Brother Cadfael & Brother Edwin Reunited in My Memory
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
|Rosa 'Brother Cadfael', June 20 2018|
Much of what I do these days is to visit my past while awake. In my sleep that past is a strange one, sometimes scary, almost an alien one. When I wake
up during the night I must tell myself that it is only a dream and that my
present, my wake time present is just fine.
Of late my Rosemary has re-kindled her interest in roses.
She spends hours in bed with her iPhone looking at rose websites.
There is a rose that is in bloom right now. It is an unusual
English Rose called Rosa ‘Brother Cadfael’
. It is unusual in that the blooms
before they open they resemble a hybrid tea. They are unusually large.
Brother Cadfael succumbed in our old Kerrisdale garden as it
could not cope with shade.
Rosemary was not eager to order the rose again thinking she
might offend me. I took a scan print of the rose to my mentor in Austin,
Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. some years ago. Months later I visited him again. Behind him
framed (he made the frame) was my print. On the bottom part of the frame he had
inscribed a brass plaque with the name of the rose and that I had given it to
I told Rosemary that ordering the rose would not in the
least offend me.
You see that at my age one of the ways of reliving my past
is to be reminded by its tangible elements. The rose in bloom now reminds me of
Brother Edwin and all of the novels (I read most of them) by Ellis Peters
featuring her medieval sleuth.
What is most symmetrically proper is that the rose (sold by David Austin Roses) came via their North American distribution place which is Tyler, Texas. It arrived safe and sound in a box that was there, one morning, at our front door, two months ago.
A Blast With Photographer Hans Sipma
Monday, June 18, 2018
Some years ago photographer Hans Sipma came with his wife to
an open garden in our old digs in Kerrisdale. I believe that she may have
driven because Sipma was in an Italian cyclist uniform and was holding a very
red and very expensive bike. I asked him about the bike and he gave me a figure
that was close to the price of a Chevrolet Malibu. He then said, “I could never
afford a Ferrari so I bought this.”
I have admired Sipma from the very beginning when we arrived
in Vancouver in 1975. He and Mike Paris had a basement studio (below where my
eventual studio would one year be on the Farmer’s Building, now gone, on
Granville and Robson. The pair took photographs for the catalogue of Eaton’s
which was across the street. A few times our daughters modeled for it and Sipma
and Paris took their pictures.
Through the years I have had long chats with Sipma about
cars. He has a pragmatic approach to everything. He just makes sense in a
balance almost unemotional way.
Sipma’s photograph at the Vancouver Planetarium (of the Pacific Space Centre) blasting off
as a spacecraft was one of the first digitally manipulated images in Vancouver.
Sipma has stayed ahead, always.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of cycling with Sipma and
it is my hope that I can do this again.
He visited my digs and I took a picture with my Mamiya
RB-67, Fujiroid b+w 3200 and a pinhole body cap. The picture is underexposed
but I like it.
As for Sipma it is people like him that make me feel that
not all is lost for our city while there is at least one pragmatic voice.
Stephen Reid - March 13, 1950 – June 12, 2018
Sunday, June 17, 2018
This blog promises to be very long. I had been thinking
about it all last night. I read the extensive and fine obituary
in my NY Times
of Stephen Reid. Today, Sunday, Fathers’s Day I called up Celia Duthie
to tell her of my concerns re writing this. I told her that many years ago Fred
Schiffer a noted photographer of this city and now gone was called by Business
for a photograph of Sam Belzberg.
Schiffer knew that the pictures he had taken
of the man were family portraits. He also knew that Belzberg had been involved
in some questionable business dealings. So he told the magazine that since his
photographs were taken privately and commissioned by Belzberg he was not going
to send them anything.
On February 1986 I took some photographs for a Vancouver Magazine
article that involved literary parents and their children. One of them was
Susan Musgrave and her daughter Charlotte.
|Susan Musgrave & Charlotte - April 1986|
In 1985 I had gone to Musgrave readings and I was
astounded by her presence in red. I believe it must be her favourite colour.
She stood on one side of her lectern in a tight red dress and wearing exquisite
red pumps. She read her poetry (it was erotic to begin with) but her
presentation, diction and that little smile made it more so.
And so I rang the bell at her house in Sidney. A woman
wearing a tight red sweater opened the door and I was let in. I had this idea that I
wanted to photograph her and daughter in her back garden showing the water
and the rocky terrain. She took me to her kitchen, it was nice and warm. It was winter and cold outside. We discussed on the taking of the portrait.
The Laughter in the Kitchen
From: Things that
Keep and Do Not Change. McClelland & Stewart, 1999
All day my daughter and her best friend
have been playing marriage, destroying
the house to make it the way they need it
to be. They've shoved the loveseat
across the bedroom door to form a barricade,
overturned the armchairs to give themselves
temporary shelters. They've even rolled
the carpet back, "so the carpet won't get
beer spilled on it," my daughter, pretending
to be Dad, explains, when I complain:
the house doesn't feel like my own anymore
but still I have to live in it. "We can
build a new house when I make lots of good
money," my daughter says, butting out
the Popeye candy cigarette she won
from the neighbour boy for showing him
her vagina through a slit in the split
cedar fence. I wept, told her next time,
baby, hold out for a whole pack,
trying to be brave, the way only a mother
could. "We can't build anything if you
keep drinking drugs," the tiny wife bursts
as my daughter keels into the woodstove
and pretends to catch fire, the laughter
in the kitchen filling the house
where we tried to live. What has become
of my young life, the man who once pressed
a fistful of crocuses between my breasts
and made love to me on the kitchen floor
while beyond, on the river,
a loudspeaker-toting paddleboat carried
honeymooners to the mouth. Later we took
the same cruise, pretending to be newlyweds
ourselves, holding hands on the tipping deck
with others who took photographs to prove
they had truly been there, they had
loved each other - once. The laughter
in the kitchen reminds me: grief
is a burden, something to be shaken
like the foxgloves in our garden, stooping
under the weight of their seeds. I've learned
the lessons of pain, now wait for the same
light that makes my daughter's face so
luminous and wise as she says to her small friend,
"Now you be Dad. You've got no body so you can't
get away. I'll be the mother this time."
painted and tightly closed.
I was too worried
about my photograph to take note of our conversation. I watched her and saw that
she was ravishingly beautiful in her red sweater. I heard myself saying, “Susan
I want to photograph you outside.” Because it was in the middle of winter I
heard her saying (in my imagination), “This means I will have to put on a coat.”
This is exactly what she told me and gave me the option of taking pictures
inside first. I was a professional (in
1986 what did I know?) so I insisted I would only photograph her outside. This
I did. Of course I have regretted my absurd professionalism since.
A few months later Vancouver Magazine editor Malcolm
(Mac) Parry said, “Alex you are going to photograph a wedding.”
talked back, “I don’t do weddings
.” He countered, “If you don’t do this one I
will no longer give you more work.”
|Vancouver Sun, June 17 1999|
And so I photographed Susan Musgrave’s wedding in the maximum security prison in Agassiz to inmate and ex bank robber Stephen Reid.
Not only did I shoot the wedding but I also photographed
Musgrave in her makeup and wardrobe preparations in a house that was not too
far from the prison.
|The reason for the colour is that was a new film called Ilford XP-1. It was a b+w colour negative film with reddish cast|
Entering the prison was something about silence followed
by short noises. I was searched and so was my camera bag. Every time I wanted
to go from one room to another I had to nod at a guard. A metal gate would open
and then close in a loud thunk behind me. There was another man recording the proceedings.
This was the legendary CBC cameraman John Seale who was 68.
He was doing everything, carrying his lights, sound boom and camera. He was
working for the Fifth Estate.
We both recorded Reid behind bars in the Armani suit that
Musgrave had purchased for him. After the religious ceremony a cake was cut.
After that I overheard the warden ask Reverend Arnie, “Did you put away the knife?”
Looking again at my slides I see that I was wrong and he had yet to put his suit when I photographed him behind the bars.
Parry liked my photographs. But until last night when I
went to my files I spotted a letter from Stephen Reid. It seems he liked my
Of and on for some years after different newspapers
including the Globe and Mail would request my photos. It seems that Parry was
right about me shooting the wedding. Looking back there was only one other
wedding ever photographed. This was D.O.A.’s Joey Shithead’s. I could not
refuse. The man had come to my Burnaby house a few years before to ask me,”How
would you like to have a photograph I Andy Warhol’s Interview?” And he was as
good as his word and indeed I had full page bleed picture in Interview of
I found that the Globe and Mail has used my pictures again for the obituary. And they have not offered to pay me. At one time they were beyond reproach. It is simply the slide of journalism and I am not going to bother to complain.
But as the century wore off I felt guilty about making
money from a misfortune considering that Reid had reverted to his former
profession of robbing banks.
But in March of 1999 I received a request for the wedding
pictures from the New York publication Men’s Journal. I immediately sent the
pictures because I was told that they were to illustrate an article by Susan
Now after having talked to Celia Duthie (she is a good
friend of Musgrave’s) I am writing this blog. Duthie told me, “Why not write
the blog and insert your pictures? They were young then and looked their best. Do
Until I went to a reading of Gerry Gilbert in the early 80s and then with listening to Susan Musgrave my adventure into appreciating poetry began.
|With Perry the best man.|