John Tuytle's Eryngium Planum
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Today began with an intensive watering of the garden. From cool rainy days the weather has shifted to hot, dry and some strong winds a few days back. Rosemary's aconitums camed tumbling down and many roses that might have survived a few more days of beauty lost their petals. It is in such times when the thistle-like eryngium shines and even stands out. The flowers are either a startling white or a cool metallic blue. The best eryngiums in Vancouver are not in Vancouver but in John Tuytle's sheep farm in Langley. We visited him with the girls on Friday. He showed us his spectacular roses but my eyes were lovingly gazing at his eryngiums. Tuytle noticed so he cut some for me to take home. I was going to scan them as soon as possible but forgot until now which is Saturday night around 10:30. Here are some Eryngium planum
seedlings in all their cool glory. You would not notice that the blue has shifted a bit and the leaves are a crisp dry.
Jo-Ann & The Cardoon - A Manifestation Of A Compulsion
Friday, July 11, 2008
Jo-Ann has appeared on this pages (screen?) in other occasions. Here
is one example. The cardoon and its association with thistles here
. Jo-Ann has more or less been showing up at my studio once every couple of months on a Thursday at noon. Our "theme" is to take pictures with only one theme or item. We have used cloth ribbon and an old Hollywood light as in the example seen in the link above.
Today Rosemary, Lauren, Rebecca and I visited John Tuytle's small sheep farm in Langley. That he has an ancillary interest in roses is what took us there. John also grows the best Eryngiums in Vancouver. I have featured the plant twice here
. Tuytle cut me some of their flowers to bring home. They might make their appearance as scans here soon.
This evening I went to Focal Point to see a photographic exhibition of my students' work. There was so-so work and there was superlative work. There were pictures, as an example a cow grazing near a housing development that had significance if my student explained as he did that the cow was in the former pig farm in Coquitlam. The photograph made me think that there are some pictures that attract us without any explanation and some photographs that don't affect us until the explanation behind them is revealed.
It is sad to realize that there will be at least 16 new photographers who will be competing with me for the shrinking photographic dollar. I took with me the metal foil wrapper of a roll of Ektachrome 120 transparency film and I asked my students to guess what was in my closed hand. One student was close when she said candy rapper. Had I said that what was in my hand was yellow and blue (the colour of Ektachrome boxes and wrappers, would not have made the guess any easier in this digital age.
At the end of the day I feel like one of those Mexican turtles who is compelled to lay eggs on a beach (no idea if the turtle knows that fewer than 10% of the eggs will survive to be hatched. I feel this compulsion of meeting with Jo-Ann every once in a while and going through the excercise of taking her picture undraped. Is there any purpose any more for this sort of thing? The fish end of the original Starbucks siren is long gone and sanitized. Do the pictures here of Jo-Ann (the few that I can post without breaking my self-made rule of not showing nudes (overt ones) have any meaning without the explanation that I posted them today because the eryngiums at Tuytle's farm reminded me of thistles even though the thistle-like appearance of eryngiums does not make them so? Is the hidden meaning of these photographs just a manifestation of a compulsion of mine that I follow simply because I can?
The Internal Tibial Torsioned Grant Shilling
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Since 1976 I have worked with a variety of magazine and newspaper writers. For magazines, newspapers and books I have photographed many writers from William F. Buckley to one who upon seeing me said, "Call me dog." The latter was James Ellroy. Working with some was dull and with others it was fun. Many were difficult and tried to tell me how to take my photographs. I remember when Sean Rossiter interviewed Canucks coach Roger Nielson he told me, "You have to photograph him watching with some players the practice videos on TV. And get the blue lighting reflecting on his face." I never saw any blue light so I had to rig a little flash to one side of the TV set. I taped a blue gel and it bathed Nielsen and players with that Rossiter blue light!
But the most excentric and fun was the multi-talented Grant Shilling. I worked on a couple of baseball stories with him. One involved an umpire and the other was about the joy of playing on real grass at Nat Bailey Stadium. We watched a game of the Vancouver Canadians and I noted to Shilling that the lingua franca seemed to be Spanish. Many of the players were Mexican, Puerto Rican, Venezuelan, etc. There was a lot of swearing in Spanish. I got Shilling all nervous when I started yelling motherly advice in Spanish to the umpire of his story.
Shilling at the time had a precursor of blogs (he faxed it). It was some sort of baseball zine that had been adopted to run, I believe in the Wall Street Journal
or the Harvard Review.
I don't remember which. Shilling's inseparable friend at the time (1987?) was photographer Oraf. Both worked as bouncers in a new wave club on Richards, half a block south from Vancouver Magazine
. Somehow Shilling convinced the owners to sponsor an art show of his. I don't think he told them, until it was too late that his show involved the carting of tons of turf. I have forgotten what the show was about but I recall it had something to do with baseball cards. It was called Coach Does My Hair
It was perhaps 7 or 8 years ago that I ran into Shilling near the Marble Arch. At the time he was traveling back and forth between Vancouver and Tofino. I now know that he was working on his 2003 book The Cedar Surf: An Informal History of Surfing in British Columbia
. "Alex,"I remember him telling me, "you photograph many women in the rooms of the Marble Arch. I actually live there. photograph me." This I did. I noticed that he protected his bike by keeping it in the room. I took the pictures and never saw Shilling again. The roll lay undeveloped in my darkroom. Yesterday I got curious and processed it. Here are two photographs.
Shilling has an unusual blog
and in it I read this essay by perhaps one of his students?
Surfing is Surfing - An Essay on Grant Shilling
by Clayton Webb - Grade 11 Stellys Secondary, Central Saanich.
As for the internal-tibial-torsioned Grant Shilling I had to pick on his only physical flaw. He always denied it but he was pigeon-toed.
Addendum ( re: another physical flaw):
Grant Shilling is now living in Cumberland BC. He wrote:
Life is great here in Cumberland where I remain stoked have a seven year old boy and live with my sweetie. Life is good!
In his communication Shilling reminded me that we both worked on a profile on Ben Johnson for Vancouver Magazine
When I found out that sprinter Ben Johnson (before his Olympic run) was coming to town I told editor Mac Parry that I wanted to photograph Ben Johnson. Mac told me, "Impossible, Ben Johnson has been dead for years." I went over to associate editor Don Stanley's office and repeated the question. Stanley answered with a question, "Ben Johnson the actor? " I went back to Mac's office and explained. Mac nodded and said, "Call up that reprobate Grant Shilling and do it."
During the shoot Shilling asked Johnson if he was happy with his body. Johnson looked down on his crotch and said, "I would have been happy with a couple more inches."
My First Date With Charles
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Deadheading a rose is a relaxing task. It is sometimes.
If I have had a busy day it gives me the opportunity to smell the roses, see who is coming out, who's in trouble with some pest or who wants water. But deadheading a once-blooming rose is like going to the peer to say goodbye to someone who is leaving on a trip, Since a once-blooming rose parades it charms for perhaps for two to three weeks it is like the visit of a favourite friend who lives abroad. Before I know it she is going home. And there is that question in my mind, "Will I be here next year? Will I be alive come spring?" After all none of us can be sure that we will make it in tandem with our roses which somehow have made it back from the crusades and survived abandonment in long forgotten cemeteries. Such was the case of the lovely Damask Rosa 'Omar Khayyam'
Today I did not have the heart to deadhead Charles de Mills. As Rosemary, Plata (my cat) and I went for our walk around the block I spied Charles in our back lane. He is a bit forelorn. All it blooms, except for one, were in decline. I remembered the first time I lay eyes on Charles de Mills that Gallica of wonder.
It was late July 1990 and I had gone to Adamson Heritage Nursery
in Langley. I had the job from Canada Post to find 6 Canadian roses and photograph them. Four would become stamps
. In late July most roses were past their peak so a large wholesale nursery was my only chance to find something. And I did, Rosa
'Champlain' and Rosa
'Morden Centennial'. As I was about to leave I saw what seemed an aparition. It was a very large shrub that was covered with purple/blue/red roses that were quartered and so flat that it seemed someone had used a barber's razor to slice the front off. I inquired and was told it was Rosa
'Charles de Mills'. The caretaker then cut about 50 of the blooms and gave them to me, "We use this plant to take cuttings. We don't need the flowers. Take them and enjoy them."
I took the roses home and the scent in the car was unbelievable. When I got home I proudly showed Rosemary my booty. "I guess you are going to order this rose, aren't you?" She was right. And I do believe that was my first date with Charles. Today he said goodbye with that one perfect bloom. Let's hope it's the same time next year!
Hydrangea aspera 'Villosa' - Nature's Meatball
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
I wrote about Hyrandgea aspera here
. I have three types. Hydrangea aspera
has narrow leaves. H. aspera ssp. sargentiana
has very large leaves and in between is Hydrangea aspera
'Villosa'. The flowers of all three are lacecaps of subtle earthy colours. None are bright pink or blue. Before the flowers open they look like little uncooked meatballs. Or at least that's what I thought until I put them under the scrutiny of my scanner yesterday afternoon.
Unlike my roses that cry for attention. with their beauty and scent my hydrangeas are faithful, need minimum care and by mid-summer when the roses are gone or faded they provide colour and interest in the garden. They manage to survive the August drought (with a few spaced waterings) and look fresh and spiffy.
But there is one mystery shared by both my old roses and the asperas. How can something so compact and meatball-like open into a glorious light lacecap? Lacecaps remind me of planetary systems which are made up mostly of empty space. How can a tight rose bud open to so many petals? Nature's origami puts the human kind to shame.
When Rebecca was 6 I photographed her behind the gazebo holding a flower from my Hydrangea macrophylla
'Blue Wave'. Rosemary was a bit shocked at the picture as Rebecca looked a lot older. This was one of a series of photographs of Rebecca where she did not offer to smile and I did not ask her to.
Yesterday when I was pruning my hydrangeas (and I noticed the aspera 'meatball" I also noticed the almost open flower of macrophylla 'Blue Wave'. Here it is and compare it with the open one that Rebecca was holding four years ago. Perhaps I will repeat the shot and pose again this year. In almost a month Blue Wave will be in bloom.
Delia Brett - Contact High
Monday, July 07, 2008
Last year I attended the popular Vancouver intitution of dance, Brief Encounters
. I was charmed by the performance of the intriguing Delia Brett who partnered with a puppeteer. A the intermission I saw Brett with a little boy in tow. They were identical and charming. He looked like a little adult, and adult with poise and grace. Artemis Gordon
, dance director of Arts Umbrella on Granville Island, considers dance skill to be important but it must be balanced by presence. After having seen Brett dance I agree with Gordon. Brett has presence in spades.
Brett decided to dance when she was 20. After seeing Dancemakers
, a Toronto contemporary dance company, she quit her pursuit of film and TV and chose Peter Bingham's
a contact improvisational dance method at EDAM
. After my photo session with her and her seven-year-old son, Beckett I asked Brett: Why contact?
"It uses the whole person to develop artistry, imagination and awareness with physcial principles. It is flying because you are free. You develop greater levels of trust in yourself and others." Brett then went to shower praise on Bingham, one of Vancouver's little-known gurus of dance excellence. "He has been a huge influence in my life. EDAM [Experimental Dance and Music] is a place where I feel I belong. There I feel a sense of completeness."
I asked Brett what it was like to be a dancer and a mom. "It's good, but it's hard to be poor and to be a mother. Dance has given me the power and strength I never knew I had before I had Beckett. It is a different perspective in a way that I don't think you could get by just being an artist on the margins of society. It is a bigger world because I am a mother."
Brett and dance partner Daelik (both directors of Machinenoisy
performed Vancouver vs Vancouver
in collaboration with choreographer Fabrice Ramalingon in Sete, France May 30 and in Thessaloniki, Greece June 14. Perhaps we will see this performance (about the lively and sometimes pugilistic Vancouver dance scene) here soon.
As for Beckett, when I asked him if he planned to be a dancer, he looked me straight in the eye and groaned, "Uh-uh."
© 2008 VLM/Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
Alexandria - Oriana - Alexandria
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Sometime at the end of the 50s my uncle, who at the time was in Egypt, proposed to my mother that I attend the University of Alexandria. I remember going with her to the P&O representative in Mexico City to inquire about ticket prices. I was to go in the Oriana. But this strange dream of my uncle's was for naught as Nasser suddenly banned the use of English from the curriculum. I never made it to Alexandria.
I have never been to Egypt and much less explored the stacks of the library in Alexandria. But there has been a small measure of ancillary pleasure involved in my pursuit of another Alexandria. Alexandria posed for my camera for several years. She was the perfect model, uncomplicated in that she was always available for pictures. She was pleasant and as my friend Juan Manuel Sanchez was fond of saying of such a woman , "muy plástica
" which is his Argentine way of describing a body that is flexible and moldable to his style.
With Alexandria (considering that the two previous posts feature photographs of women on their backs
and upside down
) I finally nailed down a favourite cliché which unfortunately I cannot show here as the pictures have to have a modicum of decency. In these photographs I posed Alexandria upside down with cigarette in mouth and with sunlight streaming in through a Venetian blind, projecting zig zag marks on her undraped body. With Alexandria I tested all kinds of lighting techniques, lenses and film stocks.
Many of the pictures that I took of her never saw the light of day because of the expense of making prints from slides. I rarely shot 35mm slides but in one occasion I photographed Alexandria in her apartment with a Kodak transparency film in 35mm format that had an ISO (ASA) rating of 800 but could be nicely pushed to 1600. The results had contrast and grain. With the advent of my scanner I am now able to put them here with ease.
I am too old to take some of the photographs that can only be taken with the latest technology. Not because I could not master the technology but more so because of that gold card
in my pocket. Read further to find out why.
Years back I affixed a Nikon FM-2 to the hub of a cyclist's
front wheel and threaded the wire of the motor drive to his right hand so that he could take pictures as he pedaled. I would like to see the same principle made easier by strapping cheap digital point and shoots to skateboards and snowboards. I have always rejected the shooting of pornography and gotten very close to doing it. I have always recoiled in the end as good taste prevailed. But the idea of strapping a point and shoot to one's forehead and... I need not go any further. You can imagine the impact of capturing (to use this new term that has replaced take or expose) the frenzy and intimacy of such physical closeness.
In some way when I looked at Alexandria's slides which I took with the fast slide film I am shocked to find a level of intimacy that I did not see then. Being behind my camera can do that.
It protects you by distancing you. I did not see then what I see here now. In most the clothes are on but the darkness and the stark colours seem to ooze with eroticism.