Wade Davis - Hero Of The Planet (But Not In Vancouver)
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Around 2000 Time Magazine
called noted oceanographer and explorer Wade Edmund Davis, Hero of the Planet
. By the next year there were full page photographs of Wade Davis in the National Geographic
labeling him just that. In 2001 when Davis was the Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society
I was given the opportunity to take his photograph that September by the Georgia Straight.
It was a thrill for me. I was going to meet this Canadian born man who had visited just about every remote spot of our planet. Surely the decision makers at the Straight were going to put him on the cover. They didn't and some unforgettable cartoon on some unforgettable editorial took Wade Davis's place.
The only record of Davis's trip to Vancouver was my little picture (the b+w one) in the Straight and the Vancouver Sun made no mention of the man.
Davis had been very cooperative in posing for me and even went as far of going for my idea for the Greek hero look with ivy around his head. As a Canadian he did suggest to me that nobody was a prophet in his own country. I keep seeing his picture in the National Geographic and as he rockets into further fame I can at least enjoy here the cover that never was. Davis and I had a lot of fun doing the table top of his things on my living room floor. His luggage had been lost so all he could bring was his razor, passport, business card, Swiss Army watch and I used my Nikon F-2 which was exactly like his. I remember that the folks at the Straight had wanted me to photograph Davis as he cleared customs to show the world traveler in action. Even in 2001 it would have taken me weeks to get the necessary permission.
Wade Davis Points Towards Biography
The Egyptian Restaurant
Friday, March 09, 2007
Around 1955 my grandmother worked in the Filipino Embassy in Mexico City. When the new consul, Johnny Hormillosa arrived my grandmother took him out to see the sites of the city. In one of the restaurants they visited, she had been most embarrased when in his Filipino Spanish, Hormillosa had asked for a clean glass with water. A few weeks later Jhonny (he insisted in spelling his name that way, but then his son was called Robin after Nigaraguan poet Rubén Darío) asked my grandmother to take him to that wonderful "Egyptian restaurant" (he pronounced that Egyptzian restaowrunt). My grandmother was all confused until Jhonny described the Egyptian costumes of the waitresses. It was only then that my grandmother realized that the waitresses of the ubiquitous Sanborns restaurant/drugstores wear a uniform based on those of the Tehuanas, the Mexican Indian women of the Tehuantepec Istmus. They could be seen as Egyptian if the viewer were the Filipino consul.
Last year when I photographed Pam in Nora's living room I asked Nora to decorate it Egyptian style and to make up Pam as an Egyptian/Coptic Madonna. I couldn't explain to either Pam or Nora that Jhonny would have approved.Sanborns MoreliaSanborns Cancun
Saffron, Camile and Bill Henderson
Thursday, March 08, 2007
For a while in the late 80s I had a job that almost was a job. I was the Director of Photography at Vancouver Magazine. I even had a card that said that. It was my job to suggest ways of doing covers and illustrating features. I saw many illustrators and photographers during that time. I took care to not assign myself to shoot anything except when the editor, Mac Parry insisted I shoot it.
One day Mac came to me and said we needed to photograph Doc Harris ( a DJ of note then) with a woman that was beautiful and had cleavage. I immediately suggested the then very hot fashion photographer Chris Haylett
to shoot it and I was in charge of finding the model. The cover had all to do with the Playhouse Wine Festival so I headed to the Vancouver Playhouse and asked to see 8x10s of their actresses and extras. I was given a pile of 100 and put them all on the floor. There were big smiles, beautiful glossy teeth and all the photos rapidly blended into one. But two photographs stood out and I picked them up and inquired as to who they were.
By coincidence they were sisters, Saffron and Camile Henderson, daughters of legendary BC rocker and guitarist Bill Henderson. While most of the other 8x10s had been taken by professional photographers the snaps of Saffron and Camile had been taken by their mother!
Mac and I agreed on Saffron for the cover and months later we found an excuse to run my picture of both sisters. I did these in my then huge Yaletown studio on Hamilton Street. Inga Vollmer did the makeup and (very important) made the dresses on the spot with bolts of satin I had purchased. Vollmer used safety pins and some quick sewing.
Saffron is in black and Camile in blue.
The Old Sony, The New Olympus & Resistentialism
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
This is a not too lame excuse for avoiding my blog obligations for today. The fact is that I have to interview the dancer/choreographer Emily Molnar
at 1:15 with a new voice recorder I bought yesterday. I have to be able to set the correct time on the tiny unit before I can use it. I have a few hours to figure it out. The Sony broadcast quality tape recorder cannot be fixed. It has a cracked capstan so the recorded voices speed up and slow down randomly. I first bought it in 1990 to take to Lima to interview Mario Vargas Llosa
. It was there that I made the first of many mistakes that one is capable of doing with this recorder. On pause the sound level meter happily tells you of the ups and downs of your speaker and the earphones show you that the microphone is working. But at the end of one of my Vargas Llosa interviews I had nothing. My affection for the Sony has been a troubled one. I hope that the Olympus may be a little more foolproof for a man who has had problems with resistentialism a word I first read about in William Safire's
column. It has all to do with objects rebelling to human masters who mistreat them thinking that since "they" are machines they have no soul and can be mistreated at will.
Raúl Guerrero Montemayor & Erik Satie
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Yesterday when I picked up Rebecca to take her to her piano lesson I had new CDs (with piano music) loaded and I played a sampling. Immediately Rebecca showed interest in Satie - Piano Works - Daniel Varsano - Philippe Entremont
. She wasn't too interested in Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
with Bill Evans on piano). She commented that André Previn and J.J. Johnson play Kurt Weill's Mack the Knife & bilbao Song and other music from The Threepenny Opera - Happy End - Mahagonny
(is that a long CD/record title?), sounded oriental but she wanted more Eric Satie.
I remember exactly the year and where I first heard Eric Satie. It was in 1967 in the apartment of my friend Raúl Guerrero Montemayor. He played the definitive version at the time which was with pianist Aldo Ciccolini.
I first met Raúl at my Tia Fermina's house on Miguel Servantes Saavedra in Mexico City. Raúl spoke more than 8 languages (German with a Yiddish accent, French with a Hungarian accent and whatever variation of a language you could think of!). Although he was of Filipino heritage he was blond and blue-eyed. There were those who asserted that Raúl was the illigitimate son of the first president of the Philippines, Manuel L. Quezon. The resemblance is most striking. Raúl was also first cousin to Yvette Mimieux. Raul became my friend and began to remove some of my rough edges. He took me to see French and Italian cinema. He introduced me to the wonders of Monica Viti and Antonioni. We talked about Sartre and books. We drank coffee at a very bohemian coffee shop called La Rana Sabia (The Wise Frog). We drove to Veracruz when I was 18 and I got my first glimpse, as an adult, of the sea (in this case the Gulf of Mexico). Raúl helped me out with my courting of Rosemary and later on became godfather of Hilary (photo above left) who is Rebecca's mother.
It was Rebecca choosing to listen to Erik Satie yesterday that brought home that realization on how important Raúl has been in my life and in my life with Rosemary.
Three Fools & Gloria Macarenko
Monday, March 05, 2007
I have observed three fools in action over the years and when they finally give up there are many more of the type to occupy their place. These fools have the ambition to:
1. Publish and or edit a magazine, tabloid or newspaper.
2. Start an art gallery.
3. Open a restaurant.
It was quite a few years ago that Urban Peasant, James Barber had to withdraw from his Commercial Drive restaurant venture Arriva. He was losing his shirt. But he went on the record in a magazine article, how the experience had not turned him off. He asserted that when the opportunity rose he would start a restaurant again.
Dianne Farris once told me that she had not only mortgaged her house away to keep her gallery going but that she was also painting herself into a plumbing corner as the bathrooms did not work. But she was going to press on with her dream.
I think it is the dream that keeps these three "fools" going. You have an idea, and reality (with its instant satisfaction) can be quick in coming if you publish a weekly or a daily. I have been privy to conversations between publishers and editors where the former would swear a no inteference policy so as to keep an editorial independence. And I have seen these promises disappear as "service" peaces became the norm for keeping a magazine afloat.
As a photographer I have been promised more times than I can possibly remember, "This is a new magazine and we can only afford this much, but as soon as we become more successful we will pay you what you are really worth." I have seen young photographers, illustrators and freelance writers be given "photo" or "writing" credits instead of hard cash. I have never had the heart or the gumption to tell them that money will never come and photo credits are not proper collateral at the bank.
But would be gallery owners, restauranteurs and publisher/editors keep passing by my horizon and for the latter I am almost never able to say, "No," when asked to help out for little or no money.
Could it be that I am a dreamer, too?
The prospect of seeing a magazine with my cover photo has always been an exciting delight. My latest effort is no less a delight. It was about a month ago that experienced editor/art director Bob Mercer told me he had the project to re-brand the most horrible (my word) magazine in Vancouver.
He said he wanted to turn around Vancouver Lifestyles Magazine (now called VLM)and wanted bold b+w covers. Best of all (this is how he lured me in) he wanted me to suggest who was the person I would want to photograph the most.
My answer was an easy one. I photographed the luminous Gloria Macarenko assisted by my secret weapon of so many years, stylist Maureen Willick.
When the magazine appeared last week I could not believe, that just for once, the spread looked better than I had imagined it.
I can only hope that editor/art director Bob Mercer's dream comes true.
A Horse, Day Helesic & Randolph Scott
Sunday, March 04, 2007
In my relationship with Rebecca and Lauren I try to look back and remember how it was with my abuelita. She was the only grandparent I ever knew. I am unsuccessfully wanting to see myself through her as I was then and I can only wonder at the parallels with my relationship with my granddaughters.
I was 8 when my grandmother took me to see all 15 episodes (244 minutes) of Spencer Gordon Bennet's Superman
(with Kirk Alyn as the man of steel). I would have never known that the serials were being shown in downtown Buenos Aires as I did not read newspapers.
My only conclusion is that my grandmother found out about the screening independently and made the choice of volunteering to take me and sit through a 4-hour long program. All I remember is a huge stomach ache and how I cried on the train on our way back home.
Of late I have been having a bit a problem taking Rebecca to dance and concerts as not only do I have to convince her but also I must appeal and convince her mother. Just because I am older, in this day and age, does not necessarily mean that I might have a leg up on what is culturally advantageous for my Rebecca. Last night I was bitterly disappointed that Rebecca did not accompany Ale (Rebecca's aunt and my daughter) and me to watch Day Helesic's
(above, left) performance as a horse (Genuine Risk
) at Edam
as well as seeing Rebecca's friend Anne Cooper (and Delia Brett, and Monica Strehlke) in Peter Bingham's One thing after another
. Would Rebecca have been as mesmerized as Ale and I were in watching Carolyn Chan dance Jay Hirabayashi/Kokoro's Trans
I can only wonder if my grandmother ever wanted me to see (or did she want to see? Alas! I never asked her.) a Randolph Scott Technicolor western and my mother turned her down that I had too much homework or that I was too tired.
The homework is long forgotten. Would I still remember the Randolph Scott film I never saw? Would I remember my grandmother's smile as we spooned our strawbery ice cream sodas at the Roxy, around the corner from the movie houses on Lavalle?
How many times did I unknowingly disappoint her?