Jennifer Landels - Espadachina
Saturday, August 17, 2013
My Mother's Red Shawl - El Rebozo Colorado
Jennifer Landels - Espadachina
I am wearing two borrowed garments. The doublet is a man’s, the sleeves too long,
the shoulders too wide. The shawl that
once belonged to Alex’s mother is, by contrast, an entirely feminine piece of
attire: versatile, soft, elegant and
practical. Red is the colour of
blood. To some it speaks of death, but
to me it’s the colour of womanhood and birth.
My first instinct is to tie the rebozo for carrying a baby, but my
babies are almost grown up, too big to be carried, and, I hope, too young to
give me grandchildren just yet.
Instead I fold it in sharp lines and wear
it like a sash, or a baldric. It is
meant to look military, to go with the sword and dagger, the man’s jacket, the
braggadocio of a duellist. But even
folded, its edges are soft, and the feminine red is deeper and stronger than
all the black and steel. It will not be
disguised even though I wrap myself in men’s clothing and violent hobbies. It
feels like a badge of honour, for motherhood.
Motherhood and swordfighting are two
extremes on the spectrum of who I am, but in between are many more aspects of
me: artist, doula, musician, gardener, dancer, equestrian and writer. This list is not comprehensive but those are
the colourful spikes. If I could narrow the list down, focus on only one or
two, I might someday achieve mastery, but it would be at the expense of who I
I am content to eschew focus, to spread my
energies through the broad spectrum rather than the narrow band. The jacket is appropriate, for I seem to be a
Renaissance woman: jack of all trades,
master of none; versatile and changeable, like the rebozo.
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
Jeff Gin At Leo's & My Fuji X-E1 Digital Camera
Friday, August 16, 2013
|Jeff Gin at Leo's with my Fuji X-E1|
It was in the summer of 1999 that I
especially remember how they saved me from failure in a difficult assignment. I went to the
shop in need of quick help. Chris Dahl, the best art director I ever dealt with
in my career as a magazine photographer insisted that I photograph a Canadian filmmaker
with an expensive Arriflex camera. The filmmaker himself did not have one so I
went to Panavision to see if I could rent one for a day. At that time Vancouver’s film industry
was humming. All their Arriflexes were out. Leo’s was my last hope. I enquired
and I was quickly given a choice of several models. I was then told, “Alex, we
know you. You do not need to sign anything. We know you will return it.” And
that was that.
|The Leo's Arriflex 1999|
Through the years Leo’s has been the place
where I find items that nobody else carries and sometimes I believe that nobody
besides me is in desperate need of.
At Leo’s I have found Kodak Technidol
Developer, a developer long gone anywhere else. If I need a special kind of
right angle cable release? Leo’s naturally.
Today Thursday (I am writing this Thursday
night and posting it Friday) I purchased a digital camera, a Fuji X-E1. Some of
my friends will say, “Finally Alex has purchased a digital camera. He was a
holdout. He is not one anymore.” They would all be wrong.
I would remind them that in early 2006 Leo’s
Jeff Gin sold me the Olympus you see here. It
was not for me. It was for my granddaughter Rebecca who at the time was 9. We
were planning a trip to Morelia,
came along and the Olympus became her first
digital camera. She ushered herself into the modern era seven years before her
This time around it was Jeff, again who
sold me the camera that for better or for worse will change how I see the world
through a viewfinder. Jeff Gin is the
only person I know that even though he is a master of his Mac and all its
ancillary software, he will never tell you, “You have a PC? I can’t help you.”
In fact he has never ever told me as many others have, that I could be deemed
an idiot because I do not own a Mac.
When Jeff brought the big black box I
immediately remember how in 1957 or 1958 a big black box arrived at St. Edward’s
High School PX. Brother Emmett told me, “Alex, you have a package from Olden
Camera’s from New York.”
Inside was my first serious camera, a Pentacon-F with a 50mm F-2.8 Tessar Lens.
My excitement was beyond any
Today’s excitement was a tad muted. I am an
older person. My arthritis certainly prevented me from jumping up in glee. I
put my best poker face and Jeff said, “Do you want me to set it up for you?”
For me Leo’s is the last real camera store in Vancouver. Not because I predict a soon demise. Quite on the contrary, what I mean is that this is the only real camera store that to this veteran of camera stores feels in every way like a camera store should feel. It is packed full from floor to ceiling. And I consider myself one of the few lucky ones to have been invited to the second floor to see the vast area of shelving full of goodies that might just go back to cameras that Timothy O' Sullivan might have salivated over. Those black shirted salesmen (there was a woman year's past) all know their stuff and have not simply memorized camera manuals.
smells the same as New York City’s
Olden Cameras where in the late 70s I bought, in person, my first Chimera soft
box. The combination of metal, some plastic, perhaps the cardboard of film
boxes, the packages of photographic paper, even the smaller supplies of
darkroom chemicals, all combine to create a scent as glorious as Chanel Number 5. It
is a scent that evokes the nostalgia of times when a camera had heft and the
workmanship was viewable and palpable. It evokes times when circuit boards and
firmware were words not in our lexicon.
Somehow Leo’s will soldier on as the place
where if you buy anything (or not!), the Leo’s School of Fine Photography will
beckon for personal lessons at any time and Jeff, and the others who work at
this Vancouver institution, will clue you in.
Will the Fuji X-E1 with its 18 to 55 zoom
work out for me? If it doesn’t I can always blame my wife Rosemary who did
everything possible except point a gun to my head, to push me into the
decision. But experience tells me that Rosemary has always been right so I look
forward to all sorts of excitement in the coming months, especially in Buenos Aires where I will be by the end of September..
Variation On The Same
Thursday, August 15, 2013
In this space I have written a few times on
the ramifications of taking several photographs of the same subject with
similar but different cameras.
It was a couple of years ago where I found
myself one late afternoon on the Grand Canyon’s
North Rim with my wife and two granddaughters. The light was fading fast. Next
to me was a young man with an expensive, zoom-lens-equipped Canon Digital
Single Lens Reflex Camera.
I had several bags and I had with me:
1. Three Nikon FM-2 cameras.
2. One Pentax MX with a wonderfully
corrected 20mm lens.
3. One Mamiya RB-67 Pro SD with three backs
for three different films.
4. One 2¼ inch by 7 inch negative/slide Noblex swivel lens panoramic.
The young man glanced
in my direction and must have thought I was completely crazy.
The idea probably
going in his head is that any one image he shot with his Canon in the RAW
format could be converted to b+w and could then be manipulated to resemble and
old photograph, a high contrast one, a low contrast one, one with
super-saturated colours and so on.
For me to replicate
that I had to choose a camera and select film for the purpose. I had to use
whatever lens I thought I needed while the young man could simply zoom.
I am a few days from
getting my Fuji X-E1 with an 18 to 55 mm zoom (equivalent to 27 to 84mm in the
35mm film format). I am wondering how this camera might destroy or modify my idea that several
images taken with different cameras in which a pause might happen as you pick
up a different camera and or insert a different lens. Since I mostly photograph
people, they might move and if my camera is not on a tripod (and this is the
case when I use my 35mm cameras) the angle of view will be different. Is this
good? Something in me tells me this is a good idea but I cannot prove it.
Illustrating this blog
are four pictures of Lauren taken a month ago on my living room psychiatric couch.
I used and RB-67 Pro SD and a 90 mm lens. One strip (two side by side
transparencies scanned together) was with Fuji Provia 100 ISO slide film. The other
strip was with Ilford FP-4 100 ISO black and white film. What might you think?
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
|Judy Graves - St. James Anglican behind|
For many years Vancouver urban, architecture, and political
writer/columnist Sean Rossiter informed and enlightened the inhabitants of our
city with stories in Vancouver Magazine and the Georgia Straight. For all those
years I took many of the photographs to illustrate his stories. One that I
remember very well is the warm Judy Graves, who had a smile that could melt titanium, who retired this past May after
being an advocate for Vancouver’s
homeless for 30 years.
It was 20 years ago when our city lost
Federal funding for low income and homeless housing. It was at about that time
that rooming houses, cheap hotels and a post Expo 86 boom on condo living that
all added up to the reduction of shelters for the very poor. It was then that
you might run into people sleeping in doorways in some of the better places in
I photographed Graves
November 24, 2004. She is now retired and yet I keep remembering our former
Premier’s Mike Harcourt Premier’s formula for solving the problem, “Build more
It’s so simple. We need many more (not only
one) Judy Graves to tackle this. And of course someone like Sean Rossiter to tells us all about it.
Where we made for this?
Das Rheingold - Wagner - Two Sopranos & Cousin John
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
|Jennifer Ashley - Soprano|
Saturday night I attended ViVace Opera’s
concert production of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold held at St. Mark’s Anglican
I have always defined a true friend as
someone who will help you on moving day. There is a new addition to this maxim
of mine, “A friend is someone who will find no excuse not to accompany you for
any production of Wagner.”
At the end of last night’s performance of
the two-hour-twenty-four-minute opera, soprano Alexandra Hill thanked me
for coming but said, “You came alone.”
I could not tell her that she was wrong and
that I had come with Cousin John’s ghost.
Cousin John Hayward’s father Freddy was my
father’s younger brother. He and Iris had two children, Dianne and John. When I
was serving as a conscript in the Argentine Navy when I was 21 I would often
visit them at tea time as Aunt Iris (pronounced eery-s) made the best deviled
ham in the world. Cousin John, tall, thin, and blonde in his Argentine Army
uniform (he was also doing his military service) resembled one of Hitler’s best
Wehrmacht soldiers. His superiority was obvious as he would look down on me (down that long Hayward nose) as
an uncouth Argentine who had lived in Mexico too long. Cousin John was
cultured and loved not only symphonic music (at the time I loathed it) but was
a fan of opera. He was particularly crazy about Wagner. Cousin John and I had
nothing in common so we didn’t talk much.
Shortly after one of those afternoon teas I
fell in love with an Argentine girl of Jewish/Austrian extraction. Susana loved
me in spite of the fact that I surely was uncouth as I loved jazz and she loved
opera. She commanded me to put on my best (and only) suit as she was going to
take me to the opera. My first opera at the venerable Teatro Colón was Sergei Prokofiev’s Fiery Angel. From my point
of view it wasn’t bad. I preferred our second outing when we saw Christoff Willibald Gluck’s Orfeo
Seeing Plácido Domingo
(a young tenor at the time) in Mexico
City’s Bellas Artes in Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore was
exciting for me. This was around 1974, By the time I came to Vancouver I had come to accept symphonic
music even though I preferred baroque and the smaller string quartets. Having
to photograph opera stars for the Georgia Straight gave me the opportunity to
go to many opera performances and I became a fan. In all that I managed to see
one Wagner opera, The Flying Dutchman.
Cousin John rose
quickly in Buenos Aires in the hierarchy of the
Royal Bank of Canada and was
soon sent with a very good executive position to Toronto. We met several times and for once I
had a few things we could talk about. The last time I saw him during a business
trip to Toronto
he invited me to his beautifully appointed apartment and we watched (believe it
or not!) Wagner excerpts on a very large TV. I had a good time.
A few weeks later I
received a beautiful letter from Cousin John telling me that we were finally
more than just first cousins but friends, too.
A year later he died. I felt sad but good that we had
resolved our distances in the end.
Last night was my
first full-fledged Wagner opera in spite of the fact that it was not at the
Colón. It was in a church and the instrumental music backing the singers was a
single piano, most ably and beautifully played by Luke Housner.
Housner is a gentle,
soft-spoken man whose Vivace Opera project (five years in the running) has a
mission. It gives the opportunity for budding singers to be exposed to the
rigors of thorough musical awareness to the degree that they could apply this
technique to approaching other roles. They will be further equipped to tackle auditions
and competitions, enhancing their hire-ability.
I was talking to the
excellent soprano Jennifer Ashley who played Fricka during a rare and usually verboten
break in the opera. Housner wanted to be kind to our bums and bladders.
Ashley told me that
somehow she had not been involved in last year’s Vivace but as soon as she
found out that Wagner was in the works she had to be part of it. “How often do
we have the chance to sing Wagner in Vancouver,”
she told me with excitement.
|Alexandra Hill - Soprano|
As for my friend
Alexandra Hill, that beautiful and elegant soprano, I could not avert my eyes
from her role as the Rheinmaiden Wellgunde. She an the other two, played by
Szu-Wen Wang and Leah Field with big taunting smiles as they dealt with
Alberich, the Niebelung dwarf proved to me that I indeed can laugh at a Wagner
opera as it isn’t all as serious as we have been known to think. When the
fabulous (no other word suffices) Wotan played by Jeremy Ireland (a
bass/baritone) and Loge the god of fire (played by Kevin Armstrong most ably) craftily
convince Albrecht (in possession of not only the ring but also the magical
helmet, the Tarnhelm) to turn himself into a toad/frog, and they catch him I
had to laugh again!
introduction (I was seated on the first row) to a Wagner opera with a sole
piano and a couple of singers I knew was exactly what I have needed all these
years to launch me into the possibility of getting a good cushion and going to
the nearest performance of the Ring Cycle in a near future.
I know that Cousin
John with a smug smile would simply have said to me, “Finally.”
Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow?
Monday, August 12, 2013
“Will all great Neptune's
ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather The
multitudinous seas in incarnadine, Making the green one red."
Baritone Greer Grimsley in Giuseppe Verdi’s
As I prepare myself for my Buenos Aires trip at the end of September in
which I will have many photographic projects of my liking I have been agonizing
on what equipment to take.
In one trip I made for a Toronto
magazine called Vista (when magazines paid
photographers to travel and paid them, handsomely for their photographs) I
decided I needed some sort of compact studio flash. These were the days before
9/11 when my only hassles were convincing Latin American airport security not
to X-ray my film.
In later trips abroad if I happened to pack
a tripod in my suitcase, the suitcase would be opened. Those were the days when
we locked them. The folks of US Homeland Security would forcibly open it, stick
a paper that they had done this and then they would tie (if you were lucky)
your suitcase with a rope or tape it.
Alas in my magazine paid trip to Argentina (and Uruguay)
my Norman 200B flash arrived at Buenos
Aires with a broken flash bulb. Finding a new
replacement for my unit in Argentina
was as difficult as purchasing there Canadian maple syrup.
On another trip to BA I was sandbagged from
the rear near the Retiro train station and much of what I owned was stolen
including my credit card which I had hidden inside my camera bag. Fortunately
the American Express ads are accurate and by the next day I had a new card but
Since then I have learned my lesson and I
am very careful. I have a black ballistic cotton shoulder bag that does not
look like a camera bag. In it I can pack rather nicely three 35mm cameras, one
light meter and four or five lenses. Since I shoot film, I pack it in clear
plastic bags and when I ask (very politely) airport security not to X-ray it
but to use visual (they use a special swab) I get my wish. Nowadays so few use
film that I get asked with smiles by the security all kinds of questions on why
I use film!
Since I believe in the idea that two
identical cameras, one loaded with colour film, and the other with b+w will
produce similar pictures but (yes!) different I must always travel with two
35mm Nikon FM-2. They are compact and they are fully mechanical and will
operate without batteries.
So in my planned trip to BA I am taking two
Nikons, a 24, a 35, a 50 and 85 mm lenses. But I have a really outstanding Pentax
20mm so I will have to take two Pentax MXs for that.
I just might pack the lenses and two of
those cameras in my hard luggage. Why? Because I am almost sure that I will
take my heavy 6x7 cm Mamiya RB-67, with one lens, the 90mm. Why? Because I want
to shoot Fuji Instant b+w film. I am very excited with the results I have been getting
with the scanning of the peeled negative.
My Rosemary has thrown a wrench into this
equation and will definitely scrap the two Pentaxes but certainly not the
Mamiya. Why? The wrench is that Rosemary has insisted and I have purchased a
Fuji X-E1 with an 15 to 55 zoom. Will I be comfortable enough with it by the
time I leave? Who knows? But I am excited as this camera with a $70 adapter
will accommodate all my Nikon lenses.
I find it fitting to explain why I have
placed here two images. One I took in 2006 with film that is not made anymore. The
photograph of baritone Greer Grimsley is the scan of a Polaroid 100ISO film. But
it is not of the print but of the peeled “negative” which rapidly darkens. With
Photoshop I am able to lighten it enough and I like the result, alas one that
is no more.
The other snap is of my former photography
student David MacGillivray who came to visit me today (I am writing this August
10). I am way ahead in blogs. The picture is a scanned Fuji FP-3000B negative peel that I reversed in
Photoshop to get the strangely semi solarized effect. The Greer Grimsley is the
old and the David’s is my latest. Will all this be moot if I get excited over
the possibilities of the X-E1? Only time will tell.
As an afterthought I have decided to also include the Ektachrome 100G transparency of Greer Grimsley. Like Kodachrome, now Ekatachrome is a memory that will probably not make it into a song.
Sunday, August 11, 2013
Romance - 23 years