Betty Sommerville, Malaspina Printmakers & Lauren Stewart
Saturday, November 04, 2006
I can safely say that of all the many designers I have worked with in all my years in Vancouver, the one who always gave me free reign and (most important) never nagged about, "When is it going to be done?" was and is Elizabeth Sommerville whom we all call Betty. She is now dedicating her time (and would you believe, successfully?) to making etchings and stuff at Malaspina Printmakers
. She is there with my other two artist friends Graham Walker and Rosamond Norbury. For a small service rendered, Betty offered to pay with a couple of her works. I jumped at the opportunity as Lauren's sister, Rebecca has a Graham Walker
etching. Here was an excellent opportunity for Lauren (4) to begin her art collection. Betty's nest was perfect and here you see Betty with Lauren in a recent fall day at Granville Island. Lauren loves to play with the sand clocks that some of the tea drinkers use at the Granville Island Tea Company
. I just wait for my Organic Tanzanian to be as strong as possible.
Waiting for Rebecca to come out from her Arts Umbrella jazz class with Edmond Kilpatrick Lauren and I noticed the strange way that fall leaves fall on the island so we decided to document the event with my Nikon FM and its 50mm F-1.4 lens and, of course with Blossom the rabbit.
Friday, November 03, 2006
On Wednesday night, at the opening performance of the Arts Club Theatre Company's The School For Scandal
my laughs (this is a very funny play) were dampened by a reality that became too obvious as the evening progressed. I only counted two actors on stage that I had previously photographed, Colin Heath and Christopher Gaze. But amongst the audience I recognized at the very least 50 people, who were or are friends, actors, business people, doctors of medicine, that I have photographed in the past and recent past. Some of them stared at me not quite remembering where they had seen me. We photographers can be transparent. I first photographed Bill Millerd, the artistic managing director of the Arts Club about 30 years ago. He would not have remembered me now and there he was. So was sports doctor Doug Clement (above left) and research scientist Julia Levy.
The evening reminded me of 1960 film The Time Machine
with Rod Taylor. In the film, when Rod Taylor as George (H.G.) Wells straps himself to the time machine and moves into the future, rapid projections behind him show the future (some initial flashes are WW I, the next are WWII, in between, trees grow and die quickly, cities appear and then disappear. The people crowding the Stanley Theatre lobby reminded me of these scenes, but in slow motion.
I thought of the saddest words I have read in many years, in Harold Bloom's How To Read and Why
(2000). In the preface he writes:
"We read not only because we cannot know enough people, but because friendship is so vulnerable, so likely to diminish or disappear, overcome by space,time, imperfect sympathies, and all the sorrows of familial and passional life."
It was around 1958 that I placed my brand new Pentacon F on a tripod and took (self timer) a group picture of my room mates at St Edward's High School in Austin Texas. This view is towards town and by now the field must be gone. From left to right, it is John Arnold, Mac Letscher, me and Melvin Medina. I have lost contact with all of them. I last saw John Arnold 25 years ago when I returned to Texas to have a look at my school. I met up with John Arnold and other classmates,poolside, at a Houston Holiday Inn. it was nighttime and 105 degrees. John had fought in Vietnam and with his crisp white short sleeved dress shirt he looked like a spook. He told me he worked for a security firm. Others had died in that war.
I look at this picture now and it is no different from those flickering shadows behind Rod Taylor's time machine.
Colin Heath, Humphreys & Not A Dog In Sight
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Last night Rosemary and I attended the opening performance of The School for Scandal
by 18th century Irish playwright Brinsley Sheridan at the Stanley. This Arts Club Theatre Company production went at a brisk pace as it was directed by the ever funny Dean Paul Gibson
. Rosemary and I laughed lots during the evening. The dialogue is quick and funny. But funnier still was Christopher Gaze as both Mr Crabtree and the servant Humphreys. Gaze did not need to say anything to be funny. His movements and his face were enough. His only competition came from Colin Heath in one of those rare appearances on a stage, minus dogs and small scary children. I was elated and proud to find out that Vancouver (with its short memory) has not yet forgotten this former member of the Leaky Heaven Circus
who now lives in Toronto with Manon Beaudoin and their dogs and scary children. When the diminutive actor first appeared on stage we clapped.
In last year's production of the Leaky Heaven's Bonobo
complete with dogs and scary children plus with that other paragon of laughter and acting virtuosity, Lois Anderson, Rebecca (my granddaughter), Ale (my eldest daughter) and I laughed all evening. But we were sad to find out that it was the end of that trio of ever so funny (in that chaotic Leakey Heaven Circus way) and that Colin and Manon were moving East.
Last night's performance of The School for Scandal
proves that the Arts Club Theatre brand of intelligent humour is not dead. It proves that we should make sure that Dean Paul Gibson remains with us, and, who knows could the Leaky Heaven Circus bring back Colin, Manon, Louis and add Christopher Gaze? Wow!
In the picture here, from left to right, Lois Anderson, Colin Heath and Manon Beaudoin.
Three Nuns & A Ballerina With The Reversible Name
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
If my memory does not fail me it is that scene in Arch of Triumph
(1948) where Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman do the cigarette thing. He lights two cigarettes and gives her one. When I saw that scene it was exquisitely romantic. In 2006 I would probably have to supress my excitement and tell you that smoking is a disgusting habit. I have kept all the pipes I ever owned in case I ever change my mind (not likely). I had as many pipes as I would smoke in a day, 5. Multiplied times 7 that makes 35. This meant that every pipe I smoked once would rest (and dry up) for a week, before I smoked it again. My favourite pipe tobacco was Bell's Three Nuns
. They advertised as "None Nicer".
The same feeling of romance paseé has ocurred for me when I think of high heel shoes. They look uncomfortable and they don't do anything for my receding libido.
But ballerina slippers, that's another thing, altogether! I took my first ballerina slippers shot around 15 years ago. My subject was Reneé Michelle. But it easily could have been Michelle Reneé. Even 15 years ago I was confused about her name. I photographed her once in my Robson Street studio and I remember this photograph ever so fondly. It is a pity I cannot justify lighting one of my favourite Petersen (Dublin) pipes with some Three Nuns.
Mario Vargas Llosa, The Storyteller & The Gourd
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
In 1989 I read Mario Vargas Llosa's whimsical The Story Teller
about a long lost classmate by the narrator of the novel. Raúl Zuritas (the long lost classmate) is a red haired Jew, terribly scarred last seen in Israel. But in a small gallery in Florence, our protagonist (fleeing the political turmoil of Peru) happens on an exhibition of photographs from the Amazon jungle. One of the photographs shows a tribal storyteller seated in the middle of a circle of Machiguenga Indians. This tribe, until the late 80s, had been completely isolated from civilization. That the tribal storyteller is a dead ringer for Mascarita
, is the mystery that opens this fascinatingly easy to read Llosa novel. Perhaps it was easy after having read the serpentine Conversation in the Cathedral
."Florentines are famous, in Italy, for their arrogance and for their hatred of the tourists that innundate them each summer, like an Amazonian river. At the moment, it is hard to deterimine whether this is true, since there are virtually no natives left in Firenze. They have been leaving, little by little, as the temperature rose, the evening breeze stopped blowing, the waters of the Arno dwindled to a trickle, and mosquitoes took over the city. They are veritable flying hordes that successfully resist repellents and insecticides an gorge on their victims' blood day and night, particularly in museums. Are the zanzare of Firenze the totem animals, the guardian angels of Leonardos, Cellinis, Botticellis, Fillipo Lippis, Fra Angelicos? It would seem so. Because it is while I am contemplating their statues, frescoes, and paintings that I have gotten most of the bites that have raised lumps in my arms and legs neither more nor less ugly than the ones I've gotten every time I've visited the Peruvian jungle."
The Storyteller, Mario Vargas Llosa
Later in 1990 I bought three intricately carved gourds (mates berillados
) in a market near Callao in Peru. The smallest is called: Historia: El Hechicero Curandero
, (The Story: The Wizard Healer). The gourd brought from Chiclayo or Piura and carved in Cochas Grandes and Cochas Chico (near Huancayo) is signed by Silvia Alanya Vo. When I look at this 7cm long gourd I can imagine Mascarita
weaving stories of the fabled and magical Macheguengas before men started walking. "There was no evil, there was no wind, there was no rain."
Don Harron, Katherine Hepburn & Old Prune
Monday, October 30, 2006
Just a few days ago I saw a wonderful interview of Katherine Hepburn by Dick Cavett that originally was aired on September 14, 1973. It made me think of my photo date with Don Harron about 6 years later. Les Wiseman and I had an appointment with him at a hotel on Denman Street. As we entered the hotel I noticed Mr. Harron coming out of the elevator and going out. I stopped him and pointed out that we had an interview. He was anoyed and said that it was impossible. He looked at Les and I and said, "I was a journalist once. Let's go upstairs and I will grant you a quick interview."
In his room, during the interview he explained to Wiseman how he had once been "discovered" backstage by Katherine Hepburn. He then went into a luxury of detail to explain how Ms Hepburn's skin resembled a dried old prune.
When it was my turn to photograph him he said, "Guess who is going to photograph me tomorrow? " Without giving me time to guess he said, "Karsh of Ottawa."
I removed a deep green filter from my camera bag and screwed it on to the front of my lens. Harron, asked, "What's that for? " "To make your skin resemble Katherine Hepburn, " I told him.
In my 32 years in Vancouver this may have been the first and last time that I ever made anybody look worse than they looked.
One Screen Siren Less
Sunday, October 29, 2006
One of the advantages of being a photographer is that sometimes you can get away with the cliche, "I am a photographer and I think you are beautiful. I would like to photograph you." My percentage of success is in the high 90s! I was lucky to photograph B.H. once and here is one of my favourite pictures of her. I don't remember why I asked her to look sad at my camera. But the photograph captures how I now feel seeing that she is gone back east.
Of her change B. " It's a bittersweet change--I'm going to miss you all and this city that is my home--but I know I'll be back in the not-too distant future."
It is my hope that she returns soon as I would like to re-photograph her, this time I would ask her to wear a smile.
To The Ends Of The Earth & Crossing The Equator
I am a sucker for seafaring yarns and I have read all of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels twice plus Golden Ocean
and The Unknown Shore
. I have read several Nelson biographies and Frederick Marryat's Mr. Midshipman Easy.
I was hooked as a teenager when my mother lent me Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies
in 1957. After that I found and read all of the series by C.S. Forrester.
So when I "discovered" William Golding's sea trilogy To the Ends of the Earth
a couple of years ago I bought it but somehow I postponed reading it. This thick book includes Rites of Passage
, Close Quarters
and Fire Down Below
. Then I read the preview to last Sunday's British TV production version of To the Ends of the Earth
on PBS. It features a great cast but Rosemary and I were mesmerized by Jarred Harris's performance as Captain Anderson. Harris is the son of Richard Harris. In last week's first episode remarkable things happen belowships during the hazing of a parson during the crossing of the equator. The production is quite faithful to the book (I am now ready for the second installment tonight) but the crossing of the equator is but a vague diversion in the novel. Seeing the terrible hazing of the parson I remembered that I, too, suffered, but a much reduced version that included Prussian Blue oil paint, adhesive tape on my legs and being sprayed with a sea hose while chained to a boom. It happened on board the Empresa Lineas Maritimas Argentinas (ELMA) Victory ship, Rio Aguapey, on December 11, 1966 off the coast of Brazil. Captain Guillermo Migliorini signed my certificate which made me a full fledged tiburón
Another incident in To the Ends of the Earth is crucial to the story. Our young hero, the upper class gentleman Edmund Talbot steps up to the quarterdeck and Captain Anderson is not able to vent his anger( the young man might have influencial patrons) at this break of naval tradition that only those who are invited can do so. When the hapless parson does so, since he is not a gentleman, Anderson boots him off the deck.
I remember on my second day on the Rio Aguapey (we shoved off from Buenos Aires on our way to the ports of Brazil, Puerto Rico, New Orleans, Houston and Veracruz) that since I was the only passenger on board I thought I would have special privileges. I went up to the bridge uninvited. I quickly found out that while the Argentine Merchant Marine ship, the Aguapey was not a British ship of the line, the same holy traditions prevailed. Captain Migliorini stared at me impassively while the second officer grabbed me and took me down quickly explaining my terrible faux pa.