Tony Swain, Hot Shots, & Generation X Makes Its First AppearanceTuesday, March 13, 2012
For a while in 1987 I had an exciting job (invented by the admirably visionary Vancouver Magazine Editor Malcolm Parry who understood that the position of photo editor would be important to magazines in a near future). I was named Director of Photography. The magazine had no art director at the time and Parry could not find one willing to do the tough job. So he did most of it himself and left me with the job of looking for good photographers and illustrators while stressing that I should not give up my tasks as his photographer of choice for his magazine.
|Hot Shots -the West End|
The September 1987 issue became my best issue as a contributor as writer, photographer and director of photography.
In the latter job I had to recruit local photographers to shoot pictures of Vancouver with the mandate that they should wow much like the pictures of the National Geographic. The project was named Hot Shots. We picked local landmarks and found creative ways of shooting them. I took two of the pictures and had the cover which consisted of my using a 1000mm Minolta lens and camera to photograph a photographer standing on the Woodward’s sign. For two of the other shots I discovered I was not afraid of heights or ever suffered vertigo. I climbed the flag pole on top of the BC Hydro Building and took pictures of a worker a few seconds after the horns were quiet. I would have fallen off the pole had he not warned me how loud they were. As it was, I was hanging from the pole with one hand while taking pictures with a Pentax fitted with a 20mm wide angle to take the shot. The shot to represent the West End was special for me as it introduced me to model Katheryn Petersen whom I was going to photograph for many years. By her side was my Time Magazine cover of Ben Johnson and William Gibson's Neuromancer.
I took it from one of the windows of the old Vancouver Sun building on West Pender. The third task, as a writer, was the first ever essay/profile on writer William Gibson. It was here where my wonderful world came crashing.
|Oh Canada! from the BC Hydro Building|
By the time I had submitted the essay Parry had hired an art director that I had recommended. This art director did two things. He told me that since I was a photographer writing a piece on a writer it would be fun to hire someone else to take the picture. The resulting photograph was neither here nor there (I can not opine here objectively). Secondly he told me that my position was history.
All the above rushed to my head last Tuesday at Focal Point. I was teaching there and in one of the rest periods an old man came to the office. He had pig with wings on his lapel. He told me about it and how he had been a flier. We began to talk airplanes and I asked him what you called a Texan trainer in Canada. “That’s a Harvard!” From there we went to flying esoterica. He topped it when he told me that in the mid 50s he had designed a heating system for the Lancaster Bomber. He explained that this WWII vintage plane had been purchased by the Canadian Forces and used for reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare.
I asked his name. He answered, “Tony Swain.” I knew we had Malcolm Parry in common. It was Parry who for that September 1987 issue of Vancouver Magazine had dispatched me to the Delta Airport to find a man who would fly me in a Harvard to photograph a flying acrobatic team, The Ray-Ban Specials flying upside down (some of them) through the Lions in North Vancouver. The man had also flown the airplane upside down, but fortunately I had taken the precaution of gulping down many Gravols. The man had been Tony Swain!
|Tony Swain at Focal Point|
There was another element in That September issue that again proved Parry’s visionary genius as the article that you see below by a then unknown Douglas Coupland proves quite nicely.
|Illustration Ross MacDonald/Reactor|