On Being FringedTuesday, June 29, 2010
My personal relationship with the British Crown has always been a pleasant one. If anything I would define myself as an almost adoring fan of the queen. In fact when I became a Canadian citizen I swore allegiance to the queen on my father’s copy of the King James Bible.
But after the Islas Malvinas war my views changed a bit. Prince Charles and Lady Diana were scheduled to come to Vancouver and Vancouver Magazine editor, Malcolm Parry dispatched me to get accreditation so I could follow the press pool. I protested to Parry that as an Argie I was not inclined to photograph British royalty nor would I get accreditation if the powers that be found out about my Argentine birth. “Go,” he said, “and you better come back with that accreditation.” So I went with a chip on my shoulder. I showed up a couple of days after the accreditation deadline had passed and I promptly told the people at the accreditation office, “I am an Argie and I don’t particularly love British royalty. I am here to get accreditation for Vancouver Magazine.” They looked at me and signaled to face a camera and get my picture taken. I was out of there in minutes with my press pass. I could not believe it.
In the late 80s Malcolm Parry decided to give me a job at Vancouver Magazine. For years I had been their trusty freelancer and de facto staff photographer. I was given the title of Director of Photography. Suddenly I had power. Photographers and illustrators called me up and paraded their portfolios to me. I was given the power to hire or not. Every once in a while Parry would say, “Don’t assign this job to someone else. I want you to take the pictures.”
For a while the magazine functioned without an art director. I hired the photographers and illustrators and Parry did the layouts. It worked just fine until one day I told Parry that as an editor he needed the time to edit and that he needed to find someone to do the design and the pasteup (a messy part of magazine layout that involved the use of wax and this preceded computer layout which came in the early 90s). He hired Rick Staehling. Staehling called me to his office and told me, “As of today you are history.”
I quickly realized that the power of one day was gone the next and photographers and illustrators no longer tried to court my interest. I was no longer important. It was then that I began to understand a concept that I will call fringing.
As we get older we get fringed. I could not get access to the Queen should she visit Vancouver no matter how hard I tried. Access is denied if you do not have representation. Access is representation.
I remember going on annual report trips and Rosemary would call me to my motel in Prince Albert to tell me that an executive from some company had called who needed photographs. Or she would tell me that BC Hydro wanted me to do a brochure. Now when I get home the answering machine might have a message from my daughter Ale who lives in Lillooet or it might be a Darth Vader-like message from Terasen Gas telling me that they are about to cut my gas if I don’t immediately pay my bill.
It was two years ago that 1500 Ballet BC patrons paraded through my garden (and killed the grass at an important junction) on the annual Ballet BC Garden Tour. I remember John Alleyne looking at me and saying, “You mean, Alex, that this is your garden?” Alleyne is history and Ballet BC is in transition. My garden (or better Rosemary’s and my garden) is now fringed. We might have volunteered it as an open garden for the Vancouver Rose Society this year but we simply did not think about it. A few years have passed since the photographer and writer from Better Homes and Gardens came to do their story.
I go to the garden every day and smell the roses. I glory at my mature hostas and admire Rosemary’s unusual perennials. Rebecca tells me, “I went around the garden today and I smelled every rose.” So I play the game, “Did you forget Mary Webb?” “Did you overlook Paul Ricard?” There is a loneliness in not being able to share one’s garden. Few call now to ask to see it. Perhaps they are too busy Facebooking or Tweeting.
But there is a relief in not having to get access that one knows one is going to get. There is the relief of not finding it necessary to get access to what is no longer seen as important. Being fringed is, simply, life.