Leonard Cohen - 21 September 1934 – 10 November 2016Thursday, November 10, 2016
My memory of having Leonard Cohen pose for my camera is that my image of him was of a man who never smiled, who seemed to be depressed most of the time. It was all based on a first impression. My good Yorkshire-born friend Andrew Taylor showed me, it was in Mexico City, around 1970 a record (the 1967 Songs of Leonard Cohen). I noticed a glum sap on the cover.
Since my Rosemary is Canadian he told me, “Here’s a chap you should listen to. He’s a Canadian.” We plunked the record on my turntable and listened to Suzanne. All I could tell my friend, “That is dismally depressing.”
So there was Cohen in front of me, in 1988 in Vancouver BC. At the time I had the crazy (awful?) technique of lifting my camera high on my tripod and shooting down on my subjects to make them seem smaller.
He looked at me and said, “I am an English speaking Jew in a French speaking Montreal. That makes me a bad apple minority and that’s what I am.
I snapped 17 pictures (my use of 220 roll film gave me 20 exposures) and he looked dramatically sombre for all of them.
It was then that I came up with the idea. I told him, “For this next picture there must be no hint of even a smile.” I waited with my left hand on the cable release and he did the remarkable thing of laughing! And then right after that he brought up his reading glasses and hammed it up. I was so wonderfully shaken that I quit right there and did not fire that final 20th exposure.