Gillian, Calvin Klein, Channel No 5 & My Basement Tub
Saturday, October 21, 2006
I had been working on a gallery show featuring women in tubs when my friend Kerry McPhedran told me she had a candidate. I had chosen all my other ones personally so I wondered how I was supposed to "inspect" this one. Kerry told me that Gillian was a swimmer and was perfect as she was very comfortable with her body. The day of the shoot came (sight unseen, I had accepted Kerry's offer) and Gillian appeared at my house. She lay a set of Channel No 5 cosmetics on a little table, took her clothes off in one swoop and neatly placed her Calvin Klein underwear by the cosmetics. She slipped into the tub and I took my photographs.
Jennifer Mascall & The Gracefully Presented Altoids
Friday, October 20, 2006
Wednesday at Brief Encounters at The Anza Club, a woman was sitting to my right. In the dim light, with the help of glasses, she was reading a thick French novel in spite of the jungle driven booming sounds of DJ Jacob Cino. She seemed impervious to it all and in my imagination she could have been British Royalty slumming for the evening. But the woman who opened a little tin and then offered me an Altoid, with the panache that belies the grace of a dancer, was choreographer Jennifer Mascall (left).
There are many fantastic choreographers in town like Cori Caulfield, Susan Elliott, Peter Bingham, Crystal Pite, John Alleyne, Judith Garay, Day Helesic, Emily Molnar and more. But only Mascall (and Crystal Pite) seems to have gone beyond in a wonderful off-the-wall wierdness that manages not only to be in exquisite taste but also happens to entertain while pushing the boundaries of narrative.
It has been a few years since I came to realize that 5 photographs tell a better story than 1. I call them narratives. Mascall has been narrative-driven in her ballets since the first one of hers that I saw, on Emily Carr, called The Brutal Telling
in 1998. She had crowds of dance enthusiasts (including this one, with wife, eldest daughter Ale, and two granddaughters) going from one West Vancouver garden to another in her 2004 Garden Dances
series. This work even included some swimming and trampoline dance that so appealed to my granddaughters that they tried to emmulate dancer/swimmer Ron Stewart by plunging into the pool in clothes.
But the work that has persisted in my mind as the most challenging work by Mascall was her 2003 Housewerk
performed by her troupe at Hycroft Mansion in Vancouver. In the first section the audience was shepherded to one room. After that we were divided into four groups and we all saw the next segments of the dance in different rooms and in different order. The narrative was a narrative that I would simply define as a dance version of hypertext. My Rebecca, who was almost 6 stayed awake through the whole performance that featured the less booming sounds of Jacob Cino. In the large drawing room, jazz pianist Paul Plimley improvised while the dancers finished our version of our finale. In the photo here, from left to right Katy Harris-McLeod, Sophie Allison, (below) Keely Remillard (with broom), Ziyian Kwan, Dean Makarenko, Jen Murray and Ron Stewart (far right).
Mascall Dance Company
Lauren Elizabeth Stewart - Mezzo-soprano-in-waiting
Thursday, October 19, 2006
When Rebecca Anne was born 9 years ago it didn't take me long to warm up to the little girl she quickly became. I have been smitten since. Hilary became pregnant again four years ago and I (almost) seriously told her that if she had a little boy I would disown her. Luckily things worked out as I planned and Lauren Elizabeth is with us. At the dinner table yesterday Lauren and I played the staring-at-each-other-game to see who would blink first. Hilary had invited us over and Graham Walker, too. Graham and I were going to Brief Encounters 4 at The Anza Club. We wanted to see Susan Elliott. Lauren is particularly fond of Susan Elliott's brand of contact improvisational dance. I have taken her to rehearsals with Rebecca and I long for Lauren to be just a bit older. Then both of them will accompany me to dance performances.
But perhaps dance is not in Lauren's future quite yet. Right now I would say she is a mezzo-soprano-in-waiting. She has a startling low pitched voice.
Nan Fairchild Sherlock & Matteuccia struthiopteris
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I knew Nan Sherlock, Vancouver's "Fern Lady" for 16 years and when she died in July 2004 I went out to my back garden and feasted my eyes on the many (as in many) Matteuccia struthiopteris
or ostrich ferns that compete for light and space with my hostas. Through the years I had purchased one or two of these from Nan at the yearly VanDusen plant sale. With a smile on her face she would place them in my hands and tell me of all their wonderful qualities. Not once did she mention that the ostrich fern is the honorary rabbit of the plant kingdom. I may now have 40 of them as they spread with their underground rhizomes. They are more agressive than some of my very large hostas. At one time I had ostrich ferns as hosta companions. The hostas are now second fiddles. When the fiddleheads emerge in by the end of April I know its time to go to the VanDusen Plant Sale. From experience I have learned that after that first week of May if I move any of them they will die back, but they will come back the next year after a good year's rest. When the beautiful outer fronds begin to die back in the late summer, the inner, erect, spike-like, dark brown fertile fronds remain.
They go a very dark chocolate brown and remain year-round. I cut them and bring them inside where they look beautiful in vases. I may have at least 35 varieties of ferns. Many came via Nan Sherlock. I miss her a lot but when I look at any of my beloved ostrich ferns I remember her and smile.
The School For Scandal - Lauren, Christopher, & Dean Paul
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Last Saturday Lauren (Joey, her pet kangaroo) and I ran into Christopher Gaze coming out of the Arts Club Theatre. Gaze was there rehearsing his role in the Richard Brinsley Sheridan play The School For Scandal
which is directed by Dean Paul Gibson. While neither Christopher Gaze or Dean Paul Gibson are as sexy as Jane Russell in The Outlaw
they still are two good reasons to go and see this play. And see this play I will.
I have had the pleasure of knowing both Christopher Gaze (almost 27 years) and Dean Paul Gibson (only 4 years). I have photographed them more than once. Since I first saw Gaze as Richard III 25 or more years ago, I have been enriched by his easing of Shakespeare into my life. In the last few years he has had the expert help of Dean Paul Gibson as a both a director and an actor in his Bard On The Beach
. Anybody who has not ever seen Gibson do one of his Jack Nicholson imitations is very unlucky indeed! I think that Dean Paul Gibson may be one of the funniest men in Vancouver. And in this picture he almost gives Jane Russell a run for her money.
The School for Scandal opens at the Stanley on October 26.
Dean Paul Gibson - One More Time
Looking at that contact sheet of 9 photographs of Dean Paul Gibson I have a terrible time trying to decide on one of them. When Gibson did this just for me in my studio I was in tears.
Woman In Red
Monday, October 16, 2006
My eldest daughter Ale took it upon herself to begin filing all my photographs some 12 years ago and did such a great job that I can find anything in my files if I remember my subjects' names. Sometimes her filing system is quirky. My self-portraits are filed as self-portraits. It took me a while to figure that one out. Recently I discovered the Woman in Red. I photographed her about 29 years ago and all I remember is that she lived in upper East Hastings in Burnaby and that even in red she was awfully cool. 29 years ago I thought I was going to shoot fashion and models. I worked for a while for the (Marie) Morton Talent Agency. I remember Marie telling me once, "When I send you young men to photograph make sure none of them are wearing puka shell necklaces." Marie must have sent the Woman in Red my way. I think that I also photographed her somewhere in a Richmond wild park where it had recently snowed. The out of focus (in reality the blur is caused by camera shake) marks the first use of my mother's beautiful Mexican red rebozo. It was given to her in 1950 and it is made of an extremely rough fibre and its intense redness marks it as some sort of vegetable dye that is no longer used. Many of my models (mostly the undraped ones) have worn this rebozo which has the sweet smell of olinalá
wood. I store it in a Mexican lacquered chest that came from Olinalá in the state of Guerrero where the trees used to make the lacquered chest once grew. Most are gone because of over-logging.
Île de Bourbon & Louise Odier
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Reunion, a French island in the Southern Indian Ocean has had several names during the years. Arab sailors called it Dina Morgavin
(Western Island) until 1513 when the Portuguese named it Santa Apollonia
. In 1638 the French occupied it and Louis XIII named it Île de Bourbon
in 1643. When Louis XIII lost his head the name of the island was changed to Reunion.
In 1801 it changed again to Île Bonaparte
. In 1810 Commodore Josias Rowley took posession of the island for England and reverted the name back to Île de Bourbon
. It kept that name until 1848 when the island was restored back to France as Reunion.
It was during the "English" period that rose history was made. A China rose with the peculiar ability to be remontant (it bloomed more than once as many other China roses) crossed paths with an ancient Damask rose called 'Quatre Saisons'. 'Quatre Saisons' blooms, at best twice, in June and then a couple of months later. This is an example of early false advertising. The China rose has had different names in its past. It has been called 'Parson's Pink', 'Old Blush'and by the inhabitants of Reunion as Rosa
'Édouard'. 'Old Blush',as she is known today and 'Quatre Seasons' produced roses that sometimes had the open-faced look of the latter and at others a tight multi petalled ball that resembled the former. M Bréon, director of the island's botanic garden sent seeds to M Jacques who was the head gardener of the Duc d'Orleans. Bréon recognized, with excitement, that these new roses were indeed new. These remontant roses with many colours (except yellow) dominated rose production well into the 19th century. One of the salient characteristics of Bourbon Roses is its intense perfume.
I have been buying Bourbon roses carefully as the ones that have tight incurved flowers tend to ball up in Vancouver rain. In spite of it, my Rosa 'Reine Victoria'(before they open the flowers look like deep pink ping pong balls) does well. Some years ago I was told that the Bourbon rose to have was Louíse Odier' so I bought her from the Langley Dutch sheep farmer and rose breeder Jean Tuytel. But it wasn't 'Louise Odier'. The rose that first flowered in my garden was a much rarer sport of 'Reine Victoria' which instead of being deep pink was white with a very light pink colouring in some petals. She was delicate and hard to grow but grow she has, if not well. I finally got to 'Louise Odier'. She is in a pot on my back garden path waiting for late fall when I will put her into the ground. Meanwhile she has been showing off and here you see 6 blooms I cut last night (there was another but the petals fell). I wasn't too sad to cut them all as I knew that today's rains would probably put an end to them.
Not much is known about where she came from except that M. Margottin introduced her in 1851. Who was Louise Odier? I have not been able to find out. But consider that one of the most beautiful of the more modern English Roses is Rosa 'L.D. Braithwaite'. Hybridizer David Austin has named this superb deep red rose after his father-in-law. Another salient characteristic of Louise is that she is a tetraploid. It seems that she can grow well in Southern Sweden. But that's another story for another day.