Saturday, February 25, 2017
My photography files are like an iceberg gone south. Today I
looked at my Mexico files and found at least 200 photographs, in b+w, colour
negative and Kodachromes on Palenque in Chiapas. I was there in 1981. In those
days I traveled alone.
When I did this in Mexico in the hot summer and rainy
season I was accompanied by a box of Flor de la Costa cigars from Veracruz to
keep mosquitoes at bay.
I remember leaving in the morning from a ramshackle hotel in
Palenque where I was told by the front desk clerk that they had no way of
giving me a wakeup call. This meant I was unable to sleep that night knowing I
had to make it to the Villahermosa airport on time to take my Mexicana de
I remember that the third class bus had many forward gears
and every time it had to stop to pick up or drop off passengers with pigs and
fowls that it took quite a while for the bus to pick up speed. I was worried
but could not but notice that the wire
fences had strange slim wooden poles that were all sprouting green leaves.
In many ways I felt like an amateur archaeologist traveling
at a time when at least in Palenque there were no Americans and Expedia was as
alien as Starbucks in Oaxaca.
As my grandmother often told me, “Nadie te quita lo
bailado.” I certainly did dance.
The Clubhouse On Second
Friday, February 24, 2017
|The cutline in the Straight read : Girl Nobody, HInterland & Anomalous Disturbances display their colourful chopstick skills|
For the September 18, 2003 issue of the Georgia Straight I
had to shoot an assignment that involved at least four restaurant locations
where I had to photograph three rock bands together (three different for each
restaurant). The idea is that the bands were asked where they liked to hang
out. From those answers I picked the locations. It was not quite the age of
email so I had to call these bands (they had day jobs) and plead for them to
show up at the same time at the location. I believe that that I did one more in 2005 and then
told Mike Usinger (the nut at the Straight) to never call me again for this
This past Friday, February 24 2017 we were unable to get
a reservation at Lombardo’s Pizza on
Commercia. My friend baroque bassist Curtis Daily (he had been intrigued by the
Clubhouse when we found the place closed mid afternoon) suggested we go there
with my wife, eldest daughter Ale (visiting from Lillooet) and Lauren, 14.
went and it was a felicitous occasion. The place, which Curtis says cannot last
much longer, is a nice funky semi dive with an all-around
charm. The servers are just right, the beer is good and the food just right. I
plan to return.
The Clubhouse Japanese Restaurant
Tina en la Azotea
Thursday, February 23, 2017
|Tina Modotti - Edward Weston|
My on line dictionary of the Spanish language RAE (Real
Academia Española) defines an azotea:
hisp. *assuṭáyḥa, dim. de sáṭḥ, y este del ár. clás. saṭḥ 'terraza'.
Cubierta más o menos llana de un edificio, dispuesta para distintos fines.
In my native Argentine the roof of a building is simply a
techo. In Mexico they opt for that lovely word azotea that comes from the Arabic.
It was around 2001that I discovered (I can be slow) that
in order to feel nostalgia you have to be in a place far from that which you
have nostalgia for. So in that year my Argentine artists friends Juan Manuel
Sánchez and his wife Nora Patrich embarked on a project we called Argentine
Nostalgia. With photography, drawing, painting and working with a lovely
Argentine woman, Linda Lorenzo we went back to our rosy memories of our former
country and city of Buenos Aires.
|Tina Modotti - Eward Weston|
I also lived in Mexico and in Mexico City for many years.
In the early 60s I was living with my mother and grandmother on Avenida
Tamaulipas. I did not know then (alas!) that I was two blocks from Calle Veracruz corner with Mazatlán where Edward Weston and his lover
, model then but photographer later,
Tina Modotti lived on and off from 1923 to 1927.
Edward Weston's Azotea Revisited
To anybody who has lived in Mexico City the image of an
azotea is that of a large asbestos/cement water tank up on it and with clothes
lines. It was up on the roof of that house that Weston took his many nudes of
|Ivette Hernández - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
My faves were my obsession for the idea of a hot roof in
Mexico City with the smells of nearby tortillerías. I could imagine Modotti on
the roof and Weston with his 4x5.
Our idea to do this was in the middle of a harsh and
rainy Vancouver winter. I took some photographs in my studio. I was a bit put
off by the tile floor but learned to like the look. Then we went up to the roof
to take pictures that would show the surroundings and of a city far from Mexico
I look at these photographs and I want to hop on a plane
and go to Avenida Tamaulipas. But I know that you cannot return. Weston and
Moddotti are long gone as are my mother and grandmother.
For the nostalgia to be rich in my mind I must stay put
and travel right here in my now coolish but sunny Vancouver.
The Metamorphosis of Inspiration
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
The metamorphosis of inspiration comes in unexpected ways
and leads to directions unknown.
Some years ago my granddaughter Rebecca and I attended a
performance of Wen Wei Wang’s Dance Company
at the Vancouver East Cultural
Centre. When one of the dancers, Allison Denham appeared (topless she was) my
granddaughter whispered in my ear, “Look at those pectorals
!” I decided I had
to photograph her. I had my chance here
But then I had to satisfy my curiousity of featuring her
pectorals but not in a way that would have conventional dance clothing. A bikini
was out of the question. It would have been in execrable bad taste.
I decided (who knows where that idea came from) to go to
Dressew in downtown Vancouver on West Hastings and buy white tape (I told
myself it had to be off white). The results of the idea are here
A few weeks later I had my then Jo-Ann Thursday model showed
up at my studio. She saw the tape in a corner and asked me about it. I told
her. I gave her the tape and began to take some photographs.
In my case, the intelligent thing to do was to say nothing
and to wait for the progression. Part of that progression is here. Then a few
months later I noticed the figures of people outside the studio window. That inspired
me to these two blogs. This one
and this one.
I marvel at the fact that it all began with a whisper in my
Not having a large studio is stifling. Any inspiration has
to come from the small quarters of my tiny studio. What I need now is a (alas
she is gone!) is a Thursday girl, one who I can silently watch as a story
Peter Breck - Revisited In Modern Times
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
|Peter Breck - May 1989|
Only those who watch late-night films on TV would know who the actor
Peter Breck was. He was an American but for many years he lived in Vancouver. He
died here in 2012. I was lucky enough to meet this character actor of many
westerns in May of 1989. Photographically a lot has happened to change how
photographs are now taken.
Fortunately even though I am now 74 I can remember how I
took these 18 photographs.
It all began with Ilford F-P4 film in 220 format (twice as
long as 120) which I used with my Mamiya RB-67 which shot pictures that were
6x7 cm. Each roll of 220 gave me 20 photographs but the contact sheets and
holders could only accommodate 18. I usually did not shoot those last 2
remaining exposures. 220 film is long gone but Kodak and Ilford make 120 film which I happily shoot with my Mamiya when I can. I process the film in my third bathroom and scan the results.
While I took these photographs of the actor for the arts
weekly The Georgia Straight, the art director at Vancouver Magazine Chris Dahl where although I was a freelance I was the de-facto staff guy who took most of the
stuff. At that time Dahl was influenced by the b+w cover photographs by Irving
Penn in Vanity Fair. I was commanded to shoot in that style. This involved
lights that were either grids or spotlights. I also slipped a very deep green
filter in front of my lens that blocked red blemishes on his face (and made
them more obvious as they were rendered sharper). I also had my 140 mm macro
lens very close to Breck’s face. I liked and like to listen to my subjects breathe. I made sure to use a good deodorant and I never forgot or forget to brush my teeth well.
When I scanned the two contact sheets I noticed my writing on
the back. Dahl who read any and every magazine he could find asked me one day, “Do
you know about split contrast enlarging?” I didn’t so I researched it.
My enlarger had what was and is called a colour head. You can
dial (the filters are called dichroic) individually the colours magenta, yellow and cyan. At the time I was using
Ilford paper that we would call multi-contrast. If you did your exposure of the
paper under the enlarger with lots of magenta the contrast increased. If you
used yellow the result was softer. The idea was to use a bit of both
(individually) to get shadow detail and still get bright highlights.
Of course with the advent of the scanner (and I have a
very good Epson Perfection V-700 Photo machine I can do that split enlarging
with the shadow/highlight tool of my 14 year-old Photoshop.
Legs - I Married my Mother
Monday, February 20, 2017
I married my mother.
Let me explain. In the days when
airplanes landed and on the tarmac they brought a staircase so that passengers
could descend, sometime the staircase was on the other side of the plane. As I
looked through the airport window I would watch for my mother’s legs. I knew
instantly when I saw her legs.
My mother had beautiful legs and feet. She wasn’t especially
lovely of face but I can assert here that I did inherit her face, her crooked
smile, her legs and her feet. My feet, even though I am 74 have no bunions.
They are smooth and you would suspect if you saw them that they belong to a man
in his early 30s.
Sometime in the mid90s a Vancouver travel magazine sent
me to Destin, Florida. I stayed in a luxurious community and hotel managed and owned
by the folks who used to run Whistler.
I was offered a free massage. Now I am a bit shy and when I
pointed this out to the publicity woman she told me I could have a pedicure
The room where I walked into had a row of 10 women all with
their feet in large plastic basins. Some of them had those beauty parlour
hairdryers on their head. I sat down and removed my shoes and socks (I had made
sure to thoroughly wash my feet before I
even walked into the place.
The women were gossiping about their men and of the men of
their friends. Some of the stuff they were talking about made me blush. As soon
as the pedicurist said something like, “Wow what wonderful feet!” There was
silence. The women asked me what my secret was. I told them that even as a
little boy I could always find a shoe size that fit just right. I told them
about my mother and about her swimmer’s feet and how I had inherited them
without her talent for swimming. She had learned to swim in Manila Bay.
When I spotted these pictures that I took many moons ago at
the Drake Hotel I knew I would have to write this. At the time that I took these two photographs there was a beautiful ecdysiast called Legs Diamond. She had legs to kill for and the special peculiarity that she (she was not the only one, there was another) had a third but very small nipple.
In 1968 my first glimpse of my future wife, Rosemary Healey, was from behind. She was wearing a very short shirt-waist dress. She had long blonde hair down to her waist. Her legs were superb. The rest is my personal history.