That Will Be A Non Smoking & A Non Dog Room
Saturday, July 23, 2011
My mother often spoke of el baile de las sábanas blancas
or the dance of the white sheets. This was her pleasant euphemism to inform me it was bedtime.
Bedtime for the girls in our trip to and back from south Texas was mostly a pleasant one thanks to our neighbour Robert Freedman who gave us an extremely valuable tip. Like my friend Paul Leisz, Freedman is a smart and frugal man. He knows all about spending money only when one has to, and when one has to, it is to be at an absolute minimum. Freedman suggested I simply ignore my iPhone and the belligerent roaming charges that Telus charges for using it in the US. He suggested we purchase a $30 Nokia phone in Bellis Fair with an equally cheap minutes plan. With this phone and with our BCAA (AAA) individual US state manual, Rosemary would call the hotels a few hours before our arrival at some town like Ontario, Washington, or Butte, Montana. She would then ask these questions to the groans of the girls in the back seat:
1. Is that your final price even after you consider our AAA card?
2. Does it have a microwave and a refrigerator?
3. We want two queen-sized beds.
4. Does that include high speed internet?
5. Does that include free breakfast?
6. And what does that breakfast include?
7. I understand your hotel has three floors but no elevator. We need a room on the first floor.
8. Is it a non smoking room?
But we soon knew that there was one more question we had to ask but that we did not know how phrase it. In our second night we stayed in Richfield, Utah. As we were carting our luggage into the second floor (there was no elevator and we learned our lesson after that stay) a room on the first floor suddenly opened and two women (they looked like Quantico boot camp sergeants) walked out with a huge German shepherd in tow.
After enquiring we noted that even our AAA manuals listed not only which hotels had elevators or not, but also they had a little phrase we had not noticed, “Pet friendly.”
On another day I asked at the front desk of a Holiday Inn Express (and yes it, too, was pet friendly) what this meant. The man told me that usually the first floor was reserved as the pet friendly area and that there was a $15 fee per pet. I asked the man if the room maids had problems in dealing with the pets. His non answer I interpreted as a rare form of American diplomacy. To lighten the moment I made the joke as to why it was I had not been charged $15 each for my two granddaughters.
None of the hotels ever charged us more than the agreed upon fee that Rosemary obtained on her phone transaction. But it was at a hotel in Butte, Montana where we had to pay more. It seems that in Butte, little girls are considered to be pets. And we were on the first floor so that confirms that!
The Fourth Woman
Friday, July 22, 2011
|Rosemary in the Malibu somewhere in New Mexico|
Our Malibu, the consequences of traveling with three women, was packed to the point that everything had to be shoehorned, particularly when I had to load up in the morning when we would leave our hotel. Because of the extreme heat I had my exposed film and raw film in a plastic bag which I slipped under my seat. Since I usually had the air conditioner going full blast this kept the film moderately cool. Lauren sat behind me so I placed at her feet my black bag with my 35mm cameras and sometimes (when it was loaded) the little old fashioned makeup box that contained my large Noblex panoramic.
|Girls and the Malibu on the causeway to the Great Salt Lake to Antilope Island|
Often when the sky was spectacular, especially in the early or late evenings, I would stop the car and fish out my cameras. I would demand that the girls get out for a picture by the Malibu. By the time we were returning to Vancouver there was no threat that worked and they insisted on staying inside. I was able to lure Lauren out a few times but in the end she refused to budge.
|Shiprock, New Mexico, not Lauren's foot on window|
Both girls at our peril of being stopped by some state trooper, jettisoned their safety belts and lay on the back seat as if it were a bed. The Malibu is large enough that it obliged to the their delight. But this arrangement, that worked well when both girls watched a movie on the laptop (with double headsets), had its downside. It meant that Montana’s big sky was just that, a big sky with no mountains, trees, fields or any sign of humanity. In fact the two girls saw Montana on their backs.
|Rebecca and the Malibu outside of Salt Lake City|
It didn’t take long, on our way down, that every time I oowed and awed about some mountain in Utah, Arizona or New Mexico being blood red with a wonderful backdrop of sky, where the response from the backseat wasn’t one at all. I would look at Rosemary and if she didn’t entirely agree with me at my disappointment I could have sworn that her eyes were glazing over.
|Near Gallup and the rain|
This man enjoyed being one with nature and with his Malibu. I could sense that the fourth woman in our trip was on my side all the way. She posed for me without any complaint and I could have almost sworn that somehow she had some connections with the Man upstairs so that we always had a good excuse for a rest and for a picture. This blog is not working too well today and I am unable to place a caption under the last picture below. It is Lauren with Mexican Hat, Utah behind. By then even Lauren balked at having to leave the relative cool comfort of the Malibu to near 40 degree temperatures. All pictures were taken with my iPhone but there are many more taken with the film cameras but they will see another day and probably not here!
|Taos, New Mexico|
|Between Idaho and Utah|
|Same as above|
|Leaving Texas and into New Mexico|
A Sorrowful Pile Of Rocks
Thursday, July 21, 2011
|Rebecca in Red Canyon Utah, Nikon FM 35mm, 800 ISO colour neg|
As some of you might guess my last real blog written on the day that it appeared was on July 5th on our first day of our trip to south Texas. I was able to post a picture from my iPhone to facebook and from there down to my blog. After that communication ceased between all my gadgets and I gave up. Since we arrived on July 23 I have been writing blogs looking back but in some cases finding contemporary ideas and events of the particular day that I am blogging. Thus a blog on July 8 might have been influenced by events that happened after we arrived here.
Five days after we got to Vancouver the two girls and their mother got on a plane to visit friends in Cabo San Lucas in Baja California del Sur in Mexico. The three will be there visiting Eliana Zamora who is the daughter of an old friend of ours, also called Eli who was our neighbour back in Arboledas, Estado de Mexico in the early 70s. She died a few years ago and her husband Carlos died last year. The Zamora family has always been a family of many and very happy children. Eli “chica” has four. She works as a food and beverage manager for a fine hotel so she has a hotel provided home with a nearby communal pool.
As you can imagine Lauren, the fish of our family, is in her glory - but, Rebecca, not quite. She misses her friends in Vancouver. I can only guess this is a 13 kind of thing. She is not too prepared to practice her Spanish or be friendly with Eli’s daughters and from last reports has been sulking and glued to her iPhone.
I would have thought that not being with her grandparents and having the opportunity to be with girls her age might have stimulated her to have fun.
Today (really August 2) I sent her an email via Eli (and in Spanish) pointing out that Eli’s daughters might be an example that she could follow. I am sure that my email will probably be no issue but then I can only hope.
I look at these three pictures, one with an iPhone, all taken within seconds at Utah’s Red Canyon which is the entrance to the really phenomenal Bryce Canyon. There are some who prefer Bryce to the Grand Canyon. Upon seeing Red Canyon Rebecca said, “This is a pile of rocks.” I was speechless but asked her to pose. She did and her expression was not changed. I see in them a sorrow that breaks my heart and I can only hope that she smiles up fast and becomes the girl she has always been for me, a happy and stimulating girl.
A Ghost At La Parra, Sarita, Texas
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
The limestone dust hung thick over the old desert during the drought of the early 1950s. By day it bleached the south Texas sky a bone white and at dusk transformed the sun into a blood red balloon on the horizon. On these eerie crimson evenings, when the gloomy Headquarters house a La Parra felt most like a tomb, Sarita Kenedy East would put on her black-lace mantilla, genuflect before her bedroom altar, and then slowly make her splay-gaited way up into the gun tower atop he Headquarters, where she sat alone, surveying her endlessly flat, 400,000 acre domain.
|View from the gun tower, La Parra|
The servants reported that the widow often remained in the tower well past dark, sipping her tumblers of scotch and sometimes boozily yodeling the exuberant country-and-western dance tunes of her youth. But most of the time – and this was what touched and saddened the ranch’s vaqueros and their families – La Parras’ barren patrona made no sound at all. From their doorsteps they watched her silhouette until she was lost to them in the later hours of milky moonglow, still sitting silently, searching for the far limit of the featureless terrain.
Sarita Kenedy East of Sarita, Kenedy County, south Texas, was the granddaughter of one of the authentic giants of southwestern history, the nineteenth-century Rio Grande steamboater Captain Mifflin Kenedy, who established La Parra in the parched wilderness of the Wild Horse Desert after helping his young friend Richard King found the mammoth King Ranch next door. The old captain was an empire builder, but his dreams of a Kenedy dynasty died in the family’s third generation.
|The fireplace in Sarita's bedroom|
Six decades after Captain Kenedy’s death his granddaughter, once a high-spirited woman, had withdrawn from the world. She was driven to her evening vigils by an inner void and by her lonesomeness. Looking out toward the nearby Gulf of Mexico, Sarita pondered the ranch graveyard, where in 1932 she had buried her father, John Gregory Kenedy, known in his day as Don Gregorio; next to him her mother, the former Marie Stella Turcotte of New Orleans, who died in 1940; then her husband of thirty-four years, Arthur L. East, a heart attack victim at the age of sixty-one in 1944; and her adored brother Johnny who, who drank himself to death in 1948, four years before the drought struck.
She had arranged them in a tidy row, with space reserved next to Johnny for his starchy widow, Elena, and another measured rectangle between her mother and Arthur, where Sarita would be interred.
The Mexican cowboys, who believed in ghosts, speculated among themselves that Mrs. East communed with her dead family on her nights in the gun tower. But Sarita, whose faith led her to trust that her parents and husband and brother were gone to heaven, mourned in the dark for what never had been, a next generation of Kenedys to carry on the family legacy, La Parra. She was the last of the line, procupied by her own inevitable demise and surrounded in her grief by collateral relatives who, according to Sarita’s bitter metaphor, had begun eyeing her with the undisguised greed of carrion eaters waiting for a sick heifer to expire.
From If You Love Me You Will Do My Will
by Stephen G. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth – W W Norton & Company 1990
|Don Gregorio's office|
And from the website of the Kenedy Ranch Museum of South Texas
in Sarita Texas:
SARITA KENEDY EAST
After the death of Sarita Kenedy East, litigation concerning her estate continued for more than two decades. The following article, although not 100% accurate, provides a glimpse of how the story was reported in the news.
EAST, SARITA KENEDY (1889-1961). Sarita Kenedy East, South Texas rancher and philanthropist, daughter of John G. and Marie Stella (Turcotte) Kenedy, was born on September 19, 1889, in Corpus Christi, Texas. Her grandparents, Petra Vela and Mifflin Kenedy were the founders of the vast La Parra Ranch in what was then Cameron County (now Kenedy County). She spent much of her childhood at La Parra, and her father named the new town of Sarita, located on the Kenedy ranch, for his daughter upon the town's founding around 1904. Sarita attended Incarnate Word Academy in Corpus Christi and then H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College in New Orleans. She also made her debut in New Orleans. She did not complete college, but instead returned to La Parra. On December 8, 1910, she married Arthur Lee East, a South Texas rancher. They did not have any children.
|Sarita Kenedy East, age 65|
After Arthur East died in 1944, Mrs East and her brother John G. Kenedy, Jr., were in charge of the 400,000-acre Kenedy ranch. Upon her brother's death in 1948, Sarita and her sister-in-law Elena Suess Kenedy became the sole heirs to the ranch. Sarita East also owned the San Pablo Ranch near Hebbronville and Twin Peaks Ranch in Colorado. She served as a county commissioner of Kenedy County and was on the board of directors of Alice National Bank. In addition to her business dealings, she engaged in philanthropy, especially to Catholic charities. In 1952, she received the Ecclesia et Pontifice medal and membership in the Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem from Pope Pius XII for her service to the church. She was also named an honorary member of the Franciscans and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. In her 1948 will she bequeathed La Parra ranch headquarters and 10,000 acres of land to the Oblate fathers and 13,000 acres to the Diocese of Corpus Christi. The rest of her vast estate was divided among relatives and ranch kin.
In 1948, Mrs. East met Christopher Gregory, a Trappist monk who had taken the name Brother Leo. Two years earlier, Brother Leo had been released from his vow of silence and assigned to raise funds for new Trappist monasteries. He was on a fund-raising trip through South Texas when he met Sarita East, and over the next few years he became her advisor and traveling companion. In the 1950s, Mrs. East allowed oil and gas exploration on her ranch which, up to that time, had largely been an untapped resource. During that time she gave money to the Trappist monks and visited monasteries throughout the world. In 1959, with other family members and Brother Leo, she went on a South American tour, one of several trips she made, and donated $300,000 to build a mission in Chile. That same year Brother Leo introduced her to J. Peter Grace, Chairman of the Board of W. R. Grace and Company, in New York. The three began the work of forming a charitable Foundation. On January 21, 1960, they established The John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation, with Sarita Kenedy East as sole member. Mrs. East also wrote another will leaving the bulk of her estate to the Foundation. Over the next few months she wrote a series of codicils to her will that increasingly gave more control of the Foundation to Brother Leo and Grace. Just before her death she named Brother Leo sole member of the Foundation. Sarita Kenedy East died of cancer on February 11, 1961, in New York City and was buried at La Parra Ranch.
|Sarita Kenedy as a young girl, iPhone photo|
Within months after her death a group of South Texans, including Elena Suess Kenedy, members of the Turcotte family, and the Diocese of Corpus Christi, filed a lawsuit disputing Brother Leo's control of the Foundation, charging that Leo and Grace exerted undue influence over Mrs. East while she was disoriented by medication. Other relatives also contested her 1960 will and wished to reinstate her 1948 will dividing the estate among various beneficiaries. Over the course of the battle more than 200 people claimed to be legitimate heirs. In 1964, a settlement regarding the Foundation resulted in the splitting of assets. Grace and the New York group relinquished control of the Foundation over Brother Leo's objections. The bulk of the funds, approximately $100 million, went to the control of the South Texans, but Grace received oil royalties (not to exceed $14.4 million) from the estate and established a smaller Foundation in New York, the Sarita Kenedy East Foundation, worth approximately $13 million. In 1966 Brother Leo filed an appeal against the decision; after a further series of appeals the Texas Supreme Court ruled against him. In June 1981, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal, thereby affirming the rights of the Texas relatives to retain control of the Foundation. Through a series of court battles over the years the 1960 will was upheld over the 1948 will, and the assets of the Foundation and most of the Kenedy estate remained intact. As Mrs. East wished, the ranch headquarters went to the Oblate fathers. The estate, which had been held in escrow by the Alice National Bank, was finally turned over to the Foundation in 1982. In 1984, basically the first year that the Foundation officially operated, it had $100 million in assets and was the largest charitable Foundation in South Texas. It was stipulated that at least 10 percent of the income go to the Corpus Christi Diocese, with a total of 90 percent of funds going for religious activities and the other 10 percent going to secular agencies.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Corpus Christi Caller-Times, August 26-29, September 23-27, December 16-19, 1984. Stephan G. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth, If You Love Me You Will Do My Will (New York: Norton, 1990). Vertical Files, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin.
Copyright © The Texas State
Historical Association Laurie E. Jasinski
|Rebecca in La Parra chapel, iPhone|
A few weeks back before my granddaughters, wife and I drove to south Texas I wrote to Lee Lytton III to suggest that he meet us one day at the door of the Kenedy Ranch Museum of South Texas in Sarita if he might want to give us a tour of the town as he had been born there and lived until his late chidlhood. From there I was asking him to cross the highway and head to La Parra re-named Lebh Shomea House of Prayer as it is a spiritual retreat
run by the Oblate Fathers.
Lee had been my classmate at St. Edward's High School and we had both graduated in 1961. It was only in later years that I found out about his grandmother's and father's connection to Sarita Kenedy East. It was Lee who three years ago sent my a library copy of the book that tells the story of one of the longest running litigation process in Texas, If You Love Me You Will Do My Will
by Stephen G. Michaud and Hugh Aynsworth.
|Lauren in La Parra chapel, iPhone|
Lee kindly offered to accept my invitation, and drive all the way from San Antonio where he teaches law at St. Mary's University. He was there, at the museum door, when we arrived at Sarita a couple of weeks ago. He got to meet El Borrado
before he went for his home and then Lee gave us and the Director of the museum, Homero Vera a tour of the premises. You see, Lee lived there before it was a museum. On our way to La Parra he further surprised us by telling us that Sarita Kenedy East had been his godmother and he had often visited her with his father and family.
Of La Parra's collection of Renaissance paintings (a few remain in the ancillary chapel) furniture, carriages, etc nothing remains. The place has been transformed to a spiritual retreat. The interiors are gloomy and stark and the smell of various repeated coats of enamel reminded me of an old hospital. Lee gave us a tour that was especially punctuated by his gesticulating hands. Could it be that the Lyttons and the Turcottes may have had some Italian ancestors? But his smile and enthusiasm at times seemed to be shifting to tears. Perhaps because of the long lost memories that were coming back or perhaps because in some way the Oblates have done to La Parra what the conquistadores of the past did to obliterate the Indian culture that came before them. Of Sarita KenedyEast's life at La Parra all we had were Lytton's memories and our accompanying imagination. After touring La Parra we visited the nearby chapel where I took pictures of Rebecca and Lauren and from there we visited the little cemetery that has the graves of the Kenedy/Easts, the Turcottes and the Lyttons. Lee brought roses and left a bunch on the graves of his grandfather, grandmother, mother and father (while having a little conversation with each one of them). Then with a cursory glance at the Turcottes he proceded to leave roses on the Kenedys and the Easts.
|Lauren in La Parra staircase, iPhone|
The sadness of the place was transformed quickly into sheer delight when Lee invited us to have lunch at the nearby King's Inn
on Baffin Bay. I have never been to Cape Cod but somehow when inside the restaurant which served us wonderful food I felt I was in Cape Cod.
|La Parra staircase|
I sent Lee some of the photographs that I took during the tour. His reply merits inclusion here:
Well, thank you so much for all the great pix. The picture of the geezer in front of the Kenedy Pasture Company…who is that guy anyway?
Going through the big house and environs was such an incredible experience for me, and so full of old ghosts and memories. What I realized as I pondered the day with you and your family, was that fate, or a higher power, dictated that it was the perfect day in time for us to have the opportunity to make this unmolested, leisurly tour. How lucky is it that they didn't have a single guest to be concerned about?
What I also realize in retrospect, is that I'm the only person alive today with an active recollection of the sounds, people, and daily activities of folks long gone who lived and carried on life there. I know so much about the place because of an accident of fate. I was the first born of a large generation of Turcotte cousins, but I was the first, oldest and only son of my father, and as such I enjoyed a relationship through Dad (and my own grandmother), with Aunt Sarita that no one else ever had, including my two younger sisters and all of the younger Turcottes. I had no playmates my own age then, and Dad used to call me his "shadow" for good reason, since I always tagged along with him as a little kid with a vivid imagination. I was primed to spend endless hours roaming around La Parra unrestrained by anything other than what my fertile little mind could conjure up. And so, with few exceptions, I know every inch of the place and all the "ghost whispers"…but I know it as it really was, and like no one else alive today can possibly remember it. And so, "thanks for the memories", and thank you for drawing me back for a one day reunion with my roots and with a wonderful romp through times that will never pass this way again.
|King's Inn on Baffin Bay|
Addendum: Those who are wondering, my friend Mike East is the great nephew (not related by blood) of Sarita Kenedy East. And the Santa Fe Ranch Office is a couple of blocks from the museum in Sarita.
|I took picture on my first visit in 2009, Nikon Fm-2 24 mm Ektachrome 100 G|
Pinkie In Texas
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Pinkie is the traditional title for a portrait of 1794 by Thomas Lawrence in the permanent collection of The Huntington at San Marino, California where it hangs opposite The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough. These two works are the centerpieces of the institute's art collection, which specializes in 18th-century English portraiture. The painting is an elegant depiction of Sarah Barrett Moulton, who was about eleven years old when painted. Her direct gaze and the loose, highly-moved brushwork give the portrait a lively immediacy.
|Pinkie, Thomas Lawrence 1784 |
Sarah Goodin Barrett Moulton was born in 1783 in Jamaica. She was the daughter of Charles Barrett Moulton, a wealthy plantation owner. Lawrence's portrait was a commission by her grandmother at the time Sarah left Jamaica with her brothers to complete her education in England. The portrait's title and obvious visual puns refer to Sarah's family nickname, "Pinkie". She died the year after the portrait was completed, probably of tuberculosis.
Pinkie owes part of its notability to its association with the Gainsborough portrait The Blue Boy. According to Patricia Failing, author of Best-Loved Art from American Museums, “no other work by a British artist enjoys the fame of The Blue Boy.” Pinkie and The Blue Boy are often paired in popular esteem; some gallery visitors mistake them for contemporary works by the same artist. Actually the two were created by different painters a quarter century apart, and the subjects' dress styles are separated by over one hundred fifty years. Jonathan Buttall, who posed for Gainsborough's portrait, wears a period costume of the early 17th century as an homage to Flemish Baroque painter Anthony Van Dyck, whom Gainsborough held in particular esteem. Sarah Moulton wears the contemporary fashion of 1794.The two works had no association until Henry Huntington purchased them in the 1920s.
Nonetheless, the two are so well matched that William Wilson, author of The Los Angeles Times Book of California Museums, calls them "the Romeo and Juliet of Rococo portraiture" and notes that their association borders on cliché: They have decorated cocktail coasters, appeared in advertisements, and stopped the show as the tableaux vivants at the Laguna Beach ‘Pageant of the Masters.’ For all that, they remain intrinsically lovely… The continuing popularity of both pictures is based on more than the obvious. The subjects certainly are in the springtime of life, but their freshness is lent a certain poignancy by the rather grown-up garb that suggests both the transience of youth and the attempt to cling to it. Besides, both are extraordinarily fine pictures, easy and dramatic at once.
|Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD 50mm, Kodak Ektachrome 100 G|
Since I can remember being conscious I can remember two painting reproductions (and of course for me they were the real thing) that hung in our dining room in Buenos Aires on Melián 2770 in Coghlan. We moved to the house in 1948 so I was 6. We did not eat in the dining room every day. It was the place we used only when we had guests. On other days and especially in winter the kitchen was where we ate our meals. The ancient gas stove provided us with the only heat in a house that had no heating.
|Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD 90mmm Kodak Plus-X|
The dining room had another special feature. It had flowered paper curtains. By the time I was 8 my mother would explain to me that during WW-II there was a shortage of cloth which was needed to make soldiers’ uniforms. So Americans, who were very enterprising, had created these paper curtains that almost felt like cloth. I remember that their pastels went very well with one of the framed paintings on the wall. My memory does not serve me well and I would swear that my mother called the young girl in the painting Mistress Quickly. This, in retrospect could not have been her name as Mistress Quickly had other associations as an older woman and with Falstaff. The other painting was of course Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy.
Perhaps in 1948 the Blue Boy was not yet the cliché he was to become. But thinking about it now it would seem that he is now fading back and fewer and fewer people might know who he is now. And few in Vancouver might know that the Blue Boy Motor Hotel is still there, all monumental and ugly monstrosity of concrete on South East Marine Drive. The strippers are long gone. I remember going there to see one of my favourites called Salem back in the declining years of strip parlours in the mid 90s.
In 1953 when I was in the 5th grade at the American School in Mexico City I remember that our teacher made us build some waste paper baskets out of stiff cardboard. We used coloured rope which we ran through the cardboard's pierced edges to put the baskets together, our-soon-to-be mother’s day gift. We were given two choices for decorating the waste paper basket. One was a reproduction of the Mona Lisa and the other was The Blue Boy. I chose the latter. I stuck it to one side and then glossed it over with lacquer. I have no idea what my mother’s reaction would have been.
In this second blog featuring pictures of Lauren which I took at the site of Mike East’s father’s grave, which is in close proximity to the main house of Mike’s Santa Fe Ranch, I found that I had to find an excuse to be able to show here more of these (to me) lovely portraits of a 9 year old girl.
When Rebecca was younger than 9, and even now, she rarely smiles for my camera. Her expression is direct. In our trip to Texas her expression in front of my camera was sometimes downright scary. I have written here before that it might have to do with an internal conflict of a woman undecided if she is a child, a young girl or simply a woman.
While I await for things to settle within her (and with no diminishing desire to keep taking her portrait as she is an unusually excellent subject), I am thoroughly enjoying taking pictures of Lauren who faces my camera with an expression of sweet calm that unsettles me, I have no idea why, in much the same way as Rebecca’s stark gaze does.
Lauren & Rebecca At The Grand Canyon & Silence
Monday, July 18, 2011
There are many reasons why I am not a landscape photographer. The main reason is that I like to play God and I don’t want to be bothered to wait until God’s light is just right the way Ansel Adams did. I shoot portraits because I can provide my light or use light that is readily available under a tree or on a cloudy day. This is light that is low in contrast and flatters the human face. But for good landscape you need contrasty light (at least most of the time) and with canyons and mountains you simply avoid noon sun. Canyons and mountains look better with early morning or late afternoon light.
|Pentax MX, 20mm Ektachrome 100G|
It was thus very frustrating in our road trip to Texas when I saw so many worthy landscapes, monument, sunsets, cloud formations, etc. I did manage to plan the day that we went to Monument Valley to show up mid afternoon and not at noon. But as we left I could see that late afternoon sun was going to do wonders to transform the formations into blood red apparitions. But we had to leave.
|Nikon FM, 24mm ISO 800 colour negative|
The Grand Canyon happened almost in a semi overcast day in the afternoon and the colours were muted. When I had to make the decision of taking pictures with my large panoramic Noblex (a seven inch long negative) I chose b+w film as I have seen too many panoramics in colour. Perhaps my b+ws (I have yet to process them) will be different.
|Nikon FM-2 fisheye lens, Kodak Plus-X |
|Nikon FM, 24mm 800 ISO colour negative|
In all the canyons we visited I sometimes felt jealous of the photographer who had the one large digital SLR. All they needed was at his fingertips. He could opt for colour or b+w or simply shoot it all in RAW and then make different versions later.
|Nikon FM-2 24mm Kodak Plus-X|
Watching me must have been funny. In one hand I had the little makeup case with the panoramic and in the other my largish black shoulder bag with the three 35mm cameras. I would shoot something with the 20mm then use another camera with b+w and shoot it with a fisheye. I might then change my mind and snap the colour negative 35mm camera with a 24mm And then I would invariably use my iPhone.
|Nikon FM, 24mm 800 ISO colour negative Version 2 of picture above|
All that meant that sometimes my granddaughters would have to give me the same pose for every different camera. Lauren was a bit more patient as these pictures of her taken from the Grand Canyon’s north rim attest to.
Much has been said and written about the Grand Canyon. I felt frustrated that the light wasn't quite right for landscapes (but quite nice for portraits). But what impressed me the most was the enormity of the place and the enormity of the silence that the place generated. I could hear it in my head.
Rebecca & Mike's Truck
Sunday, July 17, 2011
I photographed Rebecca next to Mike East’s Toyota Tacoma
last year in July. Rebecca was 12. There seemed to be a child’s innocence in her pose and I thought the photograph was rather nice. Mike’s truck looked pretty good, too. This year (also in July) I photographed Rebecca by the truck.
There were some obvious changes. One whole side of the truck was smashed and you might note that the license plate also suffered some modifications. The reason for this is that Mike East uses his truck to arrear (herd) cattle. He swings in an out, reverses and goes forward and plows through mesquite. This year he failed to move some 60 head from one pasture to another. I was so dizzy I thought I was going to lose my breakfast. It was my belief that Mike would return on another day to finish his task but he surprised me with, “Let’s try one more time.” He did succeed and then he asked, “Perhaps you are hungry so lets go to the camp cocina for some food.” I almost lost it right there!
When Rebecca posed for her picture I wanted to ask her to put on a dress. But I knew that her mother had allowed her to pack her suitcase so she had only brought shorts. Her pose is right out of some of those magazines that she looks at. She said she was imitating Daisy Duke from The Dukes of Hazzard
and then took up the pose. This is one of the better ones. There is one where she poses inside the truck and on her side you can see Mike’s rattlesnake rifle. When Rebecca’s mother saw the picture she indicated to me that I was verboten to place that picture here. Still the change of one year is monumental. Unlike Mike’s license plate I do hope that Rebecca might straighten herself out a bit.