A Photographic Tidbit For A Cloudy Day
Saturday, May 04, 2013
There is a lot of practical photographic info in my decaying brain. Unfortunately in an age of youth (all ages are the age of youth) I will die with most of this info disappearing into the ether as electricity in my synapses fades to zero.
One of the most practical of these photographic tidbits is that you never photograph a garden in the full daylight of a sunny day. Sunny days are good for tanning or for sitting on my garden bench with Rosemary’s cat Casi-Casi. To properly get all the shades of gray (in b+w or shades of green in colour) you need a nice cloudy day. If it is a bright cloudy day it is not quite as good but it will serve the purpose as it did here with these pictures that I took with my Noblex swivel lens panoramic. I used two different Ilford films, FP-4 Plus and Delta Pro. The image with the circular path is of the latter film. I now understand that for humans (of the unclothed kind) the latter film will produce a smoother skin. But for sharpness FP-4 is the better choice.
Friday, May 03, 2013
There are some pleasures to be had knowing one will be sequestered in a BC Ferry
to Salt Spring Island today. I know that I am taking that particular one that seems to stop everywhere before it takes me to my destination at Long Harbour.
I remember the first time, some years ago when I went on that ferry to photograph artist Robert Bateman. Curiously I noticed that cars that were parked in the ferry did not face in same direction. I soon found out about the chaos that was to happen (a chaos that I believe has been ironed out) where one or two cars ended up pointing in the opposite direction from the terminal at Mayne Island
(or perhaps another) and careful jockeying to avoid fender benders had to be performed to turn those errant cars around.
I happened to know the ferry captain and on the bridge I told him about Bateman. I remember him saying, “He lives right there where he can see us every time we pass by. I will blow the ship’s whistle and you can wave at him.”
Being sequestered on a BC Ferry to Salt Spring Island means I can sit in a remote corner of the vessel to read without any interruption. This is indeed a real pleasure that I accompany with a couple of hard-boiled eggs, some carrot and celery sticks and a large mug of very strong tea.
My intention this time around was to read The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
. This is a two-volume memoir I have wanted to read for a long time. I went to the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library yesterday to secure a copy but only to find out that all copies were out and what remained were two second editions from the 19th century. They were much too precious to lend out. But the kind librarian let me handle them.
Here is the first paragraph of the preface:
“Man proposes & God disposes.” There are but few important events in the affairs of men brought about by their own choice."
Mount MaGregor, NY, July 1, 1885
And the first line of the first chapter reads:
My family is American, and has been for generations, in all its branches, direct and collateral.
The memoirs will have to wait for another BC Ferry sequestration. For the present journey I have chosen Daddy Love
by Joyce Carol Oates
(published on January of this year and I must add that in a previous ferry trip to take my material for the show at the Duthie Gallery
I read her fabulous Accursed )
and a 1902 edition of Oliver Wendell Holmes’s The Professor at the Breakfast Table
with illustrations by H.M. Brock.
Meanwhile as I read on that ferry I will think forward about the warmth I will find with Celia Duthie
and Nick Hunt
at their B&B
and Duthie Gallery. Where else can you have a room with a pile of New Yorkers by your bedside?
And perhaps I will have a pleasant chat with my friend and author CC Humphreys
The Bishop and rice pudding on the BC Ferries
The Honda Civic gets a flat on its way to Salt Spring Island
A Service Piece
Thursday, May 02, 2013
Few in our present world understand how journalism works. They do not understand how magazines and newspapers earn money. And even fewer would ever appreciate the almost absolute objective manner in which Walter Cronkite read the news on TV.
We know that CNN is not doing well in attempting to give a balanced view of news. Those on the right in the US gravitate to Fox News and those on the left to MSNBC. Neither of those are objective. You tune in to what you want to hear. My Rosemary and I want to listen to Rachel Maddow because we are lefties. We do not watch any Canadian news on any Canadian TV channels. I get my Canadian news on CBC Radio when I drive. The most serious bit of journalism, particularly of journalism that few others tend to tread is The Debaters
. They are funny but they discuss topics untouched by most other media.
I often listen to BBC News on TV but I have to admit that when those who read the news want to be objective the going can be boring. And it seems that no matter at what time of the day I tune into BBC I get the Asian Business Report.
Rosemary and I read the Vancouver Sun
(delivered) in conjunction with our NY Times
(delivered every day). I tend not to read news on the computer because I find that there are very interesting stories (as an example) on the Sunday Style section that I might otherwise miss if I look at the on line version of the paper. On the other hand I do understand that I lose out (but I don’t because I have a free subscription to the on line NY Times) with slide shows particularly in the excellent Friday edition of the arts. There is a separate one (not in the film, theatre, TV or dance) that is all about museums, art galleries and exhibitions.
Having worked for magazines and newspapers before the advent of the everything is free on the net journalism I have a bit of an edge (and inside one) on how those magazines and newspapers of that past paid salaries and made money, enough to pay printers, delivery with enough left over to make a profit.
There was always supposed to be a separation between the editorial side of a publication and the side of sales where salespeople went out to sell adds.
Just like it is no accident that a James Bond film may be only populated by Fords, or Chryslers, product placing has existed in print publications for years. It is no accident that a travel piece (done with supreme objectivity) on Hawaii might have on the same page an airline ad with flights to Hawaii.
I remember meeting a young and idealistic journalist called Les Wiseman. He was just out of UBC and believed in that sacrosanct division between journalism and the selling of ads.
I remember walking with him one day in the early 80s to a lighting store on Burrard and Davie where he was going to have a look (and I was to photograph) a light fixture made to resemble the Starship Enterprise. He was going to write about it in what in those days we used the euphemistic term of a service piece. A service piece was supposed to look like journalism, independent journalism and the writer would write (most seriously) about the best light fixture for your home. I remember telling Wiseman, “What’s next, track lighting?” He became very angry and I seem to recall that he punched me.
It became evident to all of us in the particular magazine (Vancouver Magazine) that the service piece was important in getting ads. More ads meant room for real journalism. It meant articles (Rick Ouston was one of the contributors to this sort of thing) on the health (or not) of our local newspapers. Article on track lighting enabled the magazine to run stuff dear to Wiseman’s soul.
But even then we noticed magazines that seemed to have articles written by the same few writers and the photographs either had not credit or were by the same photographer. It did not take long for us to figure out that these magazines went to local businesses and asked this question, “How would you like us to profile your lighting company in an issue dedicated to lighting. The article will be written by our best writer and our photographer will make you look good.” It was then understood that the lighting company owner would have to pay.
I worked for such a magazine. It was called Achievers
and it was a copy of what was then Vancouver's most expensive magazine (I worked for that one, too) which was called Nuvo
. As an example Nuvo published a story on diamonds. The South African company De Beers sent the magazine editor on a junket to South Africa. The company then provided the magazine with beautiful photographs of diamond making and of diamonds. The article was an exclusive one.
In real journalism, those who are interviewed are never paid nor do they pay. The exception all these years have been exclusive interviews given by rapist, or kidnap victims, etc.
At about the Starship Enterprise time we knew and even participated in travel junkets. In these junkets, Los Angeles publicists gave Vancouver writers complementary tickets to travel to LA (hotels included, etc) and then these writers would attend press conferences with famous movie actors or directors. The deal was to place your tape recorder (with other journalists’ tape recorders) on a table and then you might get to ask one or two questions. You would then publish in Vancouver “Exclusive interview with Harrison Ford.”
When these junkets just about ceased the phoner became the important method for impartial journalism. Some writers, from serious publications would be up front and mention that the exclusive interview was indeed on a phone. Others used the method (mostly not understood by those who read papers now), “Speaking to Clint Eastwood from his kitchen in LA I could hear his poodle barking outside.” That’s a phoner! There is no eye to eye contact. Worse still are the email interviews. Can you be sure that the person who says he is Harrison Ford is Ford?
Is it a coincidence that both the Vancouver Sun
and the NY Times
on a given day will have reviews of the same films? Globalization has helped standardize the news. It is all mostly the same (except of course Rachel Maddow or Maureen Dowd).
All the above, yes, all the above, is but an overture for the justification for plunking photographs of two lovely women wearing glasses.
It was early in the 80s when I was dispatched to take photographs of people wearing glasses sold exclusively in a very fashionable store on Robson called Optique 2000. This was not a fashion shoot (I was deemed not to have the talent for that sort of thing) but a service piece. I enquired if the magazine would pay those who posed with the glasses. I was told, emphatically, “No.” I had an idea. I convinced two very beautiful exotic dancers to pose for me. They did and I was very happy with the pictures as was the magazine art director, Rick Staehling.
But for months after I was asked by all sorts of people where I had found my models. I was mum about it but secretly proud that we had pulled it off successfully.
Lumps to the throats of strong men
Two Poles & An Irish Lass
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
In my past and recent past one of the most thrilling reasons for being a photographer was the prospect of meeting someone I did not know, whom I had to photograph for a newspaper or magazine. Usually the publicist would say, “Alex you are going to have at the most 3 minutes.”
|Balthus without Marsden|
Many of those situations I did with three very good journalists, Christopher Dafoe (for the Globe & Mail
), John Lekich (for the Georgia Straight
) and Les Wiseman (for Vancouver Magazine
. All three of them gave me permission (and this was not standard with other journalists of the time) to be present during the interview (usually a fine Vancouver hotel). This gave me the opportunity to size up my subject and to look for mannerisms or how the moved their hands. While this was going on I would set up by big medium format camera in a corner and the lights. Once the interview was over my subject was handed over to me. I had to do my thing in three or four minutes. But many a time we provincial Vancouverites managed to charm the subjects and they would linger and chat.
|Nude in Repose, Balthus 1977|
There was one that I remember quite fondly. Dafoe was interviewing film director Krzysztof Kieslowski in the Hotel Vancouver Sun Room. The man was chain smoking and he did not look well. In fact he died a year and a half later. When he was ready for me I slipped a green filter in front of my Mamiya 140 mm lens. Kieslowski, with a smile on his face said, “I know how to light and I know what you are doing. You are using that filter to darken the reds on my face and make me look older and have more character. I approve of your choice!”
Today I had something similar happen. I was going to meet up with a person, in this case a woman I had photographed many times before. But there was one difference; she was coming to my house to pose for my Mamiya loaded with Fuji Instant Black & White Film FP-3000B. I was going to allow myself at the most three shots (in fact I took five) to get one shot and the accompanying Fuji negative peel that tomorrow will be placed in a frame at Final Touch Frames that is waiting for me with the two slots, one for the Fuji picture and the other for the peel. This frame will be up in my show at the Duthie Gallery that opens this Saturday. The work will have today’s date on it.
Bronwen Marsden, my subject called me a bit before she arrived and sounded giggly, perhaps pleasantly happy. I told her, “How can you be so unstressed when we have to take a picture that has to good enough to be framed tomorrow?” Her answer, which did not belie her confidence (she has it in spades), was, “Alex we always think of something.”
When she arrived she sat in the living room and told me, “Why don’t we do one of those shots where you use another artist for inspiration. I gave her two books, The Edward Hopper Sketchbook
and the Taschen edition of Balthus
by Gilles Néret. She gave me the choice of four pictures and I picked Balthus’s 1977 Nude In Repose. I thought that Bronwen’s red and white striped shirt would clash beautifully with the Balthus nude wearing a white shirt. Another interesting clash is the fact that Bronwen’s upper chest is generous in nature.
We did not find a wing chair like the one in the Balthus painting but one that is a fine antique wooden one. I placed it in front of the dining room table with the display of my soon to be spotted erotic 8x10s. I snapped a clothed one to see if it all was fine. It wasn’t as her chest area was over-exposed. I had to feather (upwards) my one light. And that was it. The fifth exposure was the one.
What you see here is the fully clothed negative peel as I gave the positive photograph to Bronwen to take home.
The real one will be at the show this Saturday. It is so much fun to be challenged to shoot on demand without the thought of failure. And coincidentally both Krzysztof Kieslowski and Count Balthasar Michel Klossowski de Rola are both Polish.
Balthus, Helen & a hole in the ground
Judith Currelly - Artist - Pilot
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
My Mother's Red Shawl - El Rebozo Colorado
Judith Curelly - Artist - Pilot
Georgina Elizabeth Isles
Author/Lawyer/Assistant DA Travis County TX
Brother Edwin Charles Reggio, CSC
Mentor & Teacher
Raúl Guerrero Montemayor
Yeva & Thoenn Glover
André De Mondo
- Real Estate Agent
Johnna Wright & Sascha
Director/Mother - Son/Dreamer
Decker & Nick Hunt
Cat & 19th century amateur
Vancouver Sun Columnist
Statesman, Flag Designer
Vancouver Sun Columnist
Lauren Elizabeth Stewart
Monday, April 29, 2013
|Rosa 'Wild Edric' |
Because of my show at the Duthie Gallery
this last week I have been unable to fill all the missing blog slots. This one in particular is being posted today May 11, and not on the April 29 date showing. But what is important is that today I noticed that in the heels of Rosa sericea subsp. omeienses var. pteracantha
(the first rose to bloom in my garden this year) is the English Rose, Rosa
‘Wild Edric’. It has rugosa in it so these extremely hardy plants are usually early. But best of all they have (and Wild Edric does, too) intense fragrance. There is something about smelling my first rose of the season that is so refreshing and invigorating.
I usually suspend my scanned roses with a dark green bamboo stick over the scanner glass so that the rose almost, but not quite, touches the glass. But when I don’t, and for this scan I purposely had it a bit above, the resulting image has a painterly quality that I like. The rose looks soft and feminine (sorry any feminists out there) which belies the reality that this is a huge rose with many prickles and which I must handle with leather gloves.
Rosemary - My Faithful Companion
Sunday, April 28, 2013
|Rosemary & Alexandra|
This morning as my Rosemary was putting on makeup in preparation of my taking her to the VanDusen Plant Sale where she will be in the Master Gardener’s booth I told her, “I am so glad that you are here. I cannot conceive of being alone without you.”
As per her usual Scottish/Canadian heritage self she said nothing. If anything I would describe my wife as being an intensely interior, almost hermetic kind of woman. And yet I have noticed in our 45 years of marriage that what she thinks, I think, what I say publicly is most often what she says in her head.
If there is a big difference between us it has to be my pretentions of being an artist, and that as such I cannot retire, stay in bed, read books and wtd (wait to die).
I am having a show at the Duthie Gallery
which opens on May 4. I am not too sure if my wife will make the trek with me to Salt Spring Island.
I have had many shows in the past that included or where only about the undraped female. For some time she urged me to have a show of my “famous” people. I tried to explain that for one of those shows I had invites that featured my portrait of Sting
A man called me and asked, “Did you really photograph Sting?”
Another time I was very happy with an Equity Magazine
cover of Edgar Kaiser
. It was my era of carrying a pager. I received an urgent page, “Are you the man who photographed Edgar Kaiser?” I was thinking, “Finally I am going to land an lucrative portrait assignment!” The man then asked, “Could you tell me where Kaiser purchased the chess set you photographed him with?”
Fame and fortune will not come in my direction with my portraits of now mostly dead people. Fame photographs have to be of the presently famous.
Now my scans of my roses and other plants from my garden and converted into exquisite giclées by Grant Simmons at DISC have been generally admired and wowed. But with the exception of one that I sold to lawyer Christopher Dafoe to decorate (splendidly I might add here, subjectively) his office, have not been purchased by anybody. There seems to be a negative reticence of protest from those I tell that they are not photographs but scans. Then they think I’m a looney when I further inform them that my roses talk to me and tell me when to cut them for the scan. They have no concept of the idea of scanning plants that one grows.
Then there are my erotic photographs. People stare at them and few make any comments. It could be part of that Scottish/Canadian heritage that my wife so splendidly keeps to herself.
I am not sure if my Rosemary understands the artistic imperative (as my imperative in having to pun when I have the opportunity). I remember reading at least 20 years ago in Time that punning was a specific disease of the mind. Those who have it cannot but pun. Why have painters, sculptors and photographers so often painted the nude human figure? I call it an imperative.
To be very fair my wife has allowed me without much vocal objection to my taking pictures of undraped women all these years. She has not threatened to divorce me or given me any ultimatums. Of this I am very grateful. I wish she might understand. But then she just might understand but keeps it internal.
Just a few days ago I told her that I had sent some of my recent erotic files to a photographer friend. I told Rosemary, “I expected some kind of comment or opinion. There was nothing.” Rosemary said, “Perhaps he is tired of your constant theme.”
At the very least when I am present at my opening, accompanied by Rosemary or not, I will not feel ashamed or concerned about the pictures on the wall. I will know that in person or not Rosemary is always there.