JIm Taylor & A Perfect Strawberry Ice Cream Soda
Saturday, August 24, 2013
It was August 1984 and Vancouver Magazine
art director Chris Dahl had dispatched me to re-photograph Vancouver Province
sports columnist Jim Taylor. I had avoided the problem of getting reflections
glasses so I had asked him to remove them. Dahl told me, “You go back and get
him with glasses. Nobody would recognize him without them.”
To lighten the anguish that a re-shoot is
to a photographer I invited my daughter Ale who was 16 to accompany me. It was
an extremely hot day so I took off the roof of my yellow Fiat X-19.
Taylor posed by his pool while holding an early Radio Shack computer. I
was careful not to get a reflection on his glasses.
After the shoot I told Ale, “I have an
It was a relief to leave Taylor's house and I told my daughter,
"I feel like having a strawberry ice cream soda. It was a hot Saturday
afternoon, in the waning days of a late August summer. We went to Bar Centrale
on Commercial Drive.
It is now long gone. Back then they served the best coffee and the best
strawberry ice cream. I asked for a couple of ice cream sodas. The young
Italian attendant told me, "We don't have them here." So I asked him
1. Two tall glasses and two long spoons.
2. A couple of scoops of strawberry ice
cream in each glass.
3. Two bottles of San Pellegrino.
Ale and I had the best strawberry ice cream
sodas of our life.
I remember telling Ale how back when I was 8
or 9 my grandmother Lolita would take me to the movies, late afternoon in Buenos Aires. We always went
to Calle Lavalle that was home to a string of movie houses. We went to see Westerns,
war movies or films with swordfights. My grandmother loved this sort of thing. And
so did I! After the movies we would walk around the corner to the Roxy. The Roxy
was a bar lácteo (an Argentine fixture at the time) where she and I would have tall,
cool strawberry ice cream sodas.
Today Saturday, Hilary and her two daughters,
Rebecca and Lauren were over for the evening. I brought out five Mexican blue wine
glasses, five spoons, one container of Häagen-Dazs strawberry ice cream and two
bottles of very cold San Pellegrino.
We loved them and of course I had to tell
the story of Jim Taylor, Ale, my grandmother Lolita and the Roxy.
Lauren, who is into details can explain on demand the subtlety that soda water (and not Seven Up, Ginger Ale or Pepsi) brings to perfect union of sweet ice cream and a neutral soda. She will speak at length at the delicious foam that is the union of ice cream with soda water.
Friday, August 23, 2013
Taking a deep breath to relax himself, he turned his eyes to the concrete headstone at his back, suddenly curious about whose bones were beneath him. He switched his headlamp on and its light drew shadows out of the raised letters on a brass plaque. He mouthed the words James Douglas Morrison. Below the name it read, 1498-1971. A string of letters under the dates made no sense to him. Latin or Greek Perhaps.
|Mark Pryor at Old Main, Austin Texas, 2013|
I will be attending my first cousin/godmother’s 90th birthday in Buenos Aires on October 2.
In 2004 before Rosemary, my granddaughter Rebecca (then 7) and I arrived on a visit to Buenos Aires I told Rebecca, “My godmother and first cousin Inesita O’Reilly Kuker speaks like the Queen of England.” Then I corrected myself, “No, it’s the other way around because Inesita is older than the Queen.”
To this day I can remember almost all the voices of the people who have been part of my life, even those who have been brief encounters.
I wonder how Inesita (she is almost blind so she is unable to read books) will take of the latest batch of talking books that I am going to give her. One in particular, Diane Keaton’s autobiography Then Again happens to be narrated by Keaton herself. Since Argentines are ardent fans of Woody Allen she is bound to know who Keaton is.
As I was thinking about it as I pre-packed the stuff for my first cousin I thought of other books that I read with the authors being the narrator, simply because I have been lucky enough to photograph them. When I pick up any book by Alice Munro, Elmore Leonard, Walter Mosley, Carl Hiaasen, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Homero Aridjis, Mario Vargas Llosa, Timothy Findley, Robertson Davies, Brian Moore, C.C, Humphreys, JJ Lee, George Bowering, Michael Dibdin, P.D. James, James Ellroy ("Call me Dog and I'll call you Alex."), William F. Buckley, William Safire, and many more, they are there with me in bed or in my living room sofa. Even a writer, a friend of my fathers whom I met in my kitchen when I was 8, Julio Cortázar, narrates his wonderful Final del Juego a sort of Argentine version of the Railway Children when I re-read him with frequency. I have a wonderful LP recording of Borges so I am unable to read him without listening to his marvelously ordinary voice.
There is one writer that I especially treasure, one whom you might not recognize. At the beginning of this year I was intrigued by a book at my Vancouver Public Library. It was called The Bookseller and the writer is Mark Pryor, an Englishman who curiously (his mother was American) is the Assistant District Attorney for Travis County in Austin, Texas. I was charmed by the book whose main protagonist was a tall Texan with cowboy boots who happened to be head of security of the American Embassy in Paris.
I met up with Pryor at my high school alma mater, St. Edward’s High School (the high school is gone as the whole campus is now a very prosperous small university, St. Edward’s University). I contacted Pryor via email and there he was in his Hugo Marston (the tall Texan protagonist of his novels) waiting for me by the red door of my big “Old Main” where I lived, slept and studied for four years in the mid 50s.
I eagerly awaited the second Hugo Marston novel, Crypt Thief. It is a taught, creepy novel in which most of the action happens in several Parisian and trans-Parisian cemeteries. The villain, the Scarab, is so strangely nasty and pervers that my only wonder is how the staid Englishman (married and with children) who happens to be the Assistant District Attorney to Travis County could possible come up which such a creature. An interesting focus of the book is the American over-the-top concern about terrorism. Parts of itread like New York Times articles on the awful shenanigans at Guantánamo and how anybody looking like an Arab must surely be a terrorist.
Much has been written of late of Elmore Leonard’s style of writing and particularly of his sparse dialogue. But what do we know on how writers conjure their characters?
And of course part of the pleasure of reading Pryor is that Pryor reads to me with that clipped English accent of his that somehow does not go with cowboy boots! I so fondly remember Pryor telling me before I snapped his portrait, "This is the hat and coat that Hugo would wear."
Perhaps I might lure Pryor to write something of this in a future blog here. Unfortunately for those who might read it you will have to imagine Pryor’s voice.
Thinking & Then Shooting With A Fuji X-E1
Thursday, August 22, 2013
|Lauren Stewart, The Second Picture |
Fuji X-E1 55mm setting on 18 to 55 zoom lens
For some years now I had been teaching photography at Focal Point and my wife Rosemary kept asking me how I could teach without my owning a digital camera. Since most of my students were not beginners my classes were not about the hardware they picked up with their hands but about lighting and the approach to the photography of people draped and undraped. I knew enough about things digital to point my students into ascertaining their white balance and the setting of other camera functions. None of my students suspected I did not own one of their own until I would make it a point to tell them so.
|800 ISO setting|
Since I have shot film all my life I have always been frugal in my approach to the use of film. I try to shoot the least amount of possible, crop in the camera and used what used to be an immensely sophisticated light/flashmeter to measure all my exposures. For magazine assignments I have always shot everything vertical and then horizontal so I can help the art director fit my pictures without the need of cropping the good stuff.
Only in my early youth was I ever interested in walking the streets with my cameras. Perhaps it was because I was in many places in Mexico or Buenos Aires. I could have spent days if not weeks just shooting in the Mexico City cemeteries. I really do not have that exotic option here in Vancouver. But I do know, without the shadow of the doubt that if I found myself living in Venice I would damn myself for not taking the opportunities I had right there when I was living in Beautiful British Columbia. The exotic is always what we do not have in the place that we are not.
|3200 ISO setting|
But it seems to me that the moment you have a digital camera in front of you, you snap at everything that moves or does not move. I took my share of falling modern building (falling because of uncorrected wide-angle distortion) when I was in my late teens. It would bore me to shoot all that all over again. In plain English I am not going to walk the streets of Vancouver (or dark back alleys) and press the shutter a multiple of times with my new Fuji X-E1.
|Fuji FP-100C Instant Film Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD|
That is why it has taken me since Thursday afternoon when Jeff Gin handed me that Fuji until today Wednesday afternoon to take my first picture.
I chose to use the camera as if it were my old and still viable film cameras in a studio situation with my 11 year-old Lauren Stewart and Pancho el Esqueleto.
Jeff Gin helped me in the process by setting my camera on its handy Quick Menu to three modes of my preference (I could have chosen up to 7). Mode one was to shoot jpgs (a format I am able to open and handle without Adobe Lightroom 5) at 100 IS0 and to simulate Fuji Provia transparency film. The second setting was for 800 ISO colour negative film ( I love the Fuji 800 Superia). The third setting was at 3200 ISO and in b+w to mimic my Fuji FP-3000B instant b+w film.
I was determined to take three shots, one in each mode on a manual setting where my Minolta Autometer V would give me the accurate exposure settings. The only allowance I would give to the cameras prodigious automation was its centre autofocus.
|Fuji FP-3000B 3200 ISO Instant Film Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD|
Alas I had to take four pictures! This happened because Lauren closed her eyes on that first one. You can see here those three other exposures in the correct order: One hundred ISO transparency, 800 ISO colour negative and 3200 ISO b+w. Just for laughs I am also including two Fuji instant film shots I took after.
While it is irrelevant for me to show anybody these pictures to prove the point that I am going to resist to the temptation of shoot and think, I just had to prove to myself that even with a digital camera I can still think and shoot.
The matter would have been ever more difficult except that Lauren knew which buttons to press to show the four pictures I had taken. She then told me, “You have to connect a USB cable from the camera to your computer to download the pictures.” I followed her advice to the letter.
To celebrate we went to Mario’s Gelato. I asked the very pretty but hard to understand (she could have been Russian or Ukrainian) young woman behind the counter for the following, “I want that tall coffee paper cup and one spoon. In the cup put two scoops of strawberry ice-cream. Please give me that little bottle of San Pellegrino.” The young woman was perplexed as I sat with Lauren and enjoyed a wonderful ice-cream soda, an item not usually served at Mario’s.
Lauren told me as we were enjoying our cold treats, “Papi you can use that first picture. Just write, “Lauren asleep with Pancho el Esqueleto.”
The Elephant's Journey & My Black Raleigh
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
During our daily, evening neighborhood walk
I told Rosemary I might buy a bicycle to see if it would improve the waning
flexibility of my knees. She asked me when the last time I had cycled was, and
in truth I could not remember. I added that cycling was something that you only
had to learn once and that I would instantly adjust.
This maxim about cycling does not apply to
other things I have learned. If I happen to attempt to print a photograph in
someone else’s darkroom I will fumble in the dark as nothing will be were it is
supposed to be.
A few weeks ago when I was snapping
pictures of Yuliya the Dominatrix in my Malibu
with two Nikons and one Pentax. I was having trouble navigating what is
supposed to be easy which is the removal of the lens from the body. With the
Nikon you remove it in one direction with the Pentax in the other. In the
distant past I used Pentaxes and then I retired them for the Nikons. Now with
the advent of my newly purchased Fuji X-E1 it would seem that I counter digital
ignorance and confusion with an attempt to reconcile all the machines of my
But there is one chore that I learned once.
It was hard the first time. This is the reading of any novel by José Saramago either in English or in my preferred
translation from the Portuguese to the Spanish.
The first novel of
Saramago’s that I ever read was The History of the Siege of Lisbon. The first
chapter consists of a six-page paragraph with minimal punctuation and is a
conversation between two men.
After reading that,
the next chapter was like finally knowing how to ride a bicycle. It was
effortless. That novel was the last novel of Saramago’s that I read in English. Now
that I do not buy books and depend on the excellent Vancouver Public Library I
tackled The Elephant’s Journey in English. Within a couple of sentences I was zooming down
in my black Raleigh
of old with an exhilaration that felt brand new. Reading Saramago is unlike
anything or anybody else. Here is a sample that I marveled at:
The dawn was a foggy
one, but despite a mist almost as thick as soup made solely of boiled potatoes,
no one had got lost, everyone had found their way to the church just as the
guests to whom the villagers had given shelter had found their way back to the
encampment earlier. The whole village was there, from the tiniest babe-in-arms
to the oldest man still capable of walking, thanks to the aid of a stick that
functioned as his third leg. Fortunately he didn’t have as many legs as a
centipede, for centipedes when they get old, require an enormous number of
sticks, a fact that tips the scales in favour of the human species, who need
only one, except the very gravest of cases, when the aforementioned sticks
change their name and become crutches. Of these, thanks to the divine
providence that watches over us all, there were none in the village.
The Elephant's Journey
Translated from the
Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa
Tonight I finished The
Elephant’s Journey. I felt that closing the book was like sadly putting away that
of my youth. Perhaps a new bicycle might in some way temper the loss of knowing
that I have read the last Saramago novel and that he is not alive to write
A Timex, A Fake Rolex, Viveca Lindfors & Rachel Cairns
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Some years ago my friend, writer John
Lekich interviewed and I photographed the Swedish actress Viveca Lindfors. Because
I am busy observing the quirks and habits of my subjects I usually don’t listen
or remember what they say to the interviewing writer. I do remember that
Lindfors talked a lot about her love for Swedish playwright August Strindberg.
One of her most interesting statements I
now know (because Lekich told me yesterday and I am writing this on Sunday,
afternoon, August 18) was something like this, “Writers write, actors act and
photographers take photographs.” The statement might seem self-evident or
mundane but it is not.
It was my spiritual mentor and teacher Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. who told me and our class back sometime in 1957
that our purpose in life was to find what it was we did well and to do it. To
not do it was a tragedy.
As I live from one day to the next in my retirement
from magazine photography and other elements of photography that used to pay
good money but do not anymore I sometimes wonder what my daily goals should be
besides cooking for my wife, Hoovering the house and tending to the garden. Thanks
to Lekich’s conveyance of Lindfor’s statement I understand more than ever that
my mission is to take photographs even if the end product ends up filed in my
photographic cabinets. Some of the pictures do appear here in my blog which is
my de facto magazine. It is a de facto magazine for which I am the sole
publisher, editor (don’t do that too well I have been told.) writer, art
director and photographer. I am a photographer therefore I must take pictures.
And I took pictures today of actress Rachel
Cairns who plays both Viola in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night but also Ophelia in
Hamlet. I have seen both plays at Bard on the Beach and I must state here that
this local actress is very good.
But not being an actor I cannot understand
how she can possibly play a tomboy Viola one day and a most feminine and tragic
Ophelia the next. She can because she is an actress. I understand the
complexity of flash synchronization because I am a photographer. If what I write
is wanting that is because I am not a writer.
I was thirty five minutes late to my session
with Cairns in her
dressing room at Bard. Why is this since I am always not only on time but there
ahead of time?
|The fake Rolex|
I can blame it all on a 27-year-old Timex that
failed this morning and a 25 year-old fake Rolex (purchased in Hawaii) that I may have set
back by one hour when I put it on at noon.
To make it all worse, when I finally did get
to the dressing room I was caught without a flash chord. Mysteriously it disappeared
between my car and the Bard tent. Fortunately Bard on the Beach publicist Cynnamon
Schreinert and I found a solution. I set my camera lens to a slow shutter and as
soon as I pressed it Schreinert pressed a little green button on the flash unit.
What you see here, the portrait of Rachel
Cairns is the negative peel of the Fuji
FP-100C Instant Colour print film. I used a Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD with a 90mm
Handel, Haydn, Ginsburg - I Wept In The Vortex
Monday, August 19, 2013
In the past I have failed to write blogs on
the day’s date to the point where I can be two or three days behind. Then, to catch up, I must sit
down and write them all at once. Now I have a problem in the opposite
direction, I am ahead of myself. I am writing tonight, Saturday, August 17 (my eldest granddaughter
was 16 today) but the blog will have Monday’s date.
|Rebecca Stewart at the Willard Hotel|
I am not sure how long ago it was but I
know it happened on a Saturday. I remember I was driving on Marine Way perhaps to shoot an assignment
for Canadian Pacific Limited in New
Westminster. I was so enthralled by the woman being
interviewed that I stopped the car to listen.
It was Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on
CBC Radio. The station was broadcasting live from the
Metropolitan Opera in New York. It was long
ago enough that the sponsor was Texaco. The woman being interviewed, a lover of
opera, was Associate Justice of the Supreme Court (the American one) Ruth Bader
The interviewer asked her how it happened that
she became an avid fan of opera. It seems that Ginsburg was a young lawyer on a
very difficult case she did not know she could win. She was staying in the
venerable Washington DC hotel, The Willard.
One of the stories about The Willard, which
is now not considered accurate, is that the term lobbying originated there. The
hotel was a favourite of President Ulysses S. Grant. He went there to enjoy a
cigar and brandy. The
political wheelers and dealers, who frequented the hotel's lobby, were there to access Grant. They tried to buy the president drinks in an attempt to
influence his political decisions.
her case she summoned the elevator after she left her room. When the elevator doors
opened, she was facing Maria Callas holding a toy poodle. Ginsburg said of the
incident, “I knew I was going to win my case, then and there.” Asked which of
her favourite operas featured a lawyer she answered, “Johan Strauss’s Die
Fledermaus.” But she added (and I am sure there was a twinkle in her eye when
she did so), “The lawyer is so inept that his client is given an even worse
Tonight as I
write this I miss my old friend Abraham Rogatnick who died three years ago. A
few years before that, he and my friend Graham Walker came for Saturday lunch.
After lunch we retired to the living room to listen to a live Met performance
of Handel’s Giulio Cesare. We were glued to our sofas and we got up only for
needed trips to the guest bathroom. It was so much fun to listen to that opera
Today Handel’s Rinaldo
(1711) was the featured Handel opera but not at the Met. It was a Lyric Opera
of Chicago production with countertenor David Daniels. What is amazing is
that 30 years ago people wrote about Handel operas but they were never
performed. Explanations for this cited length and the difficulty in finding
countertenors for the lead parts. Little by little beautiful arias like the
soprano aria Lascia ch'io pianga (Let me weep) and others from other Handel
operas began to hit the mainstream in solo performances.
Today was Rebecca’s
birthday so I spent the day preparing a meal for the evening. It was wonderful
to listen to the live performance on my little transistor radio in the kitchen while
the good living room sound system, crept in from the hall. I missed Rogatnick
but I knew the Walker
was by his radio at home.
viewing of John Boorman’s 1973 fantasy film Zardoz with Charlotte Rampling and Sean
Connery was a complete fiasco. Rebecca had all kinds of snide comments on
Connery’s extra long sideburns and his red diaper-like shorts. When Charlotte
Rampling began to explain the role of the penis in human reproduction, Hilary,
my daughter and the mother of Rebecca and Lauren, 11, told me that the film was
not appropriate for an eleven-year old. I turned off the DVD player and we
retired to the garden with Rosemary’s big cat, Casi-Casi.
I took the
Stewarts home. In the car I played my favourite Haydn symphony, Symphony 22
which has the most unusual steady sounding (it mesmerizes) first movement Adagio. The Adagio is described by my Wikipedia as follows:
The first movement
is the highlight of the symphony and features horns answered by cors anglais
over a walking bass line. The violins play with mutes. H. C. Robbins Landon
calls it "surely one of the settecento's supremely original
concepts". Played with all the indicated repeats, it lasts about 10
minutes, almost half the duration of the symphony as a whole.
The work is scored
for two cor anglais (English horns), two horns, and strings. The use of the cor
anglais in place of the (related, but higher-pitched) oboe is more than
unusual; indeed McVeigh (2009:386) suggests that it is "the only symphony
in the entire history of the genre to use this scoring". The horns play a
prominent role in all but the second movement, and Haydn's choice of E flat
major may have been dictated by the fact that the valveless horns of the time
sounded best when played as E flat instruments (that is, with E flat crooks
My copy of the
symphony features an unusually dressed and handsome Pinchas Zukerman.
I mentioned the
unusual aspect of the symphony to the Stewarts but I believe I will have to
wait a few more years before any of them respond to the music of Handel or
of today Saturday is best said by Rebecca who in facebook wrote:
Sweet I can learn
to drive now. Good luck everybody.
Over Fifty At Eight Hundred & Thirty Two Hundred
Sunday, August 18, 2013
|Mamiya RB-67 Pro SD, 90mm lens, Fuji FP-3000B|
Supposing I had five very large rooms in
which I would display the photographs of the women I have photographed in the
many years that I have taken pictures. Supposing if I were to classify the photographs by age in decades, what then?
The under two decades I could fill entirely
with young girls (mostly my granddaughters), teenagers and young adults. The twenties
and the 30s would also be so full I would have to pull back. But once I arrived
in the 40s and the 50s the display area for photographs would be close to bare.
So it was a distinct pleasure that this past
Thursday (I write this on Friday evening to post for Sunday as I am ahead in my
blogs for a change) I photographed a beautiful woman who happened to be over
|Nikon FM-2, 50mm lens, Kodak T-Max 400|
For the session I used three cameras. With
my Mamiya RB-67 Pro SD I took pictures with the Fuji Instant Film FP-3000B, 3200 ISO, which I now find has been,
alas, discontinued. With the two Nikons FM-2 I shot Kodak T-Max 400 pushed to
800 and Fuji Superia 800 colour negative film.
Displayed here is Nina Watt in her little
After I took the pictures, that evening I
received a troubling email from her. She asked me what I was going to do with
the pictures. She would have never known how troubling this was. At one time I
could have placed photographs in magazines and written stories to accompany
them. At one time I was represented by a few local galleries so I could display
them on the wall as a show. At one time I might go for coffee with photographer
friends. They seem to be gone and the ones that I contact, as a rule do not
Now? There is, thankfully, this blog. The
pictures I will neatly insert in envelopes and file under W.
But that sorry state of my personal
isolation does not remove the pleasure of taking pictures of beautiful women
and especially one that is over 50.
|Nikon FM-2, 50mm lens, Fuji Superia 800|