Elmore Leonard, Richard Margison & The Gentleman
Saturday, May 27, 2006
In 1997 I had to photograph for the Globe & Mail, Victoria tenor Richard Margison. He was in Vancouver in preparation for his role as Manrico in the Vancouver Opera production of Verdi's Il Trovatore
. It was fun to watch him become Manrico while beeing fitted for his coat. The Globe arts writer, not an expert on opera, was Christopher Dafoe. I have worked with many writers in my 30 years in Vancouver and there are two qualities that Dafoe had that still stand out. Before I define those qualities I would like to point out that Dafoe is very much alive except that he is no longer a journalist. He graduated from the UBC Law School and he is now clerking at the Supreme Court. Chris's two qualities were his ability to say very little during interviews. His subjects opened up to this gentle technique. Watching Chris watch Elmore Leonard eat a hamburger at the Lazy Gourmet was special. Leonard forgot he was being interviewed. Dafoe was, above all, a kind man and a kind reviewer who never insulted any of his subjects in print. That is more that I can say about other local writers. One movie reviewer, over his head and confusing movies with opera, reviewed Margison's excellent Manrico for a local weekly. He called Margison a "beach ball with a toupee." When I read that I was ashamed to be a Vancouverite.
Friday, May 26, 2006
When I went to his funeral in 1980 they were playing Red River Valley at his request. After I photographed Silas Huckleback (aka Melvin Read Burritt) in 1978 I used to visit him (he lived near Mountain Highway in North Vancouver) with my two daughters who loved to see him dressed in his buckskins. While he looked like a genuine buffalo hunter, Silas was always up front in saying that he was born two years later that 1887 when the last bison were seen in Alberta. Silas survived Passchendale's trenches but was evacuated to England when a farmer caught him stealing a chicken and shot him in the rear with a shotgun. Silas always offered me (and I could not decline) his black raspberry wine. On his wall he had a little epithet that read
When the legends die, the dreams end.
When the dreams cease, there is no more greatness.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
With all the talk and hype about the recent Jessie Award nominations I always think of the gracious lady I photographed in June 1978. She was 82 and her name was Jessie Richardson. She had been born in England and had come to Canada in 1919. She devoted the last 40 years of her life (she died in 1980) to theater. Her favourite roles where Miss Julie in Hedda Gabbler and Anfisa in Chekhov's Three Sisters. And, yes, she did invite me for a cup of tea.
Pamela Martin's Clam
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Vancouver Magazine editor, Mac Parry (aka Malcolm Parry) assigned me in May 1984 to find 6 interesting Vancouverites who happened to own boats for a summer themed June issue. I called my friend Alyn Edwards, car collector and restorer (specializing in convertible hardtop Fords, Meteors and battle ship gray T Birds) and BCTV newscaster and asked him if he knew anybody who owned a boat. "Pamela owns a boat but I cannot tell you if it is a good one." So a few days later I made an appointment with Martin at a dock where she had her boat. I will never forget the occasion because of two details. While I was taking pictures of Martin I watched as my prime 50mm F-1.4 lens rolled off (in what I perceived as slow motion) the dock and into the sea. The second was the name of the boat. I asked Martin about it. She explained that her man at the time was called Clyde. "Combine Clyde and Pam and that's how you get to Clam," she said.
Quite a few years later, when Fanny Kiefer had a radio talks show program, she invited me for an interview. She made that usual question of what person I had photographed that had made the most impression on me. I decided to be playful and said on live radio, "I want to tell you about Pamela Sue (yes!) Martin's Clam. Within seconds a man called into the show who said he had purchased the Clam and was very happy with it.
For an interesting explanation on the the origin of the sexual connotation of the clam to a woman's privates check page 79 of Stephen Jay Gould's Leonardo's Mountain Of Clams And The Diet Of Worms
(1998, New York, Harmony Books). The illustration on that page is reproduced above.
The Midwich Cuckoos
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
I was 24 and in Mexico City when Ingeniero Luis de la Rosa introduced me to Kodak b+w Infrared Film. He warned me to open the container and load the film only in absolute darkness. I ignored his instructions. I did not believe him when he said that the film would be fogged, as light would slide in through the felts into the cassette. He was right and I had to try again. He suggested that I use Kodak HC-110 to process the film instead of the usual D-76. I have worked with de la Rosa's formula all these years. Part of the tradition (which I started with my two daughters Hilary and Ale in 1978 ( top, Hilary, Rebecca and Lauren's mother, left and Ale, right) has been to photograph my granddaughters Rebecca and Lauren (bottom left and right) with this film. They come out with white lips (normal if I used purple based lipstick) and look like the child blond fiends from the Wolf Rilla film Village of the Damned
. The film was based on the book by British science fiction writer John Wyndham, The Midwich Cuckoos
. The book will always remind me of Ale's godfather, Andrew Taylor, who is from Yorkshire. He lent me his book in Mexico City and introduced me to the books of Wyndham. I saw the movie in the early 60s in the Israeli/Mexican Institute of Cultural Relations. Wolf Rilla was present and he explained that every frame of film (before digital special effects) had to be re-touched by hand so that blond children's eyes would make them look like fiends. Another reason to remember the film is George Sanders who had the lead adult part.
My friend Maanus Pikker invited us to the VanDusen Garden British Car Show on Saturday. Rebecca and I agreed that the best car in the show was the powder blue Jaguar (top left) and that the new Lotus Elise, top right was the only new car in the show that could in any way match the excitement of the old Lagondas and Aston Martins we saw.
Tamara Taggart In Bed
Monday, May 22, 2006
In 1992 during a Halloween evening at the Anza Club Art Bergmann and his band played dressed in drag. At the time I was preparing a one man show (a double one man show) in which I was going to display 50 photographs of Art Bergmann taken from the late 70s up to that time at the Red Dot Gallery on West Hastings. So I went back stage and took pictures of Art applying makeup, etc plus this one of the group. I also asked Art if he would pose with his wife Sherri in bed for me. He did. I was thrilled with the results.
A month ago Randall Watson, Vancouver Magazine's art director, assigned me to photograph Tamara Taggart. I made up my mind that I was going to photograph her in bed with her new husband Dave Genn. It took me a few minutes to figure out that I had photographed Dave back in 1992 at the Anza Club. That's Dave, at the bottom left with long hair. I also decided that I would do my best to have Taggart pose with the least amount of makeup. I wanted to make her look as different as possible from her CTV weathercaster look. Perhaps after I fired the Anza Club and the Art in Bed photos to Taggart via email, things were softened up a bit and I got what I wanted. Vancouver Magazine published a colour version of this b+w one.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
I cannot abide showy flowers that don't have scent. Most of my garden roses are fragrant. Rosemary is in charge of clematis since I have no interest in them. Most are scent free plus they are fragile and you have to know higher mathematics (Rosemary does my income taxes) to find out when and how to prune them. The only clematis that I like is Clematis montana
. This one is very fragrant. To me its scent is reminiscent of the sugar coating in the inside of Adams Chiclets squares. Not only that, but Clematis montana is an honorary bamboo. If you don't prune it back every few years it can bring down your house. The clematis shown here is Clematis
President'. It is even beautiful before the flower opens. Clematis is pronounced with emphasis in the first syllable. I often seriously ask the master gardeners (most are very correct older women) who have 'clinics' at local nurseries how they pronounce clematis. Their usual answer is with emphasis in the second syllable. At that point I ask them how to pronounce c-l-i-t-o-r-i-s. They shoo me away. The fact is that both words are emphasized in that first syllable.