Underarm Deodorant & Breath Mints
Saturday, May 26, 2012
You have a studio. You have a backdrop. You have a beautiful model. You have a camera (on a tripod). You have a light and you have you. In most situations this is a formula for failure. It is particularly prone to failure if all of those diverse elements above are all on non intersecting parallel lines. The results most likely might be boring pictures and if you have a motorized film camera or a digital camera with the same you will have many boring pictures. Add to this the new element that after each picture you might want to look at the result in the back and or show it to your subject and your flow of inspiration will be inspiration interruptus.
I teach photography and I attempt to impart to my students my passion for the portrait. I can hear them zip and zip. I can see them fall for models who act like models and do poses that are model-like. The models purse their lips; they swing their hips, this way or that way. They wink.
I tell my students to wear good underarm deodorant. I tell them to brush their teeth and chew gum or suck on breath mints. I tell them to get close with a medium wide angle lens so as to almost be confrontational with their subject.
They mostly reject the advice and further ignore my instructions to bring that light (or lights) really close and get dramatic shadows.
But a memory for the value of shadows which suggests curvature and three dimensions in what really is a world of two dimensions (a photograph is just that) is almost forgotten. Very good cameras, when faced with extremely low light will pop up a flash. The light will evenly light the face into flatness.
A memory for the window lighting of the Flemish painters is now forgotten. It is not forgotten because it is not remembered. It is forgotten because few of my students, regardless of their age have seen paintings, old masters or gone to museums. What they see is on the net.
Here are two photographs of Joanne Dahl whom I photographed sometime in the early 90s. I remember that my lighting was the light coming in through the windows of my studio. It faced the big white wall that was Eaton’s and then Sears. The light would come in and be reflected back by the wall on the opposite side of my studio which was white. For this shot I used a velour drape as a backdrop and snapped with my Nikon FM-2 and a 50 or perhaps a 35mm lens.
I do not find the photographs boring but then I cannot possibly be objective as I am the one who took the pictures.
Villains In Our Garden
Friday, May 25, 2012
The paradox of fertilizing plants in a garden is that these plants then beyond their bounds and we end up cutting them back or, in some cases, pulling them out.
The term ground cover is a botanical name that in the years that we have been gardening on Athlone Street is a term that I now see as a fearsome one. Ground cover suggests like that other non existing misnomer, “maintenance-free gardening” that the gardener can sit back and relax and sip iced tea all summer. As far as I can tell from the experience obtained with all our hits and misses is that this scenario can only occur on a concrete deck equipped with a couple of deck chairs and a little table for the tea and the cucumber sandwiches.
Now ground covers, I now know very few that don’t march in every direction (not only sideways but backwards and forwards. Here are some that have become a problem:
Viola labradorica purpurea
hardy geraniums (many of them)
Unfortunately Rosemary will not have her chance to deny what I am about to write here. The majority of the plants mentioned above are plants that she initially purchased and then planted. These ground covers emerge early in the season and they will then shade my hostas as they come out of the ground. The ones that you would least likely suspect as being deadly are the frothy and beautiful Labrador Violets. They jump into potted plants or surround plants in the ground and they then weave a tight root system that will eventually choke much larger plants to extinction.
There have been some recriminations of late but Rosemary and I have made peace as we methodically remove those ground covers.
Taking many containers to our green dump I noticed a dried up frond from one of our sword ferns. I picked it up and I was struck by its beauty. For just a bit I forgot the thug-like ground covers and marveled at the beauty of plants even when they have been clipped away and discarded.
Sitting At The Piano
Thursday, May 24, 2012
My friend Ian Bateson is in England dealing with his father’s death and having the extra problem of making arrangements to take care of his almost blind mother. Thinking about all this last night I reflected on the diminishing circle of friends and how I have dispensed with my up-until-now all important phone book/diary. I call few people and even fewer call me.
I told my wife last night, “I want to be having breakfast (huevos rancheros), papaya and café con leche in the heat of a Mérida café. I feel alien to this city where we live in. It is cold and our roses are not going to do as well if this cold persists. I miss my mother, my father, and our warm friends from Mexico. I miss my relatives in Buenos Aires. I want Argentine pizza.” Rosemary’s answer was that I make arrangements to make it so (at least the part of the Mérida café, our friends in Mexico and Buenos Aires).
Because my father left our house when I was nine I spent most of my life with my mother and grandmother. I think that I had an unusually close relationship with both those women.
In much the same way that I photograph children as non smiling adults, my mother and grandmother treated me like an adult during my childhood. In my 20s I was the “joven” when I would visit my mother in Veracruz. I graduated to “el señor” when I showed up with my new bride Rosemary.
Unlike in other marriages with terrible mothers in law, Rosemary and my mother Filomena got along famously. In fact if I think of it, it would seem that my Rosemary was a bit more outward with her “inhibited New Dublin, Ontario, reticence to show affection” with my mother than she was with me!
We were struggling financially in our Arboledas, Estado de Mexico house. My mother was living with us and she understood what it was not to have money as that had been her situation most of her life. Without thinking twice one day we arrived to find that her piano was gone. She had sold it to pay for our mortgage that month. “I am deaf. I cannot hear myself play Chopin and Beethoven. I have to imagine it. It is painful. I didn’t need that piano.” I took it all at face value but it was Rosemary who was aware of the sacrifice my mother had made.
My mother and I often talked. Rosemary told me that I was not very affectionate to her and that I treated her with little respect sometimes. One day that I will not forget my mother was most candid. She suffered from Meniere’s Disease. She had a constant ringing I he ears. This was the only sound she could hear as the disease had destroyed the workings of her inner ear. She had no balance and suffered terrible bouts of nausea.
She told me, “I am still a young woman (late 50s) and I have not had a man in many years. I miss it. I have a longing. I do not believe any more in a God who answers my prayers. I believe He is impervious and remote. I do not want to live like this. There has to be more to life.”
I did not know what to tell her and I was silent. Perhaps a year later she died in her bead of peritonitis and Rosemary and I both heard that breathing inwards that ended just there.
I must say that many times in my 44 year marriage to Rosemary we have had our rough spots (in fact we went to counseling in the late 70s but it was a farce! She had a woman psychiatrist and I had a male one. We would decide together what we would answer to them in our separate sessions with them). It was not too long ago where I would say to Rosemary, “I am not happy in this house.” She would counter with the inevitable, “Then leave.” I would attempt to explain that he house was half mine. Those conflicts are long forgotten and we live with almost no conflicts.
I would say that one of our bonds is a bond that we share. We both love my mother and we miss her. When I look at the baby grand Chickering in our living room I can only imagine the smile on my mother’s face if she could play it. In fact I can imagine her playing it as she imagines that she could hear it.
The Dark Lady From Belorusse
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
We would walk the streets, a prodigy in short pants and his mother, so defiantly beautiful that all transactions stopped, and we’d enter a slow-motion world where women, men, children, dogs, cats, and firemen in their trucks would look at her with such longing in their eyes, that I felt like some usurper who was carrying her off to another hill.
The Dark Lady From Belorusse - Jerome Charyn 1997
Tim Turner & The Iron Duke
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
|Tim Turner & Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes's Duke of Wellington|
For any who might visit this site with a modicum of regularity it must be obvious that the present writer is up to something involving a red Mexican rebozo and his friends of disparate professions. At last count I have managed to put up 18. I have 10 more in the wings except my subjects are recalcitrant about writing their essays. Some of these include Celia Duthie, Bruno Freschi, a handyman, a violinist, a gardener/cook/handyman (Celia Duthie’s husband Nick Hunt), a beautiful Argentine model turned hairdresser, a painter, Bill Richardson and the present subject of today’s blog Tim Turner
whose profession I will leave till later when his essay is produced.
But I cannot resist to place here his Fuji instant film portrait (a test before I used my Ektachrome) merge with Goya’s famous portrait of the Duke of Wellington
. When Turner faced my camera I instantly saw the connection with Goya’s portrait which hangs at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. I went to the National Gallery with my granddaughter Rebecca
a few years ago and I pointed at the painting and said to her, “This man defeated that man on the other side. The man on that other side is Napoleon painted by one Jacques-Louis David.”
The Me&My Project with the red shawl.
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Karl Stittgen's Homage To Frank Lloyd Wright On Pender Island
Monday, May 21, 2012
In November 2008 I went to Pender Island (on a de Havilland Beaver) with my friend Abraham Rogatnick. We went to visit his friend Karl Stittgen
and his wife Nora.
|Karl Stittgen and his dog Miho|
I was curious to find out more about Stittgen as I had photographed his only competition, Toni Cavelti
several times. Both are now retired. To determine which is the most famous of the two depends on which one of them you ask. Suffice to note that they are friends. German-born (Ludwigshafen, 1930) Karl Stittgen arrived in Vancouver in 1952 and ran his jewelry business until 1974. He then traveled to India, California and Arizona and studied interior design. He restarted his jewelry business in 1984 but sold it in 1995. What led him to move to Pender Island and build a house in homage to Frank Lloyd Wright in 11992 (the house was finished in 1995) began when he saw a spread of a Frank Lloyd Wright house in a 1956 House Beautiful Magazine
. Karl Stittgen and his Japanese/Canadian wife Nora live on their 6-acre property, Halcyon Days, with their Akita Inu dog Miho. Miho is named after the famous Japanese museum of design, the Miho Museum. The Stittgens live the life of aesthetes. They eat well and drink German wine. Both are expert potters. Stittgen rarely uses his computer as he says it would prevent him from making things and reading. Stittgen tested some of his Frank Lloyd applications in his house in West Vancouver now owned by Douglas Coupland.
Below is my Q&A for Bob Mercer’s (alas!) defunct VLM Magazine. It was part of a series called My Favourite Room.
What is your favourite room?
My favourite room is the library which was called sanctuary by Frank Lloyd Wright. A sanctuary has no openings to the outside. If you are totally concentrated on what is going on the inside, namely your books, you are lost in your reading and your thoughts.
You are known in Vancouver as having been one of the best jewelers. What is your contribution to architecture?
I studied architecture since 1959 when I was exposed to early Frank Lloyd Wright applications. I had the opportunity, which some people in Vancouver gave me, to redo their houses. I did this so that I could use my aesthetic sense to their interiors and my ambition has always been to build a house on the basis of the philosophy of Frank Lloyd Wright. I have done this here on Pender Island.
Why is it that thanks to Frank Lloyd Wright you are a good cook?
When I went to Taliesin West in 1961 (Wright died in 1959) to become a member of the fellowship, I found that we pupils of Frank Lloyd Wright had to look after the kitchen, the fields and the gardens, because the fellowship was supposed to be self-sufficient. When I arrived, since I was a newcomer, I was naturally put in the kitchen. I had to peel potatoes and clean the spinach, lettuce and pumpkins. I learned how to cook.
Deny that you are not obsessed with Frank Lloyd Wright.
Deny? I am rather obsessed because Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture is without any doubt the most livable there is. This compared to Modernist architecture or of the Arts & Crafts style makes me shudder. For a while in Vancouver we had what was then called the post & beam style which was derivative of Wright’s construction methods. They were wonderful houses! I don’t understand why that trend of the 50s and 60s has not continued and that we have gone back to the Arts & Crafts style. Frank Lloyd Wright’s interiors have been proven by people who live in them as being interiors that “form” a lifestyle.
Are you a potter?
I am a potter.
If Frank Lloyd Wright were your elder brother what would he say about that?
I am absolutely certain that he would encourage me to be even more of a potter because he was interested in the crafts. His whole philosophy of house building was based on craftsmanship. He taught his apprentices to be masons. He wanted them to be masons, carpenters, and chimney builders so that when they designed a house they knew how everything fit together. He was an admirer of the crafts and designed one of the finest craft shops in the country in San Francisco on Maiden Lane for ceramics. He would be pleased with the derivative of his architecture that I built in my own house and also be pleased with me being a ceramist or potter.
When you designed this house is there any part of it in which you took into consideration your wife Nora?
The whole house, I originally called a temple to Nora and that’s what it was called when it was started and then it became Halcyon Days. When people asked me what I was doing, I told them, “I am building a temple to Nora.”
Katheryn Petersen - Accordionist
Sunday, May 20, 2012
My Mother's Red Shawl - El Rebozo Colorado
Katheryn Petersen - Accordionist
When I arrived at Alex’ house for our red-shawl session, he asked me if I knew the accordion classic “Lydia of Spain”. It didn’t ring any bells for me so Alex did some googling and in short order we were both watching Myron Floren, a famous accordionist in the 60’s on the Lawrence Welk show, blast away with bellows shakes and florid ornamental runs through “LADY of Spain”. Alex and I agreed after about 15 seconds of Myron’s pyrotechnics that it was a good thing that I didn’t know Lady of Spain or Lydia of Spain or anything like it. It reminded me that I am part of the North America generation born into the fallout of the ‘golden age of the accordion’ in the 50’s. This would be safely in the past, but since I took up the accordion 8 years ago, my mom has been trying to steer me toward the schmaltz of those glory days with email links to YouTube videos of modern wunderkinds like “Die Twinnies”, the blonde 20 year old twin girls who roller skate in semi fore, while playing creepy Christian polka music on their matching accordions. Their YouTube video is almost as disturbing as the one with the slap-dancing German men in lederhosen. There is indeed a slice of German in my background and the forces of fate may be against me in my personal quest to play accordion music that doesn’t suck. As I write this I realize that it may be me who is the uncool one and that German slap-dancing may well be the next big thing. However, it is too late for me to turn back and so I continue to make my way, best I can, with accordion in hand, through the surreal world of “Lydia of Spain”.
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