Georgia O'Keeffe & Flying Saucers
Saturday, March 09, 2013
|My snap of Philippe Halsman's portrait of|
When I was in the 9th grade I rekindled my interest in flying saucers. A few years earlier I had posed, for a portrait photographer my mother and uncle had hired, with my first cousin Wenceslao de Irureta Goyena in our Buenos Aires home. We were handling (fondling might be the better word) a couple of model airplanes Wency’s father had made. I am fondling his flying saucer. It was maneuverable, much more so than the normal U-control airplanes he built from scratch.
Radio-controlled model airplanes were in their infancy so the U-control plane was in fashion. The flyer would (after a cohort had started the plane for him or if he himself had done so, the cohort would hold it) with a U-shaped handle which had two very thin but strong wires that were connected to the planes ailerons for up and down movements. Because of the wires the plane could only fly in a circle with my uncle handling it around and managing not to get dizzy until gas gave out and the plane would then be coaxed into a graceful landing.
There were “combat” contests in which two planes would be carefully flown by the two contestants as if the wires of one caught on to the wires of the other… Both planes had long paper streamers attached to the planes’ tail. The idea was to cut the other plane’s streamers with your plane’s propellers. My Uncle Tony’s saucer could do flips at lightning speed. It was the king of the GE Field where enthusiast flew the planes during the weekends.
In the middle 50s somebody has observed (after careful observation) that the real flying saucers somehow affected and modified magnetic fields. During my 9th grade year I built a device that was supposed to spot flying saucers. It consisted of good magnetic compass to which I had attached two electrodes very close on both sides of North. The electrodes were connected to a battery with a ringer. When there was a variance of the magnetic field my always-point-to-the-north compass would vary and the buzzer would ring.
The problem is that the tractor trailers that traveled at night on the nearby Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas where my boarding school was would and did modify the magnetic field near my compass. After a few nights of midnight ringing Brother Vincent de Paul, CSC told me to shut of my flying saucer spotter.
In my 10th grade I bought a Pentacon-F
single lens reflex. The first pictures I remember taking were of our room light that dangled from the ceiling. The reflector with the bulb barley visible from the side, in a darkened room looked like a flying saucer. Of the few negatives that I ever took that I have lost through the years it’s the flying saucer one!
Shortly after my interest in taking pictures of things, even if otherworldly ones waned and I began taking street photographs and from there into my real love of portraiture.
Of my rose and plant scans
my only excuse is that, particularly with my roses, I see them, as them, as people. They are rose portraits.
The idea of taking pictures of lighthouses, trees, telephone posts or interesting cityscapes is anathema.
And yet today at precisely 4:50 PM (I had noticed this scene, a few times on different days, I ran for my Mamiya RB, tripod and loaded the camera with Fuji Instant B+w Fill FP- 3000b and took the picture. The low light scraping through the trees in the garden lit the picture of Philippe Halsman’s book back cover portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe.
I am pleased with the snap even though this is the sort of thing I avoid. On the other had I just wish I had one of those lights hanging from a ceiling…
Friday, March 08, 2013
Sometimes I think I understand how migrating birds feel when we humans “move the goalposts” and they lose their reference.
Two years ago when my wife, my two granddaughters and I drove to south Texas in our Malibu, our friend Paul Leisz insisted in lending us his Dolores (our name for her) GPS device. It helped us a few times but when it failed it failed in such situations as telling us, as we were driving up a ramp of a Texas expressway (their name for a freeway), “Make a U-turn, now!” A couple of other times we ended up on a parking lot instead of the promised Holiday Inn. Hackers now modify hotel locations so that you do not end up where you want to and you get angry and try a competing hotel chain.
I have always prided myself of being a good bird. I can return after many years to a spot and know what was there and when I was there.
|Automotive Pool Hall|
When I drive on Great Northern Way, on my way to drop off film at The Lab, and pass by a private school I know that I was there in the early 90s to photograph an exclusive Chinese club called The Dynasty Club. Around 1993 I took pictures of a group at the Automotive Pool Hall. I am sure it was on Homer Street even though there is one listed now as being on Hamilton Street.
In any case I have many pictures like these which I call Vanished Vancouver.
Streaking On Wreck Beach
Thursday, March 07, 2013
The only sport I have been good at used to be called ping-pong.
Since I was raised in a middle class family in Argentina and in Mexico I was never a member of a family sports club. In Latin America, unless you were rich enough to be a member of such a club, your chances of developing an interest and skill in such sports as tennis or swimming were limited.
I am a terrible (but efficient) swimmer, a lousy football player (and consider that I am Argentine), and I could never swing a bat and hit a fast ball or a slow ball. I may have played 10 games of cricket in my life and one or two attempts at playing rugby. In my late teens I broke damaged a shoulder playing touch football. A couple of years later I remember flagging a cab in Mexico City and then not being able to lower my arm. My shoulder had collapsed.
As a runner I was neither fast nor slow.
For some chess is a sport. I played it for many years and could not sleep nights going over my losing moves. After a while of severe insomnia I realized that the only excuse one had for loosing at chess was stupidity. Loosing often exacerbated my belief that I was an idiot. The less I tell you about my dismal approach to contract bridge, the better.
But besides playing a wicked game of ping-pong (I perfected my style on a table, with the subsequent unsteady deck) of an Argentine Merchant Marine Victory ship, I could, I think join the Vancouver Sun Run. Except that I loathe running for the sake of running. When I arrived to Vancouver in 1975 I took stroke improvement swimming classes at the Burrard St. YMCA. The classes made me a slightly better swimmer but I never achieved the peerless style of my mother who learned to swim in Manila Bay. Even though I smoked a pipe at the time I was the only one in the swimming class that could swim more lengths underwater. My guess is that living for so many years in Mexico City’s altitude had given my lungs extra capacity to store air.
In short, I am a failure in sports and I have no attraction to watching professional sports. If I were rich I would buy a round-trip ticket to watch a Muncie, Indiana, High School basketball game. I stopped being interested in basketball (all I could ever do in my gym class was to double-dribble) when Oscar Robertson retired and John Havliceck’s beautiful and graceful hook shots were replaced by the unceremoniously ugly dunk.
The purpose of all the above is to give me a justification for running the picture you see here. I have long forgotten her name. I met her at Wreck Beach in the late 70s. She liked to run on the wet sand and do Tai-Chi. She was a post hippie era hippie. I first met her when she approached me wanting to try out my ever present in my mouth pipe. I told her I only smoked tobacco in it. But she tried anyway and we became friends in the casual circumstances that friends could be friends while sunning themselves on Wreck Beach.
One day I pulled my camera and lazily took pictures of her running. One of the pictures was extremely over-exposed so I never attempted to reproduce it in my darkroom as a colour negative. But with my scanner I was able to coax the neg to reveal information that was always there. I kind of like the photograph. I can almost feel the wind in the face and the comforting pleasure of wet sand on the bottoms of my feet.
Doctor Freud & The Dish Thrower
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
Tonight Rosemary and I attended the premiere and opening performance of Marcus Youssef’s How Has My Love Affected You?
The play features Marcus Youssef and his son Zak. The play opened at the Art Club Theatre Company’s Review Stage on Granville Island.
My wife not having met Youssef (I photographed him some years ago), did not know what to expect. I told her, “Whatever it is it will be warm, heartfelt, funny, and in good taste. There will be no shocks.” I almost got it right. You see, after enjoying this one hour and twenty minute autobiographical play, I am not sure if Youssef is the kind of person who throws dishes in the kitchen in anger. I divide the world into those who do and those who don’t. I am in that first category and my wife can tell you how expensive a husband I have been. But that is another story.
Up until now I thought I was one of those few who know what Rachel Ditor (listed as director and dramaturg) does at the Arts Club Theatre Company.
She is the resident dramaturg (pronounced by Ditor to rhyme with burg). A dramaturg is the liaison between the playwright and a play’s director. As a go-between the dramaturg helps the director ready a play for the needs (and constraints) of a theatrical company and the vision of the director. The vision of the director does not always agree with that of the playwright. Think of the relationship between an author and an editor, with the dramaturg being a special super/literary/agent/facilitator.
With that said imagine what Ditor’s job is here. Youssef besides being a playwright he is also a considerably skilled director. Ditor as Dramaturg has to facilitate between… and by now you see what a convoluted mess this could be. Which it really isn’t, as Ditor and Youssef have managed quite well to mount a play that pleased not only this reviewer, but also this reviewer’s wife who usually does not like anything.
The play is all about Youssef’s relationship with his mother, a very unusual one with a penchant for writing everything down. That she ends up in a BC facility for the elderly suffering from dementia, is the tragic thread of the play. It is a funny play but Rosemary and I (she almost 70) and I, 70, also considered the tragedy of wondering if we will end our days vaporized in a Dreamliner or physically alive but with no memory to recognize our loved ones.
In How Has My Love Affected You?
Youssef takes us through the relationship he had with his mother, ably helped by his talented son Zak, who on keyboard and with an unusual voice and diction, set some of his grandmother’s writings to song (music composed by Veda Hille).
Youssef, whose father was an Egyptian could easily be an Argentine. After all he still seems to consult his therapist Michael whom he affectionately (really? I am not sure) calls Doctor Freud. In my country of birth Freud and his disciple Jung are up there with the Trinity in importance.
As I attempt to box all the hundreds of photographs (in sizes ranging from snapshots, to 5x7s, 8x10s, 11x14s and 16x20s; as I attempt to file my thousands of negatives, as I contemplate my over 4000 books, as I look at my over 500 hostas in my garden and other detritus of my 70 year existence, the play has put me into a panic mode. Like Youssef’s grandfather I have become obsessed in making a will. Unlike that grandfather I don’t plan to threaten to cut off any of my family.
For one hour and twenty minutes we were entertained, beautifully and charmingly but as I write this I can only wonder if Youssef himself has boxes and boxes of stuff. I grieve for him. And as I thought of his hate/love relationship with his mother I wondered if he ever broke any dishes in the kitchen. Did she? I think so. There is only one person who would know for sure, besides Zak and his sister Cynthia. That would be Amanda, Youssef’s wife. I have the suspicion that she is a silent and suffering woman with lots of patience.
That charming and soft-spoken Youssef throws them. Does he store the pieces in boxes? I bet he does. Did he love his mother? He surely did.
Kudos to the dramaturg, director, go-between and perhaps just as patient as Amanda. Rachel Ditor.
Others in red shawl series
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
Lady Godiva by Sir William Reid Dick
Lumps to hearts of old men
The Car Wash - Autolavado
Monday, March 04, 2013
A Portraitist Not
Sunday, March 03, 2013
When we arrived to Vancouver in 1975 with the idea that I was going to become a photographer, and a famous one, things did not happen as I thought they would.
I remember going to London Drugs to try to get a job in the camera department. I had put down in my application form that I was a portraitist. The irate manager dismissed me with a very loud, “You dare call yourself a portraitist? I went to Carleton and I don’t call myself a portraitist.” While that was a beginning and end to my would-be job as a counter clerk at London Drugs, I did work as a counter clerk for Tilden-Rent-A-Car (“In Canada that’s Tilden,” I was forced to say on the phone).
|Black Jim's Girl|
Such was my exasperation and exhaustion at working shifts on Alberni and Thurlow that I frequented Wreck Beach a lot. My wife Rosemary says I wasted many hours of my life there. I have felt rather guilty about it and yet I learned lots. As I go through my file “Wreck Beach” I found these pictures of Black Jim and his girl (he was always Black Jim and his girl was His Girl). They have many flaws like crops at wrists and undisguised armpit folds and other things that I would avoid like the plague today. I now know, perhaps because I whiled away all those sunny mornings and afternoons at Wreck Beach that it was not all in vain.
I don’t call myself a portraitist now because I don’t like the sound of it. And Black Jim's girl did get a few cuts on her back because of my awful idea of taking her picture with her back to metal shavings.