Heady Scents Permeated My Raiments
Saturday, May 05, 2012
Guest Blog by Kathy Marsden
Heady Scents Permeated my Raiments
Lilacs were blooming the day I was photographed by Alex Waterhouse-Hayward. Lilacs, their fragrance filled the air and expanded my soul, as I entered the gate to his garden. Alex had been watching me from the window and met me at the top of the steps. "You must come to the garden", he said, "I cannot photograph you in my stark dark hallway. Your spirit seeks freedom among the sun-drenched flowers, and yearns to join the chorus of exulting robins and the pair of orange-crowned warblers nesting in the magnolia."
He led me to an arbour where the white jasmine, with roses entwined together, climbed against an azure sky. "How perfectly this setting reflects your vibrant essence and liberates you from the confines of your life, present and past," he uttered with delight as he unfurled a cloud of silk and let it settle on my shoulders. An armful of ruffled, scented peonies were placed in my up stretched hands. As the camera lens opened and closed I was lulled into a trance; enchanting strains of voiles filled my ears, heady scents permeated my raiments, and a zephyr caressed my face and smoothed my brow. I was vaguely aware of Alex's voice prompting me to adjust my pose ever so slightly, this way and that, and his periodic rearranging the tendrils of my hair.
So at ease was I that I felt life's burdens lighten and dissipate, liberating me from melancholy and mediocrity. Almost weightless now I sensed a distant memory tugging at me, claiming my attention. Or perhaps it was Alex fixing my straying hair again. Regardless, a sudden shadow blotted my view of approaching paradise. How could I comprehend this unnamed spectre, for I was now far beyond the realm of words and rational thought?
The shutter clicked again, and there I was: five years old, sitting in the drawing room with Granny and the Great Aunts Lillian, Sarah and Kate from Victoria. They were talking grown-up talk, so I couldn't really understand, but periodically I caught phrases like "dined with thah Govahnah General lahst week" and "when Myfanwy was presented to thah Queen ..." And finally "simply must take ah picture of her, Daphne would be most amused to see her little country cousin!"
Another click, Alex's last. The memory of my stifling Victorian upbringing fled before the shutter closed.
Neck Folds & Carol James On Tiptoes
Friday, May 04, 2012
As the piles of unfiled envelopes on my basement floor diminish, I find gems and junk. The latest find is somewhat of a gem, although because of the nature of this blog I cannot show some of the “better” photographs. The envelope had the following heading: Nude Class- First in Focal Point, Jan Feb, March 2005 – Man Ray Imitation.
The nude class that I teach at Focal Point is my best attended class. Since 2005 I have managed to make it more comfortable not only for my models but also for the young men in my class who find it uncomfortable to photograph the male nude. I teach my students that just like painters and sculptors must learn about the human body in figure classes, photographers, even if they do not have the intention of ever shooting nudes, must learn as it is the only way of knowing how a body reacts to posture and movement. What people do underneath their clothes affects what they look like with clothes on.
I tell them that every picture that I ever took of Provincial NDP leader Carol James was one where I would signal and Ms James would stand on her tiptoes. This action affected her posture and made her look ever more incisive and sure of herself.
My students from the very first class know that I cannot abide by neck folds (even though my variation of Man Ray's famous picture here has a most noticeable one) or the unsightly ones that occur under the arm when the arms are moved so. The know that they must change the pose or use hair or a scarf to hide what usually is the blackest black in a photograph and thus the very first spot on a picture that we will look at.
I teach my students to approach the nude with a wide angle lens so that they have to be in extreme proximity to their undraped subject. I warn them to be careful and to use a good underarm deodorant and to chew gum or suck on a breath mint. They are going to be close and bad scents can offend.
The pictures you see here are commonly called grab shots. I “grab” them while I can with fast film. My students are tethered to a studio flash. From my spot I can only take pictures on the run. Of late I find that I have less time to do this and I spend most of my time observing, suggesting and correcting. There is a frustration in not being able to take pictures of unusually good looking and or interesting models but it is a frustration that I must compensate by telling myself that my students may be learning stuff that will serve them well in their future photographic careers.
The Famous Miss Burney Opines On Lady Miller of Batheaston
Thursday, May 03, 2012
|Fanny Burney - Albumen print|
William Henry Fox Talbot 1840
January 6, 1840
…In the afternoon we all went to the Whalleys’, where we found a large and highly-dressed company: at the head of which sat Lady Miller. Among the rest were Mr. Anstey, his lady, and two daughters Miss Weston, Mrs. Aubrey, the thin quaker-like woman I saw first at Mrs. Laws’, Mrs. Lambert, and various others, male and female, that we knew not…
Do you know now that, notwithstanding Bath Easton is so much laughed at in London, nothing here is more tonish than to visit Lady Miller, who is extremely curious in her company, admitting few people who are not of rank or of fame, and excluding of those all who are not people of character very unblemished.
Some time after, Lady Miller took a seat next mine on the sofa, to play at cards, and was excessively civil indeed-scolded Mrs. Thrale for not sooner making us acquainted, and had the politeness of offer to take me to the balls herself, as she heard Mr. and Mrs. Thrale did not choose to go.
After all this, it is hardly fair to tell you what I think of her. However, the truth is, I always, to the best of my intentions, speak honestly what I think of the folks I see, without being biased either by their civilities or neglect; and that you will allow is being a faithful historian.
Well then, Lady Miller is a round, plump, coarse-looking dame of about forty, and while all her aim is to appear an elegant woman of fashion, all her success is to seem an ordinary woman in very common life, with fine clothes. Her manners are bustling, her air is mock-important, and her manners very inelegant.
So much for the lady of Bath Easton; who however, seems extremely good-natured, and who is I am sure extremely civil…
The Famous Miss Burney - The Diaries and Letters of Fanny Burney
Edited by Barbara G. Schrank and David J. Supino
Minerva Press, N York 1976
An Alternate For A Vulcan Spock
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
The more restrictions I give myself when taking photographs the more I can concentrate on expression and whatever transpires between this photographer and my subject. Sometimes it is a direct connection between my subject’s eyes through the lens of my Mamiya, up the mirror into the pentaprism, that makes the upside down and the right is left picture into its correct configuration and straight through my left eye (the one I look into) ending somewhere in my brain that some would call my soul.
In these situations, even when I tell myself I will take only five (but I was able to snap one more as I had only used up four exposures, a ten exposure roll, on my previous subject, a gentleman with his black cat, the best shot is the first one and rarely the last. The middle ones seem to be photographic cannon fodder. With Stefanie Denz I knew I had my shot with the first exposure. It was that exposure, tight and showing both her magnificent and strong hands which I chose to illustrate her essay on this Me&My Project, a project in which the restrictions are to use my mother’s red Mexican shawl, a gray background, one light, the same 140mm lens in my Mamiya RB-67 Pro SD loaded with Kodak Ektachrome 100G. There is one more constant and this is my insistence in showing hands.
To those that might be interested I am showing here the picture that I almost used. It was the fifth exposure of the total six. What won out for me was the showing of both hands as seen here
. I like Denz’s muscular arms. I was tempted by that fifth exposure hint of her blue jeans.
After years of looking at pictures I have come to trust my first impression. Sometimes I feel like a most Vulcan Spock with a built-in scanner in my brain.
Stefanie Denz - Painter
Tuesday, May 01, 2012
My Mother's Red Shawl - El Rebozo Colorado
Stefanie Denz - Painter
I thought, as I sat for Alex, the way he wanted me to, in the spot he had so carefully constructed, then giving me to place on myself, something so disarming as the deep red simple and elegant shawl, that I would oblige him with my focused gaze. And that was a pleasure to impart and have received. I felt that I could exchange what was inside me to Alex which he could then bring to the photographic image.
I am a painter. I like to paint people and places as space. I paint persons in their place; their body. What they express outwardly is in exchange with what is inside them, this occurs on a physical level. There is also the layer of memory, personal and shared by details of clothing setting, and composition. This adds interpretation to what is expressed.
Sent from my iPad
Vancouver Sun Columnist
Statesman, Flag Designer
Vancouver Sun Columnist
Lauren Elizabeth Stewart
Nicté-Ha Did Indeed Exist
Monday, April 30, 2012
|Photo by Instantáneas "Exacta" Mexico, D.F.|
Today I read with interest in my Vancouver Sun
a feature piece on the business page on Lionsgate Entertainment (Hunger Games pays off for Lionsgate Entertainment). At the end of the story after getting quotes from Lionsgate Entertainment vice-chairman Michael Burns, Lee reveals that the company is now run out of Santa Monica.
I did my best to discern if the article was a phoner, a Skyper or an emailer. I consulted with my friend and lawyer Christopher Dafoe
(a former arts reporter for the Globe & Mail) who told me that the piece, not being a profile on Burns was most probably a phoner. He said that my journalistic standards may be to tough in an age when there is so little face to face interview in a globalized and much aggregated world.
This set me to thinking that the photo placed here which is my proof that I indeed did not make up in my mind the existence of the Mayan princess Nicté-Ha is probably a sham. I want to believe that I met Nicté-Ha even though the internet has left no trace of the beautiful woman I once saw and that my mother so often talked about. Could it have been my imagination?
I found this picture recently. It has my aunt Fermina Miranda
(on the left) and my mother in the middle both wearing Filipino dresses. I have no idea who the ugly man on the right is except that I remember him being Mexican. Who is the mysterious and exotic woman between my mother and my aunt? Could that be Nicté-Ha
the Mayan Princess? I thought so until I noticed that she had a Tilaka (a caste forehead mark). Could that mark really be an age spot on the old photograph taken around 1954? In any case I removed it with Photoshop so that I can at last state that Nicté-Ha in fact did exist. And the proof is the photograph.
Plants & Ghosts At VanDusen - Nevermore
Sunday, April 29, 2012
In 1986 Rosemary and our two daughters Ale and Hilary moved to our present home on Athlone Street. Not long after we began to garden our corner lot property with enthiasm. We became members of garden clubs; Rosemary joined the VanDusen Guides, the UBC FOGS and participated in master gardener clinics in local nurseries.
Every year, at about this time I lined up by 7:30 in anticipation for the opening of the VanDusen plant sale at 10. Lined up with me where many of my friends, all enthusiastic gardeners, too. We discussed the merits of one plant over another. Which hosta was bluer, Blue Moon or Sieboldiana Elegans? Which tradescantia did not collapse after flowering?
At the plant sale itself, it often rained and I would happily return home, soaked to the bone, with all my plant acquisitions which I would promptly put into the ground. Rainy days were useful for that. But the high moment was running into or chatting with the 19th century-type British "amateur" gardeners. There was the fern lady, the blue poppy lady, the clematis man and so on. They were all experts on their designated plants but had a renaissance approach and knew about every other plant, too. I would run into many who are now ghosts or almost ghosts. Arthur Erickson was often there as was Malcolm Parry, early in his Vancouver Sun career as gossip columnist. Parry is now a night time gossip columnist and 10 am would be much too early for him. Besides, gardening is now pretty well officially dead or dying. It is far better to ogle impossibly expensive super cars at car shows and discuss the merits of one, two or even three turbochargers.
The business of beautiful garden books is dead, too. I have a huge collection of these of which I only consult one, Beals Classic Roses
. In all other situations Google will tell me which hosta is the bluest and the complete botanical name of the Himalayan Birch you see here which I photographed at VanDusen. It is Betula utilis subsp. jacquemontii.
I dropped off my Rosemary
today at 9:30. She will be handing out advice to gardeners in the master gardener booth. She doesn’t think too many people will ask questions. The booth is in an out of the way place. Besides master gardeners must really remain silent when asked how to get rid of this weed or that pest. Our city has banned all insecticides, fungicides and weed suppression products. In our digital age, our digits are the ones that will pick off the bugs and cut the weeds with a kitchen knife. Besides why ask a real human being a question when you can comfortably find out, without undermining your intelligence, from Jeeves or Google the answer to what you might think is a stupid question.
I type this looking out into a cloudy day spring garden while hordes line up ready to run in and pounce on their plant choices. As a local musical director once told me when I had called him up to recount my excitement in listening to a Beethoven bagatelle, “Ah, Alex, I am jealous of your ability to enjoy listening to something for the first time. I am long past that.”
I am long past lining up at the VanDusen plant sale. I remember the ghosts of Marion McDonnell
, the Blue Poppy Lady and of Arthur Erickson
. I miss Malcolm Parry’s
smile asking me about my plant acquisitions and making my Cornus canadensis
in his column. There was a charm to our innocence then – nevermore.