As Seen On TV
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Today I am in the darkroom. Before I begin I have to neaten up my enlarging desk. I transfer stuff from here to there. For years there has been a negative file that I look up into my bare bulb light of the darkroom. There are four different negatives randomly (it would seem) put in by me many years ago. One is a picture of Toledo by the River Tagus which I took in mid 1980s. The other is a fine nude of my friend Katheryn Petersen by the rocks and water in West Vancouver. I took that around 1987. Then there are two pictures of yours truly embraced by two lovely women I have absolutely no recollection meeting.
The reason for these pictures being in one file is that at one time a 36 exposure roll would suffice for me to shoot two or three magazine assignments plus personal stuff, too. I would snip out the ones that had nothing to do with the commercial assignment and put them temporarily in separate files until I could figure out what to do with them. I have hundreds of these files awaiting my long delayed decision.
Of these two pictures I can only remember two facts. I was wearing a flimsy electronic watch that had a built-in calculator (no radio, no phone) and a T-shirt I had made in Brentwood Mall that read As Seen on TV. Who are these women? Who snapped the picture? I don’t know. If I were posing with one woman I would worry and I would not show the picture to my Rosemary. But snuggled up to two I think there is a safety in numbers and I am sure she will laugh.
The Dances I Have Danced
Friday, April 27, 2012
When I was a little boy I could not understand why it was that my mother and grandmother would trek to Avenida Cabildo to shop for joyería de fantasía. These were fake jewels. They would come back with smiles on their faces and a smile much more noticeable on my grandmother’s face. She wore false teeth and their perfection dazzled like the glass diamonds on their bracelets and lapel pins. My grandmother would look at my puzzled face and say, “Nadie te quita lo bailado.” Which sort of translates into, “Nobody can take away from you the dances that you have danced.”
I look at these fishnet pictures of my former photography student who is a smart (both upstairs and just about everywhere else) Polish banker in London with much pleasure, of the “I’m so glad I danced that number,” kind of pleasure. Her clients might suspect at all what lurks under that banking desk. Perhaps my Polish banker is much more demure while at work.
I took these and many more, but far less demure, with a Nikon FM-2 and a 35mm lens. I loaded the camera with the now extremely defunct Kodak b+w infrared film. If my friend, writer Sean Rossiter would happen to see them he would say, using that favourite word of his, “Alex these are sensational!”
I would agree.
Henry And Alice, Fishnets & Restoration Hardware
Thursday, April 26, 2012
I will first confess that I never ever saw Michele Riml’s smash hit, Sexy Laundry.
Last night Rosemary and I went to the opening of Henry and Alice: Into the Wild
at the Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island Stage. This was Riml’s sequel to Sexy Laundry.
There were two wonderful changes to the appearance of the crowd attending the show. For one I saw at least five young women wearing fishnets. This is something that normally would be absent at an opening performance of any Arts Club Theatre Company Show. Generally the almost 70 year old man who is tapping these keys finds that many of those present exceed me in age. I feel that our city’s theatre companies, the music companies and the dance companies are hard pressed to attract youth.
It is obvious that the Arts Club’s marketing department is doing something awfully right to have lured all that youth to Into the Wild. They did lots of laughing which makes me think that my lack of it (laughing) was due to a youth and generational divide. I was simply too old to laugh at what most there last night thought were hilarious performances by Diana Peterson (as Beverley Elliot who hogged the attention when she was on stage) Susinn Mc Farlen (as Alice Lane, her performance so on the dot that you might run into many of her kind shopping at Restoration Hardware) and Andrew Wheeler whose booming voice would make him the next best thing in BC politics.
I kept looking at my wife, who was equally grim trying to figure out if we were Martians in ship of Venusians.
It was only when I slept on it that this morning I finally got it. The play can superficially please the fishnet crowd but the crowd living in a more-or-less valuable property in Vancouver (or whatever other metropolitan area) without savings or job prospects must live (as Rosemary and I do) through the day to day stress of trying to live on no budget.
As we drove home I reminded my Rosemary how she had her heart set on building a deck next to the kitchen. She was jealous of Malcolm Parry’s Thermidor range in his Deep Cove house. Rosemary grieved when we had to let go of our Audi lease and settle with a 2007 Chevrolet Malibu that simply has not the cachet of German automobile engineering. I reminded Rosemary that in previous year complaints of my low wage earning ability that I would tell her, "You should have married a millionaire."
The tension between Alice and her younger sister ( a free-spirit money grabber) and the problem of their father’s deterioration while living in his big house and what to do with the problem rang true to me in a much more personal manner. Is my arthritis so advanced that soon I will not be able to work in the garden? Will Rosemary and I have to settle (scale down, or that terrible word downsize) in something smaller and not have our designer perennials to care for?
No, Rosemary and I did not laugh as we were not meant to. Today I have a more sober look at our situation. Perhaps Rosemary and I will find something to ease us on to a satisfying conclusion, one like the resolution of Riml’s Henry and Alice: Into the Wild
I do know one thing, Rosemary, very much like Alice, hates camping.
Napoleon On St. Helena
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
For many years while Celia Duthie sat on her book empire I obtained all kinds of little jobs that paid well and I also had the opportunity of writing book reviews for her stellar and lovely Duthie’s The Reader
. The empire collapsed and Duthie moved to Elba (Galiano Island) where she clashed with the “Green Talibans”.
I had predicted that our female Napoleon would triumphantly return to Vancouver from exile. But I was proven wrong. Duthie and Nick Hunt the multi-talented 19th century amateur-of-everything, live (with three black cats) comfortably on their St. Helena (Salt Spring Island) in a sprawling property that includes an avant-garde gallery
, a B&B and French dinner wear glasses with Napoleon’s bee symbol on them.
Duthie says that, “Napoleon is staying in St. Helena.” She is still in the thick of things and holds court to artists, CBC producers, animal handlers, politicians, architects and bush pilots that all come for advice or reassurance.
Both Duthie and Hunt laughed when I suggested that I take a picture in which I would put Hunt as a priest in a confessional (he is most priest-like) and Duthie on the side would be confessing, “Bless me father for I have sinned. I have just purchased two books from Amazon.ca.”
Duthie is one true intellectual snob (I heartily approve) who has read her New Yorker
since she can remember. And yet Duthie is a thoroughly modern woman who told me, “By the time my The New Yorker arrives I have read it all on my iPad app. In fact you cannot beat the extra photographs and the sounds and hyperlinks. I am going to let go of the hard copy subscription and keep the on-line version.”
More and more, Duthie reads downloaded books. She is willing to pay as long as she can get what she wants now. She has Netflix and is excited about a future of instant gratification (even if this instant gratification be a lofty one). Both she and Hunt smile at the possibility of technology while growing an organic vegetable garden that provides them with food for the table almost all year. They travel to Europe or visit NY City museums every year. I marvel at their urbanity while reaping all the pleasures of a provincial landscape.
Duthie would not understand how at Christmas time I was itching to purchase Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery but I resisted all temptation and only yesterday did I finally pick up my library copy which I ordered four months ago.
I am a bit older than Duthie and Hunt and perhaps they will soon lose their sense of wanting to do things now and eschew it all for the pleasure of stress-free patience.
But I can report that our Napoleon is safely ensconced in her St. Helena, she has no green wallpaper and her wine, as far as I could tell, was free of any additives. Long live the emperor!
Blue About Rebecca
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Gardens come back every year but always with an element of change. Like humans trees and plants have life spans. Some of my trees simply do not have the energy to leaf out in the spring and they die. I am particularly unsure of my Cercis canadensis
‘Forest Pansy’. I can only hope. Many of my hostas have simply disappeared. One of the reasons is that some of my companion plants have grown quite quickly and prevent the emerging shoots of the hostas to get any light.
But there are some features of the garden which repeat themselves. One of them is the blue/purple flowering of my Rhododendron augustinii
‘Marion McDonnell' right now. Here it is in a photograph I took May 2008 with Rebecca my granddaughter. Since then she has grown up, she straightens her hair every day and wears very white makeup. I might have to wait, if Rhododendron augustinii
is patient, for a few years more to photograph her again with all her hair in the splendor I am used to.
Ivette Hernández - Actress
Monday, April 23, 2012
My Mother's Red Shawl - El Rebozo Colorado
Ivtte Hernández - Actress
The Rebirth of Art
Beginning and End
Circle of Life and Death
Like the Sunrise and Sunset
Like the Blood that gives Life and an End
Covers, warm, holds together.
It shelters from the sun
It warms in a cold day
It brings together a mother with her child.
Red is always present in Mexican culture. It is present in the Aztecs and Mayans who painted their pyramids and their writing with red. Present in sacred blood that brings life and death. Present in the blood spread during our revolution that made us an independent nation.
The rebozo is always present. It is present in the life of a woman. It covers her face from the sun and cold. It helps her when she holds on to it during labour. It carries and hugs hers children when they are being held, being feed and put to sleep.
The red rebozo portrait is very special to me. In 2010 I was asked to take part in photo-sessions connected to my Mexican roots. I happily agreed as I was born in León, Guanajuato. I love my heritage as well as photography. This was my first artistic and professional project and I was ecstatic.
My dear friend and photography mentor and I spent several days exchanging ideas, sharing memories and creating new pictures symbolizing old events, photographs and people. This was a project that was my first exposure to posing and perhaps the last of its kind. I will not soon forget it.
For me the photo with the red rebozo symbolizes the beginning and end.
Red is like the passion that gives birth to creations. In this image it began as the photographer’s idea, it materialized with the help of light, a subject and objects, a camera. It ends on photographic paper or in the photons of your computer monitor. Once there it has its own life. I cannot be destroyed unless red fire intervenes. Like the spirit in the photographer’s heart that burns with passion to create art. Art that once is born and expressed, it will never die. This is the circle of Life for Art….
For me this photo symbolizes togetherness. Rebozo, the Mexican rebozo that brings us together, that keeps the warmth and cools us in heat.
Today as 2012 that building where the picture was taken is gone. It has been demolished. This brings me some sort of melancholy for those days, but also leaves me with happiness for what I was able to experience and express in those walls. Those walls are gone physically but their memory remains as well as this photo. They are alive.
Vancouver Sun Columnist
Statesman, Flag Designer
Vancouver Sun Columnist
Lauren Elizabeth Stewart
Sharing Low Technology
Sunday, April 22, 2012
|Bronwen Marsden through the pinhole of a Mamiya RB-67 body cap. Fuji FP-3000B b+w film |
In one of those low points in National Geographic’s
journey from being a good magazine, slowly turning into a terrible and inconsequential on to then becoming again an ever-better magazine than it ever was, I remember a photograph of a sunset in Samoa showing Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave. I was shocked because the edges of the sky were precisely what a photographer would get had he or she used a French made Cokin filter called a tobacco neutral density. The edges were an unrealistic pink brown. Perhaps (this may have been the 70s or 80s) photo budgets were low and the magazine did not allow the photographer to wait for that killer sunset. Since then the magazine has not only improved photographically but they have even begun to accept that many in this world are gay, poor, sick, communist, etc. They even accept that the United States could be wrong in many ways.
The above is simply an overture to my reading last night an article in the NY Times
called Everyone’s Lives in Everyone’s Pictures
by Karen Rosemberg. She discusses the curious and ubiquitous act that we now call photo sharing. She ends it by writing:
Few would argue that these photos are good art. In a way, they outsource artistry. For Eva Respini, associate curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art and the organizer of the current Cindy Sherman retrospective, Instagram, however attractive its filters, simply updates Kodak’s slogan “You press the button, we do the rest” — a promise that dates back to the late 19th century. “They are saying, let us do the work of making something aesthetically pleasing, or interesting,” she said. “You just focus on making the picture and sharing it with your friends.”
In one of my classes at Focal Point this last Thursday I shot my last Fuji FP-3000B Instant b+w white film with my Mamiya RB and my special dedicated body cap that renders my camera into a pinhole camera. My guessed exposure of 8 seconds was not correct (It should have been around 15) so the resulting print was very dark and I am sure my students were suitably unimpressed.
They all own high-end digital single lens reflex cameras and many of them have become bored with predictability and with predictable excellence in the technical side of picture taking. Their pictures are always sharp and well exposed. Some of my students are buying relatively inexpensive low-tech plastic cameras that shoot film like the Holga which uses 120 film with its not overly sharp plastic lens.
I was out to prove that by simply buying (internet companies offer these for individual DSLR models) a pinhole body cap dedicated to their particular brand of camera,, they will then produce images with that yesteryear look, the blurred, badly composed, badly exposed snapshot.
Paradoxically, I find it most interesting that my initially low tech effort at showing off to my students has only been made visible by using the high technology of Photoshop and Corel Paint Shop ProX2 to “save” my underexposed blurred pictures of our subject, Bronwen Marsden. The picture on the left is the scanned print and the one on the right the scanned peeled negative.