Lauren, Rebecca And An Exquisite Routine
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Routine and boredom are not the same thing. For two years my Saturday routine has been a most exciting part of my week and also paradoxically it gives me a sense of peace and refuge from worry and stress. At 9:45 (when our granddaugthers do not sleep over at our house) I pick up, Rebecca (8½) and Lauren (3½) and drive to Granville Island. At that time it is easy to park. I deposit Rebecca at her ballet class at the Arts Umbrella and walk leisurely to the Granville Island Market. I buy a plain croissant (or sometimes she wants a Smarties cookie) for Lauren and we then sit down at the Granville Island Tea Company for exactly one hour. I try different black teas while Lauren eats the inside of her croissant. I then dunk the crust she does not like in my tea. The young ladies who work at the Tea Company, all talk to Lauren. They are amazed that she will sit for that length of time. The regulars all come and I know what kind of tea they are going to ask for. Lauren and I love this routine. She happily repeats the words of Spanish I expose her to. Every once in a while there are no ballet classes but Rebecca and Lauren and I still go to the island. It is on those occasions that I can manage to photograph them together. For the task I use a Nikon FM-2 loaded with Ektachrome 100G. The exposure is always around 1/30 with a 35mm lens wide open at F-2.
Nick Muni, Faust & Juan Manuel Sánchez
Friday, April 21, 2006
|Photo Illustration - Juan Manuel Sánchez - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
|Photo Illustration - Juan Manuel Sánchez - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
Imagine that Jack Shadbolt were alive and living in Argentina. Imagine calling him up and telling him you were assigned to photograph an American director involved in an opera production of Gounod's Faust. Imagine the thrill of having him collaborate in a photo illustration. I have had that thrill because Juan Manuel Sánchez, 74, is an Argentine painter living in Vancouver of Shadbolt's equivalent caliber. He speaks no English, so he feels a bit isolated. He sometimes tells me, "I am a penguin in Canada. That is about as lonely as a polar bear in Argentina." When the Straight
asked me, with very short notice, to photograph Nick Muni, who is directing the Vancouver Opera's production of Faust, I knew that only a colaboración
(this is what Juan and I call our joint works)would save me. I gave Juan three 8x10 prints of Nick Muni in case he made a mistake. Overnight Juan worked on one of them and proudly returned the other two, unused. If you look closely, you will notice that Mephistopheles has military epaulets much like an Argentine general. I had one hell of a time convincing Juan to keep clothes on Marguerite. "If you don't," I told Juan, "our collaborative career at the Straight will be shortlived."
Juan Manuel Sánchez
Bob Bose And The Grand Coulee Dam
Thursday, April 20, 2006
I always wanted to be an engineer until I stumbled over the difference between capacitance and inductance. But I have not lost my interest in engineering. One of my favourite authors is Henry Petroski, whose book To Engineer is Human - The Role of Failure in Successful Design
led me to read anything he publishes. Another fave of mine is L. Sprague de Camp's The Ancient Engineers
. It was in this book that I found out that Sennacherib (705-681 BC), the Assyrian engineer/king, set up the first no parking signs (for chariots) in Nineveh. They read: Royal Road. Let No Man Lesten It.
In the mid 30s an organization called Technocracy started in the US with the idea that engineers in governing position would make the world a better one. The folks at General Electric used to advertise, Progress is our most important product.
Somewhere along the line these engineers became linked with fascism and its obsession with order. The only thing good that people ever said about Mussolini is that the trains ran on time. Later on, Alcoa, General Electric and General Motors all somehow failed to make our world a better one.
But I still had hope, and in particular in 1988, when I photographed Bob Bose for his campaign (with backing from the NDP) for mayor of Surrey, BC. He was a pragmatic and intelligent man who happened to be a chemical engineer. He was also skilled in the use of a 4x5 inch camera. When I photographed him, with his chain of office, in the Surrey City Hall I was hoping that the much vaunted order of the engineer would produce results. He was against the mall development of Surrey and that cost him his job in the end.
In 2002 I had to go to Spokane, Washington to a hosta convention. When I realized that the Grand Coulee dam was not too far out of the way I made a detour. The whole site made me think of the excitement of a past era that believed in engineering and the wonders of harnessing nature's power.
Stravinsky, Parsifal, Beethoven, Rodney Graham & Robert Silverman
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Photographic assignments involving musicians are always a challenge. How can one be original if it has all been done before? And most difficult of all is a pianist. This is particularly true if one has memory of Arnold Newman's difinitive portrait. When the Globe & Mail
asked me to photograph Canadian conceptual artist, Rodney Graham's show Recital
at the Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery at UBC I was momentarily stymied. A pre-programmed grand piano was part of the show. By converting Wagner's score for Parsifal into mathematical formulas Graham had conceeived a piece of music that began in 1882- the premiere of the Wagner opera - and which will come to an end in 39 billion years. The programed piano would play one note every ten or twenty minutes (the pattern of notes can be seen in the wall behind Graham and piano (above, left). Since Rodney Graham and I have shared the same floor, where we have separate studios for some 12 years, I know that he is not as scary and serious as he looks. His Parsifal project had something of a tongue in cheek in it. I decided to rip off Arnold Newman. The folks at the Globe & Mail
respected my request to keep my crop so as to make the photo look more like Newman's. In October 2000 I had to photograph for the Georgia Straight
solo pianist Robert Silverman who had just recorded all of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas. When I arrived at Silverman's UBC office I knew what I was going to do.
Tinkering With A BRM P261 V8
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
This is British Formula 1 driver Graham Hill tinkering with his BRM P261 V8 during the trials for the 1964 Mexican Gran Prix. On one of the days I positioned myself at a difficult curve. I noticed a tar spot on it. Every time Graham Hill took the curve, his car was always at the same distance from the spot, which was unlike the other drivers who seemed to have less precision. For more:
The Royal Hudson And The Killer Whale
Monday, April 17, 2006
In December 1981, on contract with CP Rail, I was dispatched to photograph the Royal Hudson. She was being repaired at the CPR's Drake Street yard (where the refurbished Roundhouse on Pacific Avenue is now). 2860, the Royal Hudson's Montreal Locomotive Works serial number, is how she is affectionately called. She lay in the repair bay on a shorth length track, only slightly longer than her 90-foot, 10 inches length. She reminded me of the first locomotive I ever saw, in the late 40s. It also had the 4-6-4 wheel arrangement. Six large wheels were powered and the eight smaller ones were used for steering and stability, But that one was only five feet long and inside a glass display case at the entrance of Retiro, the cavernous Victorian style train station in Buenos Aires. My father had put a coin in a slot and the locomotive's wheels turned. I was most impressed by the glow of fire under the tracks.
While 2860 had been making the round trip from North Vancouver to Squamish since 1974, she had taken a different route to Drake Street. From the North Vancouver BC Rail yard she had crossed the CN Railway bridge at Second Narrows and steamed through the Thornton tunnel under Capitol Hill to the CPR/CNR interchange at Sapperton. She then headed to Port Coquitlam and then back on the CPR's tracks to Gastown. She went through the Dunsmuir tunnel and under the Connaught bridge (the old Cambie Street bridge) to Drake.
In 1979 I took my family on the Royal Hudson excursion to Squamish. Both my daughters came in long dreses and I photographed them (Hilary,7, left and Ale, 11, right)in the last rail car. It had colourful wooden seats. When 2860 changed tracks in Squamish to turn around, Frank Smith, the engineer, told us 2860's H1-e class engine generated 4500 horsepower at 60 mph.
Since 2550 and 2851, both earlier H1-d class Hudsons pulled King George VI and Queen Elizabeth across Canada in 1939, the whole class of locomotives from 2850 to 2864 was designated Royal. Only 2860 was still running until a yearly inspection in December 1999 indicated her fire box had to be replaced. It will take between $1 million to 2 million to get her in shape. I have not yet heard if she will ever fire her boiler again.
Rebecca, Hilary's daughter took the excursion with another older train, the 3716. This brings to mind that Hilary, Ale and Rebecca were all splashed (in different years) by a killer whale while sitting too close to the glass barrier at the Vancouver Aquarium. Will Rebecca's sister, Lauren, 3½, ever experience either pleasure?
The Easter Bunny, Brother Edwin Reggio & Attila Richard Lukacs
Sunday, April 16, 2006
In my old Catholic missal I remember distinctly that every Sunday mass and feast day had a category of importance or ranking. The most important Sunday and or feast day of the year is not Christmas but Easter. Brother Edwin Reggio, my religion teacher at St. Edward's High School in Austin, Texas explained why. If after the crucifixion, Jesus did not rise from the dead, then everything He preached was a lie. The other and now almost forgotten, but very important feast, is January 6th's Epiphany. Until the advent of the New Testament only circumcised Jews (the chosen people who had made a compact with God) could be saved. The three wise kings represented the gentiles (uncircumcised heathens!) who now could be part of the fold. One day, trying to waste time in class, we asked Brother Edwin why it was that Easter had a bunny. Since we were in Texas we understood his explanation that the hare or rabbit at night will pop up here and then disappear and pop up somewhere else. This was very much the case of Jesus after Easter. He would appear here and there but not long enough for "doubting" St Thomas to believe as true.
Today I photographed a group of Vancouver artists including Attila Richard Lukacs who asked Rebecca if she looked forward to the coming of the Easter Bunny. Rebecca (8½) replied, "The Easter Bunny does not exist."