Helmut Newton - Subtlety, Elegance & GoneSaturday, August 13, 2016
|Helmut Newton - London 1988 - Photograph Lincoln Clarkes|
Picture this. I am in pretty good health and I look a few months younger than I really am (about to be 74 in a few days). Money problems are gone as Rosemary and I sold our valuable West Side house and now live ensconced in a small (everything works and does not leak) duplex. The Malibu drives nicely and we could get a few more repair-free time out of it. Our cat, Casi-Casi, 12, is no longer radioactive as his Iodine 131 treatment for a hyperthyroid was successful. Eldest fdaughter Ale is happy in her one acre in Lillooet and Hilary, husband and youngest daughter Lauren are established in their new digs (with a community pool) in Burnaby.
|Helmut Newton - 1975|
The only besmirching of this ideal situation is our oldest granddaughter Rebecca who is on an apparent dive to more problematic situations.
My friends keep telling me to continue plugging with what I do. This is easy but also paradoxically difficult.
It is easy because I think that I am taking the best photographs of my life. On the negative (and with a smile of sorts) I may commission someone to write me a country song with the title of Obsolete, Redundant & Retired.
In the previous century, any experimental photographs I took sooner than later were re-adapted to magazines I worked for which had enlightened art directors who liked to push boundaries.
In that last century there was the Exposure Gallery on Beatty Street where I participated in countless erotic group shows. Also in that past century I had exhibits (including a one-person one) in various very good galleries. I had some pictures up in the Presentation House. My guess is that was a passing exception to their “rule” that the photographer has to be dead, or be foreign or to produce work that had to be explained with a massive artist statement.
The internet has changed all that. The last time I attended a show at Presentation House I was introduced by the chief curator as a good portrait photographer (what was really meant was a good commercial portrait photographer).The decline of magazines has meant that there is less money for photographers and for daring work. The avenues left are flickr, Instagram, Tumblr and others. To me even if good photographs can be found they are hidden by a waistland of banality and mediocrity. There are too many found photographs. Few are created in some form of pre visualization (as Minor White would have said).
And style the likes of Penn and Avedon seems to have disappeared to this ex-photographer.
And so I take lots of photographs that will never see the light of day as hard copy and, most that do appear on some web page, I censor so that I will not offend the onerous rules of 21st century propriety.
So going back to my relative calm life in my Kitsilano duplex I must find some meaning for existing further, for taking photographs, for wanting to wake up tomorrow to see what the day will bring.
I have been plagued by a recent desire to stay home and not go to concerts and plays or to see the latest films at a pop corned Multiplex.
My age makes it difficult for me to find models to undrape. I am no longer a passably attractive young man of 37.
I have no recollection when I first heard this:
A woman is as old as she looks. A man is old when he stops looking.
Forget the idea that driving in Vancouver with cell phone in hand is dangerous. Much more so is the recent explosion of women wearing shorts that expose the gluteus maximus. This distraction is very dangerous and I find it hard not to want to look.
What all that means is that I have a desire to photograph women of any age (preferably over 30,40 and over even better). I don’t want to document fire plugs, Vancouver sunsets, Vancouver skylines, my cat or the food I cook or eat at a restaurant. My desire to take selfies only applies when I can find a beautiful woman to pose in front of a mirror with me squeezing the shutter on the side (and almost hidden).
This desire seemed unhealthy or at least it was the reaction indicated by some of the people I confessed my problem to.
The unhealthy factor changed the moment (it happened twice) at the Vancouver Art Gallery Picasso show. Watching Picasso, with a whimsical smile on his face in a lovely video where he does quick line drawings with a paintbrush and white paint and which all end up being unclothed women seemed so natural.
No I am not Picasso. But the show (a show of his relationship with the women of his life) stressed to me an obsession of the male painter, and sculptor to document the female body since that first little fat and pregnant statuette in our human pre-history. Either they were all sick, (and that includes the relatively more recent photographic manifestations of the undraped female body), or it is perfectly natural and healthy! For my own sanity I will opt for the second part of that choice.
|Olena - August 17 2016|
In the past century I had the assignment to photograph a new cutting edge painter called Lincoln Clarkes. The write was Les Wiseman for Vancouver Magazine. Shortly after, Clarkes shifted to photography and began to photograph a lovely, slim model called Elizabeth Mazzoni. One that I particularly remember was of her undraped by the side of an antique bank vault (it was in a property owned by Uno Langmann, downtown). The photograph looked like a photograph of Helmut Newton’s. In fact for a while I thought Clarkes was the Helmut Newton of Vancouver! But Clarkes diverged into other topics and only recently did I notice his habit of taking pictures of women in skirts riding bicycles.
For better or for worse I have been emulating my own versions of Helmut Newton while trying to make sure that my photographs do not champion the objectification of women. I do not photograph them in a demeaning way and I always ask them to be in control. I want to think that at the very least Newton and I share some good taste and elegance with a side of occasional subtlety.
These photographs (the film ones) will go to my extensive metal cabinet files. The digital ones to an exterior hard drive. And meanwhile when I ride a bus I can smirk at people who might think, “That’s an old man.” More correct would be, “That’s a dirty old man.”