are past their prime
(when is a human female past her prime? What do we mean by prime?). The
Gallicas, mostly red or purple turn dark or light after their prime. Some
like Rosa‘Souvenir du Docteur Jamain’
turn almost black and then the meer whisper of air
will make them fall apart. Other Gallicas turn to a beautiful metallic gray.
These Gallicas are just as beautiful (in my books) when they are past their
prime. And many retain there sweet scent.
Other roses, particularly the English Roses, fade in colour
and some double their size. The queen (or is that king? Wait for the later blog
on this) is Rosa ‘Abraham Darby’
. The version you see here is almost 6 inches
wide. In its prime it is about 4 inches. The most amazing quality of Abraham
Darby (one of the most fruity fragrant English Roses) is that it is even more
fragrant when it is past it. And if you attempt to talk to it (she, him?) there
is no crumbling.
Are roses like older women, beautiful (not still, please!)
in their own way? Are we so used to seeing roses in their prime (a vestige of
Victorian exhibitions of roses, perfect roses, in little boxes)?
When a rose is in its prime this is determined by the various
rose society organizations that post what the perfect rose (depending on their
class, be they old garden roses, hybrid teas, etc) should look like. Rose
exhibitors use tricks like placing umbrellas on poles to protect roses from
rain. They know when to cut the blooms and some put them in fridges to cease
all action of aging in preparation for a show.
For me, I love my Dowager Queens until they drop and then
the memory of their life, short months of a lifetime (not too much longer than a butterflie's it seems to me), remain in my
memory and in my many scans of them in their peek, as buds and as Dowager
|24 hours later May 28 2015|
Mary Ellen Mark - March 20, 1940 – May 25, 2015
|Mary Ellen Mark - July 1983|
Friends Rat, 16 (far left), and Mike, 17, have this Colt .45 only for
defense, they insist, against men who try to pick them up or rob them.
"I get hassled a lot" says Rat. "Mike's my protection." They picked
Seattle because Mike had once lived there.
Few of the generation growing up or even approaching their
30s might know who Henri Cartier-Bresson was. Few would know that he was in
effect the father of street photography. Armed with a compact Leica rangefinder
camera (not an easy device to use and I know because I have a Leica III F much like the one Cartier-Bresson used) he
patiently (anticipating his decisive moment) waited for and watched people in the cafes of Paris and
other locations in France. I must add that at the time (the 50s) few carried
cameras. He virtually had no competition. Not having competition does not in
any way diminish his talent for getting the moment on film.
Now anybody with a camera, or a camera with a phone, can
take pictures, street pictures and therefore be street photographers.
In those heady days of street photography some photographers
swore by their twin-lens Rolleiflexes. With one of these the photographer
looked down into the waist-level viewfinder. Those being photographed did not
suspect as the photographer did not wield a camera at eyelevel pointing at
them. Photographers who could not afford the expensive Rolleiflexes purchased a
device for their 35mm cameras that was in effect a periscope. You pointed your
camera in an innocuous direction but the camera was really taking pictures (the
important ones!) at a 90 degree angle.
In September 2013 while riding trains in Buenos Aires I
found that the only way I could take photographs of the riders was to never
take out any of my cameras but to pull out my iPhone 3G
and fake that I was
either taking a selfie or surfing the net.
Contemporary street photography shares a place in my brain
with my disdain for countless projections (bad ones) of rose pictures in a
Vancouver Rose Society evening (experienced on a hard chair).
Today I read in my NY Times that photographer Mary Ellen
Mark died at age 75 (scary as she was only three years older than I am). She was a street photographer that I deeply admired. Why?
Unlike street photographers who take their pictures on the
sly/fly Mark confronted her subjects and took portraits. The one photograph of
hers with which I illustrate this blog should explain. My guess is that Mark had a 24mm lens on her camera. This
means that this photograph was taken by her at very close quarters. That’s
brave and shows her commitment for her respect of her subjects no matter who they were or where
they were from.
Long Form Version of John Cage's 4'33" On CBC Radio Today
Monday, May 25, 2015
|A faithful facsimile of John Cage's 4'33" in his own handwriting|
I have been exposed to John Cage’s composition 4’33”
in my life. One was live in Manhattan and I survived it with my eardrums
intact. The second time happened in 2000 on CBC Radio. I wrote about both here
Today I listened to a long lost variant of 4’33’’ which
began on both CBC Radio 1 and Radio 2 at about 1pm. It was extraordinary as it
lasted for almost 8 minutes on both stations (an unusual simulcast). I had no
idea that there was an equivalent to a film “director’s cut” in composed music. If
it took guts for the CBC to broadcast the short (the popular one) version in
2000 you can imagine that something is afoot at the CBC in its pursuit of the
sonic avant-garde. Some higher up producer at the CBC must have known that it
was daring to not program the CBC News for that hour.
I proudly approve of this venture and it was most refreshing
to have radio silence accompanied by street noises as I drove my Malibu.
Zero Confused - Mauro Astolfi - The Arts Umbrella Senior Company
Sunday, May 24, 2015
After having gone to many rehearsals, a dress rehearsal
and two Season Finales of the Arts Umbrella Dance Company this May my two
favourite pieces were James Kudelka’s Study for a Dance in the Future and Mauro
Astolfi’s Zero Confused. Neither of these works was happy and if anything they
were about the alienation that we now feel in a world that is supposed to be
connected. Another favourite was Connor Gnam’s Blank Page Syndrome which was
full of humour and whimsy. It lifted my spirits.
While I have taken quite a few pictures in the last few
weeks this will be my last blog on the Season Finale. I wrote about Kudelka’s
and Gnam’s works here
. This one is about Zero Confused which I saw
many times in rehearsal and in which every case I had to hold back tears.
I must apologize for the poor quality of my photographs.
I have been using a Fuji X-E1 digital camera which is a marvel at the high ISO
speeds I have been using it (800 ISO for colour and 3200 ISO for b+w). The
limitation of my camera is that it is not instantly responsive to peek
movement. I will need to upgrade to a better model. Of primary importance in dance photography is
to know when that peek movement will occur. This is not a problem for me as I have a good memory for a performance I have seen more than once so I can predict when the peek will happen.
When it happens movement is stopped and it is at its most graceful. One
does not need a fast shutter speed to get peek movement. But a camera must be
responsive to the photographer’s shutter pressing without delay. Sadly my Fuji
meanders as it focuses around in a dark dance studio. What you see here are the
best of the possibilities with generous luck.
I want to thank the Arts Umbrella Dance Company, Artemis
Gordon and Lynn Sheppard for allowing me to skulk in corners with my camera and to
display such trust in this amateur dance photographer. In spite of all my
excuses for my almost failures I cannot help to notice how the dancers of the Arts
Umbrella Dance Company shine in spite of them. To them I give them my special
thanks and wish them the best in their dance future.