Saxena's PrisonFriday, October 30, 2009
Of all the covers and magazine spreads I have had through the years one of my best is the one that appeared in the May 2001 Report on Business Magazine. The art director asked me to be present during Rakesh Saxena’s interview by writer Madelaine Drohan.
The setting was Saxena’s luxury “prison” condo in False Creek. He had persuaded the Canadian legal system to not send him to jail while his trial was in effect but keep him in the condo. Saxena would no only pay for the condo’s rent and all other expenses but the security to keep him firmly inside! (Only in Canada!) My guess is that Report on Business picked Drohan as she was quiet and unassuming so that Saxena might just open up to her. The cautioned me to also be low key. I decided (in an era preceding the immediate result on the back of a digital camera) not to take a large camera and a Polaroid back. I chose to take a venerable Pentax MX loaded with Ilford Delta 3200 ISO film. This meant I would not need lights and I would be able to shoot unencumbered. But there is one twist here that I never told the art director about. I chose to use a beautifully corrected 20mm wide angle. This meant that I was very close to Saxena when I took my pictures. I was in an in-your-face situation. I kept my mouth shut and he did not seem to mind.
When I saw the magazine I was in joy on how well the art director had interpreted my photograph.
For a detailed account on Saxena’s case (he was finally extradited to Thailand yesterday) please read David Baines’ account here in today’s Vancouver Sun.
Addendum by Vancouver Sun Business Columnist David Baines
His photograph captures the man, and the menace. He was barely five foot six. You can see how stubby his fingers are, and how his head and his neck and body - rather than being disparate parts - are more of a continuum. His eyes bulged and circled, like a character from Disney’s Monsters Inc. He sucked on those cigarettes constantly, no doubt a factor years later when he had a stroke and suffered partial paralysis in his left arm. He hosted a steady stream of visitors and seemed to treat each one with a kind of cordial equanimity, but this, too, was a ruse. He was always sizing people up, assessing what opportunity, or nuisance, they presented. He was brilliant the way he could play people. For 13 years, he tied us in knots, thwarting the extradition system while working his sleazy scams from his gilded cages in False Creek, and then Richmond. For a while, I thought he was going to outlast the Canadian justice system. So did he. We were both wrong. He was one of a kind. At least, I hope he is.