Everyman & EverywomanMonday, May 31, 2010
Quite a few years ago whenever anybody famous came to town my relationship with Vancouver Magazine (then a most important city magazine) and one with Equity Magazine (a business magazine with Harvey Southam as editor) guaranteed me access. It was in fact Southam’s Equity which enabled me to bag an exclusive studio portrait of William F. Buckley. And some of the actors and directors that came to town that did not seem worthy of just a city magazine meant that my access came courtesy of the Georgia Straight. It was the Straight that assigned me to travel to Seattle to photograph Dennis Hopper, and the reason why I was able to photograph Vincent Price, Audrey Hepburn and Liv Ullmann.
But as soon as publicists realized that their real job was to prevent access to the celebrities they represented, access to stars waned. Only being assigned by such magazines as Vanity Fair or Time, guaranteed minutes in front of the camera. Local magazines were ignored. The Globe & Mail had some influence for a while. But thanks to the Globe I was to snap a photograph of one of my favourite authors Elmore Leonard.
It was about the time that my relationship to magazines was beginning to slide that I found out that Christopher Plummer was coming to town. Globe writer John Lekich was assigned to interview him on the set of the film he was making. I asked Lekich to get me access. Somehow it did not work out and it didn’t happen. I remember getting very angry at Lekich who told me, “Mr. Plummer says that the next time in town he will pose for you.” Plummer never returned and I never got my shot. It was about then that I began to let go of the imperative to “do” celebrities. I learned to relax. If I was assigned, it was fine. If I wasn’t it was fine, too.
In the last 10 years I have learned the pleasure of taking pictures of “every man” and “every woman”. It was my religion teacher back in Austin, Texas, Brother Edwin Reggio, CSC who told me that all of us were born with something most precious which was our individual human dignity. I have attempted and in some cases succeeded in capturing this in the people that have faced my camera. It has not only been a pleasure as, I must assert, that the pleasure has transformed itself into a passion.
A case in point are the persons you see here. They are Michael Unger and Bronwen Marsden. Michael Unger has been our model at Focal Point for some years while Bronwen Marsden has posed for my class only once. These pictures I took with my new iPhone to demonstrate to my class that the lighting is most important (more so than the camera and in some cases the photographer) and once it is established it is the relationship between the photographer and his/her subject that comes to bear. The iPhone’s lens forces the photographer to get really close. It is this intimacy which I think can be seen in these pictures which in spite of being impossible to colour correct and may not be all that sharp have a wonderful soft spontaneity that would have been shattered by the flash of a more sophisticated point-and-shoot. Because my iPhone is on vibrate mode in class, the added plus is that when you press the “shutter” button there is no noise. I find it wonderful.
Unger besides modeling is an actor and a stand-up comic. He gives classes to children at the planetarium on how to look for stars and planets on the planetarium’s telescope. Bronwen Marsden (who has a luminous skin that resembles Noritake china and beyond the capability of my iPhone to accurately record) graduated from Concordia University and is an actress and budding film director. Unger and Marsden may be famous at home but for me I appreciate that in the studio they are every man and every woman. In a world hungry for celebrity, Unger and Marsden are comfort food for the soul.
I have a feeling my Focal Point class would concur.