Lauri Stallings - The Witch Knits Too
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Sukie was the last to leave Eastwick; the afterimage of her in her nappy suede skirt and orange hair, swinging her long legs and arms past the glinting shopfronts, lingered on Dock Street like the cool-colored ghost the eye retains after staring as something bright. This was years ago. The young harbormaster with whom she had her last affair has a paunch now, and three children; but he still remembers how she used to bite his shoulder and say she loved the taste the salt of the sea-mist condensed on his skin.
The Witches of Eastwick - John Updike 1984
I have been looking at my Lauri Stallings file. It is full of images that are some of the most striking I have ever taken. Some years ago when I was doing a fashion spread for the Georgia Straight with Ballet BC dancers in the Marble Arch
I was amazed to see Lauri Stallings in a corner of an extra room Tony Ricci
had given us so our subjects could change and relax between shooting sessions. There she was knitting and she smiled at me and in her Florida accent she said, "I knit, too."
I thought, "Here is a witch with many talents."
Those who glance at this blog with some regularity can expect a few more days of Lauri Stallings.
Friday, June 06, 2008
I always thought I had a good eye for beauty but it was only in 1995 when I met and photographed Evelyn Hart
that I realized that I had made the motion of taking my daughters to ballet when they were young because as a father that was my duty. It took watching Evelyn Hart dance, and talk an even do nothing, for me to appreciate a whole aspect of beauty that I had missed most of my life. It was and is the beauty of dance.
Today I attended a two and a half hour performance of dance that was tediously mediocre. You have to try very hard to see mediocre dance in Vancouver. I didn't try, I simply had no choice.
When I got home I knew I had only about three hours to keep my promise to write a blog every day. How could I write about mediocrity? I had to write something. I have to write about something that will lift my spirit.
Shortly after meeting Evelyn Hart I knew I wanted to attend as many dance performances as I could. At the time, in 1995, Shannon Rupp and then Gail Johnson wrote almost weekly columns on dance for the Georgia Straight
. This meant that I was assigned to take many dance photographs as the de facto dance photographer for the paper. I quickly decided that I could not compete with the local and national dance photographer of note, David Cooper who photographs dancers in the air in his studio. I made up my mind to pursue my interest in portraiture and use that angle to photograph dancers.
In the late 70s and 80s I had come to realize that shooting rock bands during concerts was a sure way of falling into a crowd of photographers who did that and that it was virtually impossible to take pictures that were original or different. The name of the game was access. But with a long lens access was not all that important. I used access and Vancouver Magazine's
pull (Les Wiseman's In One Ear
column was legendary so it gave the magazine credibility) to take photographs back stage. Here I could impose my own style. I would use lights and take portraits of the band members or lead singers in their dressing rooms. One portrait in particular gave me a small measure of fame. It was a photograph of Johnny Thunders
When I was given the opportunity of taking pictures back stage during a Ballet BC rehearsal I jumped. The experience was frustrating as the dancers looked in the direction of the would be audience so I got strange side shots. The lighting was minimal and I was using small cameras (not one of my fortes). It confirmed for me my vow of taking pictures of dancers only as portraits under controlled lighting conditions. And then I looked at the real back stage of the back stage. She was a read haired dancer I had never seen before.
She was warming up. I was completely frozen in fascination and began to take some photographs. The photographs here of that dancer, Lauri Stallings do not do justice (for one thing they are not in colour) and you cannot discern her movements full of a grace I had never seen, nor seen since. Stallings
had a style all her own. Just warming up she was perfection. A perfection that came from talent and training.
My mediocre dance experience of today has helped me at the very least to remember that perfection is there, even in the dark corners, if one is able to look for it. Perhaps too much perfection is not all that good.
Melchior Gaston Ferrer aka Noel, Marquis de Maynes
Thursday, June 05, 2008
In 1952 I saw the film Scaramouche
in Buenos Aires. My mother loved Stewart Granger and I was much too young to appreciate the charms of Eleanor Parker. I had nightmares that evening because the villain, played by Mel Ferrer was a terrific Noel, Marquis de Maynes. He had these intense cold eyes, and was a deadly effiecient sworsdman. To this day I remember that dialogue between Marquis de Maynes and Marie Antoinette (Nina Foch):
Marie Antoinette: I am angry with you, sir.
Noel, Marquis de Maynes: Angry, Your Majesty?
Marie Antoinette: Very angry! You know why, of course.
Noel, Marquis de Maynes: Could it be for fighting Count de Talles?
Marie Antoinette: Among others.
Noel, Marquis de Maynes: I only scratched him a little.
Marie Antoinette: They say you crippled him for life.
Marie Antoinette: And five minutes later,you killed the Baron Marblaux.
Noel, Marquis de Maynes: An unfortunate accident. He ran into my sword.
And who could possibly forget that super long and super fantastic fencing duel
to the death) between Mel Ferrer and Stewart Granger?
In 1986 my Vancouver Magazine cover of Allan Fotheringham gazing on his daughter Francesca got me a Western Magazine Award for best magazine cover. The award came with a nice amount of cash. People asked me how I had come up with the idea. My answer, Bert Stern, always drew blanks.
Here is Bert Stern's cover of Audrey Hepburn and new husband (they had just gotten married in Paris) Mel Ferrer.
Mel Ferrer died yesterday at age 90. Just thinking of his role of Marquis de Maynes makes me shudder. Had I known then (1952) what I know now I would have shouted, "Don't kill him, Andre Moreau, he has to marry Audrey Hepburn one day." Only one person would have disagreed with me. Milady, played by Lana Turner
in the Three Musketeers
The Russian, The Frenchman, The Canadian & The Placid Italian Via England
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
I must confess that in the almost 80 roses in my garden only one of them is a Canadian rose. It is Rosa
'Thérèse Bugnet'. She is usually the third rose (the first and second
) to bloom in spring. Such was the case this year but she shared the honour with the English rose Rosa 'Fair Bianca'
which happens to be my favourite rose of the garden because of her complex and special myrrh scent.
Thérèse Bugnet is a tall rose. She is 10ft high and one of her most attractive features is that the new canes are all wine red. The blooms are semi double, clear red, fading to pink and extremely fragrant. Because of its rugosa heritage (roses that originally came from Northern Japan, Korea and Siberia) she is hardy to Zone 2. This means she would grow just fine in Yellowknife.
And that would have been that and the only excuse for today's blog to post my scan of the two roses. I did the scan around three today. But I have always been curious about the name. Who was Thérèse Bugnet? My rose bible, Peter Beales - Classic Roses simply says:
Bugnet - Canada 1950.
Further enquiry led me to find out that Georges Bugnet had lived in Alberta and that he died at age 101. But he was far more complex and much more interesting
than I could have imagined. The rose which was crossed from a Russian rose and an Alberta wild rose is 'Thérèse Bugnet'. Bugnet named the rose after his sister.
So here you have a Canadian rose bred by a Frenchman (in Northern Alberta) from a Russian rugosa next to an English rose
named after the more placid sister of Shakespeare's shrew.
A Halcyon June In My Garden
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Monday was a sad day but an important one. Joan Hodgson, Donald Hodgson's
widow, had indicated she wanted me to pass by to pick up a few hostas that I might want and to help her ID some that had no labels.
Sooner or later we must all go through the passage of deciding who gets what once we know we cannot part this world with any of it. Some may be lucky (are they?) to decide when they are alive, others may be unlucky (are they?) not to have to make that decision.
Donald Hodgson had converted (before he knew of his terminal cancer a year ago after winding down his wholesale hosta business) his backyard and front yard into a beautiful garden with winding paths, rare shrubs and trees, and hostas in clumps so large that made me salivate when I saw them.
Sadly he was not around to finish the garden and Joan had to get rid of some of the plants. At age 70 she must be able to handle the garden on her own.
The last time I had been in that garden Donald had given me a tour of the works while I waited for that moment when he would say, "Well Alex, which plants do you want to buy?
" The price for his hostas which were tried and true specimens grown in large pots and kept for a few years before he would sell them, was far more reasonable than I could ever hope for. And Donald would always throw a few extra plants for nothing.
I remember one other day when I showed up with Rebecca and he said, "The best Hosta
'Halcyon' are the ones that come from Hosta
'June's that revert.
As I explained here
about my fondness for the very blue Hosta
'Halcyon' becuase of its elegance and an ability to look good until late fall, my ears percked up. Donald and I both knew that the beautiful Hosta
'June' (below, left) was a spontaneous mutation of Halcyon in England.
When people come to my garden they invariably point at June and ask, "What is that?
" or "Who is she?
" While Halcyon is almost understated, June is quietly flamboyant. Donald was telling us that the best Halcyons where the ones that had been Halcyon at one time, become June, and then reverted or gone back to their roots. Donald gave Rebecca a pot of reverted June and when I saw it on Sunday afternoon at Rebecca's house I was breathless at its beauty and of leaves that did not have any spots. The plant is perfect. You can see some spots in the scan of the Halcyon leaf here (above, left, and the June leaf to its right).
Joan and I walked through the garden and when I would complain (when not being able to ID some plant,"Why is not Donald here to help?
" Joan would say, "He is but I have yet to figure out how to communicate."
It was a sad afternoon and I told Joan and she understood when I mentioned, "This is going to happen to me some day. Perhaps over my roses, or my hostas or my negatives."
Both of us understood that what we were doing was a sort of preparation for that final right of passage.
Before I left I went to one of the corners of Donald's garden and I pointed at a glorious plant (very much like the one below, in my garden) and I said, "Donald and I used to comment on how faithful, beautiful and ignored this ordinary hosta is. It is Hosta 'Antioch'".
As I look over this monitor on to the back garden I can spot Halcyon, June and Antioch. They are a piece of Donald in my garden. I will follow suit someday and be a piece in someone else's garden.
The Alexandra Bridge - Malcolm & The Ghost
Monday, June 02, 2008
On our way back from Lillooet I took a barely noticeable side road after passing Boston Bar. Rosemary, Rebecca and Lauren looked at me strangely. "I have a surprise," I told them. I drove through a dense forest path and parked at the end. I noticed the patches of asphalt but did not reveal their origin to the girls. We crossed train tracks after we waited for the long train to pass. Then as we approached a clearing I told them, "Here is the surprise. See what is at the end of this path." The old Alexandra Bridge, the second one, according to friend Michael Kluckner
( who, alas, is now living in Australia whith his wife Christine Allen), appeared suddenly like a ghost in the blue light of the low cloud which was almost fog.
Some 10 years ago in circumstances that I do not fully recall, Malcolm Parry passed by the house one day and told me we were going on a ride. It was he who surprised me with the ghost at the end of the trail. I called him yesterday for details and all he could tell me was, "I took you there because that bridge has been very important in the history of our province." The patches there of asphalt are what remains of the old Highway 1 Transcanada Highway.
Some people might think that Malcolm Parry
is a bit standoffish even when he is at his most charming. Few really know the man well. Yet I think I had the privilege of getting a few glimpses of the inner man in the close to 37 years that I have known him. And that day on the Alexandra Bridge was one of them.
Christine Allen decamps for Australia
Home Is Where The Cats Are
Sunday, June 01, 2008
We returned this evening from a trip to our daughter Ale's home in Lillooet BC. Coming back was far easier than going. We went via Whistler/Pemberton on Friday because we left mid afternoon and the traffic on Highyway 1 (the other way to Lillooet via Hope) would have been congested. It was no better as the highway had red pilons (50kph work area) all the way to Whistler. Then we took a wrong turn at Mt Curry and ended up in Darcy, a Native Canadian reserve. We made it to Lillooet two hours late.
But the two days were full of interesting events and meals. Some of the pictures will appear at a later blog.
Coming back I knew what Rosemary was thinking. She was wondering about our two cats Toby and Plata (above). She was savouring getting to our front door and seeing them looking out on the vertical glass windows on either side of it. We deposited Rebecca and Lauren at their house and soon we were home. Rosemary got in bed and I went to the garden to see what had grown in the interval. Removing some of the leaves with black spot on my roses is a pleasant and relaxing activity. The cats were on either side of Rosemary and I brought her a scoop of Argentine dulce de leche in a little bowl. I relished my strong tea made from good Vancouver tap water. The tea in Lillooet tastes terrible. The water is alkaline and brews a tea as bad as the one I had in London hotels.
Lillooet seems far already and Rosemary has settled in with the cats. So much of our life is based on shared memories. A few months back Lauren drew a cat
. We asked her which cat it was. She showed it to us. The stuffed cat was given to Lauren's aunt, our eldest daughter Ale by her godfather Andrew Taylor some 37 years ago. If Lauren coloured it with a bit more orange it has to all to do with their own house cat. It is an orange cat the Hilary named Raúl after her own Mexican godfather Raúl Guerrero Montemayor
In Lillooet I spotted picture frames, mirrors, vases and Mexican pots given to us originally by either Raúl or Andrew. Somehow Ale had remembered where they came from and had kept them safe all these years.
Being home is comforting even though we already miss Ale or having Rebecca and Luaren all to ourselves. But the cats somehow step forward and take their place and it feels like home. Ale called to inquire how we had arrived. I am sure that tomorrow in the evening our other daughter, Hilary, will call and give Rosemary a blow by blow description of dinner. Very uncomplicated and very much home.