Tara Jean Wilkin, Gary Bannerman and Janet Leigh
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
When I first met veteran talk radio host Gary Bannerman I was shocked at his size. He was very tall and intimidating. I had gone to his office to photograph him for Vancouver Magazine. I knew I was going to have a successful shoot because of an event that preceded my session with him. I was waiting for the elevator, surrounded by all my equipment and lights, when the door opened. Out stepped Janet Leigh who stared right at me. While most associate her with Psycho
I was always a sucker for her beauty in one of the worst movies of all time, the 1954 The Black Shield of Falworth
, where she played alongside her husband Tony Curtis. I knew I was going to get a good photograph of Bannerman.
Somehow in my photograph Bannerman lost his cool and it seems my camera peeked into a fragile man that few know. Interviewing Janet Leigh must have been an experience that left him drained and ripe for my camera.
Just about a month ago actress Tara Jean Wilkin walked into my studio looking like this (right). I instantly remembered Janet Leigh.
Virve Reid - A Baltic Surprise
Monday, November 06, 2006
Vancouver Magazine editor of yore, Malcolm Parry wasn't completely wrong but he almost ruined my reputation as a photographer in Vancouver. He used to say, "I want you to meet Alex Waterhouse-Hayward, the photographer who, curiously, can make beautiful women ugly and ugly women uglier." For a while I believed him so I tried to perfect some technique and prove him wrong. Along the way I had a few very patient subjects who posed for me willingly and helped me along. The best of all of them was and is the voluptuous Baltic surprise, Virve Reid with her flaming red hair and beautiuful white skin. She was the first Canadian redhead to appear (undraped) in the centrefold of a known American magazine. Virve is from that generation of women that was either satisfied with her body or kept her mouth shut and never complained. While she was flawless, I am sure that a present generation would find room for surgical correction.
I did not know what I was shooting. Was I doing glamour (with that almost obscene u
that even Americans keep) or was I doing erotic or nude photography? I wasn't sure but Virve posed for me with terrific patience while I sorted it all out. Here are a couple that I took in my garden sometime in 1987 or 88. Thanks to Virve (and her sister Julia) I was eventually able to gain some confidence but Mac changed his tack. Now he introduced me as, "This is Alex, Halfstop, Waterhouse-Hayward." The nickname came from the fact that I tried to avoid, at all costs, overexposing my colour slides. When Mac, Rick (Staehling) or Chris (Dahl) would note that my pictures were too dark I always pointed out to them that I had bracketed by half a stop.
Julia Reid - Another Baltic Surprise
Virve could be difficult (picky) sometimes, but her sister Julia was more laid back. Whenever I called Julia up to ask her to pose she was instantly available. My photographs of her in her tub (as well as Virve's) became my prototypes for a series I did later of tub shots. Julia posed for me once in her West End bathroom apartment for a group of shots of which I can only show one since I made the decision that I would post no revealing photographs here. What a pity!
The Kris Plant - Alocasia sanderiana
Sunday, November 05, 2006
The Genera of Araceae
The Araceae are a family of herbaceous monocots with 104 genera and about 3700 species if the Lemnaceae is not regarded as a generic synonym, or 108 genera and about 3750 species if the Lemnaceae are included.
The vast majority of the genera occur in the New World tropics. Members of the family are highly diverse in life forms, leaf morphology, and inflorescence characteristics. Life forms range from submerged or free-floating aquatics to terrestrial (sometimes tuberous), and to epiphytic or hemiepiphytic plants or climbers. Leaves range from simple and entire to compound and highly divided, and may be basal or produced from an aerial stem. The family is best characterized by its distinctive inflorescence, a spadix with bisexual or unisexual (sometimes with sterile region) and subtended by a solitary spathe on a long or very short peduncle.
It is only recently, that I found out that the kris plant, that my grandmother told me about when I was a little boy, was an aroid and that its botanical name is Alocasia sanderiana
. It is called a kris plant because the leaves of this plant which have metallic gray veining resemble a kris a Filipino knife from the island of Mindanao. This southern island of the Filipino archipelago, has a majority Muslim population that the Spaniards, who occupied the Philippines until the Spanish American war, called moros or "moors". These Malay people came from Indonesia and imported mny customs including the asymmetrical kris. Alocasia sanderiana
is a Filipino native plant.
If a family of plants might have come from another planet the aroids are prime candidates for strangeness. The stinky Amorphophallus
from Indonesia may have the largest flower (properly called an inflorescence) on earth. Some arisaemas
(Jacks in the pulpit)choose not to emerge in the spring in my garden in some years and when I think they are long gone there they are. They change sex at will like many aroids. There are some aroids that are able to raise the temperature of their flowers (and we though that only some animals could be warm blooded!). Calla lilies (Zantedeschia), the indoor monstera or Swiss Cheese plant are also aroids.
The direct scans of a leaf of my Alocasia sanderiana
(note the purple underside) from a plant that I have had in my house for 20 years. At first I thought that when all the leaves of the plant collapsed that the plant had died. I would water it. That would finish off the plant and it would die. I soon learned not to water it and leave it alone until early spring. My pristine plant is not so pristine. Even though the leaves have a caustic sap my female cat, Plata, delights in chewing at them.
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.