The Jeweler's Feet
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I have written about feet here
. And Max Wyman wrote about feet here
I will still not admit that I find feet in any way attractive. It all happened some years ago when a very pleasant female photographer told me, "Why don't you photograph feet?"
Immediately, I replied that I found feet the ugliest part of the body and that I also did not want to fragment the human body into body parts. I remember sharing a photographic shoow with another photographer some years ago. Both of us had nudes on the wall. In those years of femenist awareness I will never forget the woman who left a statement in the gallery guest book, "Waterhouse-Hayward, thank you for showing us the faces." Since then I have tried not to depersonalize the human form by stressing the parts.
At Focal Point I teach a somwhat popular class that I have purposely called The Contemporary Portrait Nude. I tell my students that even when they are taking pictures of our model's hands or feet they must not lose sight of the model's humanity and individuality. I stress calling the model the subject as the latter word does not include the idea of models with all our prejudices that we may direct at the meaning of that word.
And so against my inner desires to not photograph feet I have done so for some years. My favourite place has been Lynn Canyon in North Vancouver. The rushing cold water seems to add excitement. Some of the best and most erotic pictures I have ever taken were of the jewelry designer Susan Fiedler.Susan Fiedler - A Face
Patrice B - Revisited - Rediscovered- Savoured
Friday, April 18, 2008
I have been thinking about beautiful women recently. More so today after having seen with Rosemary, White Cargo
yesterday. White Cargo (1942) stars Walter Pidgeon, at his best, and Hedy Lamarr at her most beautiful. I have been thinking about beautiful women because in my two previous blogs on them I hardly ever knew them as they faced my camera. With Patrice B it was different.
I hinted a bit about her here
. Looking at her files again today some of the bits and pieces that I remember about the session with Patrice have come back. I don't remember why exactly she chose to bandage her hands. "I want to feel like a boxer," she said. But I do remember that she was having to make decisions about her life.
One of them involved moving to the United States the other one had to do with either dumping her boyfriend or being dumped. While she asked me to photograph her nude she also indicated I take other pictures. In some I used my flash but in many the mottled lighting that was coming in through the windows was the single light. Looking back I can only now see the pattern.
There is a man's coat, trousers, sweater and socks. In some of the pictures she would smell intensely the sleeve of the sweater. While I cannot show some of the best nudes I have ever taken in my life here I can give a hint at the incredible gift of being able to observe a woman's itimate thoughts displayed through gestures, clothing and lack of it.
As I photographed Patrice I never thought that she had any resemblance to Cybill Shepherd. Now as I look at these photos I would say to the contrary. Shepherd looks like Patrice but is not as beautiful as Patrice.
It Has Been Done Before - Batesonian Wisdom
Thursday, April 17, 2008
My friend Ian Bateson used to drive me crazy when I would show him what I thought was an original and well taken photograph that I had taken recently. Invariably he would look at it and say, "It's been done before." He had me frustrated for years until one day I saw the light. I showed him a photograph and he said the predictable. This time I countered with, "But I have not done it yet!" I may have shouted this at him I was so excited at finally arriving at this piece of photographic wisdom. Since then Bateson has become a most supportive fan of my photography. I hope he understands how instrumental he was in my progress.
At least a decade ago I had two successful gallery shows. One featured a woman, Lisa Montonen
holding different hosta leaves from my garden. I took them all in one afternoon in my studio and used only one light. The other show were portraits of women in tubs
, all taken from the same angle and revealing nothing that would offend anybody. The lighting was much more complex but I knew what I was doing, or at the very least I knew what I wanted.
The testing, with all its mistakes of lighting, shooting angles and lack of direction, I imposed on brave women who posed for me in previous years to those shows. They knew I was experimenting with lighting schemes and approaches and patiently posed while I blundered. One of the most patient and one of the most calmingly beautiful was the late María de Lurdes Behar
. Here you see my early examples of shooting a woman with a hosta leaf. But she did manage to be around to be part of my tub show. It was so charming to photograph a woman so tiny that she could easily bend into a fetal position in a very small tub.
The above is an explanation on how all photographers must go through a transition. They all must put their hand into the fire and feel the burn. Advice from others will never do. Photographers must experience it themselves. By their mistakes they will learn what not to do. When those mistakes become accidental successes the photographer, if methodical can track back to see how the mistake happened so that it can be repeated!
My photographs in yesterday's blog
represent a transition in my approach to taking pictures of women. For my 21 first century tastes they look much too glamorous and devoid of substance. I would never photograph anybody in bed smoking. The romance of the woman smoking in bed is long gone. The pictures of Vantana are not too revealing because I have pledged to keep my blog at a standard that it should not offend my granddaughter Rebecca (even though she has seen most of my nudes) or any of her friends. In one of the photographs posted yesterday I actually removed all traces of an "offending" nipple.
In order to photograph those pictures of Lisa Montonen with my hosta leaves I had to first experiment with the mottled lighting that I used on María de Lurdes Behar. It was too difficult to use. Depending on how the mottled lighting fell on her face it made her cheeks look big. Lisa Montonen had very blonde hair so I was able to separate her from my dark background without having to use a "glamorous" hair light.
Vantana's photographs were such a transition. They almost make me cringe when I look at them. But such was her beauty, her long legs, her high cheek bones, that my ineptness and innocence luckily did not carry the day.
Four years ago Rebecca, Rosemary and I went to Buenos Aires. I saw many ads of women in bikinis advertising everything from tootpaste to Fiats. The ads looked to this proper Canadian, obscene. I commented on it to my relatives. My rugby playing nephews thought I was insane and questioned my manhood. I tried to explain the concept of political correctness. I asked them exactly what the connection, between a beautiful woman in a bikini holding tootpaste, was with tooth decay. In the end I gave up.
Vantana Wears My Suit, Shirt & Braces
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
When I first met the tall Vantana some years ago, she reminded me a bit of Geena Davis. I proposed to her the idea of taking her picture in room 618 of Tony Ricci's Marble Arch Hotel. She agreed but warned me that she had recently cut off and bleached her wonderful hair. I wasn't going to wait for the hair to come back so we met at the Marble Arch.
For laughs I brought my dark blue pin stripe suit, a white shirt and braces. We took pictures in a room where I had photographed quite a few women before and a quite a few after. I was still experimenting with lights and no lights (some of these are long exposures with my camera on a tripod, using the light that was available in the room).
I followed my friend John Armstrong's idea that a lamp without a lampshade made pictures look a tad cheap and noirish. I have never used these pictures for anything but they certainly helped me progress in perfecting my style of photography.
I now use my light a lot closer and get more shadows. It is close in look to the one you see here where Vantana lifted the braces up to her shoulder. I was rendered speechless when I saw this.
A Rite Of Passage With No Help From Uriah Heep
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
There are several acknowledged rites of passage. The most important one (without which further rites become moot) is being born. My only proof of that event, now that both my parents are dead as well as others who might have attested to it, is a tattered document that I had to translate, on the spot, for a kindly woman from Fiji (not so kindly and bureaucratic in her demeanor until I made her laugh with my chatting) at the Canada Government building on Quebec and 10th Avenue. I was there today to get a lesser known rite of passage, my Old Age Pension and my Canada Pension. Because I speak the language (English) I was able to perform the paperwork alone without help. There were quite a few elderly Chinese men accompanied by younger women, perhaps there to obtain the same service. This rite of passage is bound to be an unplanned harbinger of that final rite of passage in which we all leave unaccompanied, too.
Rosemary filled out the application forms and told me this sort of thing makes her very nervous. We have crossed too many borders in Latin America and Europe so her fear of application forms and government bureaucracy is not unfounded. Mine borders on the phobia.
As a child I never understood my mother's instructions when going to the Buenos Aires Police Department (part of the reason why I am afraid of going to government offices even now) to obtain some document, to affirm that my surname was Waterhouse-Hayward while hers was de Irureta Goyena. I was too young to understand the problem of Argentina not recognizing my father's divorce before he married my mother. I also had to memorize a different birthdate as my father had botched that and registered me almost a year after my birth.
The worse case was the scenario at the Mexico City airport sometime in 1956 when I flew in from school in Austin. The man at immigration said, "Young man it is impossible for you to be entering Mexico as I have no record that you ever left it." The mistake of a lazy official who had not stamped my leaving Mexico a few months earlier cost my mother many pesos in lawyer's fees and mordidas
(bribes) to set the record straight. It also involved lineups at the notorious Gobernación
on Bucareli Street where all residents of Mexico who were not citizens did their trámites,
a horrific Spanish word for official paperwork that includes the concept of long waits at lineups and being subjected to surly officials who think they are God. As a matter of fact there is a way of talking to these officials that necessitates the use of the subjunctive mood. It is a bureaucratic Spanish that makes Dickens's Uriah Heep seem even more odious when translated into the language of Cervantes.
"Should you in your kidness take my problem at hand, would there be a possibility that with God's help and your invaluable contribution to my affairs, my application form might be seen by Mr. Perez before the end of the month? I would be eternally grateful to you and I would find a way of proving that. Perhaps I could help with a contribution for your forthcoming vacation trip to Acapulco with your dear family."
If the above did not help then one hired a coyote
the deprecatory name given to men who would intercede (a go-between no less hated than a procurer) through connections to speed up paperwork.
My paper work at the Canada Government Office was a breeze. As soon as I told my Fiji born (of Punjabi heritage) official how my father had invited his friends from the Indian Embassy in Buenos Aires to a curry dinner cooked by him at home, she was mine. She had initially told me, most coldly, when she saw my documentation, "You will have to have these registered for authenticity, etc." By the end of the interview (after I had told her in great detail a typical Argentine meal and how to cook it) she had stamped everything and told me, "Thank you for making me laugh."
Citizen Joe Kiethley
Monday, April 14, 2008
I remember the day that I spotted the once scary (only to me it seems) Joe Shithead outside my Burnaby home so many years ago. "Alex, we need you to photograph DOA for Interview Magazine
," he said to me in his blasé way of saying things. Joe has always been straightforward about this sort of thing and indeed soon after I had a full glorious page in Interview Magazine with this
picture. The other side of the page was a smaller picture (ha!) of the American punk band Black Flag.
As a photographer I am living in an age of chaos, less work, a decline in magazine work and the dumbing down of lighting so that everything looks like Flickr. The uncertainty of my profession just when I have received my Gold Card and perhaps a $200 government pension is stressful.
Yet, a week ago, last Sunday, there was Joe Kiethley and his band DOA in my studio. Joe had hired me to shoot the back cover photo for their upcoming CN Northern Avenger.
What were the chances in our changing times and a music scene in turmoil that both Joe and I would be in my studio at the same time so many years later shooting for a CD? Whatever those chances might have been I am grateful to Joe and DOA for bringing a bit of calm to my unsettled life. How many people could say that about a punk band?
Thank you Joe for you perseverance, for not losing your way and specially for that evening of calm.
Beau Geste On Hold & A Surprising Moonlight Sonata
Sunday, April 13, 2008
There are those stories, the true ones and the ones that are not, of the-soon-to-be blind person who travels the world to see all. And there is the not quite historically correct concept of the barbarians at the walls of Rome. When they breach them the world slips into the middle ages and the lights of learning turn off with a few beacons being kept lit by Arabs scholars who translate the Greeks and the Romans into their language.
I think of all that as I gaze upon Rebecca and remember the film Charly
. Cliff Robertson
plays a man with a child-lie maind who is given a drug that makes him brilliant. But as the drug's effect begins to wane he now understands what it is that he is losing. He is losing something that he never had. And that is what makes this film one of the most tragic I have ever seen.
Perhaps I am over dramatizing this (I surely am!) in my quest to expose Rebecca to as much knowledge, situations, experiences before her teenage "middle ages" come crashing down. We can all see it coming. Last night she did not want to see Liszt's Rhapsody
the film for children (and adults) from the series on composers. We have seen the ones on Handel, Bach, Beethoven and Bizet. Rebecca wanted to go home but only under the insistence of her mother, Hilary did we sit down to watch and Rebecca had no choice. As soon as the super handsome Geordir Johnson (who plays Franz Liszt) appeared I watched Rebecca from the corner of my eye pick up the DVD case and read the credits. In the end we had a pleasant evening and we all learned something.
My daughter Hilary seems to have some sort of chip on her shoulder that I was not as insistent on the concept of culture and the educational when she was Rebecca's age. She is, of course, absolutely right. What could I have possibly known then? I may know just a bit more now but in our changing world I have come to the realization that knowledge of the esoteric (that which was not
so just a few years ago) is a valuable commodity. My friend Abraham Rogatnick and others say I must go easy and not push. But the fact is that the change in Rebecca becomes obvious from one day to the next.
On Friday we attended a concert at St Jude's Catholic Church that was performed by Paul Luchkow, Michael Jarvis
and friends. Rebecca insisted in not only chewing gum but blowing bubbles, too. Since we were only a few ft from violist Glenys Webster
I could only wonder how it might have affected her playing (it didn't as far as I could ascertain). But I didn't say much. Rebecca had come to the concert and who knows how many more she will attend before the curtain of culture comes crashing down!
At the intermission I asked Glenys to chat with Rebecca. This she did and Rebecca also listened as Michael Jarvis explained to a little audience how his harpsichord worked.
became a distant second choice to the film Rebecca really wanted to see Arctic Tale
. At the very least Rebecca's original choice was educational. But this word is now a suspect word in our family. It represents something boring and tedious that I try to force Rebecca and Lauren to experience.
I think of the film Beau Geste where the only special effects is the problem of giving a dead legionaire a Viking funeral (complete with burning long boat and a dog at the dead man's feet) in the middle of the desert. The solution is an intellectual one. Intellectual special effects are now pennies in a Loonie currency. They do not hold their value.
So I live in a small fear that while I was under 10 when I first saw Beau Geste with my parents I might have to wait a bit longer to see it with Rebecca. It would break my heart if she soon grew bored. For years (she was past 20) her mother Hilary refused to see The Third Man
because it was in ugly black and white.
But there was a glimmer of hope as I experienced a moment of paradoxical sadness mixed with joy. I was in the boulevard shoveling sand into my wheelbarrow when I heard Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata
. I thought immediately of my mother who often played it and was hit by a wave of longing for her. But then I knew that somehow it was Rebecca playing it on the Chickering and that the living room window was open because of the warm day that yesterday was.
I told Rebecca of my sadness and joy and she immediately sat again at the piano and practiced for a lot longer than she would have on any other day.