The Sometimes Excellence of Age & ExperienceFriday, September 28, 2018
This is going to be a gentle rant so please be forewarned.
Because my father left our house in Buenos Aires when I was 8 and my mother was a high school teacher working hard to make ends meet, my grandmother Dolores Reyes de Irureta Goyena was the great influence of my life. It was only around 1969 when she returned from a trip to Egypt that I finally lost touch with her. She had advanced dementia and did not recognize me.
She raised me in a surprisingly modern way. She never told me, “Alex don’t do that.” Her way was, “Alex, if you do that, this is what is going to happen.” She somehow knew all the advice on record in Cervantes’s Don Quixote uttered by Sancho Panza. To this day, I too remember most of the advice that came my way via the ultimate Spanish novel.
But what most stays in my mind is that this woman, who was an artist, defended me from all kinds of punishment by pointing out, that I, too, was an artist. I cannot remember when she and I would have been at odds and when I might have lost respect for her or considered her to be an old woman with no relevant information that could make my life better.
Perhaps it was the old school dictum that you had to respect your elders because they were so.
The picture you see here I took in September 28 of this year. I can see in the picture influence and experience that began in 1962. How is that?
In 1962 my artist friend Robert Hijar and I were attending Mexico City College in Mexico City. Since he was in the art department he had access to the college dark room. It was in that darkroom (while Robert played StanGetz/Eddie Sauter’s album Focus on his reel to reel), that I would place my negatives into the enlarger and figure multiple ways of cropping the photograph.
It was not until I started shooting for Vancouver Magazine in 1977 that I learned that art directors were the boss and that they could do anything with my photographs. It was then that I learned to crop my photographs in camera and have all that was important there. Cropping the picture (and I shot both vertical and horizontal versions) would eliminate important and necessary parts and take away the relevance of the image. Art directors rarely cropped my photographs. They had little choice.
It was around 1977 that my Rosemary said, “Alex you are never going to learn to print colour negatives and colour slides. This Monday you start a colour course at Ampro Photo Workshops on West Broadway." Thus I learned to print and to note the difference between photographic blue and photographic cyan or the difference between yellow and green. In colour correction these colours can trick one.
That information, thanks to my Rosemary, helps me in this 21st century to colour balance both my scans of my film negatives and slides but also of my digital pictures.
It was at Vancouver Magazine that excellent and inspiring art directors (not to mention the editor) pushed me to shoot beyond the established parameters. There always had to be a different way of shooting the cliché. To this day I will not shoot anything without finding some roundabout way of making it different.
My contemporaries, who shoot digital, use a system which creates huge files called RAW files. They tell me that with these files a lot can be done to correct minor and even major mistakes of exposure.
The magazines of the last century expected all colour photographs to be taken with slide film. Slide film has a low tolerance for exposure mistakes (the technical term is latitude). Once you overexposed an assignment, and before scanners and Photoshop were around, you threw the slides away and started from scratch. This taught all magazine photographer to be precise in exposure.
Then the automatic cameras happened. The reason these early automatic cameras worked so well is that photographers used colour negative film which had a very good latitude for exposure mistakes. They were the RAW of the past.
The picture that illustrates this blog came about from seeing in Vancouver countless extremely sharp dance pictures everywhere. In frozen motion, motion is not noticed. It is the blur that suggests motion. I learned the technique of using shutter speed of 1/5, 1/8, ¼ and even ½ second attending Sunday performances of the Arts Umbrella Dance Company.
After learning to dance the Argentine Tango some years ago I gave myself a magazine-type assignment. How could I shoot tango in a different way? This is what I did.
So on September 28 in the evening at Lavalle and Florida in Buenos Aires where a dance troupe performs every evening I decided I was going to only shoot their legs.
And this I did, proving that this picture began its creation sometime in 1962 on the highway from Mexico City to Toluca.
And yes experience and age do sometimes add a bit of excellence.