Images Of Plants Neither Scanned Nor Photographed
Saturday, February 25, 2012
For those who may understand about photographs printed in a wet darkroom (meaning with chemicals) they would know that such photographs can either be archival or not. Some 25 or so years ago photographic paper manufacturers launched a product called resin coated paper. This paper was coated with a plastic which meant that they dried quickly nice and flat and the glossy prints were most glossy without having to be dried in finicky drum dryers. The purpose then, before the advent of scanners, was to make prints easily reproduced for magazines and newspapers. Glossy meant true blacks in magazines and newspapers. With scanning technology and Photoshop, glossy is no longer necessary.
Working and printing resin coated paper was easy and convenient but we knew then that the prints would not last for a long time. They were not archival. Even worse the plastic coating could and did yellow and it could and did crack.
Today I found a box full of prints (8x10 and 11x14) of plants printed in archival photographic paper. They have a magenta colour to them as I dipped them in selenium toner which is used primarily to make a print archival.
All of these prints are one or two or three of three printings. There is no way I can make extra copies. Why? Because there are no negatives.
To make these pictures (which I would not call photographs) I placed plants from my garden into where I would normally put my negative. So strictly speaking they are not like Man Ray's photograms or Fox Talbot's photogenic drawings. The plants seem to exceed the frame of the enlarger negative carrier. The negative would slip between the bottom and the top of the carrier. I long ago filed its metal edges to give it a unique, from-my-negative-printed-by me stamp.
These plants would sometime flop and when they did they give some of these pictures that weird outside the frame look. Also while a plant projected onto photographic paper would be a negative image, somehow the light going through the transparent leaves and petals somehow reveal a look that is neither a positive one nor a negative.
The only way I could duplicate (partly so) would be to cut plants from my garden this spring and summer and do a new batch.
These prints are a sight to behold and to hold in one’s hand. Scanning does not really do them justice.
I sometimes wonder why I am neither rich nor famous and why no curator in this city or elsewhere has ever given me the time of day. Perhaps they think I am too commercial. And yet these prints…
One can never be bitter about these things. At one’s stage in life the only important fact (if only it be a subjective one) is that I know that these are beautiful prints even if nobody else seems to care for them!
What Does A Priest Know About Economics?
Friday, February 24, 2012
|Father William Crumley, C.S.C.|
On Friday noon, February 10, 2012 I walked to my temporary quarters, St. Joseph Hall on the campus of St. Edward’s University. The days previous had been uncommonly cold and rainy for the almost always sunny Texas capital. Sunning himself (at first I was reminded of an iguana on a fence in Mexico raising the temperature of its cold blood) was an old man. Had I seen him on Granville here in Vancouver I would have looked for his hat to deposit some coins. The man, with an untidy beard and a moustache that almost covered his mouth smiled at me. There were some gaps.
On the previous day, my friend and mentor Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. had told me that a Father William Crumley, C.S.C. from a small town in Louisiana had come to Austin for a colonoscopy. It seems the man while in the hospital earlier that week, waiting for the procedure had had a terrible heart seizure. Reggio told me that the man did not look good and could have been mistaken by a tramp. Here he was three days after his hospitalization.
The man facing me, said to me, after I greeted him and told him who I was and my suspicion of who he was, “Here I was waiting for this colonoscopy and suddenly I wake up in a hospital bed.” They gave me all kinds of medicines. I am experiencing some strange hallucinations that are really bothering me. I hear voices.” “I hear voices, too,” I said. “In fact down there I can hear a volleyball game going on.” He corrected me, “No, not those. I hear other voices.” I reminded him that St. Joan of Arc had heard voices, too so that hearing such a thing wasn’t entirely unusual. He looked at me seriously now and suddenly I could discern that the man in front of me was indeed Father William Crumley, C.S.C. and that as terrible as he looked he was all here and the intelligence behind his eyes promised intelligent discourse. I was to get some of that in the next few days.
It was here, as he sunned himself, that I recounted how every time I walked on the campus of what had been my high school alma mater back in the late 50s, I too heard voices or imagined them. I told him that I even felt that as I walked the paths to Old Main (where I had lived, learned and slept) I could pass through the ghosts of my fellow students, Brothers of Holy Cross and occasionally even my old self. He smile but did not disprove my theory. I think it was then that we became friends. I gave him a warning, “Father, avoid Brother Edwin, at all costs. Look at the haircut he gave me. He is out to make you decent.” Father William just smiled.
Before I left for Vancouver, Father William, looking pretty good after Brother Edwin’s extensive trim, gave me his card and a book.
On the way home I read the book. I was soon giving it my full attention and the long, almost all-day trip back, felt very short. One chapter, 4, The Federal Reserve was an eye-opener to this Canadian. I did not know that the Federal Reserve Bank, made up of 12 throughout the US, and that one of them, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York being extremely important, was not a federal institution but a private one.
On the second page of Chapter 4, Father William Crumley writes:
What does matter is the control of money is no longer I the hands of government officials. What we failed to appreciate in our dispute with the Soviet Union was the Government of Russia did not control the finances of the nation, the Communist Party did. The Communist Party was their central bank. It operated much as our Federal Reserve. It created the money. It kept the “State” in debt. It kept the nation at war so the debt would continue to grow. Despite all propaganda on both sides about the glories/evil of capitalism and socialism there was/is very little difference between the two systems. Their system has collapsed. Ours has also. We simply maintain the façade of an operating system.
Why We Are Always Broke – things we need to know about the economy. Rev William Crumley, C.S.C.
At first I thought I might mail my copy of the book to President Obama, or to NY Times
columnist Thomas Friedman, Nicholas Kristof or Paul Krugman. Would you believe that I hold off as the book has written in it: Alex Hope you enjoy the book. Bill Cromley, C.S.C.
I have another crazy idea. I am going to email the link to this blog and an explanation to that redhead columnist, and Roman Catholic, too, Maureen Dowd. Who knows?
It seems that one publisher, when Father William was looking for one, asked him, “What does a priest know about economics?”
Plenty, I think.
Why We Are Always Broke
Behind Bars With Brother Larry Backus, CSC
Thursday, February 23, 2012
|Brother Larry Backus, C.S.C.|
From February 9 to February 12 I stayed at St. Joseph Hall, home of the brothers and fathers of Holy Cross in Austin. St. Joseph Hall is on the campus of St. Edward’s University. It just happens to be one of the best small universities in the US. That it is also a Roman Catholic institution, very important, is almost ancillary to its reputation. Part of that reputation has to do with the on-campus presence of the keen minds of this congregation of Holy Cross (there are nuns and priests, too), quite well known as a one of teachers. For those who might not know it is the same congregation that is responsible for the University of Notre Dame and many institutions of learning throughout the world.
While at St. Joseph Hall I was able to interact with a few of these minds. Many of the brothers were close to my age (just a bit older) so I soon disconvered that some of my teachers (all brothers) when I was at St. Ed’s High School in the mid 50s had also been their teachers.
In my photograph of Brother Larry Backus, CSC you can discern a smile. When I first saw him he was serious and with his glasses he seemed unapproachable, learned and remote. I was completely wrong, of course. I soon found out that we had another brother in common. One who had rarely smiled, had seemed unapproachable (to me), was learned and worst of all was scary. His name was Brother Theodosius Flynn, CSC Brother Theodosius had taught me plane geometry. I don’t think he ever had one single discipline problem in the year I had him as a teacher. Just his look would freeze us to our desks.
It seems that a young novitiate, the soon to be Brother Larry had a meeting with Brother Theodosius to discuss his up and coming university curriculum. Larry Backus was interested in ancient languages but was perplexed that his entry to the university (St. Edward’s? I am not sure) had him as a physics major. He informed Brother Theodosius that there seemed to be some sort of mistake. Brother Theodosius looked at Larry Backus (with that look that still haunts me) and said, “What part of your vow of obedience do you not understand?” From there Larry Backus went into biology and there is no doubt in my mind that he excelled.
But Brother Larry Backus has held many jobs and the one that he told me that most interested me was his longstanding involvement as a counselor in maximum security institutions in the United States.
Perhaps it was that small, gentle smile on his face that convinced many of the convicted murderers that Brother Larry was to be trusted. Trusted he was and Brother Larry spent many hours behind bars with men who might have knifed him for anything but preferred to open up to him with their troubles.
In one trip to a prison in another country Brother Larry noticed that the inmates gave one man, sitting in a solitary chair a wide birth. He assumed that the man must have had some sort of body odor problem. He decided to check him out. As he approached the man, Brother Larry felt the hairs in his arms stiffen and the soon perceived a sense of total evil. It seemed that this man had found it a pleasure (he had been an enforcer of sorts in a Nazi camp) at executing whole families, one member at a time and beginning with the children. The modus operandi had been a single gun shot to the stomach. The man had never shown remorse and insisted that given the chance he would do it all over again.
|Brother Theodosius Flynn, CSC|
And yet Brother Larry could not believe that such a man was doomed to hell. Brother Larry conveyed to me an absolute trust in the goodness of all men (and women).
This sounded familiar to me. Back around 1957 in our religion class with Brother Edwin Reggio, CSC we had often posed questions to Brother Edwin in order to waste time. We liked to do this to take him away from the lesson of the day. Brother Edwin was easily distracted with our questions. In retrospect I am sure he knew well what we were up to and used the occasions to teach us well. I remember that one question we asked was if he believed that evil was irreversible. Brother Edwin had told us that all who were born had an innate human dignity due to the fact that God Himself had chosen them and us to be born. Thus no matter how good or bad those people had our respect due. We asked him, how about Hitler? Should we respect him?
His answer was quite shocking. It was yes. No matter how evil Hitler was there was somewhere inside him a soul that had an inherent goodness that merited our respect of his humanity in spite of his inhumanity.
And to finish it all off he told us, there is no way that we could be sure of Hitler's eventual spiritual destination, certainly not as sure as Dante Alighieri had been, that Judas had gone straight to hell.
Which makes me think that Brother Larry and I would both probably agree that if one of the thieves who was crucified with Christ was saved, chances are, that the one that rejected Him probably went to paradise, too.
I thought of just that when Brother Larry told me that he still gets letters from these inmates. Some are there for life others wait at death row. "What can I possibly tell them that will give them hope?" That Brother Larry cares is what keeps those letters coming.
Michael Sarker, C.S.C. - The Happy Priest
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
The man with the eternal smile on his face, just for an instant became serious and said, “Alex I want to show you my scars. I almost died five times.” He raised the sleeves of his shirt and showed me the results of the accidents, all on the roads of Bangladesh which all happened while he was in buses, cars, trucks or a motorcycle. The Brothers of Holy Cross, who never suffer fools later told me, Father Michael C. Starker, C.S.C. does not drive here in Austin because he does not have a driver’s license. I must suppose, then, that if the Reverend Michael Starker ever drove in his home in Bangladesh he must have done it without a license!
His seriousness now changed to one of wonder when he told me, “I was born dumb and my mother was told I would not survive. I could not utter a sound.”
On Friday February 10, Father Michael, who officiated Holy Mass in the chapel of St. Joseph Hall, St. Mark’s Gospel read the Gospel.
Father Michael’s reading was gingerly and his accent unpredictable in a delightful way. It was even more interesting for me because I went to Mass twice a day while in Austin. I always heard the Gospel read twice, the second time by Father Rick Wilkinson. The take was different. It gave me the opportunity to think of every word.
Father Michael, who is at St. Edward’s University to get a masters in counseling, explained that he spoke many languages and he has yet to sort out some of the accents. I asked him how he could hold that happy smile coming from a country that to me seems to be a modern version of the biblical Pharaoh’s Egypt as Bangladesh is constantly feeling the effects of earthquakes, famines, floods, droughts and plagues. Still smiling he said, “This is why I want to be able to council.”
While taking his picture by the window, overlooking the garden at St. Joseph Hall on Sunday, Father Michael pointed at a bush and said, “Look Alex, snow!” I did not want to discourage him and lessen his delight but I had to correct him and told him that they were icicles. With my hand and with my fingers I made the motion of fluttering snow flakes and said, “This is snow.”
A few hours later, and alas I was not with Father Michael, snow did indeed fall over Austin and Father Michael indeed did see it. I would have given anything to have seen his face.
It is coincidentally appropriate that the first Gospel that Father Michael read (see below) had all to do with a man who could not speak.
St. Mark 7:31-37
31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.[a] 32There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.
33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
At the dinner table I asked Father Michael who had stressed the idea of the sense of wonder that those who witnessed Christ’s miracle why it was that Christ had warned the cured man not to tell anybody.
A very serious Father Michael, without using the term negative psychology, told me that this increased the chances of gaining followers to Christ’s cause.
Father Rick differed in his explanation telling me that Christ, the man, not yet certain of his Divinity may have been confused at His ability to cure and simply did not want to draw any more attention to it.
Whichever it was I am happy to report that my life is just a bit better after having met Father Michael, the happy priest.
Sacha Terrat At The Cafe Monmartre
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
The word exotic has gone through several meanings since I first encountered a Chinese spoon in Buenos Aires in 1950. My mother, a school teacher at the American School had been invited to the home of one of her students, a daughter of the Chinese Ambassador to Argentina. My guess is that he might have represented Taiwan. I went along and I looked at every dish put in front of me with distrust and horror. It was then that I discovered my first exotic that beautifully shaped spoon.
Not too long after (or even, perhaps, before) my father invited some of his friends from the Indian Embassy for his version of curry. The three men that came to my house in their Hillman Minx all wore turbans and were very dark.
In those days, when I traced maps of Africa, I had four coloured pencils handy. I used red to delineate the English possessions, blue for the German, yellow for the French and purple for the Italian. In those days maps of Mexico usually had a sleeping man with a broad sombrero drawn somewhere. In those days people from each country only seemed to live in their own country.
In Mexico City in the 60s I remember spotting the odd Soviet car. I would stop to look at it as if I had just found a rock from the moon. The car was exotic because it was alien.
In 1986 when I was returning from taking photographs of a Socred convention in Whistler, I stopped for a woman who was thumbing a ride. She seemed forlorn and although I had warning lights about stopping for anybody I did. She was okay. She had dumped her boyfriend and wanted to get back to Vancouver as quickly as possible. She had been born in Valletta, on the island of Malta.
In the 90s I met a man who was more French than the French and never wore anything but a bow tie with the French fleur de-lis. He was from Mauritius.
|Sacha Terrat & Sandrine Cassini|
In a world of rapid globalization, when you can travel to Ulan Bator (I first read about this place in an essay by William F. Buckley many years ago) on points gathered by buying gasoline at your Burnaby Chevron station, exotic is just about dead.
Or at least that’s what I thought until my friend dancer/choreographer Sandrine Cassini invited me to the Café Montmartre on Main Street, last Saturday to listen to a three piece band from New Caledonia.
It was cold. It was rainy. I felt tired, but I knew I could not miss an opportunity to meet up with the exotic. Exotic it was, not to mention being able to gaze on that most exotic looking Sandrine Cassini.
For those who don’t know, New Caledonia is in Micronesia and it is sort of French. Officially it is a statut particulier
or statut original
of France. It would be simpler to call it a French department but it is not. Citizens born in the island now hold a French and New Caledonian citizenship. The band was labeled as Sacha (Terrat) and band (Maxime Brillou, DJ programmer and Johan Cazalas, drums).
I was not only rewarded by music that I could not exactly pin down (with dissonances and manufactured noises similar to Piazzolla) but with a haunting voice that sang equally haunting songs and lyrics that in some instances reminded me of Portuguese fado.
The singer, Sacha who before playing was sharing crepes with Cassini was handsome, and more so with his eye makeup. He had a beautiful smile and a soft voice that oozed good manners and grace. I was charmed and stayed for the more than one hour-long set. I gave thanks to Cassini and her friends and as I went home I thought that all was well with the world as the exotic could still surprise, even this man.
I make my sincere apologies for not having taken a camera for the occasion. My 3G iPhone did the best it could.
Sandrine Cassini - Dancer/Choreographer
Monday, February 20, 2012
My Mother's Red Shawl - El Rebozo Colorado
Sandrine Cassini - Dancer/Choreographer
Taking a picture with Alex is like becoming someone else. I was Carmen one day, I became Penelope for an afternoon, a red mexican shawl wrapped around my shoulders; I tried to imagine the pain this woman had felt, the pain of waiting, the despair of not knowing, then the acceptance.
But aren't we all Penelope somehow?
On Reinterpretation - Lauri Stallings
Sunday, February 19, 2012
|Lauri Stallings, Canon Fiery from colour negative, placed on silver card and scanned |
In my collection of CDs and records (plus cassettes with lots of wow that makes them almost unplayable) I have several versions of jazz classics. One of my favourites is Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s My Funny Valentine
. I have at least 8 by Gerry Mulligan. It is most interesting how in a jazz tradition of extemporaneous improvisation (I am aware that both those words sort of mean the same thing but I want to put emphasis here on the idea that Mulligan while being forced to improvise by the very nature of what jazz is, must also respond to the feelings of the moment) so many of those versions are so different. One may be loud and brassy another quietly intimate.
|Canon Fiery from colour negative scanned as a slide.|
A week ago I read in my NY Times an obituary of photographer Lillian Bassman. Of her (I had not been aware of her existence) I found out that she had entered the world of magazine editing and fashion photography as a protégé of Alexey Brodovitch, the renowned art director of Harper’s Bazaar. In the beginning she was a graphic designer and magazine art director. She gave work to such luminaries as Richard Avedon and Robert Frank. It was only later that she began to dabble in photography and made it big. She became less enamored in photography in the 60s and destroyed her negatives. Some she put away in b bags and promptly forgot about them.
But then in the early 1990s Martin Harrison, a fashion curator and historian who was staying at her house, found the long-forgotten negatives. He encouraged her to revisit them. This she did. She worked on her negatives in her old fashioned darkroom and tried darkroom special effects to modify her original approach.
She called these reinterpretations. I like that, lots!
Readers here might know that an original early print by Ansel Adams might fetch a pretty penny because of the value of an approach grounded on its vintage printing by the master. But the master got older and in his further reinterpretations (perhaps even having better photographic paper able to reproduce his subtle grays) he might and did revisit his famous photographs into versions that are dazzling if not worth (plain monetary value) as much.
|Scanned original b+w print|
Today I looked into Lauri Stallings’ very thick file and found many of my original prints (on b+w paper) prints from colour negatives and even Canon Fiery prints on acetate that I mounted on silver card to make them resemble colourized or hand tinted Daguerreotypes. Her file includes stuff in which I used b+w in both a 35mm and 120 formats. It included colour negatives, colour slides and quite a few in Kodak’s 35mm b+w Infrared Film.
What you see here are reinterpretations of the stuff I found in those files. They are reinterpretations by the very nature of the fact that I placed them on my scanner today.
|Scanned original b+w print|
The reinterpretations may emphasize what has been much in my thoughts in the last few days. I will probably continue on that theme in the next few days or fill the space in the back blogs that are empty. For a while my trip to Austin and stuff at home left me with a writer’s block more about not knowing what to write about because I had so much to write about than not having anything to write about!
An incidence (I will not write about it here, just as yet) with my eldest granddaughter during the viewing yesterday Saturday of the film Beau Geste
, precipitated this concern that I have on what exactly a woman is and how that may mesh with my idea of woman. That idea has been tested by my analysis of the pictures I took of my friend the professional dominatrix. My pictures, while showing bits and parts, have no pornographic content and to be sure my friend John Lekich (whose women occupy lofty places on top of tall pedestals) would call them all tasteful.
That reinterpretation (both the pictures of Lauri Stallings you see here) and my idea of what a woman is reinforced by the very reason I began to photograph Lauri Stallings who at the time was a most original dancer of Ballet BC. While watching her dance I began to suspect that ballerinas were not swans who danced/flew effortlessly. I began to understand that they were women (as male ballet dancers were also men) who took baths, sweated, ate, defecated just like the rest of us, and even brushed their teeth. My photos of Stallings were my beginning of an attempt to bring down women from the Lekich plinth and try to see them at my own level.
The very action of scanning an original print is in itself a reinterpretation. Had I scanned the negatives themselves the filed ege of my enlarger that you see here would not be present. These can be added on with Photoshop. These are the real thing.
|Scanned original print from a Kodak b+w Infrared Film negative|