David Cooper, Joe Lederer & Yours Truly Went Our Different WaysFriday, October 07, 2011
|Photo by David Cooper|
In the late 70s my first really good photographic jobs were all at the CBC. I was hired to take stills of variety shows. But I was not the only photographer shimming up for work. There were a few more but I remember two in particular because they were really good. One was Joe Lederer and the other was David Cooper. Lederer had lots of drive and drove a BMW. He was much more aggressive than I was so he got the good gigs. The other, Cooper was a tall, thin serious man who would have not looked out of place wearing a doublet and tights in Borgia Italy. He rarely spoke and when he did so it was in an almost whisper.
I was extremely jealous of Cooper because he owned a blimp. A blimp was a device that enveloped a camera and prevented its shutter clicks from being heard in a quiet TV studio during taping. If the sound engineer heard your click more than once (if he were generous) you were summarily ejected and you were history.
The best of the blimps (and I am sure that is where Cooper had purchased his) were expensive and were made in California especially for professional golf tournament photographers. A click heard in a quiet green could end your career as a photographer.
Since I had no blimp my photographs had to be taken at the end of takes or if there were music, during loud passages. I made a makeshift blimp (it worked pretty well) from several layers of wool blanket. It was rectangular and I could slip my camera from one side. There was a little square hole in the back where I could look through and a round hole in the front where I would fit whatever lens I was using. On the downsize was the fact that my hand would sweat terribly.
By early 80s variety shows became fewer and I seemed to get all the work. It was probably not because I was the better photographer but probably because Lederer and Cooper saw the writing on the wall.
Lederer chose to pursue the still photograph in the increasingly larger film scene in Vancouver. Shooting stills meant you were paid union wages (good ones) for the duration of the making of a film. If it took two weeks you were paid for two weeks. There were fringe benefits like very good and very constant food and beverage.
Cooper, with the help of good talent and his blimp pursued theatre and dance. At the beginning he might have even shared a studio with Lederer. In this studio Cooper had a high ceiling and one of the nirvanas of a studio photographer, a coved wall that eliminated the need of expensive and size limiting background paper.
With a good set of studio lights and a boom (a device whereby you can suspend a light high without unsightly and intrusive stands) Cooper began to photograph ballet and modern dancers soaring in the air (high ceiling!). These pictures and his beautifully taken set up shots for forthcoming plays became his bread and butter.
|Meg Roe by Alex W-H|
Unlike this photographer who never abandoned film, Cooper saw the future and quickly adapted to the digital camera. But unlike other photographers he figured out how to manipulate these photographs to incorporate graphics. This meant that Cooper could provide the Arts Club Theatre Company not only with a photograph but also with a well designed poster that went along with his photograph.
By then this photographer had made his choice. I had chosen the editorial field of magazines and newspapers. Editorial rates were not all that good but for quite a few years in the late 80s I shot lucrative annual reports for logging and energy companies. They paid me those magnificent day rates that are no more.
For my magazine assignments I was given free rein to do as I pleased and I photographed women in bed with booms surrounded by countless teddy bears, etc. I used elaborate lighting schemes. It was fun while it lasted. The Georgia Straight kept me employed for many years when they successfully competed with the Vancouver Sun to obtain original images that could not be duplicated by the Sun. This all began to disappear as budgets diminished or perhaps the desire to compete was no longer needed or desired. This meant that the Straight and the Sun would both feature the same beautiful photograph of a Ballet BC dancer shot by David Cooper (it took Cooper many years of quiet fighting and insisting to obtain his photo credit for these pictures in those publications). As wonderful as these photographs were (they are called handout or provided art and they are routinely not paid for by the publication printing them) they were duplicated and you saw the same picture on the Straight cover and on a bus shelter poster.
While it lasted I was for a time assigned to photograph dancers for the Straight. I knew it was fruitless for me to attempt the soaring dancers that Cooper did so well. I stuck to my own style of shooting dancers in portrait situations.
For many years it seemed that our diverging styles and directions kept Cooper, Lederer and me apart. I liked it like that. It meant that Lederer, now called Foto Jo, was making good money in stills with no worries and good food. But there were a few regrets. Lederer told me that I had the luck and the pleasure of contact with my subjects before I photographed them. Cooper had the supreme pleasure of taking photographs of all those actors, actresses and dancers that I had never a hope to photograph. I had my regrets there, too. I told myself that unlike Cooper I could take intimate shots that seemed to never be needed by theatre companies. I was wrong!
Alas! That is no more. I saw this exquisite ad for a forthcoming play The Pelenopiad (written by Margaret Atwood). The photograph by David Cooper is of the equally exquisite Meg Roe. It was probably taken on a bed or sofa and Cooper must have used a boom. This photograph transcends they usual theatrical poster. This is more and it reveals an intimate moment between actress and photographer.
I am so jealous for a job so well done!
I had a nice long chat with Joe Lederer, who unlike this blogger, has no financial worries as he pursues his love of film stills with his digital camera. In my chat with Joe I learned something that I should have known all along. It seems Lederer read sometime around the year 2000 that photography was to become a language, “Just like English, French and Spanish,” Lederer told me. And then he said, “People now communicate with photographs.”
With that in mind I would point out here that David Cooper certainly knows that.
When I could I did Alas no more!