The Crouching John MacLachlan GraySunday, April 23, 2006
I know him as John Gray even though most know him as John MacLachlan Gray, newspaper columnist and purveyor of gritty Victorian era novels set in London. Last Friday he sat on the other side of the table at dinner at the Opus Hotel and I was reminded how he was instrumental in helping me achieve some sort of longevity in a profession (photography) that is more fleeting than permanent. I first met him in August 1982 on the set of Billy Bishop Goes to War at the Vancouver Playhouse. I photographed him and Eric Peterson in front of a corrugated wall that was supposed to evoke a WW-I fighter plane hangar. Through the years I followed his career as a musician, composer, entertainer (with a piano he is dynamite). He has been a columnist on several local and national newspapers and made wonderful and caustic skits for CBC's The Journal. Then he kind of disappeared and suddenly I started reading about a John MacLachlan Gray who was a novelist. The Georgia Straight asked me to photograph him at his home in April 2003.
Back then (the fax era before the email era) when we all seemed to have more time I used to call John at home and we would talk. I once cried the blues to him on how my photographic career was languishing and nobody called me anymore. "Alex, he said, "disappear for a while. Crouch, is what I call it. Then come back with something completely different." Crouching has served me well and I hope John lives long and that I am around to see what he is up to after his next crouch. Meanwhile I am going to open his novel White Stone Day and enjoy myself.