But Peers Beyond Her Mesh
Saturday, May 10, 2014
A Charm invests a face
The Lady date not lift her Veil
For fear it be dispelled—
But peers beyond her mesh—
And wishes—and denies—
Lest Interview—annul a want
Where Have You Gone Husker Red?
Friday, May 09, 2014
|Rosa 'James Mason' , May 9, 2014|
Some years back the perennial plant
associations in North America would parade the
plant of the year. My own American Hosta Society would pick the Hosta of the
Year. As far as I know things have not changed.
I remember that in 1996 the plant of the
year was Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’. Since then I have not noticed one in
either our garden or in the occasional garden I visit.
This mentality of bringing something
exciting and new to the plant world every year is paralleled by the camera
companies vying for attention by bending over backwards to launch the camera
that will make their competitors’ obsolete. My cutting edge Fuji X-E1 of last
year was quickly replaced (new & improved, 50% more, etc!) by the X-E2.
Since we started gardening in our Kerrisdale
home many plants and trees have died because of old age, or our ignorance. They
didn’t get enough shade or got too much sun or suffered in a drought. With our
city’s decision to ban all kinds of insecticidal spraying many (two in our
garden) cherry trees have succumbed to the Cherry Bark Tortrix or the Winter
Moth. Some trees, the cherry trees and the birches simply should have never
been planted because of our wet conditions.
Our expert gardener friend Alleyne Cooke
defines plants in two categories. One is “a fine garden plant.” Those that are
not are simply “the rest.”
Still Cooke believes, as most gardeners do,
in hope. There are some magnolias and rhododendrons that take years before they
bloom. You plant these anyway because we must all live with hope.
I planted a Magnolia grandiflora (sometimes
called a Southern Magnolia as it flowers in the south of the United States)
12 years ago in my front garden. It has yet to flower. Our neighbours across
the lane, the Stewarts had not had apples from their trees ever. Fifteen years
ago when they were about to move (they were too old to take care of their house
on their own they were told by their real-estate agent daughter) the trees had
fruit. Mrs. Stewart gave us a baked apple pie as a parting gift.
I have a few other recalcitrant plants in
our garden and like players of a losing baseball team I always tell myself, “perhaps
So, in a 28 year old garden with two
surviving gardeners, Rosemary and me, the plants that remain are good garden
plants. Some are fancy and some are ordinary. But they have proved their worth
by their longevity.
They, the plants and trees, share with me
(I like to think of it this way) knowledge of where I buried six cats that died
in our home through the years. I have never told Rosemary these locations. The
sorriest burial was of our white female cat that was eviscerated by a raccoon. Fortunately
Rosemary never saw the poor thing dead and bloody as I did.
I have been scanning my plants now for at
least 10 years. I started with roses and I have from there transferred my
interest to just about every plant that can be scanned. I believe that the giclées made by my friend Grant Simmons are the
most beautiful plant reproductions I have seen anywhere and at last count I
have only sold one to my lawyer friend Christopher Dafoe. The few that
appreciate these plant scans ask me for my secret. I tell them all about the
mechanics but I also tell them that I communicate (talk) with my roses and I
know when to bring them inside for the scan. I think I almost believe myself. I
have seen other plant scans and they seem to be like portraits of people where
the photographer never connected with subject.
My plant scans will see the light of day in
some other time. I might not be around when that happens. What is interesting
and poignant is that my scan of Rosa ‘Reine Victoria’ and of many (many) others will be
of roses that will be impossible to find. With the garden industry plummeting,
nurseries can no longer bring in exotic roses and, of course, that plant of the
year, 1996 Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’.
|Rosa 'Reine Victoria'|
That Egg Chair
Thursday, May 08, 2014
|Rosemary and the egg chair, Arboledas 1974|
The egg chair lies forlorn in our basement.
I haven’t been able to find a place for it since we moved from our house in Burnaby in 1986. We
originally had it in our Arboledas, Estado de México home. Ceilings in our house there were of concrete so you could
hang it anywhere if you had a proper drill.
Our present home has
vaulted ceilings and I never had the gumption to poke a hole to find some beam
I could hang the chair from.
In Burnaby sometime around 1979 or 1989 I
photographed one of the most elegant women I have ever met. She was a jazz
dancer who appeared in most of the variety shows that were so popular at the
time at our local CBC. I think I first met her for my first show as a stills
man, the Wolfman Jack Show. ViktoriaLangton had legs that rivaled my mother’s and a face with cheekbones that
resembled a Cinemascope screen. Add to that a distinguished South African
accent and you had real glamour.
When I photographed
her in my low ceiling Burnaby
basement (the garage) I screwed a hook to the ceiling and hung the egg chair.
|Alexandra, 7. the egg chair was on the right of frame|
One of the reasons for
today’s blog besides showing you the egg chair (which I painted with white automobile
lacquer) is that I find it interesting to see the development of my portrait
technique. In both these pictures I was not good with Langton’s hands. After
repeated criticism from my Rosemary through the years, I would never show an
ungraceful hand or crop out fingers.
|Viktoria Langton, 1979, Pentax Spotmatic-F|
What I do notice is a
consistency of approach. I don’t like to put all my photographic eggs in one
basket. It was anathema in my years as a magazine photographer to return to the
assigning art director and say, “I did not load my camera properly,” or “The
flash sync was off,” or I forgot to load my camera with film,” and the many
other tricks of the trade that often conspired to prevent me from taking one useable
image. Early on I learned to have backup equipment handy. And, very important I
would use more than one camera.
In one of the
photographs here I used a Mamiya RB-67 with a 65mm wide angle lens (the only
lens I had for that camera at that time) loaded with a very fine grain b+w
film, Ilford Pan F which I believe I rated at 50 ISO. For the second shot I
used a Pentax Spotmatic F, a 35mm lens and Kodak Technical Pan which I also
rated at 50 ISO.
More now than ever, I
like the multiple camera approach. A digital camera may provide you with b+w,
colour, low contrast and high contrast on the same picture, but these
variations will still be from only one photograph. Here you see two similar
photographs that I believe are substantially different.
And as I look at the early pictures of our egg chair in Arboledas I can remember sitting in it and listening to Carole King, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Rod Stewart and Gerry Mulligan. Now minus that egg chair I still listen to Gerry Mulligan.
An Invitation - Not
Wednesday, May 07, 2014
|Invitation to go to Madrid on May 7.|
Sometimes one language over another might
reveal the meaning behind a word. Most of us would never consider that the verb
to invite which comes from Latin means with or in life.
In is much more obvious in Spanish where
the word has two versions. One is invitar and the other envidar. The latter is
sometimes used in an old Spanish card game and it means to invite to play.
Envidar is much closer in hinting that to
invite means I have something to share with you. This word, then is a
very intimate. An invitation (not that odd and more mechanical sounding invite)
is something personal and very special.
I once had a very beautiful woman call me
up in the middle of the night for an invitsation that as pleasant as it was I had
to refuse. This woman, of Latin origin, wanted me to take a course (she was
going to pay) at a local encounter group called Lifespring. This encounter
group was going to help me remove all my guilt so I could abandon my wife and
two daughters and move to Hawaii
with this wonderful woman.
When I first arrived in Vancouver in 1975 Rosemary and were invited
to something called “after dinner drinks”. Neither Rosemary (born in New Dublin,
Ontario) or I knew what exactly this meant. I thought it was odd. For many
years when people from abroad asked me about Vancouver I invariably said, “Vancouverites
are as cold as their tap water.”
At 71, in my de facto retirement I can
state that phone calls are at a minimum as are invites to (Thank God!) to stag
parties, Saturday weddings (that ruin your weekend), birthday parties and
parties in general. I do feel a tad isolated. But then many of my generation
are dead or suffering from life threatening diseases or going through rapid
That most personal invitation, one to visit
someone began to fall apart with the advent of web pages. The Vancouver Sanitation
Department invited you to “come and visit us at VancSanDep.Ca”. Fantastic I was
being invited to look at all I did not want to know about garbage.
Browse is another word that has lost its strength.
Whenever I browsed at Duthies the people who worked there knew me and they would
approach to suggest. This was pleasant. Browsing at Chapters is not quite the same.
For personal attention, re cameras I go to Leo’s Cameras as opposed to Future Shop
where attention is impersonal.
All that brings me to a pet peeve I have
harboured for some time. This is the facebook invite.
If you invite someone to your birthday
party you might be decent enough to state you don’t want a present. If you
invite someone for dinner you might tell them not to bring anything. You just
want the pleasure of the company.
But these facebook invitations to events in
which you are given three choices, to go, not go or be in doubt about going,
involve you, the invitee to pay so you can go to the event. I get invitations
in facebook by people I don’t really know to go to rock concerts late at night
(who goes to those anymore?) or to art openings.
It is easy for me to invite my friend John
Lekich for dinner. I can call him up. I can email him or (and I don’t quite
know why I would do this) direct message him in facebook. This would signal to
Lekich that I am not sending a blanket invitation to all the people I know or
know a little in facebook, even those who are geographically somewhere else. Standard
facebook reply to one of these blanket invitations is, “I would love to attend
but I will be out of town attending my mother-in-law’s funeral.”
By matter of principle I ignore all
facebook blanket invitations. But I can be directly messaged. That is a tad
Separate & Sulky
Tuesday, May 06, 2014
It is Tuesday, 13 January, 1829 and
Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Hervey of the 6th Light Dragoons
returned to London from a campaign in South Africa
with his friend Edward Fairbrother. They are in their “club” the United
Services Club. It took me a while, enjoying author Allan Mallinson’s odd
(perhaps replicating the writing of the time) that it was about my old
(I have read Mallinson’s 10 previous installments in the career of
Hervey) having a bath and experiencing new-fangled running water with
Brigadier Allan Mallinson is a former infantry and
cavalry officer, with thirty-five years’ service in the British Army. All the
history and the traditions of the British Army during the era of Napoleon
(Mallinson’s first Matthew Hervey novel begins with Waterloo in The Close Run Thing) somehow
evoke the land side of things most nicely with the counterpart of the same at
sea by Patrick O’Brian. Unfortunately with Patrick O’Brian dead I will not be
able to read more of his Captain Aubrey/Dr. Maturin nautical novels set in the
Napoleonic Wars. Fortunately Allan Mallinson seems to be happily at it
providing the many that must be fans with new situations in which Matthew
Hervey quotes in Latin, Greek and of writers of his age. Below is the beginning of Allan Mallinson's 11th novel On His Majesty's Service.
Hervey had rarely seen water come with such
force. It was that of the falls in Canada,
near Fort York (if an infinitesimal fraction of
the volume), which a decade past he had observed for himself in their icy
midwinter trickle. And the enveloping steam was like the mist that had shrouded
him in safety on the heights of Esi-Klebeni as the warriors who had
assassinated the Zulu king pursued him with like intent.
‘Remarkable,’ he said, shaking his head.’
His friend Edward Fairbrother took the
cheroot from his mouth and frowned at its dampened glow. ‘I confess I am
astonished that you wonder at such a thing after all you have seen,’ he
replied, blowing the end of the remaining three inches of the best Indian leaf.
‘We have come here twice by steamship, have we not? And I fancy the Romans
bathed with scarcely less luxury hereabout in centuries past.’
Fairbrother’s practiced insouciance almost
invariably amused. Indeed Hervey thought of his friend increasingly in terms of
indispensability – not as jester but (since it was he that had spoken of the
ancients) more as the crouching cautioner in the triumphant procession: Respica
te, hominem te memento – ‘Look behind thee, and remember thou art but a man.’
Not that Hervey saw himself as the man
honoured in triumph, for although he had saved what remained of his troop in
the desperate fight in the kraal, he had not been able to save the Zulu king’s
favourite, Pampata (his ward in their flight thither); but he returned now to
London with commendations for resource and bravery, and in the prospect of
command at last of his regiment. This latter, whatever his regrets – above all
the slaughter of men under his authority – was ample cause for satisfaction.
But first, before any triumphs, or anything remotely resembling it – before,
that awaited him – he was determined to bathe.
‘And by this ’andle ’ere, sir, the water is
regulated,’ said the valet, first slowing and then stopping altogether the
surge. ‘And then you can ’ave it as ’ot or as cold as you will by this other
’andle ’ere, sir which regulates the cold water in like manner.’
On His Majesty's Service - Allan Mallinson
Mallinson has a way of inserting relevant
information, little at a time. As if this information were the first chip in a
tall round box of Pringles.
Fairbrother had already declared his
intention to do nothing but sit in the shade of the seraglio’s courtyard,
uncomprehending all the language spoken about him and therefore able with
perfect concentration to finish reading – strange as it seemed to Hervey – Guy
Mannering, which had lodged several days unopened in his small pack, with a
mark at the beginning of the second part.
‘What moved you to choose it?’ asked Hervey
when they were alone, more disposed to humour him of late.
‘It was in the bundle I bought as a single
lot at your bookseller’s. I wanted the Hazlitt, principally, and the others
At this point I must clarify that I had no
idea of who was Guy Mannering nor the importance of Hazlitt. I let the info
pass me by.
‘I confess I’ve not read it.’
‘You ought to. Mannering’s a colonel.’
‘I imagine it is Scotch?’
‘There, and Holland,
Hervey was taking his ease over yet more
coffee. ‘You know, I read Waverly, for he’d caught the rebellion very well,
said those who knew about it, but I confess I was not greatly drawn to Scotland.
I can’t think but that its wildness is mean, or melancholy – though I wouldn’t
mind seeing Culloden.’
And of course this ignoramus still did not
get the drift. By the almost end of On His Majesty’s Service I finally did get
He took a few more thoughtful paces, and
closed the book. ‘And how was your novel? Did you finish it?’
‘I did, indeed. And it’s given me an idea.
Let me read something to you.’ Fairbrother opened the Scott [yes!] at the last
page. ‘Guy Mannering’s returned from India a colonel and he’s resolved
to give up his house and build anew: “See here’s the plan of my bungalow, with
the all convenience for being separate and sulky when I please.’
‘It does not have the ring of great
literature, so I imagine you have another purpose for reading it.’
Fairbrother smiled, grateful that his
design was half explained. ‘Well I am minded to give up my house at the Cape
and build the same, a bungalow, close to your quarters at Hounslow – close
enough to stroll by of an evening, yet far enough to be “separate and sulky”
when I please. What say you?’
And of course after looking it all up I
found out that Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832) was a lawyer/poet during an age
when writing a novel was simply not done by a man of good upbringing. He did
not want his father to know about his penchant for wanting to write a novel. So
Scott published his first, Waverly in 1814 it was done so anonymously. When his
other novels became (runaway in the parlance of our era) successes they were
published as “by the author of Waverly” so these subsequent novels were called
Waverly novels. It makes all the sense that Mallinson has his protagonists read
books of their time and to quote in the various languages learned at school.
There is a poignant attraction to become the friend of a protagonist you read about in a progression as is the case of Mathew Hervey's rise in the British Army. This was the attraction of that series by Alexandre Dumas, his Musketeer series. It was best put by Robert Louis Stevenson
who read the Vicomte de Bragellone at
least five times. Of his second reading he wrote, “I would sit down with the
Vicomte for a long, silent, solitary lamp-light evening by the fire. And yet I
know not why I call it silent, when it was enlivened with such clatter of
horse-shoes, and such a rattle of musketry, and such a stir of talk; or why I
call these evenings silent in which I gained so many friends. I would rise from
my book and pull the blind aside, and see the snow and the glittering hollies
checker a Scotch garden, and the winter moonlight brighten the white hills.
Thence I would turn again to the crowded and sunny field of life in which is
was so easy to forget myself, my cares and my surroundings: a place as busy as
a city, bright as a theatre, thronged with memorable faces, and sounding with
delightful speech. I carried the thread of that epic into my slumbers, I woke
with it unbroken, I rejoiced to lunge into the book again at breakfast, it was
with a pang that I must lay it down and turn to my own labours; for no part of
the world has ever seemed to me so charming as these pages, and not even my
friends are quite as real, perhaps quite so dear, as d’Artagnan.”
I feel the same about Matthew Paulinus Hervey.
Romance in the Napoleonic Wars
Out Tangoing Tango
Monday, May 05, 2014
|Left Photograph by Helmut Newton, Right Dirk Bogarde Estate|
Dirk Bogarde 'The Look'
I remember being surprised, and showing it
rather obviously, when Luchino Visconti, reading through the cast of a film
which I had just agreed to make with him, said’…and finally I will use the
English girl Charlotte Rampling for the young wife who is sent to the
‘Rampling! But why?’ I remember saying
tactlessly. Visconti placed the forefinger and thumb of each hand around his
eyes, framing them. ‘For this,’he said. ‘For the Look.’
…Rampling keeps her own sensuality well
banked down, but one is constantly aware of the fire below in the lithe walk,
the measured tread, the slender length of leg, the curve of the neck and throat
and perhaps, most of all, in the meaning and the suggestions which lie behind
the Look. Those alone can still a breath. It seems all that is necessary.
Dirk Bogarde, Paris 23.2.87
The above is in the introduction to
Charlotte Rampling’s book With Compliments – Charlotte Rampling.
Some who may read this blog every once in a
while might know that I have been married since 1968 to the same woman, my
Rosemary. But I have often told her that should I get any offer from Rampling I
would leave her on the spot. Perhaps I only say this in jest.
The fact is that sometime in 1988 I
traveled to Toronto
to show my portfolio to magazine art directors. In a remainder bookstore on Yonge Street I found
the Rampling book for which I paid something less than $10. It is in my list of
my most valuable books with a first edition of The Old Man and the Sea and a
British first of Neuromancer. Most serious book collectors would certainly not
approve of Rampling being in that list. To hell with them!
For three years now I have vowed not to buy
any more books and I order my reading material on my on-line Vancouver Public
Library. I direct the VPL to send the books to my local Oakridge branch. My Oakridge
branch has one of the most remarkable book/withdrawal/rejects shelf (on
wheels). My latest purchase is the Bogarde book for which I paid $1.50. It is
in excellent shape and it may have been read once. Novels go for $1.00.
As soon as I got home with my purchase I
went to the index and looked up Rampling, Charlotte. Here is what I found:
In a letter to Bee Gilbert (Photographer,
screenwriter and producer. She met Dirk for The Fixer (1969) when she was
living with Ian Holm.):
…Honestly…during my fifth simulated orgasm
on the film with Cavani [she directed The Night Porter] in Rome…I suddenly wondered what the hell I was
doing at 53 with my back on the floor, my flies undone, being straddled by
beloved Miss Rampling..with an entire Italian Crew watching and eating pizza. Nothing
I had ever done in Rank prepared me for that …and it also hurt my elbows
most damnably. So I have decided not to do anything else until I REALLY feel so
dotty about it i cant resist. But the shit of it all…the hotel rooms, early
calls, hanging about, arguing about continuity, avoiding Press…faking Fucks…BASTA!
We have apparently out Tangoed ‘Tango’…I cant say that makes me happy…but it
might make some lolly. I ADORED Miss Cavani…I used to hit her so that she would
cry..so thatI could cuddle her. Kinky? Betcha…Love end of page. D.
OOOO(Hugs for Ian.) For you XXXXXXXXXXXXXX
and two OO’s
Heraclitus & My Ghosts Of Dance
Sunday, May 04, 2014
|Fei Guo, September 2003|
A while back I joined a facebook discussion
group called Dialogue on Dance Writing. I felt I wanted to comment on some of
the postings but I could not do so unless I joined. I did and a few weeks after I was
allowed in. Nothing much ever happens in Dialogue on Dance Writing and the only
active contributor seems to be Battery Opera’s Su-Feh Lee. Today I saw a posting that
interested and I contributed. But I had a nagging feeling that Su-Feh Lee and I
had met previously.
And indeed I had sometime in February 2003
I photographed Lee and her partner David McIntosh (Battery Opera) for the Georgia
Straight. I have no idea what led me to make an 8x10 print of the session and
take it to Point Grey Road
and immerse it at the beach. I remember I dropped one of the film backs of my
Mamiya RB into the sea water and that the repair exceeded what the Straight
paid me for the photograph.
While rummaging through my files to find Su-Feh
Lee I also found the portraits of a Ballet BC dancer I have little recollection
of. There are negatives, a contact sheet and one Polaroid in the file labeled
|Battery Opera - David McIntosh, Su-Feh Lee, Feb 2003|
The Polaroid is luminous and the expression
on Guo is just right.
Since I stopped being asked to photograph
dancers and other members of the arts organizations of Vancouver I have noticed
that not only has dance writing and dance previews have declined in quantity
but also (who am I to opine as I am a photographer) on quality, too.
I look with interest and jealousy the
photographs of the different dance companies in New York City in my NY Times. In these ads
the dancers are given personality and their sex is made evident. The pictures
show dancers as actors, as people and as humans.
Local images of dancers seem to reflect
them as soaring birds, frozen in time and space. There is nothing of their
humanity in these images.
As an obsolete/redundant ex-magazine
photographer I believe that there is ample room to show dancers in another
I sometimes feel that all those dance performances I have been to, become instant ghosts in my mind. Like Heraclitus wrote, I dip my hand into waters that are not ever repeated. But like sounds that linger I feel that the performances and the dancers remain somewhere and can be brought back. My files of dancers I should perhaps re-file as Ghosts of Dance.