That Hollywood Scoop Light
Saturday, May 13, 2017
|Jo-Ann & the scoop light|
Memory at my age is a tricky thing. Only recently did I
remember that I had other photographs taken with my Hollywood scoop light besides
the ones I had taken of Jo-Ann who is now a psychiatric nurse.
This is what I wrote:
I have this very
large light that I call my Hollywood scoop light. It may have been used as such
a thing many years ago. It has a huge light bulb that resembles an ordinary
incandescent on steroids. When I turn it on it is very hot. It currently does
not fit in my small Kitsilano studio so I store it up in the studio attic.
Since it is balanced for film lighting it is rated at 3200 degrees Kelvin.
Even though I have
owned it for at least 20 years I have only used it once. Illustrating this
short blog is my former once-a-month Thursday girl Jo-Ann who is now a
The light was given to me in the late 80s when studio
photographer Brent Daniels moved to Toronto. This
is his website.
I have now remembered that I photographed N in my studio.
I very much like the results.
Santa Conchita del Molino de la Pampa & Fernet Branca
Friday, May 12, 2017
|Santa Conchita del Molino de la Pampa - El Molino 1947 - Juan Manuel Sánchez|
Yesterday different threads in my memory all met when Argentine
artist Nora Patritch and Sylvia Antonucci and I met in my little studio in
These involved Linnaeus
the Argentine Pampa
, where I
learned to swim and a nostalgia for my country that consumes me when I am not
|Molinos in South Texas|
The afternoon began with our nostalgia (more Patrich’s than
mine) for Eva Perón. Antonucci is a lovely blond and both Nora and I thought
she would make a proper and delightful incarnation of Evita. It helps that Antonucci
is blonde and she is a skilful makeup person. Not only that she was able to put
an Evita-like bun on her hair.
Somewhere at the end we wanted to make Antonucci into an
ethnic Virgin Mary, not revently called a Santa Conchita as I explain here
Visiting Patrich’s sister’s house (where Patrich is staying
while she paints a mural for the BCTF), Patrich showed me some landscapes by
her former deceased husband Juan Manuel Sánchez. We had the idea of using one
of those landscapes for another version of an Argentine Mona Lisa as I wrote
We scrapped the Mona Lisa idea when I thought about that windmill
in the Sánchez painting. Of windmills I wrote about here.
The windmill immediately suggested that we could add another
Argentine Santa Conchita to the ones I have for Argentina, Chile, Vietnam and
Egypt. These all feature nudity so I will not show them here. I realized that I
could do something just as striking (and stark) with Antonucci and the Sánchez
I took three shots. Because I am lazy about placing my tiny
Fuji X-E1 on a tripod only one (but with the best expression) had a more or
less straight picture.
Antonucci’s hands are the hands of someone who works
hard. They are not the delicate hands of what we would expect from a virgin’s
hands. But I think that they represent a Virgin Mary, older, her Son dead, and who
has lived a life that was not all a happy one. I think that Antonucci was
perfect for this.
We celebrated by having a drink that has taken Argentina by storm in the last few years. As a boy when my parents and I would arrive at Retiro, the downtown train station I always looked for a large billboard near the Art Decco Kavanaugh Building. It said Fernet Branca. I had no idea what it was exactly but through the years I had been told it was an Italian form of bitters that was a good digestive.
The drink in question is to put lots of ice in a tall glass and fill about a third of it with Fernet. You pour Coke after. The drink in called Fernet con Coca.
It was last April during our trip to Buenos Aires that my nephew's grandson, Jorgito O'Reilly poured me a drink and told me. "Try this. I think you will like this."
The first sip was terrible. The second sip was passable and the third was heavenly.
We had the drinks partly because I like to do things in remembrance
of people I know (dead or alive).
For anybody who might want to try this terrific drink, Fernet Branca is available ($27) at the Government Liquor Store on Cambie and 41st. And be forewarned it is 39% alcohol
Testing & Inspiration with a Lovely Roman - Silvia Gallerano
Thursday, May 11, 2017
In that long gone 20th century we photographers in Vancouver had to
keep on our toes in various ways. If we worked for magazines it was important
to visit the much larger pool of magazines in Toronto once a year. It was there
where I showed my portfolio to art directors. The most important fact aside
from having a good portfolio was to be able to convince the art director that I
could produce on demand.
In my own city of Vancouver in that century it was
paramount for a photographer to have a studio. Twice I shared it with another
so as to be able to pay the rent. The most important feature in any studio in
that time was the cove. This was a structure on one wall that was usually
painted white and it curled from ceiling to floor so that properly lit, a
person photographed would be standing with white behind from top to bottom and
A third factor was to test. Fashion photographers in
particular tested. This involved dealing with new (and at the time is concerned
beautiful and young females) models. In exchange for posing where the upcoming
model would be able to add to her portfolio without having to pay the
photographer, the photographer would try out (test) new films, new cameras and
new lighting techniques.
Then with these results you went to see local art
One of my first big jobs in the late 70s involved
Vancouver Magazine Rick Staehling. I showed him my medium format (120 film)
Mamiya RB-67. At the time photographers shot with 35mm cameras and the more
wealthy ones with the medium format Hasselblad. The difference (not only in
price) between the Sweedish/German Blad and my Mamiya is that the Mamiya
instead of taking 6x6cm (very square!) photographs it gave me the option (by a
nifty revolving film back) of taking vertical or horizontal 6x7cm photographs.
Staehling asked me to shoot an assignment with that camera.
I never did look back and I must assert here that art
directors everywhere like the fact that I shot vertical and horizontal and that
this gave them the option of using my horizontals a two page spreads and the
verticals as covers or full bleed (no borders) in inside articles. The 6x7 cm
format was called the ideal format as it would fit magazine pages with next to
no cropping (unlike those Hasselblad squares).
Another art director, Chris Dahl (and he did a lot of
this) would transfer any one of my techniques into something not done before. I
showed him portraits and nudes taken with Kodak b+w Infrared Film. He assigned
me to shoot beautiful old homes in the Shaughnessy neighbourhood of Vancouver
with that film. No architectural photographer would have ever done that. His interest in my infrared shots came from me showing him a portrait (with that film) of my two daughters.
|Hilary & Ale|
For a while in the late 80s I went nuts with Hollywood lighting and specifically the work of George Hurrell
. To even begin I had to purchase a boom
so I could do boom lighting
(from up there) and a circular hard spotlight. This testing immediately led to me getting my first and last
fashion job ever! For most of my magazine photography career I considered fashion the kiss of death for any local photographer. Magazines would get tired of their style and shift to the new kid in town.
It was my test shot of model Karen Campbell (above) where I used a boom light and projected clouds behing her using a focusing spotlight and metal gobos (in this case with a cloud pattern) that got me a very big job on, of all things what my subjects did to keep thin!
In the link below, Inspiration by Unexpected Error there are some photographs that came from my taking pictures of a Japanese/Canadian woman with her Shiatsu instructor. My camera was crooked within the confines of a ring flash. I did not know this and my Japanese/Canadian friend was much too polite to point it out. The resulting error led to one of my trademark shots in which I feature the side of the ring flash by, this time purposely having my camera crooked.
And so on with how photographic errors and testing lead to wonderful new stuff.
I find it sad to point out here that this last week's of photographs that are the result from testing with the kind Silvia Gallerano came about from someone who lives miles away in Rome. All this while I am unable to find anybody here, who lives here, to test with me!
The picture that adorns the beginning of this blog is the negative peel of the now discontinued (I have a few boxes left) Fuji FP-100c Instant Colour Film (100ISO) which I shoot with my Mamiya RB-67 with a Polaroid back. Once the peel is dry I put it face down (the black shows on the top) on a large dinner plate. I tape it with the virtually waterproof plastic lining used to line kitchen cabinets. I spray the black with a half and half mixture of bleach and rub with my fingers. Eventually the black disappears revealing a weird colour negative. I place it in water for a few minutes and then hang it to dry.
I place the negative peel on my scanner (it will scan negatives and slides besides prints). I tell my scanner that I am doing a positive. I scan and then with my 13 year-old Photoshop I reverse that negative to a positive. Then working with both Photoshop and Corel X2 I increase the contrast and tonal separation. It is just about impossible (at least for me) to ultimately correct the colour. But I like the results.
And thank you Silvia Gallerano for your inspiration and patience.
Triscuits for Kate
Silvia Gallerano - She of the Liquid Eyes
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Often I have written in these pages (monitor screens?) that
when I see a beautiful landscape I never click or press any buttons. If
possible I either buy a postcard or imprint the memory of the scene in my head.
I eschew lit caves, fireworks, and, especially, sunsets. On a ship from Buenos
Aires to Veracruz in my youth I photographed every sunset. Once was enough.
Street photography is of no interest to me now. I did that
when I was in my 20s.
I am a photographer and I photograph the face, the human
face. It is astounding for me to think (and I think this often) how a couple of
eyes, ears, one nose and one mouth and hair can all add up to a mystery that is
always unique and much more so than a fingerprint. How can that be?
In my life as a photographer I have photographed many faces.
In the lingo of 21st
century photography the expression “capture”
almost conveys to me the taking
something that is there for me to see and then to store it. In old fashioned
film, that image or capture is latent
. It has to be “developed out”. In modern
digital cameras (or in my small supply of Fuji Instant Film) the captured face
is there to be seen instantly. Unless of course, like death later, corruption can take over a digital storage card on the spot.
My little oficina has rows and rows of metal filing cabinets
filled with negatives, transparencies and photographs of faces. I have captured
them, haven’t I in some way? Perhaps a slice of wafer thinness (my camera does
not shoot in three dimensions) that I have removed from my trusting subject.
But there is another way of looking at this and what I have in
my filing cabinets. They are images of people who have allowed me to see in them
what they want me to see. This may just coincide with what I think is in them.
There is no way of knowing. In some rare cases both the photographer (me) and my subject may agree.
My hero, Argentine poet and writer Jorge Luís Borges
often wrote about his obsession with mirrors and of looking at himself in
them. Once he became blind it was just a memory. Borges wrote:
en las tardes una cara
desde el fondo de un espejo;
debe ser como ese espejo
revela nuestra propia cara.
Sometimes in the afternoon a face
looks upon us from the depths of a mirror;
art must be like that mirror
that reveals our own face.
Such a face is the face of Italian actress (I am
old-fashioned) Silvia Gallerano who is in town for performances of Cristian
Cersoli’s La Merda
at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre until May 13..
It is a face with liquid eyes that for me mimicked a Borges
mirror. As she faced my cameras today in my little studio, watched over by
Cristian Cersoli, her daughter Lara and tour manager Marco Pavanelli, I felt as
naked as she is during her performances. Her only protection might be the
microphone she holds tightly close to her face. She smiles with her eyes and I
had to instruct her not to. I was not going to tell her that in La Merda that naughty protagonist, a naughty male dolphin, has a built-in smile like all dolphins do.
I may have taken no more that fifteen exposures when I
stopped. We had coffee and sweets and the lingua franca was a combination of
Italian, Spanish and English.
Of the show, La Merda, that I saw with my wife Rosemary
last week I can state that it was a performance that is in strange opposition to
having met the star and talked to the quiet writer Ceresoli. Ultimately this
has to do with the fact that nobody who is not an actor (and I am not one) can
ever understand how someone can spill their life out with a microphone and then
days later, no matter how many times it sinks in, the face in front of my
camera with a microphone, and the face of the woman with a microphone at the
Cultch are not the same.
I was captured by a face, by Silvia Gallerano and her liquid eyes.
Dance - A Frozen Style
Tuesday, May 09, 2017
One of the palpable delights of having worked as a magazine
photographer in Vancouver in the 20th century is that I worked with some of the best art
directors/design directors/photo editors that money then could buy. Journalism
was alive and well and ads paid for the fees of these design darlings.
One such design darling was Barbara Solowan who worked for
the now defunct national publication Saturday Night
. She asked me to photograph
Gillian Guess She
asked me to shoot Guess as if I had been assigned by Vanity Fair.
A few years
later a revived Saturday Night again gave me the assignment to photograph
Guess. I was told not to shoot her in colour, not to shoot it slick with my
lights and to use the existing lights. They wanted a fly-on-the-wall approach. My Rosemary, always smarter than her
husband said, “Make sure you use Maureen Willick to style the shot and pay her
out of your pocket so the magazine will not know.”
Both versions are here
At Vancouver Magazine
I worked for two very good art directors
who loved magazines. One was Rick Staehling (who made me shoot sewing machines) and the other was Chris Dahl. They
insisted in not having me do my usual. They always pushed me to do things
differently. Dahl at one point told me to shoot covers for Vancouver Magazine
using the Vanity Fair
technique of Irving Penn.
My first effort was so like Penn that I was sent back to vary it a bit!
So as a 74 year old idle and former magazine photographer I
know a bit about photography, styles, trends and a bit of design.
Today, Saturday May 6th I noticed a couple of ads for the
New York City Ballet in my Sunday NY Times that is always delivered the night
before. I showed the the page with the ad to Rosemary and asked her for a
comment. Ignoring the colour picture on the right she said of the other, “I like it. It is earthy
At one time I would have kept my opinions on our city’s
photography trends to myself. To have been openly critical in the 80s and 90s
might have alienated me from magazines and I would have lost work. My Rosemary
always cautioned me to keep it inside.
Now that has changed as I am not looking for work and in
most cases the few magazines and publications that still exist do not have functioning
art directors as I knew them then.
Quite a few years ago I came to the realization (after
seeing lots of ballet and modern dance) that dancers both female and male
sweated and gasped for air. I always sat and sit in the front row as I want to listen
to them breathe. And female dancers, like any other women, menstruated and performed
other bodily functions as all humans. Dancers, I figured out were not
I also noticed that in spite of the fact that many dance
companies like to promote uniformity of shape and form I could discern
personality and style. I noticed when a dancer had a new haircut or in some
cases I knew she was pregnant.
Dancers are humans of skin and bone.
And yet in Vancouver (and this is a mild rant) dancers are
perceived, if you notice print publications or social media, as flying swans frozen
in time and space in midair.
Most if not all the dancers (of both sexes) that I have had
the good fortune to meet and photograph have impressed me by their
personalities and their deep knowledge not only of dance form but of just
everything else. Like our Vancouver architects they are somewhat renaissance
One of my supreme pleasures in watching dance is to have the
opportunity to see rehearsals and to be back stage. A couple of years ago I
watched a lovely French Canadian apparition of a woman from Arts Umbrella
called Beatrice Larrivé. She had somehow twisted her ankle and she was in
terrible pain on the side waiting for the next segment of the dance. She was
crying. But she picked herself up and danced.
|Beatrice Larrivé cries|
I have photographed the Nice-born Sandrine Cassini countless
times and every time I am aware of how grace and sensuality can mix in a good
dancer. I would not want to see her in mid-air, frozen without a nary of
personality showing through.
Of dancer Lauri Stallings (now has her dance company in
Atlanta) I proposed taking photographs that showed her as an anti-ballerina.
It is my belief that if dancers are shown and
photographed as being made of skin and bone and affected by universal gravity
in spite of what you might see, there would be a new interest in dance. It would
not be seen as a lofty art form to be enjoyed by a clique of snobs. If young
boys and girls saw this approach they would be the first to want to be back
stage or to demand autographs on their programs.
Motion is sometiime made more interesting by not freezing it but by swirling it.
And manly eroticism, too.
|Top left, Albert Galindo, Andrew Haydock and Tristan Ghostkeeper, sitting Charlie Prince & Jayson Syrette|