Sylvie Desroches RevisitedTuesday, January 29, 2013
My oldest granddaughter, is now 15 and some of what I wrote about my daughter Ale being that age is happening again but much differently and with worse consequences. It is my hope that as Rebecca gets older her life will in some way become the better one that Sylvie Desroches is living today.
More Innocent Times
Sunday, April 18, 2010
I was 7 or 8 and I was rolling down the grassy slopes of a park in Buenos Aires, called Barrancas de Belgrano. I was approached by a bunch of friendly older boys who offered to give me a white balloon. I was very happy to accept it as I have always loved balloons. I took it home and my mother was horrified.
It would seem that even then, in more innocent times, one had to be careful of strangers. I remember that one day I decided to go straight home from school and take the train (I was 8) without waiting for my mother to put me on the train. I had an abono or rail pass so the ticket man on the train did not question me. When I got to my station at Coghlan I calmly got off the train and walked the four blocks home. When my mother arrived later I was given a very nasty paliza (whipping).
When I started blogging in January of 2006 I had no idea of what blogging was all about. I quickly made it a vehicle of the discovery of my everyday life as seen with the help of my then 7 year-old granddaughter Rebecca. Of late I have included Lauren who is now 7 with the idea that my second granddaughter deserves equal time.
My friend and neighbour Robert Freeman warns me that I must never write in my blog my intention of going on a vacation or to reveal any other information that might ease the entry of a housebreaking thief. I take his advice lightly and I mostly ignore it.
My grandmother used to give me the advice, “Piensa mal, y acertarás.” This translates to, “Think the worst of a person or situation and you will be right.” My mentor and teacher Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. countered it with, “Never expect anything and you will never be disappointed.” I have always opted for Brother Edwin’s idea of trusting people since most people are good, than the counter policy of not trusting anybody at all times.
It was about a year after I started my blog that Rebecca and I went to an Arts Umbrella dance function in Richmond’s Gateway Theatre. Rebecca had twisted her ankle at the last moment so she ended up being a spectator instead of a participant. During the intermission she asked for some money to buy sweets and I waited in the lobby. A pleasant gentleman came up to me and said, “You must be Alex.” I was a bit surprised since I did not know the man from Adam. “How do you know this?” I asked. “I have seen you with Rebecca whom I know from your blog so you must be Alex.”
I must admit that I was a bit shaken but then I realized the man meant no harm. Since then I have been approached by all sorts of people with the same sort of comment. We have gone to the theatre or the ballet and perfect strangers have come up to us and greeted Rebecca as if they knew her.
My blog would not be the blog it is if I could not write about my granddaughters and proudly display my portraits of them. I am fortunate that Rebecca and Lauren’s parents, Hilary and Bruce Stewart are trusting parents who allow me to display my pictures of their children.
But this weekend they drew the line when I asked Hilary (Rebecca and Lauren’s mother) if I could photograph Rebecca’s Quebec City billet (exchange student) Miriam with the two girls backstage after Ballet BC’s matinee performance on Saturday. Hilary was adamantly negative with a, “No way.” I did not proceed with my plan. I explained to Miriam when we were backstage with Connor Gnam that I would not include her in the picture because I had no parental permission. Miriam who is 13 and much older and wiser in many ways than Rebecca looked at me incredulously.
It was when Hilary was 16 that she billet, Sylvie Desroches, came from Quebec City. Sylvie stayed with us and I was most impressed by her more adult qualities, just like the ones I discern in Miriam even at age 13. Like Miriam, who is half Italian and half Moroccan, Sylvie was lovely so I photographed her using Hollywood lighting techniques of the 30s to photograph her in our living room sofa. The pictures you see here are the ones where she looks the oldest. There are more where she is more childlike and if I were to post them I would be crucified (perhaps?) by Hilary and others.
I never “posted” (a word or special resonance for the 21st Century) a picture of Sylvie and I never exhibited at any photography show. But I did write a blog about her here in May 2009.
The world has so changed since Sylvie first came to visit us that I did not even dare ask Hilary if I could photograph Miriam and capture her exotic beauty. I would have loved to photograph her with her billet, Rebecca.
But perhaps in these less innocent times I must heed my grandmother’s advice.
Sylvie Desroches - Girl/Woman
Thursday, May 07, 2009
There are many reasons why I am posting pictures of Sylvie Desroches today. There is even a good reason why I posting two similar pictures of Sylvie Desroches today.
I have photographed my daughters all these years with some regularity. But there was a period when I was uncertain. This was when Hilary was 12 and Ale was 15. I told Rosemary, “I think I am going to ask photographer James La Bounty to photograph our daughters.” “Why?” she asked me and continued, “He is going to be expensive and you are a photographer. What for?" I told her that as their father I would see them as little girls for some time to come, and La Bounty, not being related to the girls would be objective and see them as girls approaching womanhood. He would photograph them as such. Rosemary hated the pictures that La Bounty took. It would seem that she was not prepared, also, to see her girls grown up. After a couple of years Rosemary began to tolerate the pictures that were on our living room wall and a bit later she even told me she liked them. Since then the pictures have been put in storage. That moment of uncertainty between girl and woman is gone. Ale is 40 and Hilary is 37.
But now it is about to return as our Rebecca, Hilary's older daughter, will soon be 12. Next year she is going to Quebec on a school student exchange. And a year later a Quebec girl will stay with Rebecca.
It was when Hilary was 16 that her exchange student came to Vancouver to stay with us. Sylvie Desroches was a lively and sophisticated young girl. At the time I was crazy about classic Hollywood lighting so I asked her if she would pose for me on our living room sofa. I have never really made up my mind if exposure 7 or exposure 8 is the better portrait of a 16 year-old going on 20. So I am posting both here.
I wonder if Hilary has made any effort to find Sylvie. Perhaps she will become curious when Rebecca travels next year.
And when Rebecca is around 15 how will I photograph her? I am not her father. But as her grandfather will I still see her as a little girl? Or will I see the woman she is bound to become by then? Just another big reason to want to be alive.
Addendum: Rosemary reminded me of a few facts I had forgotten. Hilary and Rebecca, when Rebecca was 3, went to Quebec City to visit Sylvie. She was divorced and had a daughter called Margarite. Sylvie had a new boyfriend that she adored. Sylvie's mother was very kind to Rebecca but they could not communicate because they had no language in common. Rebecca called to inform me that Sylvie now lives in Alberta.