My Portable Memory
Saturday, June 23, 2018
I would write my
editorials using a manual typewriter in pitch-black darkness... I would produce
the whole thing without having seen the text.
Charles Krauthammer (March 13, 1950 - June 21, 2018)
day something happens that makes it manifest that the world I knew, the world I
was comfortable in, a world of Packards and Studebakers, of Prakticas and Contaxes,
of Kodachrome, Adox and Ektachrome, of Polaroid and Ascor, of bookstores, many
of them, of Underwoods and Smith-Coronas, a world when just being old meant you
were treated with respect (that rarely had to be earned) and the young could slide down slides with impunity, is over. It
was a world where the ad “better living
” did not mean
what it means today.
It was a world of machines (noisy ones) particularly in Spanish. Consider the
photograph illustrating this blog. Colleen Hughes in Spanish would be called a mecanotaquígrafa.
To type is Spanish is to “escribir a máquina” because a typewriter is a “máquina
The original idea for this photograph was that I wanted to
make Hughes the patron saint of writers.
I have had a not very pleasant relation with typewriters. It
was not until 1975 that in a Vancouver TV program I found out that I suffered
something called dyslexia. For me typing was a frustrating experience. While I
learned the querty keyboard I failed typing in high school.
It was only the advent of the computer that somehow enabled
me to type with few mistakes.
Part of a fond memory is my grandmother’s black, portable Smith Corona typewriter with its Spanish keyboard. I know she purchased it
in the Bronx sometime in the late 20s. It still works. I like its smell of ink
|Ivette & my grandmother's Smith Corona|
A Spectrum of Red Delight
Friday, June 22, 2018
Few these days of button starters in cars would remember or
know that one time before cars had self-starters they had to be cranked by a
lever in the front of the car under the radiator.
That crank broke many a finger (it would turn backwards
without notice) until the self-starter was invented. Even then, for a while,
just in case, some cars came with that crank.
As I slip into the few years left of my career (that one is dead before its master) I
remember stuff that is akin to that crank. These are facts about that
disappeared era that one had to keep into account when doing anything.
In that 20 century one of my delights was to shoot Kodak b+w
Infrared Film. This film had to be used with a deep red filter placed in front
of the camera lens. Infrared film did see what we saw (in b+w) but it
additionally glimpsed into the red spectrum of light which is denied to us.
Using the film was sheer unpredictability. Consider that once you focused your
lens with this film you had to go to a little red line marker on your lens which
was where the film focused on.
Much was said about its variable ISO speed. I never had
problems with my rating at 100ISO when processed in Dilution B of Kodak HC-110
One extremely fussy quirk of the film is that you could not
open the film can in existing light. This had to be done in a darkroom or in a
changing bag. Light could slip through and fog the film. This meant that the
camera had to be loaded in a darkroom, closet or changing bag. Because of this fussy
fuss there was one positive feature. When you loaded the film you did not have
to advance the film as one did with normal film to get to the first exposure!
In a 36 exposure roll I consistently had exposure zero and exposure 37.
This brings me to this photograph you see here. I found it
in a box of stuff that I have a hard time throwing away. I suspected the film
was infrared. It is numbered zero. What is it? I recognize the rocks as being Lighthouse
Park in West Vancouver. What is that in the front? It looks like a book. But
then I noticed the hair and it clicked in my mind. I went to my file on ColleenHughes
to the envelope marked Lighthouse Park. I had negative shot with Kodak
Technical Pan but also with Infrared. Exposure 1 and 2 are here. This means
that zero is me. But a book on my legs?
I have 30 rolls of this beautiful film in my fridge. I think it is time to convince someone to pose for me for exposure zero and thirty seven.
For anybody who might demand to see the negative zero's number I am unable to lay the cut exposure on my scanner without the ends curling.
Itzel - Azar - An Unexpected Surprise
Thursday, June 21, 2018
I have written about the pleasant surprise that a
combination of randomness and unpredictability can be here
In this 21st century of all things digital there
are a couple of expressions related to photography that have gone extinct.
One of them is, “How did the pictures turn out?” Another can
be, “Did anything come out?”
In that era of film (in spite of the availability of
Polaroid test for those of us who shot commercially) the situation in charge
was called the latency or the latent image. You did not know what was really in
that roll of film until it was processed. I never had anybody at a professional
lab tell me, “Alex there is no charge.” That usually meant that the lab had
messed up and my roll of film was ruined.
Now there is instant availability after one shoots with a
digital camera. But some photographers might point out that on the way home
after a session the storage card in the camera can become corrupt. If that
happens there will be nothing of one’s session.
In my 20th century past I liked to be sure so I
would take double equipment and I would never commit any shoot to one roll. In
my frequent travel assignments when I would return I would have my film
processed in different batches in case the lab had some sort of breakdown.
In the case of the picture you see of Itzel (my friend
Argentine artist Nora Patrich’s daughter) here I found it in my files under Patrich.
I never bothered to make either a contact sheet or a print of this exposure. There were medium format transparencies, b+w film and colour negatives that I was
more interested in. But I must have had a Nikon FM-2 loaded with Kodak b+w
Infrared Film with which I took that one shot.
In this century I still do not attempt to have all my eggs
in one basket. I will use my two digital cameras, a Fuji X-E1 and a Fuji X-E3.
But I will load up my Mamiya with b+w 120 film and use a Nikon FM-2 with some
fast Fuji Colour Film. And of course I still have a few boxes of Fuji Instant
Film, in colour and b+w, that I can use with my Mamiya with its Polaroid back.
That process will, as strange as it seems, increase
randomness and a pleasant capacity for a surprise.
Brother Cadfael & Brother Edwin Reunited in My Memory
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
|Rosa 'Brother Cadfael', June 20 2018|
Much of what I do these days is to visit my past while awake. In my sleep that past is a strange one, sometimes scary, almost an alien one. When I wake
up during the night I must tell myself that it is only a dream and that my
present, my wake time present is just fine.
Of late my Rosemary has re-kindled her interest in roses.
She spends hours in bed with her iPhone looking at rose websites.
There is a rose that is in bloom right now. It is an unusual
English Rose called Rosa ‘Brother Cadfael’
. It is unusual in that the blooms
before they open they resemble a hybrid tea. They are unusually large.
Brother Cadfael succumbed in our old Kerrisdale garden as it
could not cope with shade.
Rosemary was not eager to order the rose again thinking she
might offend me. I took a scan print of the rose to my mentor in Austin,
Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. some years ago. Months later I visited him again. Behind him
framed (he made the frame) was my print. On the bottom part of the frame he had
inscribed a brass plaque with the name of the rose and that I had given it to
I told Rosemary that ordering the rose would not in the
least offend me.
You see that at my age one of the ways of reliving my past
is to be reminded by its tangible elements. The rose in bloom now reminds me of
Brother Edwin and all of the novels (I read most of them) by Ellis Peters
featuring her medieval sleuth.
What is most symmetrically proper is that the rose (sold by David Austin Roses) came via their North American distribution place which is Tyler, Texas. It arrived safe and sound in a box that was there, one morning, at our front door, two months ago.