Danielle Dubé - Ice Queen
Saturday, September 03, 2011
When the Friday September 2, 2001 The Vancouver Courier
crashed on my front door (I invariably get it one day late where I live) I was intrigued by the cover (article called Overtime Heroes
by Andrew Fleming) because the woman on the right was familiar to me. I noticed that her surname had a French accent. I was not familiar with that. As soon as I looked up Dubé, Danielle
in my files it all came back instantly.
The story of Danielle Dube (minus that accent) in my files began began in 1988 when every attempt of filing an envelope on which I had written very young hockey goalie got me nowhere. I did not throw the envelope away but placed it in a box with other of my filing miscreants.
In February 1997 I received a phone call from an editor at the Georgia Straight
assigning me to photograph a female hockey goalie who was headed to the Olympic team. Perhaps in those days the Straight (I think I remember this) had style book that ignored most foreign accents and stuff in Spanish like pingüino or año. But the Straight’s Dube was my young hockey goalie whom I had photographed in 1985 and the Dubé in my Saturday Courier.
This incident in my mind is one of the supreme pleasures of photography. It is the pleasure of taking someone’s picture more that once (I had that with Arthur Erickson
) and being able to see how time not only affects my subjects but also how I perceive them.
In this age of instantaneous everything I am almost sure that the Courier photographer, (the cover was not credited to Courier photographer Dan Toulgoet) had no access to a manuscript or copy of the soon to be published article. He had no way of pre-conceiving his photo session with Dubé.
The late Eva Markvoort &
In my years in the stone age of magazine and Straight photography in Vancouver I was always given copy to read. I then did what until recently was one of the charms of good journalism which is the hand in hand relationship between copy and illustrating image. As a photographer I reasearched my subject and called the writer to get impressions. In most cases I was faxe the copy. Now photographers and illustrators go their separate ways from writers and shoot cold turkey. This trend is also dangerously moving into the writers themselves who might do phone or email interviews with people who live in the very same city they are reporting on.
I remember calling one of the critics of the Straight, not too long ago, asking for information on a female arts person I had been assigned to photograph. “What is she like?” I had asked. The reply was just, “She has gorgeous blue eyes.”
For the March 20 to 27, 1997 Georgia Straight article Ice Queens by Laura Robinson I was able to convince the editor at the possibility of running both pictures of Dube, the one I had taken years before and a contemporary one. I had the idea of using the same camera, same lens, same film with the change of hockey equipment and Dube’s age as the only differences.
I took that other picture od Dube, all dolled up in the slinky dress but I am not sure if there was any room for it. Here it is.
For the picture of Dube in the slinky dress I used a projecting optical spotlight to mimic the goal’s netting. I used a grid spotlight on Dube’s face to make her look even more glamorous and mysterious.
This equipment is still available to most photographers but in our age of the quickie why would anybody bother? The mantra of our age is, “Convenience trumps quality.”
Diana the Huntress, Tyrannosaurus rex, Blackbird/Drone & Malcolm Parry
Friday, September 02, 2011
You just might wonder what these photographs have in common. You might guess that I may have used the same camera and the same film. You would be correct there. But then what would a Tyrannosaurus rex, a statue of Diana the Huntress, Malcolm Parry, a yet to be identified statue of a nude woman and a strange looking airplane strip have in common?
One of the boring tasks of my profession is to file my photographs. I have piles and piles of photographs that I have not been able to file because I have forgotten the names of my subjects or I am unable to find a nomenclature handle for filing.
That is the case of the sheet of negatives I found today and of which I have made a digital contact sheet so you can see the actual spread in the sequence that they were taken. I have picked what I thought were the better shots and enlarged them.
I had problems with the first image of Diana the Huntress which I first misnamed in my mind as Mercury the Messenger. But as soon as put " Diana in the courtyard of the Met" in Google I hit paydirt. That made the Tyrannosaurus rex
a specimen from New York City’s American Museum of Natural History. There are obviously many more pictures in my files (filed as NY City) that precede the last seen in the beginning of this roll.
I have no memory of the location for my picture of Malcolm Parry and the laughing woman.
The airplanes presented a problem until I noticed the picture you see here. It was, I thought a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. As unique as this plane is there are a few in museums in the US that display it. But the fact is that this plane is not the SR-71 but its predecessor the M-21 and only two were made that carried on its back the Lockeed D-21 drone. Only one museum has it and that is the Boeing Museum of Flight in Seattle.
So, 20 exposures took me from New York City to Vancouver to Seattle.
Taking My Life, A Posthumous Birthday Gift From Jane Rule
Thursday, September 01, 2011
Writing an autobiography may be a positive way of taking my own life. Beginning in the dead of winter, mortal with abused lungs and liver, my arthritic bones as incentive for old age, I may be able to learn to value my life as something other that the hard and threateningly pointless journey it has often seemed. I have never been suicidal but often stalled, as I have been now for some months, not just directionless but unconvinced that there is one. No plan for a story or novel can rouse my imagination, which resolutely sleeps, feeding on the fat of summer. And so I take my life, with moral and aesthetic misgivings, simply because there is nothing else to do.
Taking My Life, Jane Rule Talon Books 2011
A package arrived in the mail today. Inside were two copies of Jane Rule’s autobiography Taking My Life
. I looked at the delightful cover, and, I could only smile thinking that this was a posthumous birthday gift from Jane Rule.
Rosemary is leaving for Kamloops on Tuesday to meet up with our daughter Ale who is going to undergo an operation in “los paises bajos” as my grandmother would have said. The operation will be on Wednesday and Rosemary will have to stay by her side and drive back to Lillooet
. Rosemary will be away for at least two weeks. We have decided that we will jointly read Rule’s book and it will serve as a bond in this time of parting. As one gets older I can attest that parting from my wife even for a couple of days can be tough.
As I wrote yesterday a birthday, particularly when one thinks about it is Spanish as a cumpleaños
one has no choice but to reflect on one’s life up to that point (Jane Rule who died in 2007 got as far as age 76). And because I was 69 yesterday, that reflection includes an awareness of the little that is to come (or more negatively, left). This should be observed and measured using, if I may borrow that sports term, elapsed time. It is interesting to note that the second hand of that “Omega Chronograph” moves ever more quickly when I observe my own elapsed time.
|Painting by Ann Smith|
cover design by
Coincidental to all this recent reflection, I found a sleeve of colour negatives which I took in our home in Arboledas, Estado de Mexico around 1971 as my eldest daughter Alexandra (Ale) looks to be almost three.
That chronograph’s second hand was moving much more slowly and both Rosemary and I look awfully young! But what really struck me when I looked at those living room shots is how sparse it all was and how we owned less stuff. We were embarrassed at the time when we had visitors because we had little furniture. I am surprised on how modern it looked. Now we live from day to day with the stress of trying to figure out how to get rid of all our accumulated stuff.
I have an imaginary plan that before Rosemary and I go to visit Ale in Lillooet
I would hire a professional arsonist to start a fire in our home while we are away. We would return to cinders and I would loudly say, “Everything we own is gone. What are we going to do?” I suspect that I would experience palpable relief.
It was when I was 23 and returning to Mexico from my stint in the Argentine Navy that I had a momentary idea that I might want to be a priest or an officer on a merchant marine ship. I was on board the Rio Aguapey
, of ELMA of the then Argentine Merchant Marine Navy. I observed how the officers lived a frugal existence and how sparse their cabins were. I liked the way insects in the tropical ports of Brazil that we visited would disappear the moment we were out to sea (I forgot to consider the rats). I liked how clean it all seemed but the moment the officers began to talk of their family life and of the women they had in every port I lost my interest in the Argentine Merchant Marine.
|Arboledas, Estado de Mexico, 1971|
I switched my thoughts to my religion and saxophone teacher Brother Edwin Reggio, CSC and how in mere hours or even minutes he could have packed all his belongings in one suitcase and obeyed the order to fly to a Holy Cross school in Africa or South America. He would have put a couple of black pairs of socks and shoes and one bible. A few shirts and toilet articles would have finished the packing.
In recent trips to Austin when I ask Brother Edwin if there is any book or music CD that he would want to have he invariably answers, “I have all I need.” I am jealous of his frugality of ownership but when I think of my Rosemary and my daughters and granddaughters I know I never really had that vocation to become a brother or priest of Holy Cross. I only wish that my obsession to own stuff had been more restrained.
In 1991 when I photographed Jane Rule she had announced her retirement (she died in 2007 when she was 75) from writing because of her severe arthritis. I reflect that while she was 60 I am 69 and my arthritis is curtailing my rose pruning, the turning and opening of doors and even the shifting from park to drive in our Malibu’s automatic transmission. I further reflect that I have been struck my arthritis much more recently, only two years ago. In this I realize that Jane Rule's chronograph was a bit more accelerated than mine. That gives me a reason to smile today even if my birthday melancholy tends to dissipate ever so slowly. I smile as I realize that unlike Jane Rule my imagination is not unresolutely stalled today thanks to Taking My Life
, her posthumous birthday gift to me.
I smile, too, as I look at the picture of Rosemary gently placing Ale into the backyard pool. I asked Rosemary as soon as I had scanned the negative, "Rosemary when I first met you did I see you from the front or from the back?"
|María Elena, Ale & Eli Zamora, 1971|
A posthumous gift from my grandfather to my mother on her birthday
A Hockey Puck From Horst On My Birthday
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
|Horst Wenzel & cousin Helga, August 6, 1944, Zeven, Germany|
Birthdays for me are fraught with melancholy and yesterday (as I write this, September 1, it is the day after my birthday) was no exception. This is the first year that having fully immersed (to a certain extent) myself in facebook I received scads of “happy birthday” wishes. I will never understand what can possibly be happy about a birthday except for minors anxious not to be so and who wait for that day that makes them legal adults with drinking privileges and entry to porn movies.
It is interesting to note that Spanish for birthday is “cumpleaños” which sort of means “year fullfillment”. In Spanish a birthday then adds the idea of having carried out one more year in one’s lifetime, a year one may want to reflect on while blowing out the candles. There is less emphasis on coming into the world as more in the direction of getting ready for leaving it.
And this is something that is constantly present when I visit my friend Horst Wenzel who happily repairs my cameras with precision, aplomb and genius. I was born in Buenos Aires, August 31, 1942 and he in Zeven (between Hamburg and Bremen, far from allied bombing raids) August 6, 1939. He wore a sailor suit for his picture here taken August 6, 1944 and I had to wait (but did not necessarily want to) until I was 21 to don my Argentine Navy uniform.
Wenzel is healthy after having had one of those bypass surgery operations a few years ago. As far as I know I don’t have, yet, and live threatening diseases.
When we look at each other during my visits to his basement repair shot we think and sometimes vocalize the idea, “Who is going to go first?” I might think, “I hope he doesn’t die until I am fully retired and I do not need any of my cameras to be repaired.” He might think, “I hope he does not die before I finish my model (German) battleships because I want him to photograph them.”
|Jorge Alejandro Waterhouse-Hayward|
August 31, 1944
Martinez, Buenos Aires
I look at Wenzel’s ever constant and beautiful home renovation work as perfectly silly. I think about that in the same way all those dentists I have been going to see recommend a crown here or there. I always tell them, “You want to make me look good in an open coffin.”
In short Wenzel and I know we are not long for this world and act it almost cheerfully.
There is one big difference between us. While my kind of photography (well lit portrait photography for magazines) is obsolete, Wenzel is ever more in demand as fewer and fewer film camera repairmen still have that shingle over the door. In fact photographers send Wenzel cameras from all parts of the world for urgent repair. One in particular is the Dresden-made Noblex, swivel lens panoramic. The company has gone bankrupt (not able to compete against digital camera panoramic stitching) and replacement parts are almost nonexistent.
After my return from Texas my Noblex Pro 175 U began to fail and I knew exactly why. There is a belt in the camera’s innards that becomes hardened with age and the swivelling of the lens becomes erratic. Wenzel makes new pulleys out of a particular brand of hockey puck!
It was August 31st the morning of my birthday that Rosemary and I were to go to the PNE with Hilary, Bruce, Lauren and Rebecca. I knew I wanted my panoramic back so I called Wenzel early. He was going to the PNE, too with his wife and two grandchildren. I picked up my repaired Noblex (with that on board Canadian hockey puck) and borrowed the photograph you see here.
Later on while I was enjoying some barbecued ribs at the PNE someone tapped my on my shoulder. It was Wenzel. I knew then that this birthday blog would have to somehow include him. I hope that I have done justice to that friendship and relationship that we have had these years and also to that “relationship of death” as I like to call it.
Dakota Ambre Hamilton
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
It is 2011 and my memory of our Thursdays at the Railway Club is an extremely hazy past. Until perhaps the mid to late 1990s I met with friends on Thursdays at the Railway Club on Dunsmuir and Seymour for lunch. Most of us were free-lance writers, illustrators, photographers and designers. There were some writers in the bunch like William Gibson, Evelyn Lau and Peter Trower. We also invited local magazine and newspaper editors. These gatherings were fun and would think impossible to replicate in our ever-so-busy and connected world. I even wonder if we would allow our gatherers to use their phones at the table. Would we allow them to text? Those days were days when people who knew where we were would call us at the Club’s phone and we would get up from the table when told someone wanted us.
The gatherings finally ended as they had to and we attempted a different version in 1997/98 at the much hipper Subeez on Homer. This sputtered out about a year later. But I remember one particular day quite vividly.
I was explaining that my garden was in decline because it was fall and that I wanted to find a woman who might pose for me in the garden. I was looking for a woman over 50 who was past the usual prime that we consider to represent perfection. If possible I was looking for a woman who was not slim. She would represent the wonders of a summer garden in over ripe decadence. You can imagine that I was met in silence most of the time and I became reluctant to ask anybody with fear of being slapped on the spot, “ I am not in over ripe decadence!”
That over ripe woman I never found. But that one day at Subeez when I stated, “I cannot find a woman over fifty who will pose undraped for me,” by a woman who simply and quietly said, “I will.” At the time her name was Ambre Hamilton and I do not remember how I came to know her. She wore short hair and liked to say things just the way they were. She was in the process of writing a novel about women in prison and at the same time telling us her name was no longer Ambre but Dakota. I jokingly gave her the name of Dakota Formerly Ambre (sort of trying relate her name to the 1944 romantic, and quite racy, novel Forever Amber
by Kathleen Winsor).
I was astounded at Ambre’s ever so casual, “I will.” She came to my studio and posed for me. I used some of the drying thistles from my garden. I was not quite yet ready for strict reportage and I used careful lighting. I don’t think that my photos in any way captured that over-the-top baroque look I had been seeking.
The photos you see here are the ones that in my self-imposed ban on complete nudity I am able to show you. Eleven years later I rather like them. I am happy to report that Dakota Hamilton did publish her book Freedom's Just Another Word
Becoming Invisible In The Presence Of Good Dance
Sunday, August 28, 2011
On Friday night Rebecca and I went to the Arts Umbrella/Ballet BC Summer Dance Intensive. There are two versions of this which you can read below. One is going to be short and brief the other longwinded and convoluted. Take your pick. If I were you I would avoid Version 2.
1.The Arts Umbrella/Ballet BC Summer Dance Intensive which had highlights of the summer program was a brilliant showcase for great dance. It was held at a “new” Arts Umbrella studio, the Great Hall Studio (some sort of church before) since the Arts Umbrella has pretty well outgrown its Granville Island location. It was in need of more space and this “studio” on 7th Avenue and Quebec fit the bill just right. While the show was a delight my favourite part was the last called Contemporary Technique by instructor Marc Boivin, accompanist Toto Berriel and featuring the Advanced and Ballet BC/Graduate Level Dancers. This performance looked simple and seamless but I knew it wasn’t. Marc Boivin, showing a bit of the calming attitude the he must have learned from EDAM’s Peter Bingham was super-cool and collected.
This work looked like Esther Williams synchronized swimming minus the water (when the students were on the floor) and when they were upright they looked like a graceful army in the ready. They were accurately together and the movements were graceful and fast but sometimes slow, too. Rebecca and I marveled at the accompanist Toto Berriel with his percussion and special ankle rattles. His singing was African chanting, or so we thought. Then we distinctly heard him say, “Peinar el pelo,” or “comb the hair,” and I loudly uttered, “Es cubano!” “He is a Cuban.” Berriel turned around and smiling at me nodded in agreement. Both Rebecca and I thought that this exercise was very beautiful (and probably intensely difficult) and represented the most elegant way of keeping in shape and even, perhaps, of loosing weight!
I must confess that having lived in five large or largish cities in my life, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Veracruz, Austin and Vancouver I have always felt like a tourist in all of them. I have nostalgia for Buenos Aires when in Vancouver. Ditto for all the rest of the cities except Vancouver. And when I am elsewhere I feel that aching nostalgia for Vancouver. But I don’t really feel like I belong to any of them.
Watching a performance of the dancers of the Arts Umbrella Dance Company is very much (I felt curiously detached) like the experience of Dick Young in one of my favourite novels of all time, The House on the Strand
by Daphne Du Maurier.
|Alex Burton, 2009|
Dick Young, a physicist is leant a house in Cornwall (in the 20th century) by his friend Magnus Lane who is a bio-physicist. He is leant he house on the condition that he be the guinea-pig for a new drug. Young takes the prescribed dose and finds that he travels back (short periods that need more drug consuming to continue and visit back) in time to the 14th century in the same Cornish countryside. He is invisible and inaudible. He is only able to observe. Young finds that he is a kind of alter ego of Roger Kylmerth, steward to Sir Henry Champernoune, lord of the manor of Tywardreath.
Thirty six years of my stay in this city are recorded in my extensive files in my basement. As an example the file called Layton, Jack, proves he was in my studio and that I photographed him. I can remember his voice but it all seems very much back in time. It feels like my alter ego is the photographer/man who snapped Layton’s picture. I feel like that unobserved trime traveler of du Maurier’s novel.
Of late I read about the constant bickering between dog owners and not in the Vancouver Courier
. I really do not give a damn. As a retired photographer who rarely invoices I am no longer bound to charge any taxes. The HST fiasco leaves me cold. I don’t give a damn. I read about the utterings of our Obama “Light” Mayor and I don’t really give much of a damn. Provincial politics leave me cold and the idea that the Georgia Viaduct might go leaves me cold with disinterest. I am embracing my deceased friend, Abraham Rogatnick’s dictum, “After me the apocalypse.” My wife reminds me that I must worry about my daughters and granddaughters but again I am feeling quite detached these days. My alter ego, the photographer is in charge and I am just observing.
|Jed Duifhuis & Nina Davies, 2009|
On Thursday I had to go to Ballet BC to photograph a new male dancer. After casing the location for the shoot, the roof of the Scotia Dance Centre on Granville and Davie I decided to go down the stairs and meander through the fifth floor where Ballet BC dancers rehearse. I poked my head in one of them and spotted choreographer Simone Orlando and Ballet BC ballet master, Sylvain Senez. There were 8 dancers in there 6 of them (including Alex Burton and Jed Duifhuis) one time danced at Arts Umbrella! If you read Ballet BC’s current roster of dancers you will note that there are more than 6 and they don’t even mention that some of their apprentice dancers are from Arts Umbrella, too.
|Kiera Hill, 2009|
The dancers all nodded and smiled but I must confess I felt invisible. I later talked to one of them, apprentice dancer Jed Duifhuis. I asked him what it was like at Ballet BC. His answer was interesting, "Artistic Director, Emily Molnar is just one of the dancers in the morning, She dances with us.” This statement was echoed almost verbatum by new dancer, Daniel Marshalay.
When these dancers communicated with me I again felt like an interloper/visitor/tourist. Yet I could talk and did talk to Marshalay of my first contact with Emily Molnar so many years ago. She had come into my studio and with a smile had then settled in a corner where she meditated for ten minutes before posing for my camera. I had felt invisible during that process.
The picture you see here of Arts Umbrella Artistic Director Artemis Gordon, dancer (then at Arts Umbrella but now at Ballet BC) and Emily Molnar is not a new photograph. But it is relevant in that those three people are still working together. And somehow this photograph, taken by my alter ego, the photographer proves that in some way my presence in this city is somewhat corporeal.
As I watched the dancers of Arts Umbrella dance on Friday night I noticed how many I had seen as little boys and little girls 6 and 7 years ago. I spotted one of them, sitting by the piano, the lovely and very classical looking ballerina, Kiera Hill. She was now a woman. There was no way any of them might have recognized me. The boys ignored me and the lovely maturing young ladies, made up to kill, looked through me. I felt transparent almost without any burden. Like that chap in The House on the Strand
I don't quite think that had I been a dancer I might have felt imvisible. With James Kudelka sitting in the front row and Emily Molnar looking in from the sidlines I might just have wanted to become so!
Addendum: Here is a brief explanation by Marc Boivin.
Much of the material was inspired by or directly brought to the students from the work of Angélique Willkie, a wonderful teacher now based in Brussels. Of course there are a few other influences and much of my own research but just to give credit where due.
Alas, No Roses To Sniff In My Garden Today
Yesterday Saturday was not an easy day with Rebecca. From the moment she arrived at around noon we immediately faced all kinds of confrontations of which I will not elaborate on here. Suffice to say we did manage to have a pleasant dinner with her sister Lauren, her mother Hilary and my friends Paul and Amy.
During the afternoon Rebecca (who was banned from using any form of electronics by her mother) sat at my computer and opened my blog. She must have suspected (she was right) that any form of reading is good even if it has to be my blog. Even my blog trumps putting virtual clothing on film starlets or messaging in facebook. She did read many of the blogs with a few sojourns (when I was not looking) into facebook zone. She came to me and asked, “Can I write a guest blog?” I indicated she could and I was almost certain it was going to be a rant about our ill treatment, etc.
As she left her pitch rose and Rosemary and I were both depressed and tired. I sat at the computer to read her guest blog (saved in Word) and just spot typos or grammatical mistakes. She didn’t make any.
I was most pleasantly surprised not to find a rant but a thoughtful essay
that is wonderful and even tactful. She does not insult anybody.
The evening picked up after that and both Rosemary and I were proud of our emotional granddaughter.
Here are some pictures (even more unreal as I used Kodak b+w Infrared Film) of Rebecca many years at an Abbotsford Airshow. This is the Rebecca that I remember so fondly. It is the new Rebecca, the one twice as old, that I have to learn to live with, get along with and, yes, appreciate exactly as she is now.