Lynn Canyon - Air, Space & Water
Saturday, July 23, 2016
Today is an almost hot day. I long for the really hot days
and the nights when I can sleep undraped on my bed sheet and languidly dream of
my nights in tropical places like Mérida or the damp hot evenings of my Buenos
It seems that this sort of heat only really happens a few
days in August. But I plan to enjoy the heat of my eldest daughter’s home in
Lillooet this coming week. Most in Canada must know that Lillooet and Lytton,
BC vie for the hottest places in our country.
I do not believe that I am an old lizard or snake who wants
to bask in the sun. In my two years in the Argentine Navy we conscripts had to
wear heavy dark blue woollens until some silly admiral decided that winter was
over and spring was around the corner. My sailor mates all pointed out that I
seemed to be impervious to the heat and that I did not sweat.
Perhaps in a previous life I was a snake or a lizard.
I went into my files today looking for pictures that
would put me in the mood of a truly hot day refreshed by cold and very pure
When my Argentine relatives ask me about the charms of
Vancouver I always answer with these words, “Air, space and water.”
There is no place that somehow reflects all those three
than the long and meandering Capilano River at about the place where the Lynn
Canyon Bridge crosses it.
Las Veinte y Veinticinco
Friday, July 22, 2016
Era una calurosa
noche de verano, un 26 de julio de Vancouver. Me acosté. No podía dormir. Estaba inquieta. Dormitaba. Me perseguía un persistente
sueño. Estaba en una capilla ardiente. Había gente vestida de
negro. Yo estaba acostada y podía discernir una combinación de olor de velas y
de gladiolos. Hacía frío. Tenía
escalofríos. Era un frío invierno porteño. Mi cuerpo lo sentía helado.
me dormí. Me desperté con la realidad de que anoche había soñado que yo era Eva
"Veinte y veinticinco, hora en que Eva Perón entró en la inmortalidad."
Thursday, July 21, 2016
|Rick Etkin jpg, July 20, 2016|
A couple of weeks ago I ran into photographer Larry
Goldstein at Southlands Nursery. As we chatted I realized how much I missed and
miss my contemporaries of a photographic heyday that preceded the proliferation
of the camera with the accessory phone.
And so I came up with the idea of inviting a few of them
to my home so we could shoot the bulb (only those who preceded the camera with
the accessory phone will understand that expression) to our heart’s content and
compare notes about how we had huge day rates and were sent abroad on shooting assignments.
We had our pleasant barbecue with wine and beer yesterday
Besides Larry Goldstein I invited Hans Sipma, Rick Etkin,
Roger Brooks and Heather Dean. It was Etkin who pointed out that this bunch of
old timers (Dean excepted as she just turned 30 and who happens to have a
15-year-old son) were in the original CAPIC members of yore.
Of the six (I must include myself) the bravest is Dean who used to hang out of
helicopters in rigs that would induce vertigo on anybody. She took the ultimate
photograph of the Shaughnessy Crescent (an oval not quite round park) and
risked being shot down by police helicopters when she and her pilot husband skimmed
Wreck Beach for a photograph for Malcolm Parry’s Vancouver Magazine.
Of Larry Goldstein, a self-effacing photographer who says
he doesn’t shoot far out stuff but pleases all his clients with efficiency,
accuracy I can only add that if most photographers were like him we would be
considered a likeable bunch.
Rick Etkin is always ahead of everybody in cutting edge
technology with the possible exception of Hans Sipma. Etkin was the first local
photographer with a cell phone and he was and is the kind of photographer with
a studio that makes those of us who work out of our home drool. As far as I
can tell he is the only photographer in this city who ever bragged in his web
page that he could photograph from the smallest to the largest and mentioned
locomotives on the way.
Roger Brooks is the kind of interiors and architectural
photographer who happens to know his craft because he studied to be a civil
engineer but then decided to chuck the bridges and take the kind of shots that
until the advent of digital cameras made his kind of photography extremely
difficult and very hard to light correctly. But even though he made and makes
lots of money he did lose his shirt once and took a most artistic kind of
photograph of the lost shirt that was the marvel of light and composition.
Hans Sipma would be a millionaire if he had not
squandered for so many years his hard-earned money from ad agency jobs in very
expensive Italian bicycles and the clothing getup that accompanied them. Sipma
may have been the first (and last as nobody could top the shot) to make the
Vancouver Planetarium almost make it to the Kuiper Belt with rockets in one of
the most memorable manipulated photographs I have ever seen. When you talk to
Sipma (and Brooks, too) you realize that he is a seriously funny guy.
|Sitting- Rick Etkin & yours truly, Standing from left, Larry Goldstein, Roger Brooks, Heather Dean & Hans Sipma - Photograph by Rosemary Waterhouse-Hayward|
The best has to be last and that’s Heather Dean. I once
had the luck of traveling next to her both ways from Vancouver to Calgary. It was
(and still) is remarkable how a person allergic to everything except rice cakes
and tinned pears can look so wholesomely healthy. Her ah-shucks and most
pleasant smile almost manage to hide her prodigious skill in her camera work.
Watching these four (Dean like me is a bit high-tech
deficient) do stuff with their cameras that have a phone as an accessory made
me feel like Graham Greene. Of Greene, Paul Theroux said, “An Edwardian on a
Concorde.” I felt completely out of their league and particularly in how Etkin
took a picture of my picture with my venerable medium format camera (that alas!
has no accessory phone attached) and instantly posted it into Instagram and shared
it with all of us on the spot.
I did not sleep well last night. Two photographers, Etkin
and Sipma were whispering in my ear, “Don’t shoot JPGs. Shoot RAW.”
The evening was so pleasant that I am sure we will all
meet again and soon. If Etkin has his say it will be a baker's dozen.
Physics, Inertia & Art - Nora Patrich
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Newton's first law of motion states that "An object at
rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed
and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force."
Objects tend to "keep on doing what they're doing."
From the above law which I learned in college in my physics
courses (I thought I wanted to be an engineer) I came to realize that inertia
as I saw it was simply a resistance to motion. A resistance to move.
For close to 10 years I had a happy relationship with two
Argentine painters (Nora Patrich & Juan Manuel Sánchez). They were a couple
where inertia was simply “to stay in motion”. I would call them late at night
with suggestions of possible collaboration. They never denied any of them and
we worked together with all sorts of “colaboraciones
”. Our best was one where
the three of us and another photographer (also Argentine) Claudia Katz spent
close to a year taking pictures, sketching and painting one very beautiful
Argentine woman called Linda Lorenzo. The result was a big show on South
Granville called Nostalgia.
|Bellavista, Buenos Aires - April 2016|
After that, we kept at it even if our collaborations did not
see print or a gallery wall. The important task was mutual inspiration.
Some 7 or 8 years ago the Argentine artists, Patrich and
Sánchez separated and moved back to Buenos Aires.
It was then that I came to realize how inertia seemed to
affect my artistic life in Vancouver. It was an inertia where I could not move
and I hit walls when I advanced an inch or so.
Since they left I have been active taking my personal
portraits, of family and friends and quite a few female nudes. I know I can
never show them anywhere. Somehow our city has become more prudish in its still
To escape my artistic doldrums I visit Patrich and Sánchez
(she with her new partner Roberto Baschetti in the Buenos Aires suburb of Bellavista, he in
his downtown studio on Paraguay Street and Talcahuano. Of Sánchez here
). When I am there I am
met with smiles and the promise of projects which in some cases are stymied by
the geographic distances. But some of our ideas might see the light of day
The above is simply my excuse to place here photographs of
Nora Patrich in her studio in Bellavista.
I wonder where I can find that brand of enthusiasm in
I remember many years ago when I attempted to sell Marlene Cohen
had been hired by her to take her portraits) some of my artsy Mexican
photographs. She opened a blind in her large plate glass window overlooking
beyond Wreck Beach in her house on Marine Drive leading to UBC and said, “Why
would I want to buy any of those when I can look at this every day?”
|Roberto Baschetti & Nora Patrich|
Objectivity - A Subjective Invention Of Man
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
|Molly Parker & Lynne Stopkewich|
Sometime in the early 70s I atended a lecture in Mexico City by
Spanish/Mexican anthropologist Santiago Genovés. He had been part of Thor
Heyerdahl’s Ra I and Ra II expeditions across the Atlantic. The lecture was interesting
but most of all I will never forget a statement that Genovés made about
the futility of historical objectivity by historians during and after historical events. Genovés
said, “We must not forget that objectivity is a subjective invention by man.
I watch CNN and MSNBC and read my daily NY Times and
Vancouver Sun always with that Genovés dictum in my mind.
But if you take the statement to a limit you cannot even
agree with any one other person if you both agree that a shade of red is
exactly the same between the two different pair of eyes.
My mother often told me, “Alex, you will never understand
because you will never be a mother.” And yet she could not understand my deep demonstrative
love to a scary alcoholic father (he was always sweet to me). It was only after
my mother died in the early 70s that it occurred to me that I had never thought
to tell her, “Mother you will never understand because you will never be a
But Plato and other philosophers postulated of pure ideals,
essences that had numerous material shadows of those essences in our human world,
one that became a sphere after centuries of having been flat.
I believe that one of the few aspects of our material world
that depends on that Platonic idea of an essence is the idea of pure art. I don’t
buy statements that “anything can be art” or “it is art if I say its art.” I
believe that somewhere inside of us lives an idea of that essence that is art.
As an old fashioned and obsolete (redundant, too) human
from the past century I avoid art exhibitions that mention the word
I remember and cringe a show at Emily Carr Institute of
Art (as it was called then) that featured in its lobby a full-scale replica of
a doctor’s waiting room complete with a stack of boring magazines. Could I buy
such an installation and hang it in my living room?
I also don’t buy anything (and I mean anything by) that
nude sartorial artist pair Christo Vladimirov Javacheff and Jeanne-Claude.
I keep most of the ideas above to myself and I don’t rant
about what is art and what isn’t.
It is far more fun and better to use up one’s time
attempting to figure out what is in other people’s heads.
As an only child I never had brothers or sisters (until I
discovered I had a half brother at a Buenos Aires police Station in 1966). I
only had one grandparent, my grandmother and I enjoyed having a father for a
scarce and sparse 10 years of which the first few disappeared in my baby
I have two daughters. One of them has two daughters. My
wife has a sister. I often wonder about the relationship these people, dear to
me have for each other. How do you talk to your sister be it my wife, my
daughters or my granddaughters? Is there
anything I could learn from that sort of relationship? What am I missing out
Proof that my interest in these matters can have a fruitful
result happened some years ago after I photographed actress (I am old-fashioned
and like using that word as well as aviatrix and dominatrix) Molly Parker and a
director (Parker made two films with her) Lynne Stopkewich. I noticed that they
seemed to have a special relationship based on the friendship between the two
women they were (and of course my mother would have added, “Alex, you will
never understand because…”. I asked them to come to my studio and that I would
attempt to capture (and a pre-digital use of that digital term is appropriate
here) that relationship.
We tried everything and nothing worked. I gave them a
rest. During the break they did something. I told them not to move and shot a
Polaroid. It was perfect. We all agreed. I then proceeded to repeat that very
shot with b+w film and with transparency (slide) film.
I cannot explain nor begin to understand what these two
women were able to share by the fact that they were women and friends. But I
can ascertain that my photographs do reveal a bit of that. And I can say with
some certainty that I am being objective.
Boot camp instincts
The metamorphosis of death and Kissed
Monday, July 18, 2016
In my long
career (1976 until recently perhaps 2008 when magazines collapsed) as a
magazine photographer I dealt with very good art (called also design) directors
with the best magazines in Canada, the US and Europe. One of the best ones was
(is as he is alive and well) Rick Staehling. I worked with him in a city
magazine, a business magazine and finally a travel magazine. Staehling went to
a very good design school, Art Center in Los Angeles, so he had an excellent
background. He also looked at many magazines and had a fondness for Esquire.
that sometime in the late 70s I showed up at his Vancouver office with my brand
new Mamiya RB-67 Pro-S. I told him that this was the ideal magazine camera as
it had interchangeable film backs (I could shoot colour and b+w) and that the
generous 6x7 cm format had an extra feature.
I could rotate the film back from vertical to horizontal which meant I
would be more likely to watch my back and shoot for any conceivable situation
be it a cover, a two page spread or a full bleed page vertical.
nothing but called me a few weeks later, “Alex, you know that new-fangled
camera you showed me? I think I have a job for it.” I have no memory of what
that job was but that Mamiya was one of the secrets of whatever success I
subsequently had even when I told other photographers who seemed to like their
more expensive Hasselblads that took that un-magazine like square format.
the years I developed several lighting styles to fit situations. I became very
good with the small (not quite 2x3 ft. soft box. Part of my technique was and
is to use it very close to my portrait subject. I became bored with this style
and opted for Hollywood style hard lights, focusing spotlights, Fresnel
spotlight and grid spots.
became tired with this experimentation of mine and told me to stick to the soft
where we got into a massive argument and I have to admit that many years later
he was absolutely right.
For me the
Holy Grail of photography is the distinctive personal style. One should be able
to look at a photograph and guess who took it or at the very least discern the
influencing photographer. I told Staehling that the soft box was a difficult
light to use if one wanted a distinctive personal style. He adamantly disagreed
and since he was the man calling me for the jobs I succumbed to his
Now in 2016
just about any lighting style has disappeared. Photographers take the camera
ads seriously and that with a Nikon GX-Mark III-F (equipped with overdrive) anything is possible once you
hold the camera in your hands. It can do everything.
this there is a proliferation of street photography, wildlife photography,
sunsets, fireworks, etc. But I see little well or interestingly lit portraits.
In a basic
camera course the average person must understand that the problem with photography
is that it has to show the reality we see in only two dimensions. When you use
a flat or central light on a person the overall look does not suggest the
curves of a person’s face and thus that depth that is the third dimension.
I am showing
here a portrait I took of Bronwen Marsden with my Mamiya RB-67 Pro SD and that
aforementioned soft box equipped with one flash.
The decisive moment
Cain's Stone - La piedra de Caín
Sunday, July 17, 2016
These days in my obsessive reading of Jorge Luís Borges’s literary output
plus several biographies and articles in Argentine magazines that commemorate his
death 30 years ago on June 14,1986 I sometimes think that the familiar old man
(whom I never saw in person) will walk through my bedroom door.
those who may not know too much about Argentine history I would state here that
until we invented the cattle prod as an instrument of torture or slit the
stomachs (so they would sink quickly) of “about to be disappeared” persons from
a helicopter over the River Plate we did most of our killing with knives. While
Argentines love American Westerns they did eschew until recently the “Peacemaker
writes about knives and how men mostly killed each other not in anger or in
passion but just to wield a weapon and show who was better at killing. He
called it “la secta del cuchillo”, cuchillo being the word for knife.
curiously writes about inanimate objects and gives them life. In one story
several knives behind glass in a cabinet exist in wait for the human hand that
will pick it up and use it to kill. The Argentine “cuchillero” would first go
for the other man’s face and create a huge cut before dispatching him to
the other world.
thus states that knives like people search for their purpose in life. A knife
without a human hand has no immediate purpose.
listened to CNN today Sunday July 17, 2017 I instantly remembered a short essay that
Borges wrote on Kennedy’s death. It is all about one bullet, the same bullet
throughout history. I will place below the poem in both Spanish and in English.
In Memoriam – J.F.K.
bullet is an old one.
it was fired at the president of Uruguay by a young man from Montevideo,
Avelino Arredondo, who had spent long weeks without seeing anyone so that the
world might know that he acted alone. Thirty years earlier, Lincoln had been
murdered by that same ball, by the criminal or magical hand of an actor
transformed by the words of Shakespeare into Marcus Brutus, Caesar’s murderer.
In the mid-seventeenth century, vengeance had employed it for the assassination
of Sweden’s Gustavus Adolphus in the midst of the public hecatomb of battle.
earlier times, the bullet had been other things, because Pythagorean
metempsychosis is not reserved for humankind alone. It was the silken cord
given to viziers in the East, the rifles and bayonets that cut down the
defenders of the Alamo, the triangular blade that slit a queen’s throat, the
wood of the Cross and the dark nails that pierced the flesh of the Redeemer,
the poison kept by the Carthaginian chief in an iron ring on his finger, the
serene goblet that Socarates drank down one evening.
dawn of time it was the stone that Cain hurled at Abel, and in the future it
shall be many things that we cannot even imagine today, but that will be able
to put an end to men and their wondrous, fragile life.
— Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) In
Memoriam, J.F.K. (1965)
In memoriam J.F.K. – Jorge Luís Borges
Esta bala es antigua.
la disparó contra el presidente del Uruguay un muchacho de Montevideo,
Arredondo, que había pasado largo tiempo sin ver a nadie, para que lo supieran
sin cómplice. Treinta años antes, el mismo proyectil mató a Lincoln, por obra
criminal o mágica de un actor, a quien las palabras de Shakespeare habían
convertido en Marco Bruto, asesino de César. Al promediar el siglo XVII la
venganza la usó para dar muerte a Gustavo Adolfo de Suecia, en mitad de la
publica hecatombe de una batalla.
la bala fue otras cosas, porque la transmigración pitagórica no sólo es propia
de los hombres. Fue el cordón de seda que en el Oriente reciben los visires,
fue la fusilería y las bayonetas que destrozaron a los defensores del Álamo,
fue la cuchilla triangular que segó el cuello de una reina, fue los oscuros
clavos que atravesaron la carne del Redentor y el leño de la Cruz, fue el
veneno que el jefe cartaginés guardaba en una sortija de hierro, fue la serena
copa que en un atardecer bebió Sócrates.
alba del tiempo fue la piedra que Caín lanzó contra Abel y será muchas cosas
que hoy ni siquiera imaginamos y que podrán concluir con los hombres y con su
prodigioso y frágil destino.