A Photographic PeacemakerSunday, March 17, 2013
In the film Colt .45 (Edward L. Marin 1950) gun salesman Steve Farrell, played by Randolph Scott gets two of his new Colt .45 pistols stolen from him by ruthless killer Jason Brett but vows to recover them.
I saw that film with my abuelita (grandmother) sometime around 1951 when I was 9 at a movie house on movie row in Buenos Aires on Avenida Lavalle. What I remember the most was the incredibly clear sound (in comparison to the others) of Randolph Scott’s guns.
We know that in the end this Colt Peacemaker, when anybody could buy one, evened out the playing field of gun fighters. Skill became less important and the ability to shoot in repetition became the threshold of killing and it prefigured the horrors of the machine gun in WWI.
|Arthur H. Fellig by Bill Jay|
At that time only one of us had a blimp which was a device the shielded the cameras noisy clicks during silent tapings of TV shows. David Cooper was the owner of the expensive blimp and from the CBC he went to become Vancouver’s premier theatrical and dance photographer. Jo Lederer (known as Photo Jo) went for the lucrative film industry stills photographer gigs. Miles decided to branch out into table-top photography at a time when there were many advertising agencies in town. Of the four of us I chose the least lucrative of professions, I became an editorial photographer. There were many in this playing field but the best, in my opinion was James La Bounty. We competed in magazines, annual reports (he did much better than I in this sector) and art photography.
Rosemary would be witness to my constant complaining to her, “What do magazines see in this guy? I think my portraits are better.” But for a long while I took most of the editorial photographs in town because I was one of the few who owned the photographic Peacemaker of the time. This was the softbox or light box. I had purchased my Chimera at Olden Camera Supply in New York City sometime around 1978. I remember going to Olden and asking for the softbox. My attendant did not know what I was talking about so I had to point it out in their catalogue. As soon as my secret was out I had to move on to spotlights, grids, Fresnels and whatever other tricks I could conjure to compete.
When my two daughters were approaching or were in their teens I knew that if I were to photograph them they would appear much younger in my attempts to photograph them. A man, not their father, would see them with an objectivity that would have been impossible for me, their father. I came up with the idea of hiring LaBounty to take their pictures. Rosemary could not understand and did point out that LaBounty was not cheap.
The two large framed pictures of Ale and Hilary graced our living room for many years until one day, not too long ago, my Rosemary said, “I think you can retire these and replace them with some of your own.”
I cannot recall who hired me to photograph James LaBounty nor do I remember what year I took the photographs. In the file there are 9 6x7 cm Ilford FP-4 b+w negs and four Polaroid instant b+w 7x7 cm negatives. The picture you see here is one of those Polaroids which I scanned with a sheet of white paper over the negative to get more rough texture, just because.
The reason for today’s blog on LaBounty is that I am attempting to clear the bottom bookcase in our den so as to accommodate my DVD film collection. That bottom shelf has old photo magazines that I have kept for inspiration or research. Among them I found two books. One is Photographers Photographed by Bill Jay, and published by Gibbs M. Smith Inc. / Peregrine Smith Books / Salt Lake City / 1983. The other is Underlying Vibrations – The Photography and Life of John Vanderpant by Sheryl Salloum – Horsdal & Schubart Publishers Ltd., Victoria, BC, 1995.
Of the former I remember that I purchased the book because of that assignment to photograph LaBounty. The second book was sent to me by the Vancouver Sun as I wrote a review of a John Vanderpant show at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
At first I though I would get rid of the Vanderpant book. It is full of very cold (to me) city landscapes. They depress me. I am easily depressed these days particularly when I look out and look at the cyan/blue winter sky over the North Shore Mountains. There are a few portraits in the book and they are good. I will keep it. As for the magazines most will stay and I will have to put them in boxes to make way for a culture that seems to be replacing books. And this is the culture of film.
Among the magazines the one here, it has an answer to the question, “What is erotic?” by writer Dianne Ackerman and an interview with Camile Paglia on that subject. I cannot throw it away.
A horse, Day Helesic and Randolph Scott
Back to the softbox