Nina Davies - Rebecca At 15?
Saturday, September 01, 2007
In May I wrote and photographed an article for Vancouver Lifestyles Magazine
, The Manly Art of Ballet
that featured six young and talented maled dancers from Arts Umbrella
. I chose to photograph four of them (here, clockwise from upper left, Michel Issa, Jeremiah Kennedy, Jed Difhuis and Scott Fowler). The fifth and sixth boys, Alex Burton and Conner Gnam I photographed elsewwhere with their teachers.
The unifying theme for those four boys became a page in the magazine where they all appeared with Nina Davies. After years of seeing the dancers at Arts Umbrella (where my Rebecca learns dance) I was always drawn to this young woman who has grace and poise in spades plus a flexibility that astounds. It is not surprising that at this moment Nina would like to someday perform with the Cirque de Solei!
Her mother Kitty contacted me for copies of the photographs and I met with her and Nina, over coffee, this week to give her my photographs.
As I watched and listened to them, as I admired Nina's adult behaviour (while noticing the freckles on her nose) I thought to myself, "What fun it must be to be Kitty and to have such a daughter. Could Rebecca at 15 be such a girl/woman, someday?"
As soon as I got home I called Hilary and told her of that morning's event with Kitty and Nina. "I would like Rebecca to be like Nina when she is 15." Hilary understandably answered, "Rebecca has to first be herself."
I hope anybody reading this understands what I meant.
It seems that when Rebecca was in first grade at École Bilingue, Nina was also there. Nina told me, "I used to talk to Rebecca and she would never talk about anything else except dance." I will keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.
A Strawberry Daiquiri For A Sad Birthday
Friday, August 31, 2007
Today is my birthday. Of my birthdays I have written this
. There is not much more than I can add. Except that I remember one of my saddest.
At the time we were living in Burnaby and Rosemary had gone back east to Brockville to visit her parents. It was August 31st at night and I was in bed feeling pretty sorry for myself. I called my friends in the hopes that they might just remember and wish me a happy one. None of my friends were home so in my final fruitless call I sang myself a happy birthday on my friend's answering machine. I then decided that I was going to be happy. I knew I had a bottle of rum. I had fresh lemons and strawberries in the fridge. I made myself a very large strawberry daiquiri with the blender. Now I don't really drink, not even beer. So soon, very soon I felt like I was levitating on the bed. I was in a very friendly stupor when I heard the door open and Rosemary said, "I am home, happy birthday
." Of course when she saw in what state I was she was pretty angry and I sobered up very quickly to no avail.
Rummaging through one of our picture tins I found a few photographs of our past in Vancouver. There is one in our sky blue VW which I took somewhere on our way to Vancouver from Mexico City. The tarp on the roof was orange. There is a picture of the family in Spanish Banks. By then (around 30 years ago) I decided that my Basque blood and my mother's surname (de Irureta Goyena) gave me the credibility and right to wear a Basque boina.
After a year of suffering a constant itch around my forehead I decided I could try to be an artist without one.
But I did not give it up until Rosemary snapped a picture of me with it on. Notice my new-fangled pyrolitic carbon pipe (the rest of it was made of hard rubber). We played tourists those first months and I took pictures in all the predictable places as this one of Hilary in Lumberman's Arch.
The colour photograph is one of the first self-portraits that I took (always on my birthday in a tradition of sorts)with a brand new Polaroid back for my Mamiya RB-Pro S.
I remember showing Vancouver Magazine art director Rick Staehling that monster of a camera. He did not know what to say. A few weeks later he called me up and and said, "You know that big camera you showed me? I think that I have this job where ......."
Vancouver has been kind to me and my family and even though I really don't have much to gripe about on my birthdays, it's fun feeling sorry for myself. There are no strawberries in the fridge and no bottle of rum is stashed away. I am instantly happy just remembering this last picture I took last week in Lillooet. We are all there except for Hilary. I am seeing Hilary today (and Lauren and Rebecca). What could possibly be better than that?
George Will, True, Argosy and Brigitte Bardot's Cleavage
Thursday, August 30, 2007
When my mother, grandmother and I moved to Mexico in 1954 (without telling my father) my mother realized how crucial it was for me to have some sort of father figure so I would grow up "normal".
In 1956 my mother got her job teaching at the ASARCO (American Smelting and Refining Company) town of Nueva Rosita in the state of Coahuila. She told me of a young bachelor mining engineer she found charming called Juan Jaime. Perhaps I was too shy or Jaime was shy, too since I don't remember talking to him much. We lived in the American Hotel (that's what it was called)as did Jaime for three years. We had our three meals (home cooked) at the hotel. Next to the dining room there was a den/living room with a magazine rack. Juan Jaime would walk in some days and he added his magazines (he must have been subscribed to them) Argosy
(and sometimes!) Playboy
. I would sneak in and look and read them. I distinctly remember reading in True an article on a young boxer called Cassius Clay who boasted that some day he was going to be champion of the world. These magazines (Esquire at the time was a girlie magazine)provided me with my first real glimpses of the female anatomy. My previous experience had been lame Mexican magazines that showed, page after page, pictures of Brigitte Bardot's cleavage.
My mother signed me up with the local chapter of the Explorers Scouts (boy scouts in dark green uniforms) and my scoutmaster, MK Foster taught me how to tie knots. My friend Steve Frazier lived in a nearby hacienda and even though he was 14 he drove a Jeep. From him I learned to shoot with a rifle.
At St. Edward's in Austin I was surrounded by boys and was taught by Catholic brothers of the order of the Holy Cross. One in particular, Brother René wore Wellington boots. I immediately bought my own pair as he was my role model of manhood.
But I have to confess that I got married, had children, moved to Vancouver without ever really having that bonding experience with a father when one is growing up. It happened, belatedly here in Vancouver at Malcolm Parry's Vancouver Magazine
. It was there that I met his stable of writers (almost all were men) who exhibited different degrees of manhood. It was there that I met the urbane Ben Metcalf
who taught me the lore of guns, fishing (but we never fished), wine, cigars and Hemingway while using the right French words at the right time. From John Lekich I learned how to dress properly and the lore of sipping a cocktail while chatting with a devastatingly beautiful blonde. From Les Wiseman I learned what was the proper pop music that I should listen to ("As your attorney, I would recommend..." he would often suggest.) and that porno stars actually "did it". Les taught me that real men could cry. Mac Parry taught me how to properly approach my subjects that I was supposed to photograph. He taught me how to converse in a bar like the Cecil but was unable to teach me to drink beer. Best of all he prodded me into writing.
But it was writer George Will who dressed like the ideal father that I never had. He always seemed to have a fishing rod or a gun case in his VW camper. He dressed and looked good in fishing vests. He talked to me of life in the outdoors. For me the outdoors had always represented instant constipation. George Will was the man I could never be, in spite of all those role models that have passed through my life.
I was most jealous but at the same time I thoroughly enjoyed watching Rebecca, a month back, bond with my friend Howard Houston as he taught her what my father never had chance to teach me. Howard taught Rebecca how to fish
The Corn Is Green (Or Red) From Here To Eternity
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Of late I have lost that desire I used to have of taking photographs of people of note. They have become so commonplace that I find it difficult to imagine that I would be excited if someone said, "How would you like to photograph Ben Affleck?" Until quite recently I would have replied, "Who is he?" Contentment is to find pleasure in taking pictures of the common person's comon face and to find the beauty that is there. To perhaps capture a bit of that person's essence is no different and perhaps better than sitting for a portrait with Affleck.
The only subject I would have sold my soul to capture on film was Graham Greene. I have always had an admiration for his writing and his interest in Russian roulette. I had my hopes there, while the man was alive, and then I read Paul Theroux's obituary in the New York Times, An Edwardian on the Concorde
and I cried.
That list got longer last night. Rosemary and I saw Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in An Affair To Remember.
All this would be simpler if I could post a portrait of Deborah Kerr. It would save me from writing all this stuff I have here. It is a roundabout explanation, that, alas, I never had a chance to photograph Deborah Kerr.
Consider that I could happily watch King Solomon's Mines
and The Prisoner of Zenda
over and over during a weekend. In a pinch you could replace those two with her portrayal of a nun (forget that flying nun, Kerr is the real thing) in Black Narcissus
and I would be just as happy. There has always been something about Kerr that reminds me of my first ever love.
When I read Great Expectations
in school I fell hard for Estella. Deborah Kerr was and is Estella as an older woman. She has the same voice and Dickens probably did not consider it important to mention that Estella had red hair. I have always known that.
In the mid 80s Rosemary and our two daughters Ale and Hilary went to Europe and we stayed a week at the Cumberland Hotel in London. High points were stepping on HG's tombstone ("High HG!") at Westminster Abbey, seeing a love letter to Lady Hamilton signed by "Your Loving Horatio" and getting drunk (one of the few times in my life) with my crazy Estonian friend Matti Lansoo.
For a whole morning and afternoon he took me from one bar to another. I drank Tio Pepe (he thought I was nuts, as did the publicans) and he drank double Scotches. In the 80s, pubs closed in the early afternoon. Matti took me to "underground" pubs that were open. I was drunk. "You need to eat something," he said. He bought two sandwiches and threw away half the bread and made one giant sandwich. By the time he dropped me off at the Cumberland I was in terrible shape. Rosemary, Matti's wife Jo, Matti and I were to attend a performance of the Corn is Green
with Deborah Kerr at the Old Vic. Where we going to make it? I drank coffee and more coffee. We were picked up that evening by Mati and Jo in a tiny Mini Minor. Matti was still drunk. Driving in the back seat of that car through London was one of the scariest moments of my life.
To make a long story short, Deborah Kerr was hopeless in a hopelessly outdated play. Rosemary and I kept nodding off.
We had to celebrate all that, insisted Mati in the best place for oysters and Champagne in the city. It was at Bentley's. We went there without scraping the Mini. It was was closed. Matti shouted and shouted and the establishment opened for us.
We went back to the Cumberland. Mati explained that as long as I showed my room key the hotel bar had to stay open. It did. Sometime in the middle of the night Matti wanted to meet my daughters. They dutifully came down. Afer that I don't remember much else.
But I must say that if I had to do it again I would jump at the chance of seeing Deborah Kerr in The Corn is Green.
La Hamaca - The Hammock
Before we came to Vancouver in 1975 Rosemary and I decided to travel a bit in regions of Mexico we had not gone before. My friend Licenciado Felipe Ferrer Junco
recommended we leave from Veracruz in clockwise direction to the Tehuantepec Isthmus and circle back through the middle of Mexico and explore Tuxpan in the northern part of the State of Veracruz, called La Huasteca
.Tuxpan was called the Venice of Mexico because of its rivers and canals. It was further famous for a species of river porpoise called a tonina
. Somewhere in the isthmus (the Panama Canal almost went through there but the US found it easier to destabilize Colombia and have one of its provinces, Panama, secede) we stopped to buy a hammock. These hammocks were manufactured by the inmates of the local jail. You did business through the outside prison bars.
I remember so well that when Rosemary finally arrived at a price (20 pesos) she told the man behind the bars that she only had a 50 peso bill. The man said, "I'll change it for you." "How can I trust you?" Rosemary retorted. At the point the outside guard began to laugh. The transaction was made and Rosemary got her change.
The only tragedy is that we have never had a couple of strategically placed trees to hang our hammock. In our first trip to our eldest daughter's (Ale) house in Lillooet she asked me to find a place to hang her hammock.
That brought memories of our own hammock. It must be in one of our storage boxes. If things go well, by the Thanksgiving weekend whe we plan to visit Ale again I will be reading a book in my very own hammock.
The Last Days Of Summer
Monday, August 27, 2007
I had plans. I took many photographs of Rebecca and Lauren during our weekend stay in Lillooet. This morning I was going to process them and post some of them here. But a little bothersome irritation in my left eye manifested itself yesterday afternoon in a Chilliwack McDonald's. We had stopped on our way home. I was enjoying a thick chocolate shake. By the time we got home opening my eye felt like sanding a board. This morning the problem was compounded with over-sensitivity to light. So some sort of a re-run is necessary.
In August 2005 I was looking for a used Nikon FM-2. I already had one but I wanted another so I could load one with colour and the other with b+w. The FM-2 is a film camera that operates in almost all weather without a battery (except for a meter I never use). It has a tough titanium bladed shutter (see, below,left).
Before the folks at the Geographic
went digital the FM-2 camera was their backup instrument of choice. I bought a used FM-2 at Leo's on Granville and brought it home. I took some pictures of Rebecca with her fish/butterfly catcher by my rosebed. It was then that I noticed that the camera's exposure meter did not work. Even though I use a hand held meter for my measurements I returned it. When I processed the b+w roll (Kodak Plus-X) I noticed this exposure. From the beginning I called it The Last Day of Summer
. Even though Rebecca is now two years older she still looks a lot like she does here. Rosemary rarely heaps any praise on my photography but she does consider this one as one of her favourites, even though she takes me to task for the crooked frame which was an oversight of mine in the darkroom.
Driving back from Lillooet I often looked into the rearview mirror. Lauren slept placidly but Rebecca had this look on her face. It was a look of end-of-summer-melancholy.
A Hot North American Summer
Sunday, August 26, 2007
From the inside of my daughter's Lillooet house, by the living room that faces the back garden, I looked out on Friday night and saw a bright almost full moon. It was bright enough to reveal the mountains that surround Ale's property. They are there, almost here - that close. To the left of the garden I could spot the outline of the tent that Rebecca's father, Bruce had sent with us. Rebecca and Lauren were to sleep the night with Ale while Rosemary and I were to enjoy the comforts of Ale's bed. I heard some chattering and that's when I noticed that Ale, Rebecca and Lauren were not in the tent, but outside, flat on their backs on sleeping bags. They were gazing up at the starry night. I had done that at 10 (in photo here with cousin Jorge Wenceslao and Tia Sarita). I had experienced in Corrientes
that first awareness of the existence of stars. Rebecca at 10, was equally enthralled.
It would seem that the summer of 2007 will be a seminal summer for Rebecca. With Howard in Texas she caught her first fish
. We faced near 40 degree tempertures in Texas, Merida and this week end in Lillooet it reached 30.
Our trip to Lillooet had not begun smoothly. All the curves between Pemberton and Lillooet made Rebecca cry. She missed her parents and was feeling dizzy. She could not understand why anybody would want to live in Lillooet. Lauren, with the wisdom of childhood, had chosen to fall asleep. Rosemary and I prepared ourselves for the worst. That was not to be. Friday night, before those stars, Rebecca came up to me and told me, "I love this place."
I had jokingly (with a serious face) warned Lauren with the possibility of marauding wolves. With a flashlight, just in case, Lauren bravely faced her first ever evening in a tent. Scarry noises were met with that flashlight and all three girls slept most of the night. Ale woke up to hear the strange noise of rain. It seems it never rains in Lillooet. But it did.
Saturday morning Lauren moved some large garden parasols near a peach tree and we had breakfast (I made thin pancakes) in the garden. "Why are you wearing your pijamas?" Lauren asked me. As I looked at Rosemary's perfectly relaxed face I answered, " Because we are on vacation." But I managed to change, to climb the apricot tree with Rebecca and to conjure a few tricks (the very few I ever learned in Buenos Aires) with her and a soccer ball. Lauren played with a hose and made a mud hole. Rebecca soon joined her immersing her feet and covering her legs with mud. The girls initiated a new activity every half hour including the making of clay figurines and pots (that Ale will fire in the school kiln). At all times Ale showed her patience with them and we can understand why she is such a good school teacher.
I wonder how much of this vacation Rebecca might remember. When she told me that she had even seen satellites up in the sky, for once I was a diplomat and did not tell her what I would have told her back when I was 10, "That's nothing, I saw the Milky Way and the Southern Star." For me this will be a summer I will never forget.