Una mujer desnuda y en lo oscuro - Mario Benedetti
Saturday, July 21, 2018
I have been taking photographs of women from the moment I bought my first camera around 1958. I have been taking photographs of women with nothing on since 1969 when I photographed my Rosemary with our first daughter Ale who was one. And since 1976 here in Vancouver my quest has continued and will only stop when I cannot click anymore.
Time and again this image (the one of the left) of my friend Tarren suddenly appears in my memory and I have to hasten to my files to at least look at the negative. It was only today that I noticed the other with Tarren's eyes closed. Looking back at this photograph I feel so lucky to have been there in my studio to record this woman who had that undefinable grace laced with electricity that is so rare.
I am not a poet nor a writer and the only way I can express or define what I think or what I see is through my photography. Uruguayan poet and writer Mario Benedetti wrote the poem A Nude woman in the darkness that pretty well expresses what I feel when I look at Tarren's photograph or any of the others I took of her. Benedetti is not well known up in our parts so there is no translation for his words here.
desnuda y en lo oscuro – Mario Benedetti
mujer desnuda y en lo oscuro
una claridad que nos alumbra
que si ocurre un desconsuelo
apagón o una noche sin luna
conveniente y hasta imprescindible
mano una mujer desnuda.
mujer desnuda y en lo oscuro
un resplandor que da confianza
dominguea el almanaque
en su rincón las telarañas
ojos felices y felinos
de mirar nunca se cansan.
mujer desnuda y en lo oscuro
vocación para las manos
labios es casi un destino
el corazón un despilfarro
mujer desnuda es un enigma
siempre es una fiesta descifrarlo.
mujer desnuda y en lo oscuro
una luz propia y nos enciende
raso se convierte en cielo
y es una
gloria no ser inocente
mujer querida o vislumbrada
por una vez la muerte.
Pink - Small & Punctual - la rosa inalcanzable
Friday, July 20, 2018
|Rosa 'Paul Neyron' July 20 2018|
In the late 80s my Rosemary was interested in roses. As
soon as I shared that interest she switched to hardy geraniums and rare
perennials. My obsession with hostas diminished when my friends the growers and
hybridizers of the plant began to die. In the last 20 years roses have been my
life in the garden. Since 2002 I have scanned every rose of my garden including
the ones that did not make it or that I gave away.
Rosemary is again interested in roses. She is interested
in the deep red ones. I am a sucker for pink ones. When a month ago at the
Vancouver Rose Society Rose Show at VanDusen I found an extremely rare 19th
century (1869) Hybrid Perpetual, Rosa ‘Paul Neyron’ and yes it is pink. Hybrid
perpetuals are reluctant remontants. This means that they bloom more than once
but sparingly in early fall. My Paul Neyron is now in full bloom and I was sad
to cut three of the flowers for the scan. But I must record them for my hard
Pink -- small -- and punctual --
Aromatic -- low --
Covert -- in April --
Candid -- in May --
Dear to the Moss --
Known to the Knoll --
Next to the Robin
In every human Soul --
Bold little Beauty
Bedecked with thee
inmarcesible rosa que no canto,
es peso y fragancia,
negro jardín en la alta noche,
cualquier jardín y cualquier tarde,
que resurge de la tenue
por el arte de la alquimia,
de los persas y de Ariosto,
siempre está sola,
siempre es la rosa de las rosas,
ardiente y ciega rosa que no canto,
la rosa inalcanzable.
The rose is obsolete
Thursday, July 19, 2018
William Carlos Williams
from Spring and All (1923): "The rose is
The rose is obsolete
but each petal ends in
an edge, the double facet
cementing the grooved
columns of air--The edge
cuts without cutting
itself in metal or porcelain--
whither? It ends--
But if it ends
the start is begun
so that to engage roses
becomes a geometry--
Sharper, neater, more cutting
figured in majolica--
the broken plate
glazed with a rose
Somewhere the sense
makes copper roses
The rose carried weight of love
but love is at an end--of roses
It is at the edge of the
petal that love waits
Crisp, worked to defeat
plucked, moist, half-raised
cold, precise, touching
The place between the petal's
edge and the
From the petal's edge a line starts
that being of steel
infinitely fine, infinitely
the Milky Way
from it--neither hanging
The fragility of the flower
Hope Never Dies
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
At the latter part of the 70s my wife urged me to learn to
print color negatives in my darkroom. I had been postponing it until one day
Rosemary said, “You begin at Ampro Photo Workshops this Monday
." And so I
I learned about colours that I had no idea what they looked like.
One was cyan and the other photographic blue which has purple in it. It took a
while before I could look at a portrait and decide that it was too yellow with
a hint of red or too magenta with a hint of blue.
Thanks to Rosemary I can colour balance my digital images
very well as I do not have to use automatic colour correction buttons (how
would they know that they [it?] is correcting the colour of red-haired person’s
skin?) This knowledge has served me well in this century.
I am plainly aware that we live in the age of the button.
This is not only a situation just with digital cameras. Consider social media
and in particular Twitter and Facebook.
You can be a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide of social media or even
a plural Drs. Jekyll and Mr. Hides. You can have a normal account that represents you as
a cyclist or an artist or even a politician. But you can have another account
(or you can simply do it all in one account) where you state your political,
sexual and religious views. Since most in social media have friends, these
friends would mostly agree with your views.
Few that know me through social media would know what my
political or religious beliefs are although most might suspect that I am a
raging heterosexual old man.
But to use a social media platform to raise one’s views of
the left, or of the right, or of the centre and to expect other to agree with
one (press this button, click here, if you agree) seems to me like trying to fix
the colour of a photograph by pressing an auto button. If you have certain
political views, go out there and march or wear the logo on your shirt. Doing
anything just in social media is just preaching to the converted without
soiling your hands. It is clean activism.
All the above is simply an introduction to my doubts that I
cannot understand how my views differ from those of my ex-fellow classmates
from Texas with whom I boarded for four years in the late 50s or the day
students who were my friends. I found this out with lots of pain when I posted this blog
about how cool President Obama was. I received many insulting emails from my friends.
Our education which I will call a liberal Roman Catholic one
came from Brothers of Holy Cross (the same as in Indiana’s Notre Dame). They
were pragmatic and taught us not to be swayed by public opinion. My one lay
teacher, a G.I. from the European theatre in WWII taught us the law of the land
(the USA). Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. explained that Confirmation was a very
important sacrament that was almost forgotten, but made us responsible for
defending our faith by explaining how it worked, Mr. Wright taught us civics so
we could defend our country (even if we were not Americans) by stating our
rights and explaining how the three branches of the US Government worked.
How could so many of my fellow classmates become gun-toting
red necks? But then those that are my social media friends will never find me
arguing with them. There are always other topics of social media conversation.
All that above (perhaps nonsense to you if you have gotten
this far) is to introduce the felicitous occasion of the fact that today I went
to Indigo on Broadway and Granville to buy Andrew Shaffer’s Hope Never Ends.
This is the first of series of mysteries that feature a Holmesian and a Watson-like
protagonist who are well known today. One is the now out of office Barack Obama
and the other a tall bumbling “Uncle Joe” Biden. I am already forewarned that
somewhere Obama (the king of cool in my books) confronts some heavy duty bikers
with a sawed-off shotgun and saves Uncle Joe from their clutches.
I have read one chapter and I have laughed through most of
it. I will not recommend the book to anybody but will simply place here the NYTimes review
that alerted me to the existence of the novel a few days ago.
There is no doubt in my mind that both Brother Edwin and Mr.
Wright would like the book, too. Since they are no longer with us I do not have
to recommend the book even to them.
Art Bergmann - Folk Punk (& Warmth) at the Vancouver Folk Festival
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
|Art Bergmann's Kitchen Band - Kathleen Nisbet, violin, Paul Rigby, mandolin & guitar|
The person writing this is not an expert or music critic. In
1973 my foreign students in an American School in Mexico City asked me if I
knew who Alice Cooper was. My answer, a question elicited guffaws, “No, who's she
In 1975 my wife and two daughters moved to Vancouver. By
1977 I was working for Vancouver Magazine.
There was a new (and first ever for
the magazine) column in the magazine called In One Ear
written by Les Wiseman
who being a very good music critic was a snob. He told me that if I was to like
anybody it had to be Lou Reed. And in Vancouver the only equivalent was Gary
Cramer and his band The Works.
|Gary Cramer & the Works|
One of Wiseman’s first pieces, not an In One Ear
a feature was called The Night of the
. In 1979 (I believe) when he wrote this, Vancouver was crazy
over canned disco. Wiseman’s article was about city establishments that offered something different,
live music. I was to shoot it. One of the places (I was scared about going as I
had read in the Vancouver Sun
about constant police interventions) was the
Smilin' Buddha on Hastings.
|Left, Maddalena Di Gregorio - right my first photo of Art Bergmann|
On stage was a tight and very loud three piece band, (warming up for the all female Dishrags) Art
Bergmann, guitar and vocals, Jim Bescott, bass and vocals, Barry Taylor, drums.
I did not know then but Wikipedia has confirmed that the Young Canadians
(formerly called the K-Tels) was the first punk band to play in the
establishment. They were the warm-up band to the Dishrags.
|Dishrags at the Buddha|
The Young Canadians was also the first punk band I ever heard. In one of those strange coincidences the woman appearing in that Art negative is Maddalena Di Gregorio, I had yet to meet her
, but there she was at the Buddha. I would photograph her many times for years after.
Within minutes of being there I found a place in a corner
for my equipment and I joined the crowd to jump up and down (it was called
pogoing). I could not believe the intensity, charisma and passion of its
singer/guitarist Art Bergmann.
|Young Canadians on Victoria Drive circa 1979|
The sound, as loud as it was, made the lyrics quite
unintelligible except for what for me is the quintessential Vancouver song,
. Had I bothered to hear the lyrics of Bergmann’s other songs (particularly my fave Data Redux)
have had intimations that almost singlehandedly his lyrics were no different
from the protest songs of the 60s and 70s. Looking back and in light of having
heard (and this time around the lyrics were clear) Bergmann this last Sunday at
the Vancouver Folk Festival I can see that he may have invented something that
I call punk folk
Data Redux - Young Canadians
Since that night in 1979 I have frequented as many concerts
of whatever band Bergmann has fronted until the present.
With Wiseman as a mentor I became an amateur musical snob.
And in his company listening to the Young Canadians at Gary Taylor’s Rock Room and
witnessing the less intense (laid back I mean) but certainly no less
interesting Gary Cramer and the Works I could see the attraction of this type
of popular music that had an extreme Vancouver stamp. To this day I believe
that my initial photographs of these two bands are my favourites and best (even
if I had no real idea of what I was doing).
Since 1975 I have come to believe that in spite of all the
charms and possibilities (and Vancouver has been kind to my photography via
good money for it) this is a city of a restrained and almost cold modus
operandi. I live in a desire for the warmth of my Latin America, of the ochres and
browns of Mexico in the winter (not the cold cyan and greys of this city in winter).
are moments that for me vindicate my living here. One of them is the constant,
dependable honesty of Bergmann with his music (and especially) and lyrics. He
has been an unwavering beacon that to me (and Wiseman would agree) may have
been rivalled with the intermittent, short bursts of unalloyed brilliance,
passion and virtuosity of our departed ex-New York Dolls Johnny Thunders.
Wiseman and I would go to Thunders concerts (once here and a
few times in NY) not to see if he would die of drugs or alcohol on stage as
many fans did but to witness that raw passion.
Vancouver is a city with a troubling lack of memory. My
little essay for the Vancouver Sun in November of 1998 reminds me that Bergmann
and his band Poisoned played at the Orpheum. The Pretenders at the Queen
Elizabeth? Naw, Bergmann at the Orpheum!
I can now wind this blog down by mentioning Bergmann's new band which I call his Kitchen Band. At one moment of the very intimate (and warm in spite of some loud four letter words) concert Bergmann indicated to violinist Kathleen Nisbet that she move closer to him. She mentioned that they usually played in a kitchen. I asked her later and she told me it was her kitchen. With her amplified violin and Paul Rigby's fine (smaller that Bergmann's) guitar and mandolin the group sounded like a full fledged folk group. Except.
Except that Bergmann's voice (not like Lou Reed's or Gary Cramer's) with just a hint of singing/talking is a unique voice in Canadian music. The only parallel could be Neal Young's voice.
That one of the songs featured the word Catalonia and another was based on a Paul Theroux essay on cluster bombs simply told me that Bergmann reads and is up-to-date on the failing mechanics of our present world.
But in all that warm doom and gloom there was a silver lining. Bergmann sang one of my fave songs (and Les Wiseman's, too) The Hospital Song
which ends with that wonderful:
Maybe later, we'll get together and have a relapse
A snippet of the Hospital Song
on Youtube from this past Sunday
And with present current events I have this nagging lyric (loud in my ears) of Bergmann's Data Redux
where he seems to say over and over
I fell in love with the enemy.
I know the song is about spies but I have been unable to find the lyrics. I once asked Bergmann about them and he answered something like, "They are dumb lyrics.
|Bergmann with wife Sherri Decembrini|
I love to look at that photograph of the couple in the kitchen. When I first photographed Bergmann on Victoria Drive he was scary, cold and remote. It was all a false front. He is a warm man who sometimes does his best to hide it. But we know better.