The Luv-a-Fair & A White Dog
Saturday, February 01, 2014
In 1978 I was a 37 year old married man
with two daughters living in Burnaby.
From that situation a place like the openly gay bar/night club The Luv-a-Fair
was very far from my awareness.
Since in that year I was working for a gay
publication called Bi-line I was suddenly dropped into places and circumstances
that were shocking for a Latin raised man. After a while I didn’t look twice at
women who were dressed as men and men who were dressed as women and appeared so
but weren’t. In the many years that I frequented
bars for photographic assignments (there were many gay bars) the only incident
that truly shocked me was watching male dancers at the Luv-a-Fair dancing to a
disco version of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus from his Messiah. I will never
I happened on these photographs which I
took in 1977 at the Luv-a-Fair filed under that name while looking for
photographs of Peter Lusztig.
Perhaps the high moment for me at the
Luv-a-Fair was a solo piano concert (late 80s? or early 90s) that John Cale
Peter A. Lusztig - May 12, 1930 - January 26, 2014
Friday, January 31, 2014
Mr. Peter A. Lusztig, CGA, Ph.D., serves as
Dean Emeritus, Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration, the University of British Columbia. Mr. Lusztig serves as
the Chairman and Trustee of the Health Benefit Trust. He served as Director of
Canfor Pulp Income Fund. He served as a Director of Canadian Forest Products
Ltd. from 1983 to October 2005. Mr. Lusztig served as the federal commissioner
for the B.C. Treaty Commission (Federal) from 1995 to 2003. He served as a
Director of Canfor Pulp Holding Inc., General Partner of Canfor Pulp Limited
Partnership and Canadian Forest Products Ltd since April 28, 2006. He served as
a Director of Canfor Corp. from 1983 to October 2005. He received his Commerce
Degree from the University of British Columbia, his Masters of Business
Administration from the University of Western Ontario and his Doctorate Degree from Stanford University.
Peter Lusztig died on January 26, 2014.
I saw his picture in the Vancouver Sun obituary. I remember taking the
photograph for Harvey Southam’s Equity Magazine which started in 1980. Southam
had his office inside Vancouver Magazine on the corner of Davie and Richards. I particularly remember
that Southam would bring his Labrador retriever to the office. One day, perhaps in 1981, he
dispatched me to photograph Peter Lusztig at UBC and when I brought my results
Southam was very happy.
I remember that Lusztig was accommodating to
my needs and instructions on how he should pose for me. He was soft spoken and
he had a kind smile and demeanor which probably made him a very good professor.
I consider this photograph to be one of my first successful business portraits.
Addendum: I was most surprised to find out that this picture is a Fujichrome transparency. I never thought I had used it until recently when Kodak Ektachrome was discontinued. Today I took my second to last roll of Fuji Provia. When I use up the last roll I will stop using transparency (slide) film. I will switch to colour negative. With the magazines of yesteryear all dead (and they all demanded that photographers shoot slide) I have no reason to use this film anymore. One of the losses will be that I will also not project the beautiful 6x7 cm slides with my Linhof projector which happens to have Leitz projecting lenses. Note on the bottom left how the emulsion has shifted towards magenta.
That Priviliged Position
Thursday, January 30, 2014
My friend and former editor of Vancouver
Magazine, Malcolm Parry, whom we called Mac has for some years, slipped into another
profession. He has been the gossip columnist for our Vancouver Sun. Only the “wankers”, as he used to call us, remember him in his
glory day as the editor of the city’s most exciting magazine and one of the
best magazines in Canada.
It is difficult to live from day to day as
a photographer and would-be writer and not remember Mac’s inspiration, advice, tongue
lashings and instructions. Whatever measure of success I may have achieved in
this city since I entered it in 1975 I must give this man the credit.
One of his often repeated dictions was “the
privileged position”. By this he meant to be a place most could not be in. As
an example andybody can look up at a very tall building, but if you managed access
to the building’s flag pole (one on the former BC Hydro Building)
or the upper roof niche of the Vancouver Hotel then you were in the tip of that pyramid of exclusivity. I can claim to have been in both of those places.
Early on into Les Wiseman’s In One Ear
monthly Vancouver Magazine, Wiseman and his associate Lenso the Argentinian Lensman eschewed access from the front. If we could not
interview the bands in their dressing rooms or hotels we would not interview
them at all. This meant strawberries around a huge pile of cocaine (I did not
indulge) in the Commodore’s back stage with the Cramps and early morning screwdrivers without orange juice with Motorhead in their hotel room. You get the idea?
In this 21st century control and
access is at a minimum. In fact I would identify this century as “access denied”.
At this moment Malcolm Parry has access to
anybody of importance who passes through the city. He has the highest class of privileged
There are a few that he might not think
about that I had access to in the past. Of course if he demanded entry he would get it.
One of those wonderful moments of my life
happened the evening of Saturday June 3, 2000. It was at the Queen Elizabeth
Theatre and it was called
Dancers for Life – a Millennium Dance Celebration for AIDS. My program
(incredible) does not say if it was indeed held at the Queen Elizabeth so it
could have been at the Playhouse.
The program included many extremely
reputable dancers including Rex Harrington. But I had eyes for only two, Evelyn
Hart and Crystal Pite.
I was allowed into the rehearsals back
stage (a most privileged position) and ( yes!) Pite’s and Hart’s
Sometime this month I will have rehearsal
permission for the upcoming collaboration between Ballet BC
and Turning Point Ensemble. It is called Grace Symmetry which will be performed
February 20 to 22 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
I wonder what kind of privileged access
this might include?
The Next Big Portrait
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Many years ago I posed the following
question to my Mexico City
high school class.
What would happen if we were to mount a
camera on a tripod in a studio and mark a spot when any of you would stand
facing the camera? We would then bring in, one at a time (and without moving
the camera in any way) your mother, your father, your sister, your brother, you
boyfriend, your girlfriend, your postman, your best friend, the teacher you
like, the teacher you don’t like, the sports coach, the principal, etc? Would
you then, after shuffling those photographs (all glossy 8x10s) be able to pin
down who took which one? Of all those photographs which on would be the real
you? Would you say that they all added up to a complete you? Where we to insert
them into a special computer (this was 1970), press a button, would the
resulting one image be a complete you (almost complete as more within your
circle had not photographed you)?
I have always maintained that a portrait is
special for one particular reason. The word in English, portrait comes from the
French which means a likeness in a drawing or painting (much later a
photograph) of a person and especially if it is a head and shoulders likeness.
I believe that French word probably came from the Latin. In Spanish that link
is direct. Retrato (portrait), retratar (to take, make, paint or draw a
portrait) comes from the Latin retractus which means to go back, to take back
or as I see it to peel from a person something of their essence. And by
essence, in Platonic terms what makes one individual not be another.
It is obvious that one’s essence is a most
personal and treasured possession. We rarely lower our guard to show anybody
who we really are. In fact we may not be aware of who we really are so we show
the world who we think we are. A good artist (portraitist) is perhaps at the
very least able to penetrate the smoke and mirrors.
Thus a good portrait is a blend of who we
think we are, what we want the world to know we are and what that portraitist
may understand (or perhaps not) see in us. A portrait, a good one, is a battleground.
As a bit of evidence I have placed here two portraits of former BC Premier Bill Vander Zalm shortly after he resigned in disgrace in 1991. Equity Magazine, a business magazine at the time obtained an exclusive interview with Vander Zalm in which he had stipulated that the article be generally favorable and that the portrait of him be a pleasant one. Shortly after I took the pleasant (colour) photograph I decided to take another in b+w for myself. Which one of these two portraits is the real Vander Zalm?
|Annie Leibovitz - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
Before the advent of photography (and
specifically portrait photography) in the 1840s, there was a big industry of
portrait painters and miniature portrait painters. The latter were not necessarily
short painters but they painted small, almost always oval-shaped likenesses who
many years before Photoshop liquefied, diffuse glowed, healing brush tools,
removed unsightly bags and paunches, etc, idealized would-be partners in a
potential regal matrimony contract.
Except for the very rich who could afford these
pioneer air-brushers photography killed their business. By the 1860s, if you
did not have a business-card-sized carte de visite you were a nobody. It was
equivalent to living in the 21st century and not having a either a
web page (a remnant of the 20th century) or selfies to post in
facebook (notice that the word has to be written in lowercase).
Photography took over and the portrait
photographer became king (an excellent and talented exception being Julia
In Canada the concept of a
photographic portrait is moribund if not dead. A happy exception is Ottawa photographer Paul Couvrette who photographs Ottawa politicians, Papal
Nuncios and many others working in the political bureaucracy of our capital.
My portraits of people from the past (and
my past) are often seen surrounded by black ribbons in funereal memorials. Sometime
in a very near future those funereal memorials will either feature selfies or
facebook captures of the dead one.
With all that in mind I read with interest,
shock, amazement on how photography has changed to the point that this article
(I have cut it out from my hard copy NY Times and placed inside one of my best
photography books, Photo Historica – Landmarks in Photography- Rare Images From
the Collection of The Royal Photographic Society), text by Pam Roberts) that photography
as a branch of art at the Museum of Modern Art, and other important museums
might just drop the term completely.
At age 71 I do not particularly care in
what direction photography ends up or in its languid process/transition. But I
did note that the article does skip one important branch of photography and
that is the portrait. I believe that the folks at the NY Times and the museums
they write about must next tackle the subject The Next Big Portrait
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
As I quickly approach my 3000th blog
I feel a tad melancholy. That burst of excitement of January 2006 when I had no
idea what a blog was or in what direction I was headed has perhaps worn off. Usually
I have many topics that I feel like writing about on any given day. In many
ways I may have inherited from my journalist father, who for years worked for
the Buenos Aires Herald. I think I could easily either write a daily column and
surely a weekly. Unlike my father I need not prime my inspiration with modified
But there are highs and lows, days of
enthusiasm and days when I feel guilty about missing my day on the blog.
I wrote here about my mentor Brother Edwin
Reggio, C.S.C.’s take on free will.
In the last few months (perhaps a year) I
have given his idea of someone, up on a mountain (Brother Edwin’s God) looking
down on the sharp curve and the rock that will cause (perhaps not) a head on collision.
It has been in my thoughts as I learn to
use the panorama mode of my Fuji X-E1 that gives me the choice to pan from left
to right and from right to left. I am not yet well versed on the up to down and
down to up feature.
In our Western world we read from left to
right and our books are designed in that way. Pages are laid out left to right,
The panning has made me reflect that being
up on that mountain, if we were to be in our youth we would be looking towards
the right. The journey in that direction would have been certainly a longer
one. My age (I am 71) and my accelerating heart jointly convey the idea that the rock
on the pavement is forthcoming. I see myself panning from right to left and lingering
affectionately on the left side.
Monday, January 27, 2014
In my first attendance to a UBC blogging
conference called Northern Voice in 2007 I was invited to give a talk. What I
may have talked about is irrelevant but you can read about it here.
What astounded me about the conference is
that people chatted but in many cases they preferred to quietly sit with their
laptops and opt out from physical and very social interaction. I had brought a
finely printed and very large framed light jet colour print. I was asked why I
had bothered since the very image was projected by a digital machine on to a
large screen behind me.
From that day on I have been lightly
obsessed with the idea that many of us (I am a culprit in this, too) are losing
out on that third dimension (depth) while spending lots our living moments on
It was around 2007 that I made up a basic
PowerPoint presentation called The Other Side of Two Dimensions. I have been
modifying it ever since.
I will present this as one of three
participants on February 19 in something called Nerd Nite.
Besides my under-30-minute digital show, I
plan to bring enough tactile material to get my point across.
Perhaps one of the nerds in attendance will
answer a question I have asked often but to which I have never received a
satisfactory answer, “How thick are the photons on a monitor screen?”
Enclosed here are two scans of two rather
nice 8x10 prints which are a delight to hold, lightly flip, move up and down
and see how window lighting affects them.
New Music - In The Black
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Today I went to a concert at a beautiful
new venue, Pyatt Hall, 843 Seymour
Street. It is in the building where the Orpheum
Annex is. Both venues while adjacent have a difference. Pyatt Hall is run by
the VSO School of Music and the latter is part of Civic Theatres, the city
entity that runs the Orpheum, the Playhouse and Queen Elizabeth.
The concert was at 2. I crossed Smythe at Seymour and I noticed that
people were entering the Orpheum, This was because it was part of the VSO’s
Sunday Series of concerts. A great majority of the people seemed to be seniors
and I saw quite a few walkers and canes.
|Laura Vanek & Clare Yuan|
I thought to myself, “Luckily I am going to
a concert of new and contemporary music so I will be the oldest person around.
I will be surrounded by youth. That was not quite to be.
After the concert, and more on that below,
I had a chat with New York City
born Michael Bushnell who has almost specialized in composing for dance. I
asked him why there were so few under 30s that afternoon at Pyatt Hall. He told
me that he did not understand. “After all,” he said, “people want to see the
latest films.” I mentioned to him all
the recent activity in new music, modern dance and experimental theatre in Vancouver. Since Bushnell
does hail from New York he immediately told me
that the local scene had no comparison with New York’s. I intimated that Vancouver was a sort of
backwater and therefore it is amazing that our scene is as rich as it is. And
that is the case. I have recently been in Buenos Aires
and Mexico City
and I can attest that those two very big cities are still extruding 19th
century ballet, symphonic music and plays that aren’t all that experimental. I
think it unfair to compare Vancouver to New York City. But then
the Metropolitan has Nicolas Poussin’s The Abduction of the Sabine Women
(French, Les Andelys 1594–1665 Rome)
and we have Emily Carr. It is unfair to compare but I think you might know what
I am getting at. In the end Bushnell and I agreed that with Vancouver being a smaller city things are pretty good.
At a recent New Music Festival of the VSO I
heard a young pianist, Elliot Kam play Frederic Rzewski’s Piano Piece No. 4 during the pre concert chat I was astounded.
I told my friend violinist Marc Destrubé about it. He wrote:
I met and heard Fred
R. play that piece at a festival in Holland
many years ago. A rather mild-mannered fellow, with strong ideas and very
intense music, indeed.
Of course I felt
jealous of Destrubé’s opportunity to listen to the very composer playing that
That brings me to the
delights of going to new music concerts in Vancouver.
The delights involve
listening to a piece of music that may have never been played before. It might
involve having the composer around. It might involve being able to talk to the
composer. It might involve watching the composer perform his work as I did
Underhill who was 60 today performed, on the piano, his
Two Songs without Words (1998/99) with vibraphonist Daniel Tones.
The other works,
Canzone di Petra (2004) (Laura Vanik, flute & Albertina Chan, harp), Cloud
over Water (2009) (Daniel Tones, vibraphone), Cantilena (2002) (Marina
Hasselberg, cello, Clare Yuan, piano), Dompe (1986) (Janna Sailor, violin,
Marina Hasselberg, cello, Clare Yuan, piano), By Backward Steps (2000) (Janna
Sailor, violin, Albertina Chan, harp), and Two Songs without Words.
The finale was a first
time ever (World Premiere) Ten Miniatures (2013) for flute cello and piano
(Laura Vanek, Marina Hasselberg and Clare Yuan.
Here I must digress to
explain how it came to be that Owen
Underhill celebrated his
60 with a concert of his music.
Two young and
enterprising musicians, flute player (that prevents me from the conundrum,
flutist or flautist?) Laura Vanek and cellist (no conundrum here) Marina
Hasselberg have formed the Novo Ensemble. The two are the core and then they
associate with other musicians for concerts such as the one I went to today. In
today’s case they associated with Cordei (Albertina Chan and Janna Sailor,
Daniel Tomes, and Clare Yuan.
I am also quite sure
that Vanek and Hasselberg then persuaded Owen Underhill
(a sweet man not likely to deny anybody a reasonable request) to compose
something for Novo Ensemble that would include the composer at the piano. The
result was the wonderful finale for the concert, Ten Miniatures which were
based on 10 miniature paintings of the mid 18th century Mughal
period in India that
Underhill saw in a recent trip which he viewed at the National
Museum and the Taj Mahal Museum.
The ten little pieces
(miniatures they were) seemed to go hand in hand with their titles. I indeed
did imagine the elephants in Royal Procession and the pursuit of the great
beasts in Ladies Hunting Tigers.
Without being a music
critic (I have no knowledge of music as such) I can attest with that with the
exception of Dompe (1986) which might have woken up a few lazy concert goers
with just the right amount of dissonance the bulk of Underhill’s compositions
where melodic, but challenging enough to keep one on one’s toes. And any
composer who will write a piece for a solo vibraphone is just fine in my books.
This enabled me to ask vibraphonist Daniel Tones why it is that his ilk use
four mallets. His answer was simple, “We begin to learn with two, but soon
enough four give us more variety and capability although the mallet on the left
side of my left hand is the one I use least.”
We live in an age that
I call Access Denied. This means that if you go to a rock concert or something
of that sort you have no chance of meeting the performers. In Vancouver we have a standing tradition that
in VSO, Pacific Baroque Orchestra, Turning Point Ensemble and other concerts of
classical music or new music you can always mingle with the performers after.
The same is true for most theatrical presentations and Ballet BC
and modern dance performances. In the Orpheum, that left door on stage right is
always open for anybody who might want to chat with a musician after a concert.
At the Queen Elizabeth the exit on stage left leads to a door to which you can
then ask to talk to a dancer (particularly if you have your young children in
In many of my other
blogs on concerts I repeat the fact that I sit dead centre and as close as
possible. Today I noticed many things by being there. For example I could see
something that looked electrical in the vibraharp (I like to call vibraphones
that because they remind me of John Lewis and his Modern Jazz Quartet) and yet
the instrument was not plugged in. Tones and Underhill both explained that in
some cases the tremolo/vibrato effect can seem gimmicky so that option was not exercised.
What really hit me
when Hasselberg was playing her cello in Cantilena was that the sound of her
instrument was particularly present within my ear. I remembered the high school physics
experiment of vibrating a tuning fork and bringing another (of the same
frequency) close and how that second tuning fork would then vibrate in sympathy. Much has
been said that the cello is the instrument that most resembles the human voice
(Turning Point Ensemble Co-Artistic Director and trombonist Jeremy Berkman begs
to differ and says the trombone is that instrument) so I felt today that
Hasselberg’s cello and I were somehow together and one. I wonder if anybody in
the back rows might have felt the same. I doubt it! Cantilena was originally commissioned by cellist Ian Hampton who was was a founding member of the Purcell String Quartet from 1968 to
1989—as well as a former member of the London Symphony Orchestra, Academy of St. Martin’s in the Fields, Vancouver
Symphony Orchestra, and CBC Radio Orchestra. I remember him because of his
unusual humour. I called him a few times and he had an answering machine message
that was as funny as that of Vancouver
composer Jocelyn Morlock. Underhill's composition, I noticed, had lots of humour in it.
Finally I must add that
in today’s concert which featured one composer five women and one male vibraphonist,
those five beautiful and young women were all wearing little black dresses or black
dresses, fishnets or lacy variations, wonderful shoes and the vibraphonist had the
neatest hair done with plenty of greasy kid-stuff. The idea that musicians that
play classical music or new music must dress conservatively is pure bunk. The performers
today could have easily been in a fashion spread.
In my photograph of flute
player Laura Vanek seen from behind you might discern red lacquer in the underside
of her black pumps. Could they possibly be Christian Louboutins?
|Owen Underhill, Albertina Chan & Daniel Tones|