Saturday, December 02, 2006
Janice Carpenter is one of the most exquisitely beautiful women I have ever photographed. I first saw her in 1993 at the Vancouver office of the CNIB where I was working on a fund raising brochure. She had her trademark finger-waved hair. To her I was a blur as by then she was clinically blind. In 1990 Carpenter (31)was a young producer for a hot CBC show called Pilot 1. Soon after she was diagnosed with MS and in short order lost her job and her ad agency exec husband. I was so intrigued by her that I asked to photograph her at her home. I think that this photograph of her in her wheelchair which I took in her bedroom is my favourite and one of the most erotic I have ever taken.
We became friends and I began to understand how terrible MS is. Somehow being able to take Interferon did not help her becuse her MS was too advanced for any kind of relief.
Every once in a while she will call me up with advice on how I could improve my photographic business. Two years ago her parents came for a visit and I photographed them together. I also took this profile.
CNIB Fund Raising Brochure
Caitlin & Phoebe MacRae - Alto & Soprano
Friday, December 01, 2006
If I had to pick one piece of music that would serve me well in keeping my spirits up during the bouts of depression that hit me on these longest days of the year, I would pick one of Vivaldi's two Glorias. My favourite is his Gloria RV 589 in D major and I like it played and sung very fast.
I heard an unusually fast version, the more unusual in that the singers were all women in 1996. It was a concert held at Ryarson church. The orchestra was the Pacific Baroque Orchestra and the choir was the Elektra Women's Choir. I had always loved the parts for two trumpets. It was during this concert that I caught on that there was only one trumpet part. The other "trumpet" was the baroque oboe of Sand Dalton. Since that concert I have heard Dalton play many times. Only a week ago he played not only his oboe but a transverse flute with the PBO. He makes the instruments he plays.
In this concert of Vivaldi's Gloria I first heard and fell in love with Marc Destrubé's Pacific Baroque Orchestra. And it was also here that I first heard that pair of readhead sisters, Caitlin and Phoebe McRae. They sort of competed in the alto and soprano solo parts of the Gloria. I have since heard Caitlin (standing in photo, left) sing with Musica Intima and Phoebe (sitting) has sung in many baroque concerts. I love them and I am delighted by their sense of humour and poise. Here they are about to crack some croquet balls in my garden.
Phoebe McRae and Elektra Women's Choir
Pacicic Baroque Orchestra
Phil Boname & Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Thursday, November 30, 2006
In my Buenos Aires fourth grade class our teacher Miss Zimmerman treated us as precocious children. We read passages from "adult" books in class. One I will never forget was Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Night Flight
. In 1929 Saint-Exupéry had moved to Buenos Aires where he was appointed director of the Aeroposta Argentina Compa
ny. His experience, flying post through the Andes was the basis for Night Flight
, his second novel.
Reading about a tiny plane being buffeted by terrible wind currents while crossing the Andes in Night Flight
made me fear for my life when in 1953 I was on board a PANAGRA Douglas DC-6 crossing from Buenos Aires to Santiago, Chile. Since the airliner was not pressurized we were given oxygen masks. Lightning, thunder and wind plus my airsickness had me holding on to my mother and grandmother who must have been as afraid as I was. I have never really felt safe in an airplane since. But that has not stopped me from being fascinated by them. I remember in 1957 going to the Bergstrom US Air Force base outside Austin, Texas. It was thrilling to pass my hand on the almost razor edge of a Lockheed F-104-A Starfighter.
So it was a special occasion to photograph Vancouver businessman Phil Boname. Calling him up for the appointment in my studio on February 12, 1990 he somehow revealed that as a little boy in France his father had been a friend of Saint-Exupéry. The author would pass his hand through Phil's curly hair and that became Saint-Exupéry's inspiration on how the little prince should look. Saint-Exupéry also illustrated The Little Prince
For my photograph I brought my daughter Hilary's Argentine leather bomber with Argentine Air Force patches. I also brought my treasured P-38 Lightning
by Jeffrey L. Ethell and illustrated by the incomparable Rikyu Watanabe. It was in a Lockheed F-5B, an unarmed reconnaissance variant of the P-38, that Saint-Exupéry flew in 1944 and was never seen again.
On July 31, 1944 at a quarter to nine in the morning, Saint-Exupéry took off from an airstrip in Sardinia on a flight to photograph the Grenoble and Annecy areas. He never returned. He left behind a letter addressed to General X. It read: "I do not care if I die in the war or if I get in a rage because of these flying torpedos which have nothing to do with actual flying, and which change the pilot into an accountant by means of indicators and switches. But if I come back alive from this ungrateful but necessary "job", there will be only one question for me: What can one say to mankind? What does one have to say to mankind? "
His P-38 was found in the Mediterranean in May 2000 with no signs that it had been shot down.
Daniel Rutley - Clinical Psychotherapist
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
On a hot afternoon of June 1987 I spent several hours with Daniel Rutley, clinical psychotherapist on the cupola of the Vancouver Art Gallery. I was up there because John Lekich, one of the most well-adjusted persons I have ever met (except when giving advice on how not to wear a bow tie with a button down shirt), decided to write a story called Changing. It was about dealing with the inevitable crossroad most of us take sometime in our life about shifting our direction. Going through the red tape in order to get on that roof would have been enough to have made me seek Daniel Rutley privately.
Western Living Magazine art director Chris Dahl (a well adjusted psychedelic band drummer turned designer) had called me one day and told me, "I have this neat assignment but I want you to shoot it differently. You always print your own b+w negatives. This time around I want you to shoot in colour and I want you to print your own at home." If that wasn't enough he told me he wanted me to photograph my subjects (Daniel Rutley was one of them) with mirrors in unusual places.
This job was so tough that to this day all I remember of Daniel Rutley is that he was very quiet and I tried to avoid his gaze.Daniel Rutley
The Funky Redhead Survives Another Year
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Every year, at about this time, I begin to think about making my once a year purchase at Holt Renfrew. They are the only ones that sell the Graphic Image
agendas. Holt Renfrew will put my initials in gold if I order my copy in time. I did not do that in 2006 so the 2005 agenda is here instead. These agendas, unlike the Lett's diaries I used to buy, still have a section for writing people's names and phone numbers. This is crucial as by mid December I play the sad game of God. As I transfer names and phone numbers from one diary to the next there are people who I eliminate for one reason or another. I am sure that at the the push of a Blackberry button I must also cease to exist many times during December.
It was at least 12 years ago that my eldest daughter, Ale began to file my negatives, slides and photographs. Every year I look at a white envelope that she marked as funky redhead
. I photographed her some 30 years ago. I have long forgotten her name or circumstances. I do remember that she paid me for acting shots. I processed the colour negative film in my home lab and even printed the 8x10s.
The funky redhead has survived another year in my files. And here she is. I wish her all the best wherever she is now
Jocelyn, Jocelyn & Joselina
Monday, November 27, 2006
In the 70s Greek restaurants were most popular in Vancouver. Most of them featured belly dancers. There were good ones like , Sarita
and Jocelyn. I first met Jocelyn in the late 70s in that joint on Main and Powell. She had the ambition to become a belly dancer so she asked me to photograph her. A few years later I photographed another dancer, also called Jocelyn. She recently died of cancer. Back then she was noted for her demure expression and her voluptuous body.
In the late 80s Rosemary and I attended and Equity Magazine
Christmas party. Ronald Stern, the publisher always rented the best restaurant in town and always had unusual entertainment. This time around it was a Flamenco singer. When he began to sing Rosemary and I laughed. It seemed to be as sad lament to most there but we knew better. This is what he sang in Spanish:
Rich men get to shave with hot water.
Alas! This poor one must scrape his face with cold water.
The pain! The pain!
And he sang this on and on. Suddenly a flamenco dancer with black hair entered the room. Her name was Joselina. She winked at me and we laughed again. The belly dancer had intelligently read the restaurant trend of our city.
Young, Sexy & Well Heeled
Sunday, November 26, 2006
One of the most influential critics of the 1920s and 1930s was H.L. Mencken. He created the expression Bible Belt to refer to the ultra conservative South and while bootleggers reached auspicious heights as booticians, the middle class was reduced to the booboisie. So in 1940 it was a Baltimore stripper that asked him to come up with a unique word to raise the tenor of her profession. Georgia Sothern wrote to Mencken, "I am a practitioner of the art of strip-teasing...there has been a great deal of...criticism leveled against my profession. Most of it...arises from the unfortunate word strip-teasing, which creates the wrong connotation...if you could coin a new and more palatable word to describe this art, I and my colleagues would have easier going. I hope...(you) can find time to help the...members of my profession."
Mencken replied to Ms Sothern, "I sympathize with you in your affliction. It might be a good idea to relate strip-teasing in some way to the...zoological phenomenon of molting,...which is ecdysis. This word produces...ecdysiast." Young, Sexy & Well Heeled
- that was the title of Les Wiseman's "business"article on the vancouver stripping industry in the March 1982 issue of Vancouver Magazine. At the time Les and I spent a considerable time (when we weren't extremely busy trying to make ends meet)in strip parlours or strip joints. We followed our favourite strippers from one joint to another. We determined that there had to be a way of conning Vancouver Magazine editor, Mac Parry into assigning us to do a piece on the subject of stripping. Les found the angle which Mac immediately accepted. The article would have to do with following the money trail of the business. It was to be a business story. One of our fave dancers was Danielle, she of the rose tattoo on her upper left thigh. A few years later she took her S+M act (complete with lots of fake blood) to the first ever Golden G String Convention in Las Vegas and shocked the then tame Vegas audience.
In an attempt to be objective, Les interviewed the ecdysiasts at the old Vancouver Magazine office on Davie and Richards. From left to right that's me, Les, Danielle and Mac, almost under the table.
The other article I was working on was Sean Rossiter's story, One Cat's Fight Against Cancer
. It was a personal story about his own cat. While watching strippers at the nearby Cecil Hotel, I remember vividly Mac telling me, "Alex, go home and photograph your cat. Make sure his whiskers are razor sharp. We are going to put him on the cover." For a while there was the idea of producing a March issue with two different covers, one with the cat and the other with a stripper languidly blowing bubbles in a portable tub at the Drake Hotel stage. In the end publisher Ronald Stern nixed the idea.