Donald Hodgson's Pristine May In A Hosta Garden
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Donald Hodgson was my friend. He died a couple of years ago and I really miss him. I particularly miss him every year just about now. Why? Hodgson would invariably call me around mid may to talk about hostas. He had a small wholesale hosta business in his backyard in North Vancouver. He was a retired school teacher who had taught Latin. He became fascinated with hostas and he combined this interest with driving to the US to visit as many State Capitals he could.
Unlike other hosta growers he chose a few of the rally proven ones and he would coddle them and feed them until they were mature. Only then would he pot them up and drive to deliver them to the better Lower Mainland nurseries. Since Hodgson’s passing away the offerings at the nurseries consist of puny small plants at outrageous prices.
It was at about this time that Hodgson would call and say, “There is something about hostas as they emerge and unfurl their leaves. They are pristine, fresh and undamaged by slugs, snails, cutworms or other bugs. They are perfect!”
So I would invite him for tea and he would come and we would visit with every hosta in my garden (the visit was protracted as I have an awful lot of them!).
Hodgson would note some empty spots and suggest I pass by his garden to pick a few up. I was one of the few he sold hostas to who was not from a nursery. And his prices for me were really regalados
This past week I snapped some of my hostas with my iPhone and I made believe that Hodgson was with me. I am sure that wherever he is he must be looking at a perfect, fresh, pristine hosta and saying, “ I wonder if Alex has this one?”
A Perfect Day In The Focal Point Studio
Friday, May 20, 2011
Today I watched over 12 students taking pictures of four models (two women, two men in the morning and a different pair in the afternoon) at Focal Point. The studio session which involved a first time experience for many in taking pictures of the undraped human figure went without a hitch. One of the reasons for the relaxed mood (one of my students even said, “It seems as almost time is slowing down for us.”) is that we had four excellent models who are real pros. One in particular I want to point out and this is our male model Anthony whose picture you see here. He is the right combination of masculinity with an easy demeanor that means that women will love to photograph him and the men will not be intimidated. Anthony is a designer and map maker. He is intelligent and soft-spoken. With the money that he gets from his modeling he is saving up for a good camera. He listens to what teachers say in the classes for which he models so on the side he is getting a lot of photographic theory. I wonder how many other models take advantage of this. I often introduce Anthony as the perfect German high fashion underwear model. A model who might have been photographed by Bruce Webber. But Anthony smiles and corrects me, "Perhaps Dutch, but not German."
One of our other models was a beautiful 39 year-old-woman. I expressly chose her as I wanted my students to figure out how to light a woman who is not a perfect (and usually quite boring) 20 year-year-old. The other two were also a couple out of the studio which some of my students began to suspect. All in all the afternoon went by pleasantly and I was able to squeeze a few pictures with my Nikon FM-2 with Kodak Tri-X pushed to 800 IS0) what you see here is an iPhone snap in which I let my Photoshop automatically colour correct. The result is off but I believe striking nonetheless. The flair in the bottom left is caused when the iPhone accidentally manages to get a bit of the flash that one of my students fired. I like the effect.
David Baines - Libels Present & Libels Past
Thursday, May 19, 2011
This is an excerpt from Malcolm Parry's Column in today's Vancouver Sun
BC Business magazine's editor resigned his post after a story about a successful libel bid against Sun columnist David Baines was spiked
By Malcolm Parry, Vancouver Sun May 19, 2011
BUGGED: In March's BC Business magazine, editor Matt O'Grady wrote that he'd suffered an infestation of bed bugs. They'd ridden from Maui in his vacation luggage, and embedded themselves in the 35-year-old bachelor's Kitsilano apartment. As for friends' bemusement: "They have no idea of what sort of psychological hell the critters put you through," O'Grady wrote.
|David Baines by Alex-WH|
The critters survived one draconian and costly eradication attempt, although a second succeeded. It took less to get rid of O'Grady, though. He resigned May 11 after Canada Wide Media Ltd. chairman/CEO and BC Business publisher Peter Legge ordered the June edition's cover story cancelled. Written by one-time Vancouver Sun staffer Richard Littlemore, it detailed former senator Ed Lawson's successful libel suit against Sun business columnist David Baines. The article was replaced by one on Vancouver bikini-swimsuit designer Anna Kosturova. O'Grady, who'd produced 39 editions and seen the magazine receive 22 Western Magazine Award nominations in two years -more than the entire decade preceding -promptly quit.
Regarding what O'Grady called "an important story for our audience," Legge said: "The simplest thing is that we just had a difference of opinion whether it was a right fit for BC Business." He said he invited O'Grady to "come back and see me this afternoon. I don't want you to resign." Tuesday, Legge said: "It's tragic -for me as well as BC Business. I like Matt. He did a good job. He worked hard."
That hard work entailed having Davis and Co. defamation and privacy specialist Rhys Davies, QC vet Littlemore's copy to protect Legge from possible litigation. Even the headline was changed, to The Case Against David Baines. Mentions of past successful libel defences were excised. "Peter knew that Rhys had signed off on it," O'Grady said.
There was a hint of the crusader when O'Grady said of the spiked article: "What makes it a most interesting story is the implications for how we write about people in positions of privilege, people with power, and how they implicitly deter journalists from writing about them in a negative fashion."
The journalist in question, Littlemore, reportedly advised O'Grady it wasn't worth quitting over Legge's decision. O'Grady's response: "I like Peter. I respect his right. He owns the company. It's his reputation. It's his bank account on the line. I don't begrudge him the decision he made. But I don't regret the decision I made. When you've lost the confidence of the publisher, that's a good time to part ways."
|Senator Ed Lawson - Alex W-H|
Will The Case Against David Baines ever be printed? Vancouver magazine editor Gary Ross emailed: "It's way too legally detailed for VM's audience. It is not a piece you'd want to resign over."
Regarding a similar matter, now ailing screen actress Zsa Zsa Gabor said: "When people say, 'It's not the money, it's the principle,' it's the money." That cynical view does not hold in O'Grady's case.
David Baines - Libels Past
Addendum: Most of us in Vancouver know more about the case that Malcolm Parry writes about above. And Malcolm Parry surely knows more about it, too. This story has ramifications about our legal systems that makes me wonder why I left Mexico in the first place. I left Mexico for Vancouver in 1975 because I was tired of living under corruption. If there is one single man in Vancouver that I would trust without any question that man would have to be David Baines. As for business magazines based in Burnaby I look back at Harvey Southam's Equity (based in Vancouver) and find his former brand of journalism as almost as squeaky clean as Baines himself.
Not A Hint Of Manly Posturing
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
|Jane Rule |
I have received the news that Talon Books is publishing a memoir by Jane Rule that was found after her death in November 2007. The powers that be have chosen my photo for the front piece. I have written about my experience in taking her photograph in April of 1991 here. But I must again mention my delight and pride in being so chosen. I remember Jane Rule with a smile in my face and while we had little in common I have recently found out that she was, like me a dyslexic!
The good news coincided with my giving a lecture class at Focal Point on my views and theories on the nude portrait. This 3 hour lecture will be followed by an all-day studio session on Friday with two male models and two female models.
I explained to my students that unless they selected landscape photography as their chosen field of expertise I would warn them that any kind of portraiture, be it business, political (and especially political!) head shots, family portraits, etc would in some way include somewhere some aspect of sexuality. And this would be the case before we even approached the snapping of pictures of an undraped human.
When my two daughters were 11 and 15 I told my wife Rosemary that I was going to commission art photographer James La Bounty to take their portraits she wondered why I would do such a thing being that I was not such a bad portrait photographer in my own right. I explained that as the father of two young daughters I would see them as my “two little girls” and that only somebody who did not know them would perceive (and perhaps photograph) them as young girls on their way to becoming women.
At first my wife hated the pictures but once she was used to them they were up in our living room for many years. Then some ten years ago she told me that they could come down and be replaced by my more recent efforts.
I explained to my class that as a male photographer it had to be my idolization of local virtuoso rocker Art Bergmann that first made me aware that even if I were a born heterosexual man, there is a womanly, feminine side in me (in other men, too?) that I had not known existed. As soon as I took pictures of Bergmann, seeing him as a sexual model for which, with a little imagination, I could be attracted to, I noticed that there was an extra dimension of power in them.
Meeting and taking photographs of Jane Rule, in which I knew that there could be no possible thoughts of sexual attraction left me in a lurch of confusion. This confusion immediately led to the idea that as a man here I had a clear run at not having to show off, to express any kind of machismo. Here in the presence of the womanly (though very tall) Jane Rule I could be myself without any hint of the manly posturing kind. It was a calming relief that was further enhanced by Rule asking me to help her down the stairs. I felt the perfect gentleman next to the perfect woman/lady. It was an invigorating feeling that helped me (not always!) in my relations and dealings with the opposite and not so opposite sex.
And so I told my students that when they faced an undraped man or woman they were not to accept the bunk that the human body can resemble dunes in the Sahara (even if they can or could). They are to realize that the space between the photographer and the undraped subject is a zone of electricity and sexual tension. It is this very tension and electricity that is part of the mystique and the sheer pleasure of taking nude photographs! It is for this reason that there are certain protocols
to be followed (and I explained these at length) if a session is to be a successful one.
Curiously I had to tell the story of a Peter Sellers film where he has to crash a nudist colony (A Shot in the Dark
, 1964). The story is parallels the other bunk that most men are afraid to go to such a place and not being able to control and unintended rise. I told my class that as a veteran of Wreck Beach photo sessions this was something that never happened. I explained that the protocol dictated that if you are to photograph a nude person on the beach you better be nude yourself. One of my students, a wonderful (innocent?) Basque young man, was to tell me, after the long day (in the studio), of taking undraped photography that it had been much easier than he thought. “It felt almost natural by the end.”
A Cool Neon Glow & Synchronicity With Neal Hall
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Got lost reading your Art Bergmann posts. One of the benefits of being a rock critic at The Sun in the 1980s was being allowed to nominate and vote for the Juno awards. My only nomination was Art Bergmann, who was then nominated for Best Male Vocalist of the Year. Not surprisingly, considering the awards were Toronto-centric, he didn't win.
Also, I took a Toronto A&R man to see Art playing at the Cultch in the early Poisoned days (he was signed to his first major record contract sometime later). Art and the band were absolutely brilliant that night. Afterward, I remember going with the A&R guy to the apartment of drummer Taylor Little, who lived in a building at 1st and Commercial. The living room had this cool neon glow from the Manitoba appliance store, which had an RCA Victor logo on top and a rotating sign saying "Easy Terms." Here's
|William Deverell & Tamara|
the only photo I have found of the long-gone sign.
Thanks for rekindling the memories.
By the way, do you have a blog post on Vancouver's lost neon signs?
I received the above from Neal Hall the always on top crime reporter for the Vancouver Sun
. Les Wiseman and I would run into Hall a lot in the 80s. At the Time Wiseman was writing his monthly rock column, In One Ear for Vancouver Magazine
and I provided the accompanying photographs. All three of us had a soft spot for Art Bergmann. When I received the above communication from Hall I smiled a bit smugly. No, I don’t have a collection nor have I ever written a blog about Vancouver’s lost neon signs. But I do have this picture. In it are writer William Deverell (in his Che-Guevara-look period around 1986) and with him is his daughter Tamara who happened to know Poisoned drummer, Taylor Little quite well. And if you look behind you might note a cool neon glow that came from 15664 Commercial Drive.
An all-time great photo. It's been on my wall a long time, though not a large image. Tamara is a much-sought-after production designer for film and TV in Toronto, in charge of crews of set and costume designers, location finders, carpenters, you name it -- and mother of two bright teenagers.
More William Deverell
Terry David Mulligan Hands Free
Monday, May 16, 2011
It was at least 12 years ago that TV Guide (it was sold recently for $1.00) hired me to photograph the local luminary music man and ex RCMP officer, Terry David Mulligan. I went to his house in West Vancouver and he told me that he had to pick up his dog at the grooming salon and that I jump into his van. I was most impressed when his phone rang and he pressed something in his steering wheel and he began to talk. The person who had called seemed to be talking from his car radio. After the call Mulligan explained to me that he received many calls while driving and he thought that this system was perfect for him.
All those years later I read in my NY Times
yesterday about something called a computer safety assistant. This device when installed into a car gives you pointers on alertness if you happen to be using your cell phone. It might casually say, “Careful Alex, you are approaching a light. Concentrate!” It seems that people will not stop using a cell phone while driving and that even hands free talking can be so distracting you’re your possibility of being in an accident is increased. This system is supposed to help.
The powers that be at the NY Times have a funny feature attached to the column which is called Bits – Highlights from Bits, the technology blog updated all day at nytimes.com/bits. This feature is a comment from some person who usually has a negative (perhaps rational is a better word). The comment follows the announcement of this latest blockbuster technological advancement. The comment in question was so good that I immediately knew I had to write a blog about it. The other option is one that I would never exercise and that is to put a comment in What’s on your mind? In facebook that would read, “Hey guys, check this link. It’s hilarious. Then a few of my “friends” would not comment but just click on the “likes this” button.
The comment: So let me get this straight: we have reached the evolutionary point where we need to develop intelligent technology to prevent us from stupidly using technology. – Bill, Tinley Park, Ilinois, May 9.
All that brings to mind the problem that my friend Paul Leisz has with his epensive Canon DSLR. It has been taking oversaturated pictures for about a year. In flash mode the pictures are so dark that Leisz has to double and triple the ISO rating of his camera to get sort of properly exposed pictures. After not getting any satisfaction from any of the local camera stores he repeatedly approached Canon Canada. Eventually they replied and asked him to send sample jpgs. The answer to the problem seems to be perhaps a faulty CMOS sensor. Leisz if a frugal Hungarian so he told me, “ Alex that is the most expensive part of my camera.” He must now send his camera to Mississauga and he has been told to expect a four to five week turnaround. My wife told me upon hearing Leisz’s problem, “Mississauga is about an hour away from Toronto airport. It is not in the Far East!”
I told Leisz, when he complained that he would be virtually camera less (he has an inexpensive point and shoot), that in my business all these years I have always had at least another camera, just in case. I love my Mamiya RB-67 so I have a backup and a third one for parts. “Isn’t that expensive?” Leisz asked. Yes it is expensive but that was part of the obligation any professional photographer had in that rapidly receding time when magazines and newspapers paid for photographs. Now with free content on the internet and pictures that are offered for free or for ridiculously low remuneration a photographer has to deal with Mississauga which, in spite of what Rosemary said, is about as far as the Far East.
And that is where intelligent technology has brought us to.
Abraham Lincoln & General Don José de San Martín
Sunday, May 15, 2011
One day, quite some time ago, I happened on a photograph of Napoleon's younger brother, Jerome, taken in 1852. And I realized then, with an amazement I have not been able to lessen since: "I am looking into the eyes that looked at the Emperor." Sometimes I would mention this amazement, but since no one seemed to share it, nor even to understand it ( life consists of these little touches of solitude), I forgot about it.
Roland Barthes - Reflections on Photography
In the beginning of 1950 in Argentina under the presidency of Juan Domingo Perón we were told by all our teachers that we had to write on the top right of every page of our notebooks the following;
1950 Año del Libertador General San Martín.
Most of us found this a tedious exercise not different from being told to write on the board 100 times “I must remember not to talk in class.” So we would write perhaps a month’s worth of 1950s.
|May 16, 1861|
It was only in 1965 while idling on Plaza de Mayo in my Argentine navy uniform that for the first time I entered out of a curiousity based on boredom our neo-classical Metropolitan Cathedral. Inside and to one side there were two over 6ft tall Granaderos de San Martín on guard next to an imposing mausoleum that housed San Martin’s bones. It was only then that the man we had read about and had so many teachers tell us of his exploits in liberating Argentina, helping the Chileans and then Peru, became a real man to me.
I had a similar and just as wonderful experience in London in the mid 80s when I was there with my wife and two daughters. We went into Westminster Abbey. We explored the sumptuous crypts of the English kings. I stopped at one that said, “Edward the Confessor.” It was this English King, a Roman Catholic saint who was the St Edward in the name of the high school I had attended in Austin, Texas in the late 50s. Suddenly the name, the school combined to form in my mind the idea of a man who had existed. He had existed not because I had read of him, but because his bones were somewhere under that crypt.
It may have been also around 1950 when inside the USIS Lincoln Library on Calle Florida in Buenos Aires I found a magazine called American Heritage. Inside were pictures by Matthew Brady and Timothy O’Sullivan taken during the American Civil War. Some of the pictures showed dead men (the first I had really seen of death as I was 8 years old) but the pictures I stared at were pictures of soldiers (from both sides) looking out into the camera in an unwavering sort of way. I looked at them and in spite of their beards they looked like men I might see outside strolling and window shopping on Calle Florida. These men looked so real and then I noticed the dates in the early 1860s and I told myself that they were now dead even though they had been alive when the pictures were taken. I was moved and that incident remained with me for the rest of my life.
I am not an American but I am a Civil War buff and I have read many books about it. In high school I remember writing a book report about Ulysses S. Grant’s Wilderness Campaign. Every once in a while I want to order on line from ABE Books The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
. One of my favourite novels of all time is Richard Adams’s Traveller
in which Robert E. Lee’s horse (Traveller) tells a barn cat his experiences in a human endeavour called war. I have a big collection of Civil War photography books.
A couple of days ago I spotted a special section in the on-line NY Times. I have free access through the pay wall because I pay $140 a month for a daily delivered hard copy version. The article was called Lincoln Captured!
and was written by Ted Widmer. The wonderful essay was an account on how Matthew Brady was hired (he sent an unnamed assistant to take the pictures) to photograph President Abraham Lincoln. The first paragraph drew me in immediately:
Despite recent rumors to the contrary, Lincoln displayed no vampiric powers in his early presidency. But it is true that he could appear many places at the same time, thanks to a chemical process that seemed to borrow as much from the dark arts as from science.
I looked at the six photographs (all seen here) and I almost had one of those Westminster Abbey moments. I had seen at least four of these pictures so the impact was not as great. But it set me thinking about another magical moment back in London when at the British Museum I was able to read (beneath glass) letters that Horatio Nelson had written to Lady Hamilton.
Three years ago in Austin, Texas at the Harry Ransom Centre I asked to see any handwritten letter they might have by Albert Einstein. When I saw his signature (I was unable to understand his German) the letter magically transformed itself into a photograph of civil war soldiers who had been dead for so many years but were alive now. And Lincoln no longer seems to be Raymond Massey or Henry Fonda but Lincoln himself!