The Cellist in the Back of the Teatro Colón
Saturday, September 23, 2017
While we were in
Buenos Aires last April, the city was gripped by a brutal murder of a woman who
was found in a niche behind the Teatro Colón, the famous opera house.
She had had
her neck slit and she was only wearing a sheer slip. There was no identification on her.
The Clarín newspaper reported that the Policía Federal homicide inspector assigned to
the case, Manrique Duarte, went on the record with very few facts. The woman was around 32 and had calloused fingers and two strange little red marks on her upper
leads Duarte went to the administration of the Teatro Colón for help. One of
the administrators, Fernando Velazco, volunteered and was taken to la Morgue Judicial between Viamonte and Junin streets.
inspected the corpse and immediately told Duarte that the woman was a cello
player (no marks under her chin to make her a violin or viola player) which explained the callous marks on her fingers. Then pointing at the two
little red marks on her inner thighs he said, “She was a baroque cello player.”
expression went blank upon hearing this. So Velazco added, “Baroque cellos do
not have an endpin so the musician has to hold thighs tightly around the instruments to keep them balanced.
Cellos have little edges that stick out. If the cellist practices a lot those
marks will become permanent.”
edition of the Clarín identified the woman as Julia Tisol who had recently
appeared at a concert at the Colón which featured ciacconas by the early baroque composer Tarquinio Merula.
a most amazing coincidence is that months before I had photographed a Seattle
baroque cellist and when I noticed her cello pressing on her thighs I asked her
if she had marks. Her answer was, “Yes”.
Meanwhile Velazco has been dubbed the Argentine Holmes and his photograph has appeared in countless magazine articles.
The perpetrator of the heinous killing has not been caught to date.
Beyond the Grave - A Posthumous Gift
Friday, September 22, 2017
|Don Tirso de Irureta Goyena in Manila circa 1911|
My daily-delivered NY Times has an interesting little
essay today called Inside the Times on page 2. These essays give an extraordinary
look at how the Time’s newsroom works and how editorial decisions are made.
Today's featured a little story by Stephen Hiltner called An Obituary Written
From Beyond the Grave. It is about how sometimes obituaries are written before
their subjects are dead and the strange occurrence of the obituary writer dying
before the person featured.
The essay can be found here
|Antonio, Tirso and Filomena - 1916|
It gave me thought of my mother’s often told story of a
dollhouse given to her by her father for her birthday. Below is the poem my mother,
Filomena de Irureta Goyena wrote on the magical event.
About those posthumous obituaries Daniel Slotnik, a senior news assistant on the obituries desk told Hiltner, "There isn't anything specifically different with the process, except that obviously there's no writer to send a final draft to."
Pathos With Kokoro at the Roundhouse
Thursday, September 21, 2017
|Krzysztof Kieslowski & Billy Marchenski (it could be Jay?)|
plural: pathea; Greek: πάθος, for
"suffering" or "experience"; adjectival form: 'pathetic'
from παθητικός) represents an appeal to
the emotions of the audience, and elicits feelings that already reside in
them. Pathos is a communication technique used most often in rhetoric (where
it is considered one of the three modes of persuasion, alongside ethos and
logos), and in literature, film and other narrative art.
Rarely do I see seriously sad stuff in modern dance or
ballet. In fact in most of modern dance and ballet, dancers are told to smile.
For me that one ballet full of pathos is Romeo and Juliet with the music of
Prokofiev. I have been lucky to see this danced twice by Evelyn Hart.
There is a moment full of emotion and sadness when Hart
as Juliet approaches the vial of liquid that is supposed to put her in a
catatonic state of sleep. She dances to it gingerly then en pointe she patters
back with uncertainty. This is wonderful. Wonderful as sometime we need pathos
in order to switch to the happy. Melancholy is a small dosis can be a pleasant experience.
Butoh as practiced by Vancouver’s Kokoro Dance Company
never (almost never) a happy time. Butoh’s founder Hijikata Tatsumi started
this performance dance form in opposition mostly to Western dance. To me all
the white makeup and sad facial expressions represent to me some sort of
reaction to the Japanese experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Or I would compare Butoh to punk music, a reaction to
happy and predictable pop with long guitar solos.
Butoh (舞踏 Butō) is a form of
Japanese dance theatre that encompasses a diverse range of activities,
techniques and motivations for dance, performance, or movement. Following World
War II, butoh arose in 1959 through collaborations between its two key founders
Hijikata Tatsumi and Ohno Kazuo. The art form is known to "resist
fixity" and be difficult to define; notably, founder Hijikata Tatsumi
viewed the formalisation of butoh with "distress". Common features of
the art form include playful and grotesque imagery, taboo topics, extreme or
absurd environments, and it is traditionally performed in white body makeup
with slow hyper-controlled motion. However, with time butoh groups are
increasingly being formed around the world, with their various aesthetic ideals
Kokoro’s almost 75 minute work Embryotrophic Cavatina
a special relevance for me. The work is dedicated to former Kokoro dancer
Michael Whitfield who died in 2013. But the music, Zbigniew Preisner’s Requiem or my Friend
was composed after the death of noted
Polish cinematographer Krzysztof Kieslowski
whom I met a few years before he
died. The man wasn’t exactly a happy man. When he posed for me he did not even hint at a smile.
Attempting to understand the intricacies of Butoh
movements and facial expressions might be daunting. But this is not so if you
just sit, watch and be moved by feelings expressed by the dancers. In the case
of this work they are Jay Hirabayashi, his partner Barbara Bourget, Billy
Marchenski and Molly McDermott.
Butoh involves lots of slow movement with bent knees.
This is gruelling. At first the dancers explode into puffs of white as their
special body coating floats into the air. Soon the sweat stops that action and
you can see the strain of a dance that rarely is fast.
Hirabayashi who is 70 and Bourget (who must not be too
far from that age) show extreme resilience. Marchenski, a very tall and very
muscled man (as fit as his partner Alison Denham
) and McDermott with her
beautiful red hair (not shaved as Bourget’s red hair!) had the right soft
expression on her face to compensate for the others who at only one spot did I
notice a big smile from Hirabayashi.
The lighting by Gerald King, mostly blue, put me in that
nice but melancholy mood. Tsuneko Kokubo’s projected images and costumes (for
the second half where Kokoro dancers were uncharacteristically not undraped)
went well with the lighting design. The costumes were dresses that showed
(coincidental?) a likeness to the program cover designed by Hirabyashi’s ex-wife
Alix Hirabayashi (who happened to be sitting right next to me.)
Preisner composed his work to be performed live. The
music was not live but the presence of the dancers gave the work all that
pathos and a sense of loss for the death of a good friend.
I went to the September 20 performance.
That Female Angel
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
In the middle of the night, on July 28, 1957 I was
awakened by a terrible swaying and a very loud bang. I was living in an high-rise
apartment in Mexico City with my mother and grandmother. It was, we found out
later, an earthquake at 7.9 on the Richter scale. There were about 79
deaths and not more probably because the temblor was centered around Acapulco.
The very loud bang we heard was the falling of the Angel
of Independence on Paseo de La Reforma and Tiber. We lived nearby.
Homero Aridjis's Female Angels
Many of us in the city were surprised to find out that
the angel in question was a female. She was quickly restored.
My Purism Goes To Hell
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
I cannot speak for other photographers but I can for myself in the idea that one’s
photographic trajectory is one of ambivalence.
My beginnings were all about authentic purism. By this I
mean that I refused to use filters or any of the few special effects that I had
at my disposal in that past century before the digital makeover occurred.
The more I read the more I found out that b+w film and
colour film was much more sensitive to ultra violet light than the human eye
was. If I wanted to be accurate in the sense of shooting what I saw and getting
it I soon learned that yellow filters on b+w film made it more like the human eye.
As soon as I discovered the polarizer I loved the way it
darkened skies in colour or in b+w. Such was the pull of the polarizer that I
soon began to see hyperealistic paintings (landscapes) that had polarized
skies. The painters obviously knew of the existence of the polarizer.
And so, my life as a photographer has been a back and
forth path from authenticity to over-the-top fantasy.
In some cases I have forced myself into corners where I
told myself I would use one lens, or take only a certain number of photographs.
The idea of limiting what I could do gave me a freedom to think of ways of
collaborating with my subject to get a photograph that would satisfy us both.
Now in this era of digital and in particular of digital
manipulation it is difficult to trust in the images we see. Of late I have seen
photographs of Vancouver auroroa borealis that I know have been enhanced.
In my former career as an editorial photographer art
directors demanded slides or if the assignment was in black and white a contact
sheet. They wanted to see the original approach of the photographer and when
possible to treat it with the respect that at one time existed in image
Back and forth I have seen myself go and now that I am
obsolete –redundant & retired I need not follow any of my former guides of
image propriety I find myself letting go and simply doing what gives me the
most fun and visual satisfaction.
The luminous photograph of the luminous Sandrine Cassini
that illustrates this essay I took in August of 2003. By then my friend Paul
Leisz had dragged me into the digital age (not with a camera) but with
Photoshop and Corel Paint Shop Pro photo programs.
The effect you see is not a new one. I did this back in
2003. This is how:
1. I scanned the b+w medium format b+w negative as a
colour negative. This added an initial red/orange to the mix.
2. I went to Photoshop’s levels and abused the
adjustment. I added a little contrast.
3. In Paint Shop Pro 9 I used a tool called clarify and
I notched it to clarify 5. I then sharpened it to 27 on the Paint Shop
Pete Turner & Khalistan
Monday, September 18, 2017
|Pete Turner - 1964|
This particular blog will interest photographers of a
certain age (you know what I mean). So the warning is in effect for those who
might want to read on.
In the 60s, to the middle 90s I loved and purchased
photography magazines which included Modern Photography, Popular Photography,
Peterson’s Photography and the best of them all American Photographer. These
magazines deteriorated to what (the few that are left) are really
service pieces on equipment and there are few if any photographs in them that
inspire me. I particularly cite the ones of spectacular sky and mountain scenes
reflected to perfection on a calm and pristine lake.
In the years that I cite there would have been few issues
that did not feature at least one photograph by Pete Turner who died on September 18
at age 83.
He pioneered two features of photography that are now
rampantly exploited by people who might ignore of his existence in life or
acknowledge his death. The saturated look in photography is in and pastels do not exist.
He was the first to really promote the idea of intense
(saturated was his term) colours. He did this by purposely underexposing
Kodachrome from one half to one full stop. He added to the intensity of colour
by using polarizers. Because he had the gamut of the best magazines at his
disposal they were able to reproduce his photograph even before the advent of
His most famous image was one he took in 1964 in Africa
of a giraffe which he drastically overexposed (something he was prone to never
do!). He salvaged it by re photographing it and using filters to transform his
image into something that was not reality. In effect Photoshop-before-Photoshop.
He shot countless music albums and magazine covers. He was a super-saturated
The above brings me to why I especially remembered Turner
today and why I called my friend and former magazine art director (of super
saturated talent) whom I met in the early 80s when he came from Maclean’s
Magazine to art direct Vancouver Magazine.
Before his arrival I had badly overexposed many slides
(slides have a very poor tolerance for exposure fluctuation) I took at a racing
weekend at Westwood. In those days you simply threw them away as there was no
So afraid I was of overexposure that I underexposed all
my slides by half a stop. Soon both
Malcolm Parry (the editor) and Chris Dahl gave me the nickname of Half-Stop.
They did not like my darkish slides.
It all came to a boil when I was assigned to photograph a
Sikh who was involved in promoting Khalistan as a separate country from India.
I took two types of photographs, one with a weapon and one without. One of
them, the one without the weapon leant itself more for a cover. The photographs were badly underexposed. I
got ready for a reprimand and to hear what no photographer ever wants to hear, “You
are going to have to re-shoot this.”
That was not the case. Dahl with his weekly magazine
expertise knew how to put out fires. Perhaps he knew about Pete Turner. He said
to me, "I am going to send this to Commercial Illustrators and have them copy
the two slides with a 4x5 camera to correct the exposure and then convert that
to a colour negative which we will print."
And so it was.
What we could not have predicted is that Vancouver
Magazine was banned for a while from the best hotels in town for what they thought was an
offensive cover. I cannot find my cover in my stuff here so you will have to