My Photographic Lineage With Lisa
Monday, November 12, 2018
I manage to talk to my granddaughters I tell them that in dance there is a
continuity/legacy that comes from dancers that came before. These dancers
taught dancers, who taught dancers who eventually taught my granddaughters.
That one of those teachers is Desirée Dunbar who was taught by Judith Garay who
was a prima ballerina for Martha Graham’s Dance Company.
I tell them
that through the Calculus is becomes evident that if you pore a bottle of
Scotch into the Pacific Ocean it would be feasibly possible to find traces of
it sometime later in the Atlantic Ocean.
the above is about is that yesterday it was Lisa Prentiss’s birthday. I first
met her around 1980 in a dark club. She was sitting at a table and I was enthralled.
I had a little Minolta imitation of a Leica with me so I asked her if I could
Those first photographs were followed by many more in a time
spread of about two years. With Lisa I experimented with different films,
lighting techniques and approaches. I was particularly pleased by a series
that I shot using fast Kodak Ektachrome with a 35mm camera pushed with only the light in her bedroom. These pictures are as close to as I
ever got to shooting that sleazy/nasty/and many other words ending in y that is
boudoir. I believe that these pictures as dark as they are, may be edgy and not
Today (I wrote this blog yesterday, November 11, I will be taking photographs of a beautiful woman who is 61. I previously photographed her when she was 22. This time around there will be some strong and plentiful photgraphic lineage in the works. There will be a bit of Lisa in the room, in my memory and perhaps even in my shutter finger.
Happy birthday Lisa.
Remembrance - Not
Sunday, November 11, 2018
The word vicarious
somehow has always been seen as a positive pleasure in sharing something with
someone else while not having experienced previously the vicarious moment enjoyed.
I can think
of seeing my two daughters or my two granddaughters interact in a way that I
have no idea what it is like. It was only recently that I was able to have a
small glimpse of that when I found out I had a half-brother.
often would tell me, “Alex you will never know because you will never be a
mother.” She was long dead before I realized I could have retorted, “You will
never understand because you will never be a father.”
Remembrance Day I see sepia photographs of the fathers or grandfather s of my
social media friends. I see them kind of longingly but at the same time with no
understanding. The only relative who had any connection with a war (and then he
was really not) was my “tío postizo” Leo Mahdjubian, an Armenian who fought in
the Great War in the Black Watch ( I smile at the idea of an Armenian in a
grandfather Harry Waterhouse-Hayward moved from Manchester to Buenos Aires with
his son and not-yet-wife Ellen Carter in 1902.
By now it would be impossible for me to find out if Harry had any
relatives who fought in that Great War.
mother’s side there is my uncle Don Luís Miranda y Roxas who was a chemist for
San Miguel Beer in Manila. When the “Japs” (as he called them) landed in Manila
he went to sabotage the brewery plant, “To make sure the Japs don’t drink my beer.” I
was too stupid to ever ask him if the Japanese found out and that is why they
took over his splendid house and made it their headquarters.
perch in Buenos Aires I never understood war and death except by books and
because of this that I can never make myself go to the Cenotaph on VictorySquare on this Remembrance Day. I would feel like an interloper showing fake
emotion and passion for people gone that I never knew.
But at the
same time every occasion when I read or hear “Lest we forget,” I take it
personally that people in this city have a short memory for events of the very
own city they live in.
It was in
the 80’s that I was dispatched by Vancouver Magazine to photograph at night
(because the art director Chris Dahl told me so) the buildings, bridges and
monuments that had been built by Thompson, Berwick, Pratt & Partners
(ceased to operate in 1990) and by a precursor firm headed by Major G.L.
Thornton Sharp who built the Cenotaph. The article was written by Sean Rossiter and alas we no longer have credible writing about our city architecture.
eerie to photograph that Cenotaph at night as it was free of pedestrians. I had
to put my camera on a tripod to use a technique (made irrelevant by digital
cameras later) called Extended Range Night Photography.
The Potentiality of a Rosebud
Sunday, November 04, 2018
|Rosa 'Benjamin Britten' November 4 2018|
In philosophy, potentiality and actuality are a pair of
closely connected principles which Aristotle used to analyze motion, causality,
ethics, and physiology in his Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics and De
Anima, which is about the human psyche.
The concept of potentiality, in this context, generally
refers to any "possibility" that a thing can be said to have.
Aristotle did not consider all possibilities the same, and emphasized the
importance of those that become real of their own accord when conditions are
right and nothing stops them. Actuality, in contrast to potentiality, is the
motion, change or activity that represents an exercise or fulfillment of a
possibility, when a possibility becomes real in the fullest sense.
Thompson concludes that he is unable to solve the mystery
and that the meaning of Kane's last word will forever remain an enigma. As the
film ends, the camera reveals that "Rosebud" is the trade name of the
sled on which the eight-year-old Kane was playing on the day that he was taken
from his home in Colorado.
Citizen Kane – Wikipedia
More often than not a rosebud as seen in books, the net
or in the garden are unopened roses in which you can discern the eventual
colour of the rose. The petals are tightly closed.
But few ever stop to look at that step before the colour
shows and how these buds, especially in old roses (or in the case here an
English Rose), can be a thing of beauty.
My first real knowledge of the word potential came in my
high school physics. With people, including ourselves, we sometimes deprecate them if they do not fulfill
their potential and become a failure.
My mentor, Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. without
mentioning God told us that our obligation in life was to find out what we did
well and then to do it.
I wonder what Brother Edwin would have said had he seen
this delightfully beautiful Rosa ‘Benjamin Britten’. Considering that today is
Novermber 4 there was no possibility that this bud would ever become what it
was meant to be. Is it a failure?
When is a rose not a rose?
The Darkroom & the Glove
Saturday, November 03, 2018
Thanks to a very long magazine career that spanned
Vancouver, the rest of Canada and many magazines from abroad I have a huge file
of negatives, slides and prints that nobody I know is aware of its size with
the exception of perhaps my Rosemary.
Then in and around 2000 when I embarked in a new career
of thinking myself to be an artist I took many and many more photographs. I
shot lots of film previewing without knowing the era of the
On a rainy and dreary Vancouver evening (today), what
could be better than to cross my garden deck into my oficina and take out a
file at random. And of course, not so random it is. I am not about to go to my
files in search of lawyers when I can randomly search my files of women.
In years past it was expensive. I would make a large mug
of tea and go to my darkroom. I would pour the fixer, stop bath and
photographic developer into the proper trays. I would then go to my negatives
just as I am doing now. I would slip my choice into my enlarger negative
carrier and print until I was satisfied that I had the best print.
Now I can scan negatives and slides, colour negatives and
6x7cm transparencies. If I want to I can then look at the image in my Dell CRT
monitor and press print. Out of my Canon Pro-1 a few minutes later I would get
as perfect a print to my personal satisfaction and standard.
And all of this would happen and is happening with a
pleasant light on my desk. The air is pure and there are no fixer fumes.
Beauty in Fall Decay
Friday, November 02, 2018
|Aconitum carmichaelii 'Arendsii' November 2 2018|
queda el fuego en la chimenea. Si arrojamos esta rosa a las brasas, creerías
que ha sido consumida y que la ceniza es verdadera. Te digo que la rosa es
eterna y que solo su apariencia puede cambiar.
de Paracelso – Jorge Luís Borges
The wood still burns in the grate. If
you cast the rose on those embers, you
will believe that it has been consumed,
and that the ash is all. I tell you the rose
is eternal: and only its appearance can
change. The Rose of Paracelsus – Jorge Luís Borges
|Rosa 'Benjamin Britten' & Aconitum carmichaelii 'Arendsii' Ocotber 11 2018|
Years ago when I photographed Swedish actress Viveca
Lindfors she told me that I should do nothing to soften the age in her face.
She told me something like, “This is my face and I am proud of it.”
A few weeks ago I looked her up on the web and found that
she had died on October 25 1995 when she was 75. This can be sobering when I
note to myself that I am now 76. Many of my Vancouver friends have gone at an
earlier age and others are struggling with life threatening diseases.
As a little boy and even as a young man the only people
who won the lottery or died lived across the street.
Rosemary and I are putting our Kitsilano deck garden to
sleep for the winter. Many of the plants do not look at all like they did in
their prime. And yet I see lots of beauty in the decay. Unlike humans of my age
these perennials will go into a deep sleep called dormancy and emerge in the
At about this time in our garden some of my roses have
buds that will not open and get spots from rain damage. I see beauty in them.
In our society men and women are given different standards
on their appearance as they age. Men have character lines. Women don’t. I find
this unfair. My Rosemary (and her husband) does not look much like she did when
I first saw her in Mexico City in 1968. But I am attracted to her now (and I
will not use that offensive adverb still).
I am attracted to her in the same way that I learn to adjust to a brand new car
that ages comfortably. That car can never be as they say in my native Buenos
Aires, “cero kilómetro”. Nothing is new for long.
But as I have observed above humans and perennial plants differ
in that we cannot renew ourselves except perhaps upstairs in our brain.
For years I had the ambition to go up to a woman of a
certain age and say to her, “I want to photograph you. I want to photograph you
undraped just as you are now. I see in you the beautiful fall colours of my
plants as they begin to disappear and only my memory will remind me what they
looked like then.”
If I even approached such a woman and use the word decay
or the drooping of a body being affected inexorably by gravity, I would be
slapped, or ignored.
|Rosa 'Benjamin Britten' November 2 2018|
I am happy to report that I have found such a woman. I
photographed her when she was 22. She is now 61.
I have been having bouts of insomnia as I think of
techniques to be considered. In this insomnia there is also the consideration
of how lucky I am and how I can look forward to a project that Viveca Lindfors would
approve of. As she said to her interviewer, John Lekich and this photographer, “Actors
act, writers write and photographers photograph.”
Thursday, November 01, 2018
My Christmases in Buenos Aires (I left in 1954 when I was
12) seem unreal every time Christmas is in the air in Vancouver. Some of the hottest
days of the Buenos Aires summer happen around Christmas. It can be 40.
It seems more so that we used to spray our trees with a
product my mother would bring from her friends at the American Embassy. It was
called Noma and it was labeled as snow.
Before globalization took a firm grip Santa Claus in my Argentina was not all that
well known. We called him Papá Noel. Much more exciting for us was the Epiphany
on January 6 which in Latin America is called el Día de los Reyes (the Three
Kings Day). On the fifth we would put shoes outside our bedroom door. The next day
the shoes would overflow with toys, not the practical clothing we got on Nochebuena ( Christmas Eve). Christmas Eve was celebrated by going to Misa de
Gallo (midnight Mass) and then at around 1:30 in the morning we would return to
I did not have the ordinary Christmases that my friends had.
Because of my English father and the fact that my mother had friends in the
American Embassy, I was given really nice toys for Christmas.
My parents would
have never dared give me the wooden toys that Eva Perón would send us on
January 6. Had I kept those terrible and useless wooden toys they would not be
worth a lot of money.
My father’s most memorable gift was a red Schuco wind-up
racer that had a real suspension and and steering. It was not long after I
opened the box containing this exciting toy that I lost the key. I cried. But
my father miraculously removed another key from his pocket.
From my mother my favourite gift as an American version of
the English Meccano (and far better) an Erector Set. It had nuts and bolts and
all kinds of metal pieces that I could have swallowed and died on the spot. It
was marvellous! It came with an electric motor. I remember that I made a robot
which I called Gilbert that would roll along.
I am happy to report that the Erector Set is available in
the expensive Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue.
But in this day and age I would probably not find any kid
with my Buenos Aires age who would be excited. When was the last time any kid
you know state that when they grow up they wanted to be an engineer (of a train
or of the other kind)? The kid would be disappointed not to get a smart phone
or computer game.
All the above is another reason why I get depressed on
Christmas Eve. I miss the Buenos Aires heat. I miss my parents and the
excitement and challenging strain of attempting to stay awake at Midnight Mass.
In those long gone days we were careful in opening our
gifts. Now my granddaughters rip off the gift wrapping that my Rosemary does so well.
And finally to end this pre-Christmassy rant I have to point
out that when I arrived in Vancouver in 1975, while watching TV I found out
something about myself I did not know. I told Rosemary who was in the kitchen
(or somewhere else), “Rosemary, according to this TV ad it seems I have
something called dyslexia.”
If I were to start again on my career in Vancouver I
would become a lawyer and sue Toys Are
Us for their backwards R.