No Shingle to Hang - Alas!Thursday, September 27, 2018
It was the 20th century ambition of any photographer to have a studio separate from where one lived.
My first studio was the basement in our Burnaby home beginning in 1975. The restriction was the low ceiling. But I had a darkroom that was clean, bright and spacious and came with its own bathroom.
Between 1980 and until around 1995 I had several studios which I shared with other photographers.
Then I had my own studio, all for myself on the corner of Robson and Granville which served as my headquarters away from our home in Kerrisdale. It was downtown and I felt I as in the thick of things. Ballet dancers would come to my studio as they were blocks away. It was a comfortable studio with old radiators. I shared the floor (not the studio!) with noted artists Neil Wedman and Rodney Graham. While I might have been considered (and still to this day) as a commercial hack I felt slightly artistic - a hack wanting to be an artist.
At one point around 7 years ago (when journalism and magazines was dipping into oblivion) money entering my Farmer Building studio was not exceeding money going out. My Rosemary thought that closing my studio at that time would have affected my morale. But it was in the books and I finally closed the studio and the building was soon torn down.
There was something about having a studio not in one’s home that brought a creativity that somehow came in during the trip to the studio. I would arrive early look at my lights and equipment and somehow inspiration would seep into my brain.
Letting go of the studio was heart wrenching especially when you look back at a career and you realize as I did that the work I was doing and the trappings of doing that work were gone.
An older contemporary, a much older contemporary, Fred Schiffer had a lovely studio under the parking bridge on Seymour by the Hudson’s Bay Company. Sometime in the early 90s he saw the writing on the wall (he photographed the powerful men of Vancouver and their families). He closed his studio and purchased compact flash equipment and began (before anybody else) the photography in the homes of his clients. In his prime, before digital cameras took over, Schiffer was the most expensive wedding photographer in Canada.
Two years ago the final nail on my way of life came to end when we sold our large Kerrisdale home. It was there that I had a comfortable darkroom. I never expected the magazines that hired me to print my negatives. I printed them myself and since I began printing around 1961 I think I was very good. I came to understand that an art gallery print and one for reproduction in magazines or newspapers were two distinct entities. My photographs always looked good in publication.
Now in our little Kitsilano duplex (the darkroom long gone) I have a little studio and “oficina” in what used to be the garage. It is comfy and warm. The studio is intimate but really the correct definition is that is it just plain small.
I sit at my antique Edwardian desk with my computer and scanner on my left. I can look out on our deck garden. Behind me are 7 4-drawer filing cabinets that contain my life’s work in negatives, slides and prints. The bigger prints are inside two new Opus-purchased flats. The oficina is carpeted but I have a small Persian carpet on top of that. Like a sore thumb there is the presence of my bike. I have no other place to store it.
What is important for me is to cross that deck in the morning to open the door of my oficina/studio. It is not the same as driving or taking the trolley as I used to in my trips to Robson and Granville. But it will have to do.
With money in the bank and two brand new but lovely brother and sister cats, Rosemary and I, who are in good health, really have no worries except perhaps that of fussing over our two daughters and two granddaughters. We can plan trips abroad in Mexico, Argentina, New York and perhaps soon to Barcelona and to Guadalajara.
But in my present life in which I seriously tell everybody that I am obsolete, redundant & retired crossing that deck to sit down and write this blog seems to be the only thing going for me.
Sometimes I feel sad and sometimes the lack of stress feels pleasant.
But I have to admit that the lack of stress can be stressful, too.