Who Will Be First?
Saturday, May 18, 2013
A year before my friend Abraham Rogatnick
died he knew he was going to. He had decided at the time not to prolong his treatment for prostate cancer. He didn’t tell his friends and soldiered on with his life. It was a year before he died when he gave me the almost life size Mexican papier-mâché skeleton. Attached to Pancho (the name I gave it) was and is a hangman’s noose. Rogatnick would display Pancho on his front porch every Halloween.
Pancho sits prominently in a beautiful antique Windsor arm chair in our dining room and he is frequently a subject of my portraits as the three you see here.
|Rebecca Stewart & Pancho|
Rosemary has been away in Lillooet now for almost a week and today (Friday) she called to say that she might not take the Pemberton to Vancouver bus until Sunday.
Meanwhile the cats are in an uproar as their status quo (as well as mine) has been disrupted. They seem to want to eat more often. Plata’s situation may be due to her old age as she is 14. She could either have worms or probably the more likely thyroid/kidney issue that affects cat of her age. I am taking Plata to see her vet Peter Lekkas
at the SPCA. He told me to prevent her from going to her litter box today. I fed her in the morning and put her outside. She has been meowing since to come in. I will eventually have to subject her to putting her into our cat cage to take her for her
appointment at two. I cringe with the stress she will be subjected.
The weather is coldish and semi cloudy. I look out into our beautiful garden with an unsettled sense of loneliness.
It is obvious that like Rogatnick both Rosemary and I have a date with death. Am I being most selfish in wishing to go first so that I will not have to experience the kind of loneliness I feel now because she is not here? Should I be a gentleman and wish her death first so that she will not experience this?
|Ivette Hernandez & Pancho|
|Rebecca & Lauren Stewart & Pancho|
The Photographer Photographed
Friday, May 17, 2013
As a photographer I used to dislike being photographed because I felt I was not in control. I have also been quite self-conscious about my crooked smile which I inherited from my mother and passed on to my youngest daughter Hilary. But in the last 10 years, I have welcomed (or at least tolerated) having my picture taken because I am not in control. This means that I can sit or stand to pose without contributing anything unless I am instructed. I find comfort in letting go and not worrying.
Some years ago I photographed photographer Yukiko Onley upon the request of a European admirer. I have no idea if he ever liked my photographs. I took pictures of Onley in my garden. I remember her putting her hand into her handbag and bringing out a tightly rumpled little piece of material. She unfastened it and it became the wonderful dress you see here. I believe Onley purchased it in Venice and it was made of raw silk.
Why The NDP Lost - A Rank Amateur's View
Thursday, May 16, 2013
At last count since I came to Canada in 1975 I have photographed one prime minister, three senators, six Vancouver mayors, seven BC premiers, eleven MLAs, two Federal leaders of the NDP, two leaders of the Provincial NDP, two Surrey mayors, one Burnaby mayor, many Vancouver city councillors and one Whistler mayor.
Somehow from early on I almost exclusively did campaign photographs for both the Federal and Provincial NDP. These jobs came through my involvement with Now Communications
where I got to know its head (now retired) Ron Johnson
. As anybody might suspect most of those campaign contributions of mine netted only four winners, Mike Harcourt, Glen Clark who became premiers, Larry Campbell, Vancouver mayor and Bob Bose
mayor in Surrey.
I remember vividly one day when I was called into Now’s office and asked how I would photograph Mike Harcourt for a campaign poster when he was running for Premier. I suggested that he wear a blue shirt with no tie, that I crop him above the eyebrows so as not to emphasize his baldness and that I set up a studio in his kitchen where he would feel comfortable. To my amazement my suggestions were accepted.
Another time I was asked by designer Ken Hughes to work with him in a campaign package for an engineer, Bob Bose who was running (and did win) for mayor in Surrey. I suggested we photograph him on one side of the fence talking to a farmer on the other side, a Sikh in a wood mill, an old lady in a farmer’s market and a separate portrait of Bose wearing a yellow rain slicker by a red tractor. These photographs had as competition the incumbent mayor sitting at his desk with white shirt and tie. The designer I worked with was Ken Hughes who also at the time was teaching design at Emily Carr.
When Vancouver Magazine’s Malcolm Parry was preparing a story on the influential people of British Columbia (Top Drawer) I told him that since Prime Minister Turner had parachuted to Vancouver Quadra and was an MP, that he should be on the cover. Mac told me, “Go and get him.”
That was not easy as Turner’s campaign manager (Turner was running again) told me bluntly that his man had no time to pose for a city magazine even though after I told him that the magazine would be out a week before the Federal elections.
I called up MP Ron Basford
(I had photographed him a couple of years before and used some Coffee Mate to make his bald head less shiny) in Ottawa and told him of my problem. That evening I received a call from a woman from Turner’s campaign office who told me, “Mr. Turner will pose for you tomorrow morning in his room at the Hotel Vancouver at 8am.
I wanted to photograph the new Vancouver Mayor, Gregor Robertson for a magazine and I had no contacts. I was at a standstill as to what to do. I had photographed Larry Campbell
for his successful campaign for mayor. He was now a senator in Ottawa. I called him and within days I had Mayor Gregor Robertson
in my studio.
I have to reiterate here that I am not a journalist or an expert in politics and that my opinions here represent only those of a photographer who had access to politicians in the intimate quarters of my studio. I have worked with intelligent campaign staffers and two seriously efficient political ad agencies, Now and one run buy Simon Fraser University professor Doug McArthur. Both of those worked in tandem in Larry Campbell’s campaign for Vancouver mayor.
Quite a few of the politicians I photographed for their campaigns lost; among them are Carole James, Alexa MacDonough, Ujjal Dosanjh and Jack Layton.
It was the latter, Jack Layton
of whom I remember in having been an articulate and warm person in my presence who was fun to photograph (not like Glen Clark who was not) and who in going from my studio to an NDP office insisted in carrying much of my equipment.
With all that out of the way as an introduction, not a very good one, as to why this amateur will venture to opine on why the NDP lost to the Liberals (who many remember that these Liberals are actually the old Socreds who were never liberal) on Tuesday.
My wife and I voted early on Saturday because Rosemary was off on Sunday to visit our daughter in Lillooet. We voted at the Sunset Community Centre. There were no lineups and the staff there was friendly, efficient and even fun as one of the persons I dealt with was an Argentine so we spoke in Spanish and compared notes on how in our mother country, voting was not always easy or possible and that the usual entrance to any voting location is usually guarded by either police or soldiers with machine guns We talked about how voting in other countries may involve the danger of being killed by bombs or by bullets.
It seems nice, to this former Argentine and now Canadian citizen that voting in Canada is indeed boring. Boring is good.
One aspect of this election was punctuated for me today Thursday (I am writing today) on page A6 of my Vancouver Sun. There is a picture of Adrian Dix with a half smile looking uncomfortably to his left while waving with his left arm. He looks like an uneasy, shifty, uncomfortable white shirted bureaucrat. Under his picture is a smaller picture of Premier Christy Clark in her suit, open collar and a chain necklace. She looks (also glancing to her left) comfortable and her smile is a believable one.
I cite here what to me is a sort of reverse sexism. How can a man in tie and white shirt compete with the warm image of a friendly woman with a beautiful smile? Is this unfair (for the male politician)?
I know nothing of Dix but having met Mike Farnworth a few times I believe Farnworth would have made the better candidate regardless of where he was exactly re his home closet. Three of the most intelligent politicians (and warm, too) that I have photographed, Carole James
, Alexa MacDonough and former NDP MP and MLA Dawn Black
I found to be intelligent and interesting. Surely Carole James might have been a better candidate to compete with Christy Clark.
My amateur analysis here is that I believe that the NDP did not deal with a seriously good ad agency like Now which would have had the expert advice of Ron Johnson who could have been lured back from retirement. There is no denying that Dix chose Brian Topp, a political expert, who guided Jack Layton’s federal breakthrough in 201. But as Michael Smyth in today’s Vancouver Province writes (so very nicely), “Adrian Dix is no Jack Layton. While Layton was friendly and engaging on the campaign trail, Dix was about as warm and fuzzy as a porcupine in an ice bath.” Image does count as this photographer can attest with at least a bit of experience.
A campaign that might have been run by Now and which would have hired a good political photographer (who could that be?) would have produced results that this week would have proven Angus Reid Public Opinion
right and not wrong.
But take the above with a grain of salt; after all I am only a photographer.
Cream In My Tea & My Comb In Its Place
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
|Ahuehuete tree, El Paseo de los Filósofos|
Bosque de Chapultepec
There are those little things that my Rosemary notices before I do. This morning (Rosemary is visiting our daughter in Lillooet) when I poured some milk into my tea I noticed that it had some little lumps. The milk was about to turn. I knew it but I forgot. Rosemary would have known. As I write this (it is Tuesday evening) I am drinking an unsatisfying mug of tea in which I have poured a tad amount of cream. It is terrible. I can taste the cream. Cream and tea were never to be together.
I might attempt to shave one morning and the razor might be dull. I ask Rosemary and she will invariably say, “I bought some new blades for you. They are in the second drawer.”
My socks are lovingly joined, my boxer shorts folded neatly in a drawer. Rosemary has the uncanny talent of losing socks so after a few months there is a basket of orphan socks. This problem has mostly been solved by having purchased 10 pairs of identical socks at Mark’s Work Warehouse.
Rosemary does our finances, fills out our tax forms. And she is always there. What does she get in return?
I complain all the time. I complain that she nags me all the time. I complain that she does not eat well and unless I cook she will not eat properly. I complain that she does not sew so I have to sew on my buttons and hem my jeans. I complain that she takes my combs and loses all our scissors. I complain that she is nervous all the time and that means that I cannot be nervous. I complain that she will return in the evening and the next morning I will notice that car has no gas.
When she is away our phone conversations are so tender that thankfully phone sex has only been that. Had it been otherwise we would have at least a dozen children by now.
Plata (my cat), Casi-Casi (her cat) and I miss her lots because she is away. The house is uncommonly quiet even though Rosemary is quiet by nature.
When I add some cream to my tea tomorrow morning and perhaps get enough energy to go and buy milk I will know all that I lose, all that I do not have when Rosemary is not here. Our cats would concur.
A Bittersweet Play About Journalistic Ideals Made Me Smile
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Last Friday, Rosemary and I attended Mark Leiren-Young’s Never Shoot a Stampede Queen
(starring Zachary Scott and directed by T.J. Dawe) at the Arts Clubs Granville Island Stage. The play is based on his book by the same name and winner of The Leacock Medal for Humour.
On Saturday I read Shelley Fralic’s Weekend Review
essay, In Reverence of writing – and newspapers in the Vancouver Sun.
That evening it dawned on me that Mark Leiren-Young and Shelley Fralic are idealistic birds of a feather.
The former who worked as a reporter of the Williams Lake Tribune
until 1986 (as a young journalist right out of UBC) had the ambition to one day work for a big city newspaper.
The latter works for a big city newspaper that is becoming thinner in content as newspapers attempt to find a solution that circumvents the mantra of the 21st century – the best stuff has to be free.
I do not know Mark Leiren-Young that well but I know him enough to state here that I have never seen him without a smile on his face. Such is his bubbly personality that if I were a woman married to him and I had to wake up to such a positive view of life I would divorce him on the spot. I have an arrangement with my wife that we don’t talk while having our daily breakfast in bed while we read our Vancouver Sun and our NY Times (both as real-ink-in-your fingers versions).
The play was funny at times - after all Mark Leiren-Young has been known for writing humorous essays and or standing up at comedy clubs. But the play was also not funny, and extremely serious when I came to understand to what degree the play was fully autobiographical.
Zachary Stevenson, who had the young Clint Eastwood mannerisms down pat, played the young man right out of journalism school who finds out the hard way that idealism has to be put away in the back pocket if one is to write for a small town newspaper.
Stevenson quickly finds how bribes, corruption and the status quo are what keep a town’s functions running smoothly by those who are in power. As in many other small communities (that I have attended in my stint as a artist/teacher for the now defunct program Outreach Program of Emily Carr and as a annual report photographer for logging operations and pulp mills in Western Canada) it was evident that Native Canadians were under the radar of most them.
Everything about Never Shoot a Stampede Queen rang true to me. I remember once going to teach photography in one of the interior communities whose name begins with Fort. I was warned by Nini Baird (then in charge of the Outreach Program of Emily Carr) that one of my students was the editor of the town’s paper and that she would probably smoke pot in class. She did.
Another time in Prince George, it was a Friday night, I watched snow swirl outside in the highway and I was completely depressed. The music from the stripper bar downstairs was not promising. I switched on the TV and I was saved by Clint Eastwood, and
Ruth Gordon in Every Which Way but Loose
Another playwright may have written a play that would have been hilariously funny. But Mark Leiren-Young instead chose to give us a play from his heart. A man of ideals who believes in truth in journalism (particularly investigative journalism) will not make us laugh just to make us laugh. There has to be more than that if our present state of affairs will ever improve.
It is my hope that Mark Leiren-Young never forgets to smile and that Shelley Fralic (who says she is an optimist) will still be around to see people across her vast newsroom.
And if she happens to see that freelancer who writes theatrical reviews cross the newsroom (with a big smile), acknowledge him as both of you are optimists.
Listening To Music - A Lonely Experience
Monday, May 13, 2013
No hay mal que por bien no venga.
That translates to a bad thing comes your way for a good reason.
On Saturday night after our Mother’s Day dinner I noticed that my CD player had gone through the last tune of Bill Evans – Conversations with Myself.
I put one another CD, Trevor Pinnock – Bach Partitas
and my player told me I had forgotten to insert a CD. This was not the case. I inserted another CD and the same indication was there. It was then that I knew that my Sony CD player was toast.
In our home the CD player is not the only method to listening to music although we discount ever listening to anything on the net with our computer’s tinny speakers. I have an extensive record collection and a very good tape player that I purchased for a song at The Captain’s on Alma and Broadway. The Captain opted for politics instead of selling good used stereo systems. He closed his store and disappeared.
I did have a third option. I have a tuner and I must state here that a tuner, no matter what people might tell you, is not just a radio.
I chose to play tapes and I started with Art Bergmann’s 1991 Polygram recording Art Bergmann
. From there I went for The Modern Jazz Quartet & Guests: Third Stream Music
and Ron Carter
playing Bach’s Cello Suites on pizzicato string base.
Then I opened the lid of my Sony linear tracking turntable and played Brubeck & Mulligan- Live In Concert
, New Fantasy – Lalo Schifrin
and a very old but still playable Argentine pressing of Dizzy Gillespie y Los Dobles Seis de Paris.
The experience was pleasant except I began to mull on the idea that when I listen to music these days I know of nobody who shares my tastes or even if they do, will they be willing to sit with me in the living room. The idea of waiting for the trombone part in Ravel’s Bolero
with someone besides yourself seems to be an alien experience in these days of personal play lists, ear buds and one’s cell phone.
I associate Stan Getz’s beautiful Focus
(with arrangements or composition by Eddie Sauter) and Jazz Samba
with intense darkroom printing with my friend Robert Hijar back in the early 60s in Mexico City.
My first memory of listening to music by myself was when my girl friend Corina left for England from Buenos Aires in 1965. I went home after waving her goodbye on the dock of Puerto Nuevo and played Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue
, over and over until I became so depressed it almost felt good.
Five or six years ago before my friend architect Abraham Rogatnick died; he, my friend Graham Walker and I sat in my living room after lunch to listen to Handel’s Julio Cesare
live from the Met. It was a Saturday.
Rosemary prefers the bed to sitting in our spacious living room that has a pair of excellent JBL studio monitors on one end. I listen to music, not too often, alone. The music takes me to my past and I think of shared memories with people dead or living somewhere else.
My friend Paul Leisz told me to skip going to London Drugs and to try the Future Shop for a new CD player. He did warn me that I might have to buy either a DVD player or a Blue Ray DVD player.
At the Future Shop I was met (I had to really try hard to get their attention and consider that since it was 30 minutes before closing on a Sunday I was the only customer) by surly, bored, unhelpful and badly informed attendants. I was shown a compact CD player with a radio and two square speakers. “This is all we have.” I tried the home sound area and the two employees there stared at me and kept chatting. I left for London Drugs. There for $24 I purchased a Sylvania DVD player. It does not have all the buttons my Sony CD player had but I can go from one tune to the next or skip with the remote. How about that? Twenty four dollars for a unit that includes a remote? Yes!
Rosemary went to Lillooet for a week with our daughter Ale who teaches school there. Sunday night was an evening of listening to my new CD (DVD) player and randomly picking music that was all over the place. It was fun but it was a lonely experience.
It has to be a sign of the times we live in.
Remember Her Name
Sunday, May 12, 2013
|Art Bergmann, March 11, 2009|
Remember Her Name
Her first breath
Is drawn through a cigarette
Her first drink
Last night’s scotch
Just to wet her cracked lips
She looks at the man beside her
Lying in the bed
She doesn’t know his name
She only hopes he’s not dead
She feels like
She hopes at the end of the day
Someone remembers her name
She goes out for some late afternoon work
Down in Times Square
Maybe she’ll meet Steven Tyler
On a double dare
Turning tricks in a theater
She’s a creature
In her own double feature
She feels like
She hopes at the end of this day
Someone remembers her name
At the end of the day
Remember her name
It’s Marianne Faithfull
On a good day
On a bad day
From: Art Bergmann, 1991
Guitar & vocals Art Bergmann
Live 2013 version