Dennis Hopper - May 17, 1936 - May 29, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
An English photography student of mine last year brutally asked me after I had shown him tear sheets and magazines with my photographs, "Alex can you show us any magazines that you have worked for that still exist?"
He could easily have asked, "Can you show us portraits of people you have photographed who are still alive?"
Sir William Walton's Dance of Death - A Fragment
My friend Tim Bray has an extremely popular blog ongoing
in which he never dates his postings and in some cases compiles several thoughts on his mind in what he calls fragments or Short-form fragments. This idea of his has much merit. In many cases I feel that I cannot write a blog when I do not have an accompanying photograph and I am loathe at downloading someone else’s.
The repeated cool rainy weather has slowed down the first-flush blooming of my roses so while our garden is pristine in its greenness it is skimpy in colour. This has not lessened this week’s melancholy.
The situation was not helped by my finally pointing the TV remote and punching channel 46 (Turner Classics Movies) and watching in its entirety the longish 1969 Guy Hamilton film The Battle of Britain.
Like most war films, even the good ones it is full of the clichés including marital discords and gruff leaders with hearts of gold. But this time around I noticed a name in the opening credits. The score of the film was composed by Sir William Walton. I forgot about until almost the end where the sound effects of exploding German bombers and the ack-acks of the machine guns of the Spitfires and the Hurricanes were all silenced and the airplanes magically danced like ballerinas with Walton’s beautiful score. One could almost be forgiven that it was a dance of death. .
Walton was commissioned to write the score for the 1969 film Battle of Britain. The music was orchestrated and conducted by Walton's friend and colleague Malcolm Arnold, who also secretly helped Walton compose several sequences.The music department at United Artists objected that the score was too short. As a result, a further score was commissioned from Ron Goodwin. (Goodwin, when told he would replace a score by William Walton, reportedly replied, "Why?") Producer S. Benjamin Fisz and actor Laurence Olivier protested this decision, and Olivier threatened to take his name from the credits. In the end, one segment of the Walton score, titled The Battle in the Air, which framed the climactic air battles of 15 September 1940, was retained in the final cut. The Walton score was played with no sound effects of aircraft motors or gunfire, giving this sequence a transcendent, lyrical quality.
My Exotic Russian Submarine Clock
Friday, May 28, 2010
Sir Edmund Hilary climbed Mount Everest along with Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay on May 29, 1953. I heard about it on my radio in Buenos Aires. I was 11. I was excited. Mount Everest was one of the most exotic and forbidden places in the world. I am not too sure that the broadcast mentioned Tenzing Norgay. In 1953 the world was a white man’s world. At school when I would gaze at a map of Africa I would note that all the British possessions had a little red line around the borders. When I traced these maps for homework assignments I made sure I had my red Prismacolor pencil handy to draw the borders on Kenya, Rhodesia and Tanzania.
My grandmother was a diplomat in the Filipino Legation. There was no ambassador and the man in charge, Narciso Ramos had the position of Minister. He had a liking for me so I was invited to his home where I was exposed to a brand exotic I had never seen. His son, once showed up in a West Point uniform. Many years later General Fidel Ramos became president of the Philippines. In this milieu I learned to eat Filipino food including those curiously transparent noodles that looked like they were made of extruded cellophane. The minister taught me to sit on a small stool with a piece of flat metal with an end that had a serrated edge. With this cutcuran
I was able to grind a coconut so that his wife could make a delicsious dessert called bibinka
. In a short time I picked up lots of useful Tagalog.
My father who had ruined his chances to become the editor of the local Buenos Aires Herald
by throwing an ink bottle at the publisher (my father was inebriated at the time) was a translator for the Indian Embassy. He would bring his friends (who drove exotic Hillman Minxes) from the embassy and feed them his own version of very hot curry. My neighbourhood friends would come to the house to ask me if the dark turbaned men were magicians. They like me had never ever seen any Hindus or as my father would have spelled that Hindoos
At the American School where my mother taught she had some students who were from the Chinese Embassy. Younger siblings were in my class. I remember being invited with my mother for lunch and I marveled at the strangely shaped spoons that we used for the soup which was strange in itself. One of her fellow teachers was a Texan who wore cowboy boots. I was convinced that he was real cowboy who kept Gene Autrey peacemakers at home.
The Italians, the Germans, the Irish, the English, the Gallegos (from Galicia, Spain) the Russians (in Argentina even today, they call Jews rusos) were all commonplace and un-exotic in my Argentina. I would look at American magazines and wonder who those black people were. I became interested and investigated the American Civil War in books at the American Embassy’s Lincoln Library.
Argentina of the 50s was (as it is today) a class society in which dark skinned people were called cabecitas negras
(little black heads) and anybody who was begging on the street was either a Bolivian or a Paraguayan. We read in school that most of the native Indians had been systematically eliminated in the late 19th century by General Julio Roca who gave his name to one of the Argentine railway systems.
My world was a normal one to me. Chinese with coolie hats planted rice in stylized maps. In those maps, men in short leather pants hovered over Germany and Mexicans slept under large sombreros while leaning against cacti. Every country had its place. Mexicans lived in Mexico, the Vietnamese in Cochinchina and Canadians in Canada. My grandmother spoke of an exotic place she had arrived at in the late 30s. With my mother, uncle and aunt to the Bronx they were headed to the Bronx in New York City by rail. They arrived in a Japanese ship in a place with mountains and trees called Vancouver.
In the late 50s I purchased a Pentacon-F single lens reflex camera. I treasured looking at the embossed leather on the bottom that read Manufactured in USSR Occupied Germany. I would gently caress the metal of my camera and think how foreign and how strange it was. It was foreign.
It was as strange as the first poppy-seed cookies and a peanut butter sandwich my mother once brought from her school sometime around 1951. I fell for peanut butter (it was not heard of in Buenos Aires) and even today I find it as exotic as I did then. As exotic as the first package of Lime Jell-O I ever had which my mother obtained from a friend who worked at the US Embassy.
In early 1960 I noticed a strange car in Mexico City. It was a Lada. I looked at it and thought, “This car, this metal, it was all manufactured in a perfectly different (perhaps alien is the better word) country." The metal seemed to have a different shine to it. It was so because all countries were different. That was before globalization.
It took a while for me to understand that my used Pentax S-3 was a superior product to the Pentacon-F that represented a sort of primitive East German manufacturing base. My mother had told me that the Japanese knew how to imitate but did not know how to innovate. But it was about then, when those Pentaxes and those exotic rangefinder Nikons appeared on the market when my world began to change. The exotic, inexorably became less so. I remember sometime in 1966 when the first hamburger joint opened in Buenos Aires. Argentines scoffed at the idea that anybody would wan to eat ground meat. In my last trip to Buenos Aires five years ago, while strolling on the fashionable Calle Florida I saw at the intersection with Avenida Corrientes (the street of which so many tangos are about) a venerable art deco building with a prominent Burger King sign on it.
Now on any given Sunday my New York Times’ travel section has articles on places I had never heard of then. I could go there now on Airmiles.
I read that Viennese Austrians sometime opt for the local Viennese Starbucks because of the no smoking regulation as opposed to the Viennese coffee shops where excellent whipped cream on top of coffee is served but smoking is permitted. The world of difference is becoming one of boring uniformity.
It is for this reason that I like to read relatively obscure Spanish, Cuban, Portuguese, Italian, Argentine and Mexican authors. They write, still in a style where there seems to be a difference of approach. There is a difference of thought. Their goals seem to be different. I find comfort in this.
And I find comfort in going to my garden and gazing under the Western Red Cedar where I bolted some years a clunky but genuine Russian Submarine clock. You have to wind it once a week and there is no wondering why the Soviet Empire failed if this is a sample of the technology they were using to compete with the United States.
There is a comfort in the clunkiness and in the bright red star on its face. I can hear the second hand ticking on a quiet afternoon. I feel that the world can still reveal a bit of the exotic
With A Little Help From My Friends
Thursday, May 27, 2010
There are several “cures” for melancholy. When Rosemary gets it I always suggest we go to buy her a pair of shoes or perhaps indulge in a big chocolate shake at the Red Onion. For me one of the best ameliorators of melancholy is to gaze on nice pictures of my friends. If they happen to be beautiful, and of the female kind, it is all the better. As I battle this week’s intense melancholy I decided to look for pictures that would make me smile. These do. They are of friends (and my friends, too) Yuliya and Jo-Ann. The former (the one with the mostly intense gaze in many of the pictures) has an arcane degree from Simon Fraser but is a professional dominatrix.
The other, Jo-Ann is a psychiatric nurse. For some years she was my once-a-month Thursday model. Now that my studio is gone the garden will have to do and I will attempt to take some domestic nudes. With Yuliya I plan to visit her at her studio apartment and see what kind of pictures I can take there. Both women are highly intelligent and the latter a bit on the talkative. They make good company and they cheer me up.
These pictures here represent my attempt to confuse the issue of who is exactly in charge. It was fun doing it.
A Bad Day Ends Well
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Tuesday was a pretty good day but Wednesday was full of SNAFUs all delivered courtesy of that obsolete device, the telephone that is simply a telephone.
So much has been written about how one must be careful with email communication as it is difficult to judge the meaning or intention of the person in what might seem like a terse and short communication.
My friend Nora Patrich and her husband Juan Manuel Sanchez decided three year ago to get divorced. They returned to Argentina in separate airplanes. Our life (a sort of bohemian one) together of daily phoning, the discussion of books, of music, of art and then being invited to drink mate at their home at any hour is all gone. And I have not been able to adjust at the loss of my friends. In many ways I resent their breakup. Nora has sent me repeated emails since then with such stuff as ¿Y? or ¿Qué pasó? Like a little boy that I sometimes am I was enraged by these short messages so I finally answered:Dear Nora,
This is from Alex’s wife Rosemary. I have the sad duty to report that Alex died quite suddenly some weeks ago. It was a heart attack. Please don’t send flowers.
Of course this email must have at first puzzled Nora but she was smart enough to figure it out. I do get the occasional email but I never answer it. I still Skype her former husband.
I will probably not be able to hold off from communicating with Nora as the more I live in Vancouver the more I feel like that Juan-Manuel-Sanchez-penguin in the North Pole. I feel out of place and out of time. There is an increasing feeling of alienation (a word so popular in my 1960s). There is a feeling that either the world here in Vancouver is crazy or I am crazy. It is far more comfortable to think the latter over the former, but there is a lingering feeling I could be wrong.
Some weeks ago, out of the blue (something I do often) I called a former magazine editor/publisher and left a message (the usual one), “This is Alex; It’s not important. Thank you and goodbye.” A week later something else came up to remind me of the magazine editor/publisher so I called again. And I left a message.
Finally the magazine editor/publisher called back and admitted to me that he was calling back in reply to two received messages left on his machine. “Is it important?” He asked? I explained that it wasn’t. I was told that someone was with him so that he could not really talk to me and would do so a few days later. The call never did come.
It is my sense of manners and etiquette taught to my by my parents that I must reply to all communication. I reply to all emails and answering machine messages. I must admit that if the number on my call display is a 1-800 I let the phone ring.
Another friend was always at supper, not matter what time of the day I would call. I finally got the message. I told my eldest daughter Ale that I must have telephone bad breath. She told me that I have the tendency to call her up and to “dump on her”. That expression sounds terrible and it left me speechless.
My granddaughter Rebecca called me out of the blue to tell me that I could no longer buy her any plants (even small ones) and that any that I gave her in the future would be thrown away. The call was followed immediately by one from her mother telling me about the same thing. It seems strange to me to stifle and child’s interest in anything even if it is plants. I felt a tad hurt but I decided that I would do what Pam Frost (Vancouver’s Queen of the Garden) did many years ago which was to set aside an area of her garden for her daughter (by then the daughter was in her early 20s!) This way I will be able to give my granddaughters whatever plants I wish to give them. And they can kill them with neglect if they want to. That is far better than throwing them away.
I have come to the conclusion that I must learn to withdraw. Vancouverites are a strange ilk. I might have a friendlier relationship if I were to Facebook them. But this I will not do. I prefer to communicate with substance and at length. If this form of communication is obsolete then in obsolescence I will withdraw. Rosemary says that part of the problem is that I have too much time on my hands and that I have too much time to reflect. She may be right. But I am glad that I have the luxury of having time on my hands and that I am able to reflect. At age 67 (almost 68) it is important to be able to reflect.
The bad day ended worse and then like magic it fixed itself up. Rosemary let out both cats at around 8 p.m. A couple of hours later it was dark and only my female, Plata was at the front door. Rosemary’s Casanova was nowhere. We called and called and went out to look for him with flashlights. To no avail, he was nowhere. We have had these situations many times in the past. I did not look forward to a night of going down to check the doors to see if the cat had returned. I finally shook Casanova’s hard food bag and a few minutes later I heard Rosemary say, “Casa, please come in. You are a good boy.”
A bad day ended well.
La Neblina Del Ayer Y El Azul Frío Del Mañana
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Tuesday began well. I gave two lectures ( a split class) at Focal Point. Someone in the class had gone to the administration and demanded that yours truly give them a class on nude photography. I told the administrator, when the request was made to me, that I could not justify teaching that course curriculum to a class that was supposed to be about editorial photography.
About a year ago when I was editorial photography I was a bit on the depressed and bitter and I thought I was being realistic when I would begin the first minutes of the first class with something like, “You guys want to shoot for magazines and newspapers? Don’t you know that they are dead or dying? Why are you here? Prepare for a Plan B. Plumbing could be lucrative.” The administration of both Focal Point and Van Arts must have wondered why they had hired me. After all the students were paying lots of dollars to be taught and not to be told to switch to plumbing (or on my worst days I urged my students to slit their wrists).
A year ago I was suffering with these classes. I would not sleep the night before wondering what I could possibly teach anybody about that which until recently had been my bread and butter.
In fact in some cases I told my students that I had no idea how UBC, Simon Fraser and so many technical schools and colleges in Vancouver could have journalism departments. Journalism was dead I told them.
I felt like one of those who can’t (be a photographer) so that I had to resort to teaching about it. I felt cheap and dishonest.
Then one day I thought about the history of photography and how the English photographers of the Crimean war and their American counterparts in the Civil War had been limited to showing their photographs in salons and galleries. Photographs were converted into lithographs and only then could they be placed in newspapers and in such magazines of the 1860s such as Harper’s Weekly.
It was a photograph of the Steinway Building in New York City in 1873 that appeared in the New York Daily Graphic that changed the course of photography. The photograph was not a lithograph it was printed in something new called the halftone process. Even today if you look at a New York Times or the Vancouver Sun you will note that even the colour photographs consist of dots (a modified halftone process).
From then on the newspapers and magazines competed with each other to show the best photographs. Money was made available and photographers rose to the challenge. This was more or less the case until the late 1990s when the digital age and free on line reading of newspapers changed it all.
Without being negative about the present transition (what will happen, I have no idea) I teach editorial photography sort of like a history of photography as seen in magazines and newspapers. When those magazines and newspapers change to whatever is coming my students will be equipped in knowing how to take those pictures.
The administrators at Focal Point have noticed the change. They say I am a happy person and that I don’t complain. They say I don’t give them problems. I am happy teaching and I sleep well the night before. I feel that I am imparting important information.
And that was today. It was a good day.
I arrived home and once I was in bed in the evening I finally finished the exquisite novel El Quinteto De Buenos Aires by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. As soon as I had finished I realized that the only person I know with whom I could have possibly compared notes was Juan Manuel Sánchez who is living in Buenos Aires. I had called him about it and his girlfriend who is currently in Barcelona was going to buy him the book.
I began to read Cuban novelist Leonardo Padura’s Havana Fever
(in Spanish the novel is La Neblina del Ayer
or Yesterday’s Fog, and who thinks those names in English!). This book is not part of the so called Havana Quartet but does feature the retired police detective turned used book buyer/seller Mario Conde. I have already read the terrific Adiós Hemingway
with Conde, Hemingway as protagonists and with a short but extremely erotic scene in a swimming pool involving Ava Gardner.
At the Vancouver Public Library I found Adiós Hemingway
in Spanish so I plan to re read it. At home in my Spanish book shelf I have Padura’s first novel (1983) Fiebre de Caballos
( Horse Fever). In all his novels Padura manages to infer that things are not all well in Castro’s Communist paradise but he does it in such a way that he has managed to publish many books without any kind of censorship.
His detective Mario Conde is all noir, Cuban style. This means lots of rum and no whiskey!
But early into Havana Fever I had to lay the book down, turn off the light and go to sleep. Mario Conde has noticed a large mansion, a bit worse for wear, and he knocks on the door having the feeling the folks inside might want to get rid of the books. Conde now buys and sells old books to keep a meager amount of food on his table and the liquor to accompany it. The two old inhabitants of the house do indeed have a marvelous library and Conde feels for their necessity to sell. Padura writes:
As if the result of a malevolent wave of a wand, the shortage of everything imaginable quickly became a permanent state, attacking the most disparate of human needs. The value and nature of every object or service was artfully transmuted by insecurity into something different from what it used to be: be it a match or an aspirin, a pair of shoes or an avocado, sex, hopes or dreams. Meanwhile church confessionals and consultancies of voodoo priests were crowded with new adepts, panting after a breath of spiritual consolation.
The shortages were so acute they even hit the venerable world of books. Within a year publishing went into freefall, and cobwebs covered the shelves in gloomy bookshops were sales assistants had stolen the last light bulbs with any life, that were next-to useless anyway, in those days of endless blackouts. Hundreds of private libraries ceased to be a source of enlightenment and bibliophilic pride, or a cornucopia of memories of possibly happy times, and swapped the scent of wisdom for the vulgar, acrid stench of a few life saving-banknotes. Priceless libraries created over generations and libraries knocked together by upstarts; libraries specializing in the most profound, unusual themes and libraries made from birthday presents and wedding anniversaries – were all cruelly sacrificed by their owners on the pagan altar of financial necessity suddenly felt by the inhabitants of a country where the shadow of death by starvation threatened almost every home.
I suddenly got depressed. My largish but modest library will have to go before we move. I suddenly understood why Conde was so sad when he saw the marvelous collection in the old house. I also thought, “I will have to Skype Juan and tell him to buy some Paduras in one of the many bookstores on Calle Corrientes in Buenos Aires.
Without summer quite being here in this cool and rainy spring I could imagine that the sky over North Vancouver was cyan/blue. Cyan is that cold blue that presages, sometimes by late July, the coming winter that will be upon us at the blink of the eye. I turned off the light and tried to dream of Mérida, its humid heat, its ochers, browns and the warm Yucatecans. Or having a pizza on a hot midnight evening with Rosemary and Rebecca on Avenida Cabildo in Buenos Aires while sipping a cold moscato. We did so five years ago and I long for it.
The Man With The Pterodactyl Tie
Monday, May 24, 2010
In 1993 I photographed an old man wearing a pterodactyl tie. We became friends and he and his wife Betty visited our garden and then we went for lunch at the Avenue Grill on 41st. My daughters came along but, the youngest, Hilary does not remember.
What led to me writing about Ian Ballantine began this past Saturday night when we went to the Gateway Theatre to the Arts Umbrella Expression Festival 2010, which is part of their end of they year dance recital.
My wife and I went with some sadness because our oldest granddaughter Rebecca quit dancing at Arts Umbrella a couple of years ago even though she was offered a full year’s scholarship. She quit because of a laizzez-faire atmosphere at home. Rosemary and I would have pushed for the dance. But we are the grandparents and not the parents. We could not push. In fact my daughter thought that piano and ballet were too much for the girl since it was important that the girl study for her school. Now there is no piano or ballet or dance.
It is Rosemary’s and my belief that one should learn as many things really well as opposed to learning many things in a perfunctory manner. It is almost as if the world is now steering children to try life in twitter-sized bites. One will then grow up knowing lots of things but not knowing how to do any of them well. Rebecca is a beautiful swimmer (she inherited from my mother) and she wanted to go further into lifesaving. But our daughter has indicated that as long as Rebecca knows how to swim and thus not drown that is enough for swimming.
With our heavy hearts we watched our little Lauren (7) dance. Sometime in the end of her peacock dance she spotted us (we were on the front row) and she just beamed at me in delight.
It was after the performance that I was approached by a familiar looking gentleman with the comforting voice of a parent who must have a son or daughter in the Arts Club dance program. “We meet again, Alex,” he told me. Since I did not recall where I might have met him I said, “Where have we met.” As soon as I said it I remembered. It had been a couple of years back that he had approached me at the interval of onother Arts Club performance at the Gateway and he had asked me, “Are you Alex?” “How do you know?” I answered. “Because I have seen Rebecca around here and since I read your blog I assume you are Alex.” I was a bit chilled by all this. I had been warned to be careful about what I wrote into my blog and I was almost universally damned for posting photographs of my Rebecca and recently of her sister Lauren.
I sort of shrugged it all off and on Saturday night, again comforted by the man’s intelligent voice and demeanor we discussed the current trend (and is it a particularly Canadian obsession) in being so cautious that few people now say what they mean to say and use all kinds of filters in Facebook as a sort of remedy for a candidness that now is anathema. Talking to the man I was reinforced that I will not change the direction of my blog.
At a recent blogging convention (2010 Northern Voice) there were some blogging mothers who were telling us with glee how some of their children (who had grown up or become old enough to use computers and to Google) had complained that when they Googled themselves they could not find anything because their mothers had mentioned them with anonymous names or with initials in their blogs. “Mom, why didn’t you use my name in your blog?”
After the performance I photographed Lauren with my iPhone and I was quite pleased with the results. The colour of the phone is quite on the cyan side of things so I must first color correct the pictures with Photoshop before I can put them here.
Once at home the girls had a sleepover with us. I made some real popcorn (not in the microwave) and Rebecca and I sat down to watch a remarkable Mexican film called Bandidos in which four boys (not even in their teens) become bandits during the Mexican revolution. These children shoot and kill various adults in the film. Rebecca thought the film was quite violent (it was) but I still think that the treatment of the film very unlike anything we would do in the US or in Canada had its educational purpose. We enjoyed ourselves.
It was on Sunday night after a pleasant dinner that Rosemary, Hilary, Lauren and I settled down to see the end of a four and a half hour long film (originally the pilot of TV series that never was) called Dinotopia.
Rebecca had been in Quebec for the first two installments so she chose to not see the ending with us, opting to see it with her father who was quite keen after she heard so many nice things about this charming movie from Hilary.
The film, which aired on TV in 2002, was based on the book Dinotopia by author/illustrator James Gurney which was published with a lot of help from Ian Ballantine.
Ian Ballantine had come to Vancouver in 1993 to push Gurney’s book. I had immediately purchased the book which was a complete delight. Unfortunately I had taken it to Buenos Aires some years later and given it to a nephew.
The book is out of print so I have had to order one via Abe Books from a bookseller in Devon for $1.00 plus $6.00 shipping! Why have I ordered it? Lauren was so interested in the film that we stayed up until 11:30 last night for the ending of the film. Her birthday is at the end of June and I am sure that the book from Devon will be here before.
The book is slightly different. Perhaps the biggest difference lies in the cute librarian of the film who is a cute talking small dinosaur but in the book he has a human assistant librarian who is the spitting image of Ian Ballantine. His name Nailab is a sort of abbreviated palindrome for Ian Ballantine. Luckily I had kept Ian Ballantine’s calling card!
I have explored further the Dinotopia books and I have found that James Gurney has a beautiful Dinotopia
web site and that he has indeed published a sequel called Journey to Chandara. I have already received a reply from Gurney who is going to send me an autographed copy for Lauren. It will arrive by her birthday. This is going to be one birthday that will seem like my own. I cannot wait!
The man wearing the pterodactyl tie was remarkable in many ways that few would know now. When he died in 1995 I cut out his obituary from the NY Times and put it into my files with his negatives. I reproduce it here as it is well worth reading. March 10, 1995
Ian Ballantine, 79, a Publisher Who Led Move Into Paperbacks
By MARY B. W. TABOR
Ian Ballantine, a pioneer in publishing and founder of three important paperback houses, died yesterday at his home in Bearsville, N.Y. He was 79.
The cause was cardiac arrest, his office said.
In a distinguished career that spanned more than five decades, Mr. Ballantine, who was devoted to the notion that people would read a wide variety of books if they were affordable and accessible, founded Penguin U.S.A., Bantam Books and Ballantine Books.
Born in 1916 in New York City, Mr. Ballantine showed an early fascination with publishing, when, as an undergraduate at Columbia University, he wrote a paper in which he described paperbound books as the great hope of publishing.
In 1939, as Pocket Books prepared to introduce one of the first American paperback lines, Mr. Ballantine, fresh out of the London School of Economics, arrived with a stack of paperbacks published by Penguin Books in Britain. He and his wife, Betty, opened Penguin U.S.A. and began importing such classics as "The Invisible Man" by H. G. Wells and "My Man Jeeves," by P. G. Wodehouse.
In 1945, the Ballantines left Penguin to begin a reprint house, which they named Bantam Books. Just months later, having bought the paperback rights for 20 hard-cover books, they released their first list, including "Life on the Mississippi" by Mark Twain, "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck, "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald and several westerns and mysteries.
No longer were Americans, many of them former servicemen and women in the habit of reading paperback books distributed during World War II, limited to the costly hard-covers found in urban bookshops. They could now buy paperbacks in train stations and other retail outlets throughout the country as well. Hardcover editions had sold for $2 or more; the paperbacks cost 25 cents.
In 1952, the Ballantines founded Ballantine Books, turning their focus to paperback originals, or books first published in paperback form instead of hard-cover. While broad-based in their selections, they found their industry niche by publishing the science fiction, fantasy, western and mystery genres.
"That's where they made one of their most distinctive contributions," said Irwyn Applebaum, president and publisher of Bantam Books. "They really helped make the genres of science fiction, fantasy, western and mystery true mass market best sellers by nurturing a whole generation of novelists."
The Ballantines published a successful and original line of military histories and first-person accounts of World War II. They also developed lines of science fiction and fantasy, including the works of Ray Bradbury, who wrote "The Martian Chronicles," and Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote "2001: A Space Odyssey," and J. R. R. Tolkein, author of "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. And they acquired, edited and published books by Carlos Castenada and Tom Robbins.
In 1974, the Ballantines sold the business to Random House and rejoined Bantam Books, where they worked with such authors as Chuck Yeager and Shirley MacLaine.
To his employees, Mr. Ballantine was something of an enigma, sometimes stern, sometimes playful. "Talking with Ian was a cross between a friendly browbeating and a sprinkling of pixie dust," Mr. Applebaum said.
Until his death, Mr. Ballantine maintained an editorial office at Bantam Books at 1540 Broadway in midtown Manhattan and still spent his days wheeling around a cart filled with illustrations and manuscripts.
In recent years, the Ballantines also worked under the name Rufus Publications, named for Mrs. Ballantine's dog, where they edited and put together illustrated art and fantasy books, like "Faeries," by Brian Froud, as well as the 1992 best seller "Dinotopia," by James Gurney.
The Ballantines were the recipients of the Literary Market Place's Lifetime Achievement Award last month.
He is survived by his wife; a son, Richard, who lives in England; a brother David, of Bearsville, and three grandchildren.
That Voluptuous Woman On The Red Sofa
Sunday, May 23, 2010
The woman wasn’t wearing anything. She had a big smile and with a heavy lisp she said to me, “Hi, my name is Jill and I am an actor.”
Since this was sometime around 1979 I was confused. The woman had voluptuous hips (and voluptuous everywhere else) and a narrow waist that would have made Victorian gentlemen gag on their claret. Facing me was a woman yet she called herself an actor. I thought to myself, “What is the market for a woman with a heavy lisp who calls herself an actor? “
The fact is that Jill Daum became a consummate local actress. I choose actress because I still have a fond memory for the PanAm stewardesses in their tight suits and when possible I try to bring up the subject of Amelia Earhart since I then use that beautiful word aviatrix.
Daum took speech therapy lessons and lost all vestiges of her lisp. But that was later. I had to photograph the woman facing me who wasn’t wearing anything. I wasn’t either as we were both sunning ourselves on Wreck Beach.
I did get to photograph Daum a few times. And with her I went the gamut from the landscape nude (“Look, doesn’t the human body resemble a sand dune in the Sahara?) to the domestic nude. Of the latter I have some exquisite photographs of Daum in her bathtub (no water) where I used a special film, Kodak SO 410 which had been manufactured to photograph solar flares but which we photographers used to render the human skin as magical. But I cannot show you those pictures here because of my self-imposed restrictions on nudes. Nor can I show you the beautiful pictures of Daum sitting by her kitchen range. The straight lines of the range contrast ever so nicely with her curves. But I do think I will show you one of the pictures where you cannot only see those hips, that waist but also that pair of wonderful dimples. These are from a series where I used Kodak b+w Infrared film.
If I am a fair photographer now it has all to do with the people I photographed early in my career. I really did not know what I was doing but Daum had patience and a smile that always set me straight.
It was a particular pleasure for me to introduce Rebecca to Daum the other day when we went to the opening of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story. Daum has elegant gray hair and she has that smile. And I did notice that the hips and the waist were all there just as I remembered them some 31 years ago.