From Concept To Photograph Via Burnaby BC
Saturday, July 11, 2015
, on February 2, 2008 I wrote about modern dancer Alison
When I looked at her negatives today I had the thought on
the importance of conceptual thinking in what used to be my career as an
magazine (editorial) photographer.
Between 1975 (when we came to Vancouver from Mexico City)
and 1986 we lived in the Vancouver outskirts in Burnaby. Even now when I take a
photograph (and especially when I shoot it for a magazine) I think, “How
would the average person in Burnaby see this photograph? Would they understand
it? Is it a tad too sophisticated? “In short, and as an example, if I photographed
a doctor for an article on doctors would the photograph represent a doctor
without the need of an explanation underneath?
Alison Denham was not and is not a ballet dancer. If I had
photographed her in dance leotards most in Burnaby would have thought, “Dancer.”
My 13 year-old granddaughter who dances at Arts Umbrella
uses the following to determine if a particular dance performance I would be
taking her is modern dance or classical ballet, “Papi will they be dancing
barefoot?” While this difference is not always true in defining ballet or
modern dance it is an across the board statement that would work most of the
In the case of Denham I wanted to show her dramatically
formed abs and flat stomach. A leotard would not do. Had I photographed her without
a top that would not have been an image I could use here or originally as it
was used, in a city magazine.
So the concept had to scream dancer and show abs, A bikini
would have been confusing.
So I arrived at the idea of using a long stream of narrow
cloth (I picked off-white so that it would reproduce with less contrast with
b+w film). To stick it on Denham I purchased in London Drugs the two-sided tape
that is used by bald men to secure their toupees or to hold together those
near-nothing strapless dresses.
When I showed Rebecca (she is now 17) the photograph her
first question was, “Did you put it on her?” I explained to Rebecca that a
photographer never touches a photographic subject particularly when that
subject is not wearing much. At some point I might have helped a tad but the
second picture here should explain fully how it was done.
When one teaches photography (and I have) this sort of conceptual thinking is the hardest to convey to students
Gustave Caillebotte - A Realist Impressionist
Friday, July 10, 2015
demand in a world market for Picassos and Mondrians only the hyper-wealthy or
museums can afford to purchase and or display. This means that previously
unknown or less known artists are now been given their time of day and their
paintings much needed light.
similar to the over extension of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and other great works of the 18th century.
These pieces can be heard on YouTube for free so the comparison to the visual art
is not exact. But now previously less known baroque composers of the fantastic
(the period is sometimes called that) 17the century are in vogue worldwide and
especially with Early Music Vancouver programming of late.
my favourite days of the week is Friday and specifically Friday morning when I
immediately go to the two-section (only on Friday) Weekend Arts I and II of my hard copy NY Times. The I
is about films, TV and dance but II is about the visual arts. This section
explores new exhibitions, etc. But to this old man who had a poor arts
education it is like opening a new and wonderful (and previously unknown)
mystery writer’s novel. A case in point is the cover article on a French
painter Gustave Caillebotte, 19 August 1848 – 21 February 1894, who was a
strange hybrid in that he was an Impressionist with a big chunk of realism.
I was enamored
and charmed by his Nude on a Couch which I show here and hope that when the
blog is posted in Facebook, the style/morality police will not notice and let
it go by.
for the show at the National Gallery of Art in Washington is here. I hope that
you who are not NY Times subscribers might be able to click and see what all
the hoopla is about.
also including (in a very tiny file) my photograph of the one-armed model Pam
that I photographed some years ago. With an early version of Corel I modified
the photograph to resemble a hyper realist painting. I posed her in such a way
as most who see it would never suspect she only has one arm.
A Meaningless Juxtaposition (not)
Thursday, July 09, 2015
I wrote about a meaningless juxtaposition here
and I used
these combined photographs to prove the point.
Sandrine Cassini wrote of the blog when she saw the
“Gosh, that’s 11 years ago!!!” (and somehow subtracted a
year by her count.)
One of the most influential men of my life was my lifelong friend
Brother Edwin Reggio,C.S.C
. I first met him at St.Edward’s High School, a Roman
Catholic boarding school in Austin, Texas. In 1957 he made an offer I could not
refuse that I was going to play the alto saxophone for the school band. The
short but extremely tough man was not the kind of man you said no to.
|Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C.|
He died April 24, 2013. I had gone to visit him in Austin
a few months before. He had a rare disease, a by-product of leukemia that
caused an infection that went up his spine and very quickly began to erase his
For a week I sat with him at breakfast, lunch and dinner. He
had moments of lucidity. At one point I said to him, “Brother Edwin, can you
say ‘gosh’ for me?”
Brother Edwin did have a temper but I never heard him utter
any bad word, the closest was “gosh”. I found his use of the word endearing and
His answer to my request (showing that in spite of his
slipping memory he had not lost his quick intelligence) was, “Alex, I can say ‘gosh”
for you but it will have no meaning for me as I don’t remember what it means to
you or to me.”
Three years later (and a bit more) that charming (and
beautiful) woman, Sandrine Cassini, who now lives (alas!) in San Francisco, has
used the Brother Edwin word. She has made me smile. Perhaps there is innocence
in all of us and had Brother Edwin ever set eyes on Sandrine Cassini, he would
have been inclined to say, “Gosh!”
Motionless Faces - Os Rostoes Imóveis
Wednesday, July 08, 2015
We know that death is inevitable and more so as one gets old. In my youth the only people who died lived next door and the only ones who won the lottery were across the street. I know better now. This poem, in an unrelenting way is most elegant.
Motionless Faces -Os Rostoes Imóveis
Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Father dead, loved one dead.
Aunt dead, brother born dead.
Cousins dead, friend dead.
Grandfather dead, mother dead
(hands white, portrait on the wall always crooked, speck
of dust in the eyes).
Acquaintances dead, teacher dead.
Fiancée dead, girl friends dead.
Engineer dead, passenger dead.
Unrecognized body dead:
a man's? an animal's?
Dog dead, bird dead.
Rosebush dead, orange trees dead.
Air dead, bay dead.
Hope, patience, eyes, sleep, movement of hands: dead.
Man dead. Lights go on.
He works at night as if he were living.
Good morning! He is stronger (as if he were living).
Dead without an obituary, secretly dead.
He knows how to imitate hunger, and how to pretend to
And how to insist on walking, and how well he walks.
He could walk through walls, but he uses doors.
His pale hand says good-bye to Russia.
Time enters and leaves him endlessly.
The dead pass quickly; they cannot be held on to.
As soon as one leaves, another one is tapping your
I woke up and saw the city:
the dead were like machines,
the houses belonged to the dead,
an exhausted chest smelling of lilies,
feet bound up.
I slept and went to the city:
everything was burning,
crackling of bamboo,
mouth dry, suddenly puckering.
I dreamt and returned to the city.
But it wasn't the city anymore.
They were all dead, the medical examiner was checking the
tags on the the corpses.
The medical examiner himself had died years ago but his
hand continued implacably.
The awful stench was everywhere.
From this veranda without a railing I watch both
I watch my life running away with a wolf's speed, I want
to stop it, but would I be bitten?
I look at my feet, how they have grown, flies circulate
I look at everything and add it up, nothing is left, I am
poor, poor, poor,
but I cannot enter the circle,
I cannot remain alone,
I shall kiss everyone on the forehead,
I shall distribute moist flowers,
after . . . There is no after or before.
There is cold on all sides,
and a central cold, whiter still.
Colder still . . .
A whiteness that pays well our old anger and bitterness .
Feeling myself so clear among you, kissing you and
getting no dust in my mouth or face.
Peace of wispy trees,
of fragile mountains down below, of timid riverbanks, of
gestures that can no longer annoy,
sweet peace without eyes, in the dark, in the air.
Sweet peace within me,
within my family that came from a fog unbroken by the sun
and returns to their islands by underground roads,
in my street, in my time—finally—reconciled,
in the city of my birth, in my rented rooms,
in my life, in everyone's life, in the mild and deep
death of myself and everyone.
Drummond de Andrade, from Travelling in the Family: Selected Poems
October 31, 1902 – August 17, 1987 Itabira, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Rumbero Y Jarocho - Alexandra Returns To Veracruz
Monday, July 06, 2015
Veracruz (Agustín Lara)
con la luna de plata
con alma de pirata.
nacido rumbero y jarocho,
y me fui
lejos de Veracruz…
While I am a peaceful kind of guy whose participation in the
Argentine Armed Forces (the Argentine Navy) was by conscription and not by
choice, I nonetheless have a largish collection of books on military history and tactics. This includes a considerable assortment of photography books on the American Civil
I have two favourite war novels, The
by Michael Shaara (it won a Pulitzer) and Gone For Soldiers
by his son Jeff
Shaara. The former book is about Gettysburg and in a trend quite popular these
days (of which I approve) novelists put words into the mouths of historical
people. The Killer Angels is about as fine a book I have ever read (and I have
read a few) on the US Civil War and Gettysburg.
The second one, Gone For Soldiers is a book that has a
special relevance for me. I lived in Mexico for many years and part of the time
I was in Veracruz. This port city, which was the second Mexican
city, founded by Hernando Cortés in 1519 (the original Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz was 70 miles north of the present
one) is not just Veracruz. It is more complicated. I will explain below.
|Painting - Assault on Mexico City, 1853 West Point Museum Collection|
The relevance is that General Winfield Scott and his
American Army landed in Veracruz in 1846.
In Shaara’s Foreword – To the Reader he begins with this:
One of the most overlooked
stories in American History is our involvement in a war with Mexico, for 1846
through 1848. The most obvious reason why the Mexican War is overlooked is that
it predates the Civil War by only thirteen years. Such proximity to the most
horrific event in our nation’s history easily explains why history books often
pass over this more minor of wars, and skip
quickly to the events of the 1860s.
The official name for Veracruz is El Cuatro Veces Heroico
Puerto the Veracruz (sometimes La Cuatro Veces Ciudad de Veracruz). This is so by gubernatorial decree. In
1821 when Mexico was fighting its war of independence from Spain, the last
redoubt of the Spaniards was the nearby fort of San Juan de Ullúa. It took the Mexican army a while to take the fort back.
For the second time it was the French who shelled the
city and the fort in 1838 in what came to be known as the war of the
The third time is about Scott and his American Army in
Americans can take credit for the fourth time. They
invaded the city with US Marines in 1914. The reason has been forgotten with time.
Some jarochos (people from Veracruz) in a romantic streak omit the Spaniards and opt for telling you that pirate Henry Morgan sacked Veracruz in 1683.
What is of particular interest to me these days is that I
understand why there is uproar about the Confederate Battle Flag. It should be taken down. In an effort
to re-write history there is an extreme tide (in my opinion even though I
consider myself to be a liberal) to not only bring down the flag but to remove
Confederate memorials to generals and the like. They want to remove Robert E.
Lee’s name from schools, universities, parks and streets. Someday soon, Stalin
will not exist in Russian history texts.
What is amazing and most interesting about Gone For
Soldiers (to the detriment of the Mexican Army) is that a youngish Army Captain
of Engineers had a solution to avoid bloodshed in the taking of Veracruz and he
found a way of avoiding a frontal assault on the superior (by numbers) army of
General Santa Anna in Mexico City (the Halls of Montezuma). The engineer
designed a path through a volcanic steppe near Mexico which avoided that feared
People might not recognize the lithograph of the captain
above. I suspect that Shaara found it in the West Point Museum Collection. The
man is Captain Robert E. Lee.
|El Malecón, Christmas 1968|
My daughter Alexandra (born in 1968) and probably
conceived by yours truly and my Rosemary in the port of Veracruz is going to
visit it for the second time in a few days. She and her good friends brother
and sister Carlos Zamora and Laura
Zamora de Martín will drive from Mexico city to Veracrúz via the route
(backwards) taken by Scott and his army in his assault on Mexico City.
When Ale was barely four months old we drove our
Beeattle to Veracruz just before Christmas so that the new grandmother could meet her granddaughter. I
took a curve much too quickly and turned over. Rosemary and I survived the
accident because I had recently purchased new Firestone tires that came with a
gift of seat belts which I dully installed. Ale was in the back seat in a
wicker basket that had a sloping little roof. She did not suffer even a
scratch. A pair of friendly jarochos (the word for people from Veracruz) helped
us. One of them took Rosemary and Ale to the port and the other accompanied me
as I drove the battered car (that kept wanting to go in one direction as its
steering was shot). In was a few days after Christmas Day, during a norte
that I took my iconic photograph of Rosemary
with Ale on the Malecón (the Spanish name for any boulevard that follows around
a beach and the sea).
|Alexandra Elizabeth & her grandmother Filomena - Christmas 1968 - Veracruz|
I will give (lend!) Ale Shaara’s book so that she may
experience (I have) that eerie feeling of walking on the city square and perhaps passing
through the ghost of that Captain of the US Army.