That Ikea Mirror Into My Soul
Saturday, August 16, 2008
The spanish word for mirror is espejo
is Spanish for mirage. I like espejo so much more. It is close to the original meaning in Latin, speculum which was mirror but specially a mirror in the water. A true espejismo in Spanish defines the term as an image that is upside down. In pre-columbian Mexico the word for mirror was obsidian since this was the only readily available surface that could act as a mirror. Gold and silver were far too precious for the ordinary Aztec. I like the idea of an obsidian mirror. Its darkness would colour the image in mysterious magic. After all trying to figure out our relationship with our image in a mirror is just that.
Since I purchased a large and beautiful wooden framed mirror at Ikea I have become nearly obsessed with taking portraits with it. From self-portraits
of my subjects looking at themselves into a mirror. Dancers and actors are so used to this that I am able to easily have them forget I am in the room. In my classes at Focal Point (the school purchased the Ikea mirror at my urging) I have my students go through their paces with the mirror. They soon find out it is far easier not to include oneself in the photograph than not. And if the mirror is positioned away from the wall it can be easily lit.
Last week when I started my Mexican nostalgia project with Ms. Hernandez she indicated she wanted a mirror shot with me in it. Here it is.
Mexican Salsa & Dolores Del Río
Friday, August 15, 2008
Of late I have been overcome by moments of pure Mexican nostalgia. We eat a lot of Mexican food at home. This is Mexican food that I cook. One of my family's favourite is my Mexican rice. The secret to Mexican rice is that you have to fry it first and then add chicken broth. Rosemary loves to have yesterday's Mexican rice with fried eggs today. Both Rebecca and Hilary are a bit more daring than Rosemary so I have to make two hot
sauces. One has tomatoes, cilantro a bit of surgar, Maldon salt and some fresh squeezed lime juice. To the second sauce I add several serrano peppers. This recipe was given to me by my Mexican/American friend, Robert Hijar who lives in Memphis. He insists that good Mexican salsa never has onion.
My Mexican nostalgia has been peppered on the side by the presence of my new Mexican model, Ms. Hernandez. I a couple of previous blogs I have shown pictures of her. Here is one in colour with some old fashioned Hollywood lighting. I used a metal stamped gobo for the cloud background and my mother's 1953 red sarape. While it was around 26 in my studio it was not hot enough to evoke the brilliant hot light of Mexico. I rarely used a high spot but here it almost brings to me an idea of that heat and light that I long for. Tonight as I lie in bed without covers and not much else the heat will remind me of Mexico and the smell of the tropics of my life in Veracruz or the dry desert heat of my Nueva Rosita, Coahuila days.
This photograph has a bit of John Ford's (1947) The Fugitive
, one of my favourite films of all time which was based on a Graham Greene
story with the lovely Dolores del Río, Henry Fonda and Pedro Armendáriz.
In colour I can imagine del Río in red just like Ms Hernandez.
Lauren, The Fairy & Sparkle The Leopard
Thursday, August 14, 2008
For most of my life while my mother was alive I had to listen to, "Nunca podrás saber porque nunca serás mamá," or "You will never know because you will never be a mother." It used to infuriate me and now (half jokingly) I assert to some women that I would like to eliminate mother's day as it is a gender specific holiday that should not be in our age of political correctness. Both father's and mother's day should be rolled into something inocuous like parenting day or procreation day.
Back then, I never had the idea to get back at my mother by telling her that she would never know because she would never be a father or (now) a grandfather.
I watch Rosemary talk to both our cats, the male Toby (her cat) and my female Plata. She and I both impose our ideas of what it is to be a female and a male on these cats. I am not too sure that Plata (who is most graceful) is any more feminine or less masculine than Toby.
But when I photograph Lauren at 6 (now) I am overwhelmed in such a pleasant way by the fact that she is a little girl who is a little girl and not a little boy. I would not know what to do with a little boy. Or at least I tell myself this. It is just lots of fun to dress Lauren up and photograph her in the garden in much the same way I have been doing with Rebecca. I discern some differences but they are all delightful nontheless.
In these pictures here I decided not to hide the fact that Lauren had fallen off a tree days before (she did not cry) and was taken to emergency (she did not cry) and instead of being stiched up she was glewed up! She is wearing the sailor dress I bought for Rebecca in Cancun some 5 years ago.
In the first picture Lauren is posing by our ornamental cherry tree with the English Rose, Rosa 'L.D. Braitwaite'
. In the second she is holding Rosa 'The Fairy' and her toy leopard, Sparkle. In the third photograph she is sniffing the intoxication myrrh scented English Rose, Rosa 'Mary Webb'
. This latter rose is not too generous in blooming. I may get three or four flowers in a season. But they are large, ever so perfumed and they remind me of very heavy whipping cream.
Nostalgia Mexicana - Chocolate
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I have written about chocolate and specifically about Mexican chocolate here
. Chocolate has been in my mind of late because in the evenings when I am in bed reading, Rosemary goes down to the kitchen and more often than not returns with a chocolate bar. Rosemary loves chocolate. She has a preference for the Mexican variety. A few weeks ago she and Hilary and the granddaughters went to Washington State shopping for shoes and Rosemary scored a box of Chocolate Carlos V. It used to be made by the very company Richardson Merrill which sometime in the 70s had bought out the Vick Chemical Company. Richardson Merrill made exquisite chocolates and Vick's Vaporub. That situation changed as most of the chocolate companies in Mexico were consolidated and are now owned by Nestlé. But Mexican chocolate still manages to retain that hint of cinnamon that makes it so Mexican.
So when Ms. Hernandez showed up at my studio yesterday with a molinillo
I did the obvious. A molinillo is made of wood and is usually carved out of one piece of wood. It has rings which are carved out from the centre and they can twirl when you twirl the molinillo. Mexicans twirl the molinillo when they are making hot chocolate and it froths up very nicely. Served hot at merienda (the Mexican and Spanish equivalent of tea time) it is especially good with churros (batter fried and then sprinkled with sugar). It is bad manners not to dunk the churros into the chocolate. The word for dunking (which comes from soup in Spanish) is sopear
So here is Ms Hernandez as the ultimate hot chocolate maker. One of the best Mexican brands is Chocolate La Abuelita (The Little Grandmother). Ms Hernandez is the young lady the little grandmother once was. Or at least how I imagine her in my frothy nostalgia for Mexican chocolate.
Nostalgia Mexicana - Foto Rudiger & The S-3
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Happiness for me (or at the very least one of the forms of happiness) comes with a good model that I can photograph for a private project. As a commercial photographer (that I am), unless I also have a private and personal project going, my job could become predictable and humdrum. Imagine the happiness of not only finding one good model but of finding two! I have two projects in the works with two fantastic models. What makes my new models unusual is that both are good photographers in their own right. I have experienced this before with Patrice
With Ms Hernandez, who hails from León, Guanajuato, Mexico I have finally found the perfect subject to continue on my project of nostalgia. I have done a whole series with Linda Lorenzo
. Now I can continue with the subject except that it will be Mexican nostalgia.
The picture here is fresh from a hurried drying of the wet negative (I shoot film) in my darkroom. It represents the first of many nostalgias that Ms Hernandez and I will cook up in our colaboración.
Since she is a photographer I thought she would manage to find a way of conveying my nostalgia for a camera that I purchased (used) at Foto Rudiger
in Mexico City, on Avenida Venustiano Carranza, in 1963. It still works but I stopped using it professionally around 1985. It is an Asahi Pentax S-3 with a coupled CDS light meter which you can see here mounted on top of the camera. Even in 1964 the "professional" black finish had begun to rub off and expose the beautiful brass underneath. This camera unlike my Pentacon-F had that light meter and a Japanese innovation called the instant return mirror.
Before I bought this gem I had haunted the Monte de Piedad (the National Pawnshop) near the Zócalo (main square) in Mexico City. There I had admired the Mirandas, the Nikons, the Praktinas and Prakticas, the Edixas and the Exaktas and a slew of other brand names that are long gone. These jewels behind the glass screens were mostly overpriced and the men behind would look at me most seriously when I would enquire about holding them. I finally settled for that S-3 and I remember dealing with a kindly German man who spoke Spanish with almost no trace of an accent. Could it have been Mr. Rudiger himself?
That S-3 traveled to Argentina, Brazil and Europe with me. I can and could make shutter and f-stop settings without looking. My S-3 became part of me. Seeing in Ms Hernandez's hand and how she deftly wrapped the strap around her wrists brought joy to me this morning.
I look forward to many more Mexican nostalgias.
Dancing On The Edge With Lou Reed
Monday, August 11, 2008
Every once in a while I find negatives I have never used for anything or even noticed. I feel that the Holy Grail of photography is to develop your own style. For many years my style did not put me in a favourable light, particularly with the high paying ad agencies of Vancouver. They didn't want an identifiable style. They wanted the blandness to be found in the modern picture that has a perfect white background. People photographed with a perfect white background in different cities by different photographers will look the same in a photo spread. The white background evens the playing field.
In our age of Flickr and facebook more and more pictures look the same. There are situations that do not lend themselves to helping the photographer develop a style. A very good example is studio photography of ballerinas and male dancers shot in the air in a large studio. We can enjoy the grace, the perfection of form but the photographer, unless named, will remain unknown. The same can be said of live rock concert pictures. Whether you get the singer without a microphone or with one the picture will look like millions of others.
Some years ago I was invited to shoot some rehearsal shots for Dancing on the Edge which that year was held at the Vancouver Playhouse. Nobody paid me a cent but I had access to any area back stage. With some very fast b+w film I shot some pictures. It was not easy but I managed a few photographs. You can see three here. They are Ballet BC dancers. These pictures could have been taken by anybody and if I had not seen them in my files I would have never guessed that I was the photographer. They have no style. They simply record.
I prefer to have my dancers in my studio and to photograph them in portrait situations. These three photographs bore me but I do remember with excitement an event that day that I will never forget. I left the Playhouse for lunch and when I came back (via the back door that is entry point for both the Playhouse and the Queen Elizabeth Theatre) I turned left instead of right. But everything looked much the same. I ran into a man holding a guitar back stage and when I recognized him I realized my wrong turn. "What are you doing here?" Lou Reed asked me. I quickly apologized and made my exit.
That evening when I watched the opening night performance of Dancing On The Edge I could hear Sweet Jane
The dancer whose face you see in the bottom is Miroslav Zydowicz my favourite male dancer ever from Ballet BC. There is more of him here
. I decided to make my blog a dancing one tonight as I returned from my studio after a very pleasant session with three Arts Umbrella dancers. Artemis Gordon preened them and fussed over them and we all had a great time.
The Double Delight Of Raspberry Flummery
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Dictionary writers are not kind to flummery. The innocent pudding is referred to as “bland custard” and “a sort of pap.” Webster’s says an alternative meaning is “Something insipid, or not worth having.”
The dish has had a number of incarnations — many of them insipid — but those lexicographers have obviously never tasted raspberry flummery, which is more pop than pap. It is made by gently breaking down the fragile berries with heat and sugar, fortifying them with a little cornstarch and then drenching the pudding with cool, fresh cream at the table.
When I read the above
in the New York Times Sunday Magazine some weeks ago I was dazzled by the sight of a white plate with a swirl of raspberry and cream. I cut it out.
A few days ago when we visited Clemen
on Bowen Island she dispatched us with a large container of her fresh picked raspberries. I could not wait. Last night Rebecca and I went to the kitchen while Rosemary and Lauren entertained our dinner guests Paul and Amy
The dessert was a success and the leftover became raspberry syrup for this morning's pancakes. I am instructed by Rebecca and Lauren to make pancakes when they sleep over.
On our breakfast table I had a couple of Rosa
'Double Delight' (1977, Herbert Swimm and O.L. Weeks) in a little vase. I had scanned them yesterday when I noticed the two blooms in my back lane rose hospital. I have discovered that rose bushes that look dead are not always so. I take them out of the ground in the spring and put them into a black plastic pot. With a combination of frequent watering and the lane's hot sun they often pull a Lazarus (Heb. Elʿāzār Eleazar "God (has) helped"). Double Delight did. In the best of cases it is a difficult hybrid tea to grow. Rosemary ( a snob
) has always considered the rose garish but I like the peppery/sweet/fresh scent. I have had a few generations of this rose in my garden and most succumb after a few years. This has been my first successful revival.
The usual description of Double Delight is, "A cream coloured rose that has been dipped into fresh raspberry jam." I asked Rebecca if two blooms of Double Delight would not be Double Delight twice over and she simply smiled and licked her lips.