A Mate, An Ostrich Egg - Argentine Nostalgia In Vancouver
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Sometimes the excuse for running photographs of a beautiful woman can be a feeble one. Do I need content? Every once in a while when I go through my files and spot Argentine Linda Lorenzo's very thick folder with almost two year's worth of photographs I marvel at how few of them have seen the light of day. Some appeared in a show Juan Manuel Sanchez, Nora Patrich and I had at the long gone gallery, the Simon Patrich Gallery on Granville.
The show was called Nostalgia and the three of us worked on the beautiful and pliable Linda Lorenzo and coverted her into all our sweet añoranzas
or longings from our place of birth. We managed to put her into radio programs of our youth. We worked on a series of Argentine birds and we even made Lorenzo up to almost look like Eva Perón. Here are an almost random pick from the first few folders I found.
Some of them like this first one have no connection with any Argentine nostalgia. They are simply photographs of an ucommonly beautiful woman. The photograph of Lorenzo in Nora Patrich's kitchen was our salute to Doña Petrona
who published cook books in Argentina in mid 19th century and taught a a generation of mostly Argentine women how to cook.
The other pictures feature Lorenzo dancing the tango with her sister, with one of Nora Patrich's paintings and finally a country girl from the interior of Argentina all fixed up by Nora Patrich. And I must mention here that any excuse to post pictures of Linda Lorenzo can never be a feeble one.
More Linda Lorenzo
Even More Linda Lorenzo
And Even More Linda Lorenzo
The Many Cultural Pleasures Of Vancouver
Friday, November 16, 2007
Last night I attended a dance performance at the Vancouver Dance Centre on Davie and Granville. I went with VLM editor/art director Bob Mercer. I wanted him to see a bit of Vancouver's art scene. The evening featured Wen Wei Dance
and Lola Dance. Neither Mercer nor I were disappointed by the evening's performances. If anything is showed how our local dance companies try to explore and innovate beyond established parameters of what dance "should" be. It reminded me of my first work years ago with Ballet BC dancer Lauri Stallings
, below, right.
We were trying to go beyond the image of the ballerina as a swan. We wanted to show how ballerinas are women, who sweat and breathe. These photographs were a beginning for me in my search of what I now call anti-dance photographs. I also tried to to the same thing with the cliche idea that musicians can only be photographed in one way. With Vancouver Symphony violinist Karen Gerbrecht I took some pictures where we tried to convey her love/hate relationship with her violin. These attempts at taking uncliche photographs have helped me sharpen my approach to photography and portraiture.
What is most evident is that our city is not too large that one cannot chat, and compare notes with dancers, choreographers, musicians, composers, actors, directors and singers. I do it all the time and it part of the fun of attenting cultural performance in Vancouver.
Rebecca enjoys going back stage with me after Ballet BC events. In one very special one dancer Simone Orlando took Rebecca by the hand and went into her dressing room where she presented a thrilled Rebecca with a pair of her own pointe shoes. When Evelyn Hart comes to town we visit her backstage and Rebecca gives Hart peppermint patties so that she will gain weight. Rebecca is not afraid of chatting with very tall dancer Carolyn Farquhar or telling cellist Peggy Lee that her playing was superb.
I sometimes despair that more people do not take advantage of this wonderful pleasure.
Opera (Sushi) Redux
Thursday, November 15, 2007
On a Tuesday a month ago I was standing on Broadway and Granville waiting for my B-Line bus to UBC. On its last stop on 10th Avenue and Sasamat I walk half a block to my class at Focal Point. My cellular phone rang and Mark Budgen
(bottom) asked, "What are you doing on Broadway and Granville?" I then spotted him on the other side of the street. We chatted for a few minutes and he invited me to accompany him to Opera Sushi. He explained the place. I was intrigued but I had to decline as I had to teach.
About three weeks ago I picked up Rebecca at her dance class on 4th and Alma and suggested we try out a new place on Broadway called Opera Sushi. Rebecca was interested. We went. Opera Sushi is a small restaurant half a block west of Fir. The walls are decorated with old opera LPs (long playing records). There is a large TV monitor with an opera on at all times. The sound in the restaurant (a singer singing opera) does not always coincide with the action on the TV. As soon as we ordered the music was mysteriously changed to Frank Sinatra. It was 7:45pm and we were the only ones in the restaurant so we took our chances and asked for more opera. The Japanese man behind the counter smiled. We were rewarded with sound matching the beautiful woman on the screen singing her Violetta in Verdi's La Traviata. She was Rumanian Angela Gheorghiu. Her handsome Alfredo was American Frank Lopardo. We listened and watched until Rebecca finished her salmon sushi which she said was perfect. We reluctantly left.
Last night after picking up Rebecca at her dance she immediately asked me, "Are we going to Opera Sushi?" I had forgotten how Rebecca likes good routines. So we went. We arrived and Angela Gheorghiu was on singing Violetta, more or less where we had seen her the last time. Again the sound in the restaurant was not the sound of the TV. We ordered our food and requested the sound of our opera. We ate and then lingered and got as far as the surprise visit that Alfredo's father makes on Violetta. I was having a problem trying to explain that Violetta was a courtesan. I should not have been concerned.
As soon as I delivered Rebecca home she asked me to listen to one of her favourite songs which she first heard in her hip-hop dance class. It is Fergie's Fergalicious
Part of the lyrics:Fergalicious definition make them boys go loco
They want my treasure so they get their pleasures from my photo
You could see you, you can't squeeze me
I ain't easy, I ain't sleazy
I got reasons why I tease 'em
Boys just come and go like seasons
I left deciding I was not the one who was going to ask Rebecca to explain those words. In the middle of the night I wondered how many times we would have to go to Opera Sushi to listen and see a complete Traviata, opera redux.
1640 West Broadway
Rick Forchuk Please Save Us
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
It was around 1972 that my Spanish neighbour in Mexico City and I found out we both read science fiction. We exchanged books. He gave me a Stanislaw Lem and I gave him Olaf Stapledon's Hacedor de Estrellas
. A month passed and we returned the books after having a short chat. I had not read the Lem book and I am sure he never gave Stapleton's book a chance. We still managed to express or views re Polish/Russian science fiction versus the rest of the world. What comes to mind is the recent translation into English from the French of Pierre Boyard's How To Talk About Books You Haven't Read
I mention the above because with only a perfunctory look at local media I feel I have seen all those films that I haven't. It seems that our whole Vancouver culture, particularly as noted by our Vancouver Sun
,is all about food, fashion, gossip (movie gossip) and Hollywood films. That lefty rant, The Tyee
does not welcome much cultural content unless it is about TV and film. The logical explanation is that this fine BC web magazine must cater to not only Metro Vancouver but the interior. The only aspect of culture that binds all those communities is viewable on a TV screen or computer monitor. That eliminates ballet, dance, theatre, the visual arts, symphony music, baroque music, opera, new music, etc. We are to be defined by our reaction to film and TV. Vancouver's leading blog aggregators also stress food and even sports as arts.
I have vowed not to rant here nor write about politics or religion. I have especially vowed not to review films. That is why I will not complain about the pervasive media emphasis on film. I will read my reviews in the New York Times
and enjoy such flops as Steven Soderbergh's The Good German
to my heart's content.
As I look back to compare and contrast what was film criticism then and what it has become, I must note that I miss the Vancouver Sun's Les Wedman who later reviewed films on television. He had a pleasant demeanor and he did his best to like the films he reviewed. He was never nasty or cruel.
But I also miss the whacky, down home reviews of Rick Forchuk (seen eating pop corn above and left). He reviewed movies for Harvey Southam's and Pia Shandel's (and Daryl Duke, too) CKVU. Please, Mr. Forchuk come and save us from all these film critics. Tell us about the movies you like.
Bikers' Ball In Boston Bar
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Coming back yesterday from a two-day visit with our daughter Ale in Lillooet, Rosemary, Rebecca, Lauren and I stopped for a rest and some food at the Charles Hotel in Boston Bar. I wasn't going to tell anybody about my previous experience there except Rebecca suddenly said to me,"Doesn't that man that just came in look like Ian Bateson?" The man did and I had to tell Rebecca about it all.
It was in June 1982 that I first went to Boston Bar. Through the years I have passed it many times and even spent nights at the Charles Hotel. When I worked on contract for CP Limited I often went to Boston Bar, Lytton and other nearby places to photograph scaling (the controlled avalanching of mountain sides to prevent big ones from destroying valuable track, railroad equipment and lives) or the building of train bridges. These photographic expeditions usually happened in those summer days when temperatures in nearby Lytton would soar near 40.
Not far from Boston Bar I once stopped a train
four times. CP asked me to locate a place where I could photograph Nissans, Mazdas and Toyotas on CP Rail cars so that photographs could be sent to Japan as gifts to Japanese car executives. I chose a place not far from Boston Bar where CN and CP changed sides on the Fraser River. One bridge took the CP tracks from one bank to the other and a CN bridge did the same in the opposite direction. In this place there was river, forest, mountains and briges, a suitable iconic Canadian site for a photograph. With a walkie talkie in hand I stopped the train and then slowly I made it advance to the rail car with the Nissans. I would then take my photograph. Then I did the same for the Toyotas and the Mazdas. It was thrilling to be able to stop and start a near mile-long train.
But it was the first time I went to Boston Bar, that biker ball in June of 1982, that has firmly left an impression on me. I noticed that the Cog Pub has been re-named. But the restaurant is much the same as the one where Les Wiseman, Ian Bateson and I nursed a terrible hangover the next day after our biker bash experience. I pointed out to Rebecca the very booth where we sat (very close to where the waitresses dropped the soiled dishes, back then, we thought they were throwing them) that morning. Every time the dishes were dropped our lives would come to a crashing and painful end.
We had convinced the Province
to send us to cover the biker ball. Wiseman was to write it, I was to photograph it and Bateson was to serve as a possible illustrator. Tarren at the Drake Hotel had given us the name of our contact, Blackie. Afraid that bikers might trash our personal cars we rented a metallic orange Toyota Tercel. Our afternoon and evening at the biker ball faded away from our memory by the next day when the combination of biker beer and biker chicken had done all of its damage. But we did stop in Spuzzum, on our way back to Vancouver for the snap here. That's Wiseman on the left and Bateson on the right. Wiseman told me he never finished the story. Perhaps the reason could have been that one of the bikers, as we left the proceedings, told me, "Tell your writer friend, not to fuck up."
But when I looked for pictures in my photo files last night I found Wiseman's unfinished story. He must have given it to me. So here it is.
By Les Wiseman
We were sitting in the Canyon Inn Pub a few yards off of Trans-Canada 1 in uptown Yale. Our nerves were jangling as we drew nearer to Boston Bar, site of the June 20 1982, Biker’s Ball, so we had stopped for a tranquilizing frosty. Our conversation had one central theme: We were probably going to get the living bejeezus beat out of us by liquor-crazed bikers who could and more than likely would crush our skulls like American beer cans. Doomed. A strange feeling took hold; we knew this weekend would not be boring. Our senses became keen like any sort of prey. Through our heightened hearing the rumble made us twitchy before we could identify it. Then the cold blue flame that runs from your throat, through your stomach and pans out into the genitals ran its course as we recognized the sound of motorcycles. Big ones; a lot of them.
We had not seen any bikes on the way from Vancouver and suddenly there were a dozen hogs, Harley Davidson 1200s with teardrop gas tanks and extended chrome forks filling the parking lot, revving their engines. Their riders, with their shades, short helmets, ragged beards and hair, sleeveless leather and blue denim jackets were coming into the bar, and we were just leaving. Looking decidedly working-class and sheepish we sulked back to the Toyota Tercel. We were out of our league; but committed to experiencing the whole affair, regardless – well, within limits.
More choppers passed us, singly and in pairs, winding around the turns and echoing through the tunnels. A fluid streak of motion zipped by, cut in front of us and pulled over. Through the rear window we could see the rider stumble off his bike, hurl his taped helmet to the gravel, stagger to the cliff face rising a hundred feet above him, leaning his forehead to the stone he fumblingly relieved himself, weaved back to his bike, and at the Hell’s Gate Tram he soared past us again, poetry on wheels, complete and competent in chain-drive movement.
A mile or so further, we noticed a large yellow field irregularly mosaiqued with small dark figures and lines of glittering bikes- the site. But first, a trip into the village of Boston Bar to weigh the sentiments of the locals. And to buy beer, a generally accepted form of life insurance. The folk seemed non-plussed, excited even. Sure, they were all going to go down to the site for a while, everyone who had talked to a biker had been cordially invited. Kids hung around gas stations leaning on bicycles equipped with ape-hanger handlebars, mouths catching flies as they watched the celebrants fuelling and polishing their Harleys. In the Prince Charles Hotel bar, The Cog Pub, baseball-capped good ole boys wandered up to tables of bikers and struck conversations regarding horsepower and mags versus spoke wheels.
At the gateway to the field we were stopped by some guys drinking in the back of a pick-up. They asked for a donation to aid the cause of publicizing and defending the protest against the helmet laws. We gave them a couple of bucks apiece and got our hands stamped. Unthinking, I asked for a receipt. They all looked at me with loathing. One of them spat very near to the Tercel’s fender.
Looking like blatant narcs, we cracked a couple of beer and wandered over to the bonfire. We stood, trying to appear cool, yet looking out of place as F.B.I. agents at Woodstock. The photographer pressed his contact. “You know Blackie?” he asked a nearby biker. The guy looked him up and down, for an intimidatingly long moment. He nodded. “Oh, well could you point him out to me?” The biker shook his head. “Who should I say is looking for him, if I see him?” he asked. The photographer told him. The biker nodded and walked off.
We stood some more. Parallel to the drop-off to the Fraser River was a stand of two-by-four studs clad with walls and roofs of plywood where they sold T-shirts and cans of Molson’s Canadian and highballs. Beside that there was a similar structure for feeding. Beside that, there was a cooking area where chicken halves were being barbequed. A make-do bandstand was a few yards away across the sawdust laid in the heavy traffic area. Off to one side, like Dracula’s castle in a Hammer film loomed the latrines. Choppers, inert without their masters, metal steeds at graze, punctuated the landscape like slalom obstacles. The clear canyon air vibrated on the upper level highway as a duo of bikes torqued into the town site making a joyful noise passing their brothers in the field below. A lot of the guys raised their beer cans and pointed, “There goes so-and-so!”
We had been told that our contact was the biggest, meanest looking Indian guy wearing a cowboy hat, you’d ever seen. Profits from the beer sold at the concession were going to the anti-helmet law cause, so we had stopped drinking our beer and had been buying from the stand. Only polite. The clear, lucid, crystalline fear of a few hours before was losing its edge. So when a man vaguely matching the description strolled over, we were feeling more in sync with the ambience. He told us he had known who we were from the moment we had walked in. Indeed we had stuck out like pimples on a sore derriere. We talked. Wondering what was going on, a few more guys came over to listen in. They were Satan’s Angels, a big bike club with members from all over B.C. Most of the participants at the ball were Angels. They wore their colours, crests consisting of a red horned black bearded devil-head with golden halo on the back of a sleeveless black leather jacket. They were like normal people: fat, skinny, tall, short, muscular, wimpy, short-haired, long-haired, mostly bearded, a larger than normal percentage had limps, evidence of going over the edge on a bike. Some used canes; they had to kick-start their bikes while in unusual bodily configurations. All decidedly tough, though. Yet, the thing that struck me the most was the fact that there seemed and unwritten custom, that when dealing with outsiders, it was considered proper to be as quiet-spoken, and articulate as possible. They did not give us any flack. They simply told us that it was up to each individual member as to whether or not he would allow photographs or conversation. To be reproduced in print. Our admiration grew. They told us that they had, almost invariably received bad press. We told them that we were serious professional journalists and told only the truth. They told us that they knew our phone numbers and names should we be lying. We told them that we admired them. That was the truth. Fear had transformed itself into understanding. We were happy to be there, to escape the mundane aspects of working-class life. We were not bored.
"Show us your bike," we asked one fellow.
Lou Reed in Boston Bar
Female Elegance On A Horse
Monday, November 12, 2007
Fashion and I have never really gotten together much, as I wrote here
. But there was another occasion. It involved finding a horse and a bunch of grapes in an Abbotsford farm. John Lekich
had written and essay on female elegance and I had an idea on how to illustrate it. Unfortunately shooting for a family publication, in this case the Georgia Straight
somewhat thwarted my total vision. I thought that a couple of sisters dressed to kill and riding bareback would somehow convey the ideal of the elegant woman being elegant, no matter what the circumstances. At the time I had written a story for the Vancouver Sun
on the role of women cello players in music. This was quite restricted until women were allowed to play full-frontal cello in the beginning of the 20th century. Until then, since putting your legs around a cello was deemed immoral, women were forced to play musical side-saddle with the instrument. The same idea of a woman riding a horse like a man was anathema well into the 20th.
I am not sure if Miki and Nicole Ruso were wearing anything underneath for this picture of them on the horse. I was too busy trying to take the picture of the untrained horse who would not stand still to think much about it. But in the end we took our pictures and had our Straight cover and everything was back to normal.
As cliche, as the concept is, that was the first and last time I ever approached the idea of a woman and a horse. I had previously photographed a woman, quite bare, on a dressage saddle, on a saw horse in the middle of her living room, but that's another story.
Modern English in Technical Pan 2415
Sunday, November 11, 2007
I took this photograph in 1982 of Modern English members Gary McDowell and Robbie Gray. They were of a British wave of musical groups called New Romantics. They were pleasant and the very opposite of the Vancouver punk bands that I really liked. But I do remember this photograph which had a particular look I could not possibly replicate today even though I still have a few rolls of the film I used. It was Kodak Technical Pan 2415 film which was the only film that matched the resolving power of the best lenses at over 200 lines per millimeter. It was extremely sharp film and when used in 35mm cameras it had the look of photographs taken with much larger formats such as 4x5 inch cameras. The film had an extended red sensitivity which tended to make skin shine and blemishes disappeared.
Today's blog is a kind of holiday. Rosemary, Rebecca, Lauren and I drove to Lillooet yesterday to visit our daughter Ale. We will return Monday. For breakfast we are having thick bacon, toast and a Yorkshire blend (very strong) tea from Granville Island Tea Company.