Saturday, October 07, 2017
Yesterday I wrote this
about my friend Juan Manuel Sánchez
who died on October 5, 2016.
From him I learned lots about art and how to become more
human. I learned patience and that inspiration comes if one looks for it.
But of all that he taught me, he was the only one who made
it seem normal (is it?) for an artist or this amateur to contemplate and then
accept an obsession to record the body and soul of a woman with the least
amount of trappings.
In the almost 15 years that we were friends he and his wife
Nora Patrich were the only ones who gave me comfort (by example) that my need
to photograph women in any way or form (but preferably undraped). By example I
mean that both Sánchez and Patrich painted, drew and sketched the female form.
Sánchez’s particular obsession was more acute than mine. He
would stare at a blank canvas and then he would begin to work. He called the
blank canvas a problem in need of a resolution. Through his long life that
resolution meant to simplify form to its bare minimum and still convey the
essence of what he was painting.In most cases that would be the ultimate woman as a Platonic Essence.
But I can also here contrast what he did and what I did. He could paint from memory. He did not need to paint from life although he welcomed the many opportunities to sit in my studio with his wife and sketch a parade of women that I brought in. As a photographer I cannot point my camera at nothing. I need a subject. If that subject is exposed as a photograph there will always be that marked difference on how we look an accept a reproduction on canvas and how in most cases we will reject a photographic version.
Of all that he tried to explain that it was as normal as
eating, talking or anything else.
Living in a conservative and many times extreme politically
correct city his words seemed to be of one “crying in the wilderness”.
One of my daughters thinks I am a pornographer. My wife
simply tolerates what I do. Perhaps there is a barrier between would-be artists
(me) and those who do not contemplate being one.
With Sánchez gone from my life as a tactile presence I can
only find refuge in his words in my memory.
|Claudia en la pared de Nora Patrich|
I could explain to him (and he would have listened with
interest) that now at my age of 75 that obsession to photograph the erotic has
become more subtle, elegant, less extreme and obviously springs out from above
my belt and deep inside my brain. I like that idea. That extreme is becoming
less so. Is this a Sánchez resolution of a problem?
Missing a Friend & Mentor - Juan Manuel Sánchez
Friday, October 06, 2017
|Juan Manuel Sánchez - Vancouver circa 2001|
One of the most influential mentors of my life, Juan Manuel Sánchez
died yesterday, one year ago. Sánchez, in fact was the most influential
person in my artistic life, something that I have come to understand in the
last few years.
Before I met him in the waning year of the 20th
century I considered myself to be a very good and efficient commercial and
editorial photographer. It was Sánchez who pushed me to accept that I was an
With his wife (Argentine like Sánchez) Nora Patrich we
embarked in a series of personal and collaborative projects that had me in
contact with them every day. They lived nearby here in Vancouver so we drank
mate, talked on the phone and in person and discussed projects.
My almost 10 year collaboration (until they split up and
returned in separate airplanes to Buenos Aires) produced thousands of
negatives, slides and Polaroids. I could fill large stadiums with that output.
All that enthusiasm and alegría
is gone. Some of it lingers with Nora Patrich (she comes to Vancouver about
twice a year) as she is ready to embark on anything. In fact we are having a
joint show (her stuff, my stuff and our collaborative stuff) at the very nice
and one of the few real galleries left in Buenos Aires called Galería Vermeer.
Our show is to be in August 2018.
Patrich and I are I weekly contact with WhatsApp deciding
what to put up and how to make some collaborative work that is brand new.
At the very least when Sánchez was alive I never took him
for granted. I knew how lucky I was. I saw him not too long before he died and
when I finished my café cortado in the corner café near his house and we said
goodbye I almost knew it was to be for the last time.
I remember his crooked smile, his gentle ways, his
calming voice but more that anything in days when I feel useless (obsolete –
redundant & retired) I can keep going knowing that my admiration for him
1 Hour Photo - One Man Show - Not
Thursday, October 05, 2017
|Tetsuro Shigematsu, Richard Wolfe & Steve Charles (note transparent LP record) |
Last night’s opening at the Cultch's
Historic Theatre of Tetsuro Shigematsu’s 1 Hour Photo
directed by my friend Richard Wolfe
defies a short-words definition.
In fact just about anything at the Vancouver East Cultural
Centre including the now showing The Goblin Market
follows what now seems to be a rule to break the rigid cultural barriers
of our city.
Looking at the adevertising you might think that 1 Hour
photo is a one-man show. But on stage not only did I see Shigematsu but also
Sound Designer/Composer/ Performer, Steve Charles who should add to that DJ.
The stage designed by Pam Johnson included a screen, a long
and black storage area with drawers, a plinth, a classic record turntable and
Charles’s guitar, keyboard, etc.
The whole show was lit by lighting man Gerald King whose
work I have seen mostly in dance. Since Shigematsu does dance (with long
pointed shoes) and moves a lot, it is most appropriate to have a dance lighting
I have a friend who is a theatrical lighting designer and she has told me how boring it is these days as in most cases she had to light a living room set! 1 Hour Photo must be challenging but really interesting to ligth. King must be a happy man.
The show mixes old media like a record (transparent like my
old Fantasy Records Dave Brubeck Quartet albums) turntable with a state of the
art camera with a built-in extreme close-up capability which helped us look
into a miniature version of a house where both the subject of the show, Mas
Yamamoto and his family including daughter Donna Yamamoto (the Artistic
Producer of the show) and Shigematsu’s father and family lived.
In fact I would define the 1 Hour Photo as a show & tell
kind of show that never bores and is full of humour but of little bitterness.
Since 1 Hour Photo is about the Japanese population that was
inhabiting British Columbia before the bombing of Pearl Harbor it does deal
with the forced incarceration of that population in about 21 camps spread in
the province. Shigematsu said that most of that population hid or simply did
not succumb to bitterness during that period even though their homes and livelihood
(many fishing boats) were taken away.
In the heels of last year’s presentation at the Cultch’s
York Theatre of the play about the residential schools for Native Canadians,
Children of God, the contrast between a brutal sorrow and bitterness with
Shigematsu’s more positive take was a relief. I went home less depressed.
Not too underneath the surface of a show of a Japanese man,
Mas Yamamoto was the other story of Shigematsu’s own father. Such was the
back-and-forth narrative (which includes a description of Shigematsu’s father’s
death) that when at the end an elderly Japanese man embraced Shigematsu I was
surprised to find out that Mas Yamamoto indeed was alive and well, a man who
succeeded in spite of all odds against him. In short 1Hour Photo is not a
one-man-show but a live sometimes funny exploration of human character with a
little love story thrown in.
What endeared me to the show and to Shigematsu (1 Hour Photo
was also written by him) was his constant going from here to there and from
there to here via a Volkswagen-sized digital camera (the first!) and the always
centering the work with that recording of his interview with Yamamoto. I was told that the interview was
over 30 hours long and that explains why CBC’s Yvone Gall is listed as the
My guess is that the digital and latest technology Dramaturg
is Shigematsu himself.
On the screen there was a word Nikkei
and it said it was a Japanese Canadian. I became curious and looked it up. I was not familiar with the term but knew about the Nisei.
Nisei (二世, "second generation") is
a Japanese language term used in countries in North America and South America
to specify the children born in the new country to Japanese-born immigrants
(who are called Issei). The Nisei are considered the second generation; and the
grandchildren of the Japanese-born immigrants are called Sansei, or third
generation. (Ichi, ni, san are Japanese for "one, two, three"; see
It is interesting to know that Yoko Ono was an Issei.
Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians have special names
for each of their generations in North America. These are formed by combining
one of the Japanese numbers corresponding to the generation with the Japanese
word for generation (sei 世). The Japanese-American and
Japanese-Canadian communities have themselves distinguished their members with
terms like Issei, Nisei, and Sansei which describe the first, second and third
generation of immigrants. The fourth generation is called Yonsei (四世)
and the fifth is called Gosei (五世). The Issei, Nisei and Sansei generations reflect distinctly different
attitudes to authority, gender, non-Japanese involvement, and religious belief
and practice, and other matters.The age when individuals faced the wartime evacuation
and internment is the single, most significant factor which explains these
variations in their experiences, attitudes and behaviour patterns.
The term Nikkei (日系) was coined by a multinational
group of sociologists and encompasses all of the world's Japanese immigrants
across generations. The collective memory of the Issei and older Nisei was an
image of Meiji Japan from 1870 through 1911, which contrasted sharply with the
Japan that newer immigrants had more recently left. These differing attitudes,
social values and associations with Japan were often incompatible with each
other. In this context, the significant differences in post-war experiences
and opportunities did nothing to mitigate the gaps which separated generational
|Hosta (Giboshi) 'Blue Whirls'|
In the spirit of Shigematsu’s assorted associations I
will write here some of mine. In the late 90s I went to Lima Peru to photograph
writer Mario Vargas Llosa
who was running for president. The very night when he
had to make his presence to lecture organized by the Japanese/Peruvian
community he became very sick because he had eaten bad ceviche in Piura. That
was the night he lost his bid and “el chinito” (the little Chinaman) Alberto
Fujimori won the race.
It is funny to note here that although there is a large
community of Peruvian Nisei the always attached that sort of nasty epithet of “el
chinito” to an authentic Nisei.
In my native Buenos Aires the only Japanese man I ever
knew of was a gardener named Matsumoto.
My Argentine nephew Georgito O’Reilly once asked me how I
could tell the difference between the Chinese and the Japanese. My answer was
an easy one, “That is easy but when you are in doubt they are Korean.”
For many years until the late 50s there was an amusement park near the Retiro train Station in Buenos Aires that had an amusement park called Parque Japonés.
My father would take me but I would avoid anything that turned because I had severe motion sickness. There was even a classic tango with lyrics that mentioned the Parque Japonés.
In the 60s when I flew a few times between Mexico City and Buenos Aires the Varig Airlines airplanes I was flying in (rare Convair 990 jetliner) the cabin was full of Japanese. It seems that there was a large emmigration of them to Brazil. For a long time during the Panamerican Games the Brazilian baseball team did wonders as it was mostly made up of Japanese!
And lastly something about the giboshi which is Japanese
for my first love of the plant kingdom (now shared with my love for old roses)
the hosta which is originally from Japan and Korea.
I have been scanning the plants (leaves, flowers, etc )
from my garden for about 17 years. The digital files are then printed in the
artspeak for a good inkjet, giclée. I have very large framed prints. When people
see them they are in awe, They invariably say, “What a beautiful photograph.” I
correct them by saying, “No, they are scanographs and I an a scanographer.” They rapidly lose interest?
Is 1 Hour Photo a one-man show?
An October Fall in Lillooet BC
Wednesday, October 04, 2017
|Fall in Lillooet - October 3 2017|
On Tuesday afternoon my Rosemary and I returned from a three
night and two day visit to our older daughter Ale’s home (almost one acre) in
Lillooet, British Columbia.
We did two days of heavy gardening but we had little time left to move plants around. Many of Ale’s plants came from our old and very
large Athlone garden in Kerrisdale. I thought that Gallica roses and rugosas
would do well in the extreme heat and cold of Lillooet and that was the case.
They are happy campers except for the fact that Ale has visiting bears and deer
that like roses, too.
The days were cool, windy but the sun was out. They were
classic fall days.
|Rosemary & Ale with Lloyd McNary|
If we manage to buy some snow tires we might return before
spring. We have no room in our small house to store summer tires but I might
find a place (where I would buy my winter tires) to store them for us.
The temperature in Lillooet was around 20. By the time we
drove back by Seton Lake the temperature went down to 3 Celsius. We will have a
few more good fall days I am sure. To celebrate them, you will find here
flowers from Ale’s garden. There are some zinnias, her extraordinary sunflowers
(on the wane) and one Rosa rugosa from a bush that was blooming very nicely.
Ale included some onions in the mix. They look like
shallots. She also put in a couple of nasturtiums. I have never told her that I
get an itch in the nose when I approach them. And yet I love that first cousin
of the nasrutiums, watercress.
By Robert Frost
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.