Tara Jean Wilkin, An Actor Not An Aviatrix
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Some 28 years ago I was sunning myself on Wreck Beach when I met a lovely young woman who introduced herself, "Hi, I am Jill and I am an actor." I found it most strange that a woman would call herself and actor and stranger still that Jill Daum (soon to be a prominent local actress some years ago) would consider being an actress with a very thick lisp. Jill persevered, went for speech therapy and corrected her lisp. Looking back I can see that she was one of the first to want to eliminate the gender bias of her profession. Through Jill I went on to meet her friend Maurice Depas of Maurice and the Cliches
Now all sorts of actors and actors (of the female kind) come to my studio for photography sessions. One of my recent favourites was Tara Jean Wilkin who arrived in my studio with this dress and a charming smile.
But I still don't like this thing about actors, after all, if the trend persists I shall never be able to use one of my favourite words of the English language, aviatrix.
Aja In Mark Budgen's Tub
Friday, September 07, 2007
This picture of Aja (pronounced asia)taken in Mark Budgen's
Strathcona home was the very first where I explored the photographic possibilities of the tub. The tub has been a very important part of my life specially since my wife Rosemary would not think of living a day without one. If I ever had money I would build a house which centered around a bathtub. Rosemary would perhaps smile more than she does now. The tub would be large enough and long enough so that Rosemary would be able to read the Vancouver Sun
on her end while I tackled the New York Times
on my end. There would be some sort of nearby platform where we would place our breakfast which would consist of 3 minute and 45 second soft boiled eggs, toast (hers with margarine and mine with European cultured and unsalted butter), her cup of coffee and mine of extra strong Strathspey Ceylon and our juices. Rosemary favours mango juice and I like the new blended V-8.
The picture of Aja reminds me of my former intense and excruciating migraines which I somehow outgrew some 5 or 6 years ago. That is a palpable benefit of old age. When my pain got to be unbearable I would wait for the Gravegol (super downers) to take its effect. I would immerse myself, as Aja did here, until only my nostrils were outside the water. It sometimes helped.
As I consider action on my ailing computer (currently in a Safe Networking mode) I am ambivalent as to which (the computer ) or I should seek treatment in that tub.
More Tubs:GillianRoseGillian GuessColeenMadeleineMaría de Lurdes
Death By PowerPoint & One Of Jason Bryden
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Thanks to a dead computer I started and finished a couple of nights ago Argentine writer Guillermo Orsi's Buscadores de Oro
. It would seem that my former heavy reading habits had been affected by too much time with the computer, or scanning or, in the case of the blog, going through my hard copy (filing cabinets) of negatives and slides to find suitable material. With a dead computer (ditto the scanner) I can only continue here with photographs that are lodged within the innards of my "decaying orbit" hard drive. My only satisfaction is that Arthur C. Clarke must experience the same problem, a just punishment of sorts for his far-reaching invention (the geosynchronous satellite).
Which brings me to one of William Safire's
NY Times On Language
columns where a couple of years ago he was describing his terrible ordeal of being in a darkened room while a lecturer read out loud everything on his projected PowerPoint presentation. Death by PowerPoint
Safire called it. About as perfect a description of that ordeal that I, too, have lived (and almost died) through.
High technology does not guarantee excitement. I remember (so fondly) being on board a Pan American Airways Lockheed Constellation (not the Super, natch) eating a rare roast beef with delicate dishware, metal silverware and crisp linen napkins while having white wine poured by a beautiful (and young) stewardess. No amount of drop down TV monitors or the availability of individual screens with 378 cable channels can make flying feel anything more than being on a crowded bus with wings. And more so when the stewardess is a flight attendant that looks like the about-to-retire production manager at a Warner's Bra factory.
The above should be enough explanation for the relevance of today's picture. Actor, playwright, comedian, etc, Jason Bryden walked exhausted into my studio one late Tuesday night. He had been making a film all day. He looked gone. But the Georgia Straight
had indicated that I needed to snap his portrait on that evening to be immediately scanned and sent the next day for that week's paper. I resolved that Bryden would leave quickly and so would I. I got my camera ready, gave him some instructions and took this one Polaroid. "Do you like it?" I asked him. "I do,"he replied. We locked up and we left.
That the relatively old technology (Edwin Land would chastise me or would he for this?) of a lowly b+w Polaroid combined with the wonders of PhotoShop and a scanner could produce this result, a thing of beauty and wonder for me, is amazing. Even if Jason Bryden looks like he's gone.
A Charming Erwitt, A Greasy Karsh & A Commercial Leibovitz
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
I hate having my photograph taken. As a little boy I would peer into my uncle Tony's box camera and squint. He is now getting his revenge through my granddaughter Lauren who squints and then blinks when I point my camera at her. She is getting a tad better at it but I don't blame her. Perhaps she might choose that liberating relief (as I did) of being behind a camera. If this is the case, I look forward to at long last finding someone I can will all my cameras to!
One photographer who did not mind being photographed some 15 years ago was Elliott Erwitt
who had come to Vancouver to open a show of his photographs at the Presentation House
in North Vancouver. I asked him a couple of questions to which he lost a bit of his cool detached and so polite demeanor. I asked him about Annie Leibovitz and he replied with very special emphasis on the word commercial, "She is a very commercial photographer. She is a very good commercial photographer." When I asked him about Karsh he let go of all stops and answered me very angrily, "That man made most of his subjects look greasy. He took their humanity away from them." A few years later I had the opportunity to photograph Annie Leibovitz.
It was a pleasant experience, the more so since I kept Erwitt out of it.
I forgot all that when he posed for me and charmed me all over again as did Leibovitz. Unlike me they know how to pose for the camera.
The Real Molly Parker
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
In William Gibson's novel Idoru two women face a webcam of the
future while chatting, one in the Orient and the other in America. As
far as we know both are absolutely naked yet as each look at each other
in whatever large monitor the future will bring us they are exquisitely
dressed in designer clothing. Behind them (in actual fact, probably an
empty room) is designer furniture. Special effect fractals coat the
tables with authentic dust. The room looks lived in. The women are
wearing virtual designer clothing purchased on line. We no longer are
what we seem to be. A huge on line company can in actual fact be one
person. This is the 2007 version of the rock and roll
impresario/artist/manager/roadie/fan/merchandiser being any one of them
by using a different voice on a different phone line.
And if you have a look at the covers of the magazines on a London Drugs
magazine stand you will note that the young women on them have skin with
no pores or one defect. They shine with the glow of Photoshop.
Perhaps you might notice one magazine that is slightly different. It
features Molly Parker. You would note her freckles and her skin is not
so smooth. To me she looks even more beautiful because this is how she
Plata, Tobillo & A Waning Garden
Monday, September 03, 2007
As Rosemary and I get older a lot is said unsaid as we work in the garden. I am sure we mutually wonder what the other will do when one is either too old to help or crippled in some way. When I broke my left elbow in May I made it a point to mow with one hand (pushing the mower with my chest)before surgery as I did not know in what state I would be after surgery. And you certainly cannot tell your lawn or your plants to wait for you.
Three years ago when we brought both Plata and Toby from the SPCA we knew that soon we would have the problem of Toby's age. Twice I saw the cute Toby at the SPCA and twice I thought better about bringing him home. He was 13 or 14. I made the mistake of going a third time with Rebecca who said, "Papi we have to bring him home now. Nobody is going to adopt him. They are going to euthanize him." I was caught completely by surprise that Rebecca understood the concept. I could not but go along and we brought Toby home. Toby (behind Plata in the picture of both on the fridge) became Rosemary's cat and he has given her extreme cariño
. I love to watch them cuddle.
But not all is well as Toby is losing weight in spite of two daily pills to control his thyroid. Blood tests were performed. We might have to increase the daily intake. In a half hearted way I told Rosemary that we are not going to put Toby in to some life support system. He will stay with us and slowly nature will take its course. He has had (I tell myself) a relaxed and comforting stay with us.
As I look at our waning garden the same thought goes through Rosemary's mind. At what point to we stop manicuring it and begin to prepare it for autumn? I look at Toby, peacefully sleeping on the foot of our bed and I wonder what will go through my head or Rosemary's as we, too, begin to wane, as we surely must. Toby and our garden might just prepare us to decide some day.
Self-Sufficiency, A Spark Plug Gap Adjusting Tool & Discontinuance
Sunday, September 02, 2007
It wasn't too long ago that I noticed our similarity to refrigerators and our equivalent dependence on power to survive. By simply unplugging them everything inside begins to spoil within hours if not minutes. Our bodies maintain that same fussy equilibrium between existence and decay - life.
But unlike refrigerators, we are much more complex and dependence is inherent to our existence. It was most evident when I returned home on Friday to find that my computer had crashed. I wondered how I was going to receive the emails from people who I had contacted for photographic shoots this coming week. Paul Leisz, my computer guru friend (and perhaps friend no longer if I keep calling him for help) was unavailable. My son in law, Bruce Stewart filled in for Paul, long enough to get my Windows XP to work on the Safe Networking mode which meant I could send and receive emails plus do such things as this you read here.
It wasn't too long ago (my memory compresses those 31 years) when I remember driving our VW beetle up Springer Ave to test the timing of the car's distributor. I had brought from Mexico a nice and shiny spark plug gapping tool. I had gapped the plugs and flooring the car up the hill was the best way to test the timing. Back in Mexico City I had removed the car's gasoline tank, once a year, to clean the inside sludge (Mexican gasoline came with unwanted additives). My neighbours pointed at my car with the now cavernous front trunk and thought I was crazy. I loved feeling independent and self-sufficient.
Those days are over. Our family Audi A-4 lease dictates that all we do is fill it with gas. Even changing the burned tail light bulbs is done at the dealer. I would not even try or want to look for our car's sparkplugs.
Those days of independence and self-sufficiency were all an illusion particularly in my photography except for the curious fact (in this day and age) that I can go to my darkroom and print a negative on to photographic paper. This task is in the same league of discontinuance
as adjusting the gaps of our VW's plugs. I totalled it in a 23-car pile-up on an icy hill of Rupert Street at Grandview Highway a few months after I raced it up Springer. As for that word discontinuance
it is in large type on a label of a box Kodak Kodalith Ortho Film 2556, Type 3 that I keep in my darkroom. In its effort to get rid of money losing products Kodak used this little used word that was often used to mark the elimination of train routes in the past.
I meant to scan that gap tool but I was unable to find it in my shop. This scan of my Pentax S-3 and its owner will do just as well to show you how time has me by and my equipment, too. This Pentax was already used when I purchased it at Foto Rudiger on Venustiano Carranza Street in downtown Mexico City in 1963. It is mechanically sound. Unlike its modern counterparts it has no dependence to batteries except for that meter that sits on top. I never used the meter, it just looked good sitting on top. And should this relic fail, this "relic" would simply take it to my "relic" friend Horst
. Without him, without Paul, Bruce, Viktor (he repairs my flash equipment) my Rosemary (who pays my taxes) I would be no better than our unplugged Kenmore Special Edition.