The File Edge Into Oblivion
Saturday, May 21, 2016
In that dawn of my photographic career sometime in 1963 I
had a female friend in Mexico City who had
a beautiful Beseler 23-C enlarger that had a motorized up and down function. I
had just learned to process my own b+w film even though I had been shooting
since 1958. My greatest pleasure was making that enlarger move so I could
experiment on cropping my negatives. By the end of a long evening I could have
ended up with 5 or 6 versions of one negative.
Shortly after, I became a purist. I no longer cropped my
negatives and I made sure that my deciding crop was in camera through my
viewfinder. This was not entirely possible as cameras in those days gave you a
bit more than what you saw. It was the Nikon-F that finally brought the
absolutely accurate viewfinder and what you saw was what you got. I cannot
elaborate too much on the accuracy of the Leica rangefinder cameras of that era
as what you got could never exactly be what you saw as those Leicas were not new-fangled
single lens reflex cameras.
In my beginnings as a magazine photographer in Vancouver I
had to be accurate to a point. I always had to consider that if my pictures
ended up as covers, on a full vertical page ( bleeds they were called) or on a two-page
spread I had to make sure that the line between pages, called the gutter, did
not go through someone’s face. Cover photos had to have room up top for the magazine logo and the bottom corner for those new-fangled scan boxes. Both sides of the photograph be they a portrait or soemthing else had to be less busy so that copy could be put in.
To minimize art director cropping of my images I relied
on my Mamiya RB-67 which shot both vertical and horizontal shots on a 6x7cm format
that fit better into the pages of the magazines of the era.
By the mid 80s I had developed a new method of shooting.
I did everything with a full-frame crop and then I would print these negatives
(be they b+w or colour negative) with an enlarger negative carrier that I had
personally filed with a metal file. This resulted in photographs with what is
now called a crazy border. But then the technique meant two things:
1. The photographer was presenting a picture that was
cropped in camera.
2. The photographer had personally printed the photograph
as no two crazy borders are ever identical. A crazy border was a photographer’s
finger print and part of the personal style of that photographer.
I have written all the above here
But the reason for this blog is that a photographer can
never stay static in a style or modus operandi. A photographer has to progress
and move on even if it means moving on from the tried and true.
I have as an example today’s image here. One of them is
filed edge crop in the camera photograph of a woman (a Polish banker) wearing fishnets.
The other is of a psychiatric nurse wearing fishnets.
The image that I have cropped is part of a larger
negative taken with a Nikon FM-2, a 50mm lens and loaded with Kodak b+w Infrared
Film. I have cropped it so that it can meet with my self-censorship. It is also
cropped in a way that the resulting image will fly the robotic censors of
What I find interesting is that this crop makes the
photograph unusually erotic.
Ria Girard - Moving Day With Crystal Pite @ Q7
Friday, May 20, 2016
|Ria Girard - May 2016|
Arts Umbrella Senior Dance Company dancer Ria Girard
This is my third year participating in the choreographic
mentorship with Crystal Pite and it has consistently been one of the most
pivotal periods of each year. Of course, part of it is receiving guidance and
insight from one of today’s world-renowned choreographers. But it is also an
incredible way to unite each class. There is no better way to build a team than
creating art together, and putting on your own show.
Last year I was one of the choreographers, and since then
I have gained a tremendous amount of respect for anyone who puts themselves in
that position. A choreographer is probably the most vulnerable person in a
studio. Trying to articulate your imagination to a full room of people (in this
case your own peers) can be paralyzing. Never mind the logistics of the actual
physicality - as Crystal once said during our rehearsals “It is amazing what
dancers can do in my head!”.
This dilemma calls for a tremendous amount of
encouragement, respect, and trust in one another. It is crucial that as dancers
we support the choreographer's creativity; it is a time when we forget about
judgement and be inspired by each other. When seeing the beauty and depth that
has evolved over the past few months in our peers’ work, we learn to respect
anyone who is choreographing - regardless of their years of experience or what
kind of relationship we have with them. Through this experience we learn how to
communicate and understand each other on such a profound level. The trust that
is developed in each other as dancers, choreographers, and artists in general
elevates both our work and our companionship.
|The Three Musketeers - Charlie Prince, Albert Galindo, Tristan Ghostkeeper & Ria Girard - May 2015|
I look at all those Arts Umbrella dancers and I am
jealous of their shared companionship
and the fact that they are mentored.
Information and skills are transferred from one generation to another.
For me this never happened except once
and my career in photography
was all about learning on my own and having to put my finger in the fire to
find out that fire burns.
In March 1996 I had the good fortune to photograph a
dazzling young ballerina called Crystal Pite. She had performed her piece
Moving Day for Ballet BC
. She was on her way to join William Forsythe’s
Frankfurt Ballet. The Georgia Straight
had hired me to photograph her. I remember that
my pictures took no longer than 15 minutes but that my makeup artist took at
least 30 to do Pite’s extraordinary mouth.
I know that I will see Pite sitting on the side watching
her mentored students dance at Arts Umbrella’s Q7 Studio on Quebec and 7th
Avenue today at 4.
I find it most amazing that here I am, an old man, but
still present and that I will be watching more of this transfer. I do believe
that these young dancers do not take it all in stride. The essay above by Ria
Girard is ample proof.
A. Wissler - El Comodoro en el Tren
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Nora and I, after a wonderful afternoon at the Recoleta Cemetery
, boarded our train of the Línea Ferrocarril San Martín at Retiro
Station. We found a seat and this is a rare situation as the train is usually
quite full. In front of us was a man in uniform. He was very serious and
perhaps more so because of his moustache. I spotted a little wing button on his
dark blue jacket. I mulled this in my mind.
As soon as we were underway I decided to
satisfy my curiosity and ask him a few questions. My first one was “What rank are you?” I was most
surprised when he answered, “Soy comodoro,” as this is equivalent to Colonel. I
had never seen such a high ranking officer on a train before.
Since the 70s with all the terrible military governments
that “disappeared” people into oblivion, and the mess that the Falklands war
was for the country, the military presence on the street is just about
invisible. Between 1985 and 1995 President Carlos Menem abolished conscription
so you do not see uniformed sailors or soldiers anywhere.
My guess is that the Commodore was headed for the station
of El Palomar outside Buenos Aires, in the Province of Buenos Aires. There is a
Argentine Air Force Base there.
After my questions Commodore A. Wissler smiled at me and
said, “¡Un Comodoro en el tren!” From that point we chatted for close to 40
minutes. We talked about the Argentine Air Force. He told me he had been a
young boy in a poor family in the state of Jujuy. The only way he could get a
good education was to join the armed forces. He told me he was an electronic
engineer based downtown but that he had purchased a little house not far from
the Palomar Air Base.
We talked about the beautiful
(obsolete, still the principal fighter of the Argentine Airforce, but with advanced
avionics installed in Texas) of the A4Ar ( Lockheed Martin A-4AR Fightinghawk).
This peaked my interest.
In the mid 60s when I was a conscript of the Argentine
Navy but seconded to the office of the Senior US Naval Advisor, Captain USN
Onofrio Salvia, I had to translate from English into Spanish the maintenance
and operating manuals of recently purchased A-4 Sykhawks. I became most
familiar as I was given a tour of the then almost new airplanes and shown the
cockpit so I could translate stuff.
During the Falklands War
I remember watching on TV here
in Vancouver a horizon in which an A-4 (of the Argentine Air Force as both the
navy and the airforce had the same plane) was streaking from left to right. In
the middle of the screen it puffed and exploded. I was most upset (and I have
to admit not too much so about the professional air force pilot in control)
about the loss of an airplane that I considered mine!
Such was the intricacy and intimacy of our conversation
that other passengers contributed and the whole rail car was listening.
When he got off at El Palomar I realized how quickly the
time had run and soon after Nora Patrich and I arrived at the Bella Vista Station.
Weltschmerz, Ennui, Enervation & Fiaca.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Sometime in the early 70s when I was teaching high school in
a private school for rich kids in Mexico City I remember using a pocketbook in
my English class. It was called 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary by Dr.
Wilfred Funk & Norman Lewis. I have no idea if the book was absorbed by any
of my indolent students. I do know that I learned lots of new words.
Of late three of them have all come together and reflect how
I feel these days of a cold spring, a return, after a two week stay, from my
city of birth of Buenos Aires and having had my prostate reamed.
The words are weltschmerz, ennui and enervation. I can
add a fourth one from my Argentine Spanish fiaca (to feel like doing nothing).
This latter word from the Argentine lunfardo may have a connection with the lazy
Sicilian town of Sciacca which Andrea Camilleri has changed to Fiacca in his Inspector
Montalbano series of novels which I adore.
If you look up the three words from 30 Days to a More…you
will get the message that I have many things that I could do (including all the
holes of my blog in the last two months) but that I don’t. I could be tinkering
in the garden but the cold weather turns me off. I could read a novel but I
would rather read Borges or Dickinson poems that I have read before many times.
The four words in question help me justify placing here a
couple of images of my friend Bronwen Marsden who hates being told how beautiful
she is. So we decided I take pictures of her with the sharpest film ever made
(now defunct but I have quite a few rolls in my fridge) of Kodak Technical Pan
in 120 format. The film is merciless in showing detail. To Marsden’s
disappointment the resulting photographs still made her look like the beauty
Arts Umbrella Dance Company - From Physical to Emotional
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
|Artemis Gordon & Lynn Sheppard|
exclusive privilege of being allowed to watch (and photograph!) the rehearsals
for the Arts Umbrella Dance Company’s Season Finale May 26 to May 28 at the
Vancouver Playhouse brings some extraordinary perks. Paradoxically they involve
watching dancers not yet at their usual level of perfection. That perfection
is, now, an accepted token at any opening performance of this dance company.
The paradox has all to do with watching dance with the concommitant sound of two women, Arty
(Artemis Gordon) and her associate Lynn Sheppard, advising, correcting,
coaching all with a high level of
philosophic content. Where else would you hear something like this, “All
art has to start from the body. It is physical. If it is really physical it
will become emotional." Such is how serious the dancers take this instruction
that I watched one in tears as she navigated temporary failure. She was coaxed
by the duo that seems like a married couple of many years. One begins. The other
ends. Or if Arty says, “There are three pauses we must discuss,” and she brings
up two, Sheppard will then go to the third without a cue.
this level of cerebral thought that one marvels when watching five or six young
men stomp their feet in obvious incoordination with the shifting of their heads
two-and-fro, when Arty points out, “Start with your feet not with your head.
Then once you have that, the head will come along.” And so it was as I watched.
|The wig-wise ghost that haunts Granville Island|