The Exploration of Woman
Saturday, October 27, 2018
My friend Ian MacGuffie often repeats something that fills
me with nostalgia for those days. He cites the photographers who would walk
around Stanley Park in that last century. Some may have had Nikons or Pentaxes
hanging from their necks. The more financially enhanced would perhaps have
Then this is what MacGuffie says that rings so true in this
age of proliferating images that are not here or there.
“We don’t know if these photographers were good or not. They
had few opportunities to show them anywhere.”
That 20th century was also one of black and
white, not only in photography but in other aspects of life. It seemed to be a
century of absolutes with no strange and confusing grounds.
I have an acquaintance (one I hope with with I will have a
friendship) who is a man who has changed her body. She has breast augmentation
and perhaps she may have had modifications below the belt. At one time, in that
other century I would have called her a drag queen. Now I am unsure as to the
correct nomenclature. Obviously it is not black or white. It has to be another “colour”
in-between or to one side or the other.
In that past century when I was a young man I could emerge
from the confessional feeling elated and purified. That would not happen to me
now. My beliefs have changed.
But there is one aspect of my life that is unchanged. Not
only that, it seems to be stronger, more in my face. My taste buds are failing
and there are few foods that please me. Of music I can only state that I do not
want to ever listen to Bach’s Double Violin Concerto. I am done. I am done with
What is one of the few aspects of my life that is now enhanced and ever
This is my admiration, attraction, confusion, depression,
amazement, wonder and many other emotions in how I relate to my visual
impression of the women that surround my life. This could be the women that I
know but also women who are strangers.
I am repelled by the Kardashian Factor which I define as my
reaction to a banal perfection of beauty that as soon as it begins to fade
surgery and other methods are used to freeze it.
I am instantly drawn to cleavage while being aware that I am
admiring a concavity that has no material existence. I am looking at a curved
space as difficult to fathom as Einstein’s space.
What is it about a leg or a pair of them that draws me to
stare? Why is it that those legs below a mini skirt are so much more attractive
(a beacon of sorts) than those seen in their entirety when the woman in question
is wearing a bathing suit?
And my attraction to women is not only of women much younger than I am. I see beauty in my Rosemary even though I can remember those legs and everything else about her that I first saw 50 years ago.
To me it is obvious that this attraction is genetic. It is a
genetic factor that makes the sexual organs (the exterior ones) of a woman so
fine and their male counterparts so repulsive.
Are women less prone to the factors in that previous
My Rosemary and I plan to travel more this 2019. Curiously
we want to return to some of our favourite places like Mérida, New York, Buenos
Aires, Guanajuato. Madrid while we have new interest in places that only
Rosemary has been to like Rome, Florence and Venice. Could it be that there is
pleasure in the predictable surprise of the surprising? There is no possibility
we will ever want to go to Ulan Bator or Delhi. Is cleavage while much less complex than a face different and new every time?
Could it be that my attraction to the female form be still
with me because I have good vision, and a memory that has yet to fail? I can
remember that scene in To Catch a Thief, where Cary Grant in a hotel corridor
spots Grace Kelly and that beautiful neck.
I can remember being 15 and going to newsstands in Mexico
that had magazines showing Brigit Bardot’s cleavage. If I had enough pocket
money I would buy them and smuggle them in back home.
I don’t have to ask myself why it was I liked to ride buses
in Mexico City in those days of my youth to spy on women who crossed their
In brief I don’t think I am abnormal or different from other
What does make me different (and this is where the crunch lies) is that as
a photographer I can capture (this 21st century photographic term
has a good fit here in this usage) these memories and make them the realities
of the moment of women who may pose for me in my Kits studio.
I can thank my proto-feminist mother,
and my wife Rosemary) that I would never take a photograph where the woman
posing is not in control or doing something I have persuaded her to do against
In all these years where I have followed my star that is the
beauty of woman I have never really felt all that frustrated about my
photographs. I have shown (physical photographic prints printed by me in my
darkroom) prints to friends. I have shown in the many galleries that existed in
Vancouver before they became politically correct, shy and safe.
Now with friends that have died or disappeared or even
because of a mutually fading friendship, my opportunity to show what I do has
As the years in front of me become certainly short ones
all I can do is to look at my filing cabinets, know what is in them (my memory
has yet to fail me) and consider that I have had a life that is unique in what
relates to the exploration of woman.
Alex - the Serial Bombmaker
Friday, October 26, 2018
|Rusty & Alex, Mexico City, 1956|
In 1956 when I was 14 I built bombs, big bombs.
friend David Harris at the American School in Mexico City and I liked to make
large explosions. There was a drugstore on Avenida Madero, downtown, called el
Elefante where we bought kilos of potassium chlorate and sulphur. We began our
bomb making with potassium nitrate but quickly found that potassium chlorate
gave a bigger bang. At first we tried to mimic gunpowder and added ground coal
to our mixture.
The way we exploded our divices, was to use large tin cans
inside larger tin cans (packed with pebbles to make it tight) where we would insert a long electrical wire that at the end had
a strand of a steel wool filament. After burying the can in my mother’s rose
garden we connected the wire to a large 6 volt battery. The 6 volts were enough to make the filament glow.
That first explosion blew one of my mother’s rose bushes up
into the air. We had buried our can under the bush. I was given a whipping with a Filipino slipper called a chinela. But
a few weeks later when the rose (which my mother re-planted) bloomed nicely I
remember that she smiled at me.
But David Harris, who was smarter than I was in chemistry,
told me that there was a better formula for our explosive that simply combined
the potassioum chlorate with aluminum powder. Aluminum powder was sold in what
in Mexico are special hardware stores called tlapalerías. The aluminum powder
was usually mixed (we purchased it on its own) with a solvent (perhaps linseed
oil) and used to paint metal so that it would not rust.
We made a very large bomb with his combination of aluminum
powder and the potassium chlorate but moved our operations to a nearby empty
lot. The explosion was deafening and the crater about ten feet in diameter. Perhaps because we lived in a residential district (Lomas de Chapultepec) the police never showed up.
We were delighted and built a few more of these bombs until
we became bored.
Weeks later David Harris arrived with a vile in hand and
riding on roller skates.
Alex, “This is nitro-glycerine.” We were both disappointed
when our aluminum bomb did not set off the vile. David told me that perhaps he had made a mistake in the combination of chemicals and that he would try it again.
A week later my mother and I moved to Nueva Rosita, Coahuila
and I lost contact with David Harris.
Through these many years I have been attempting to find him
but to no avail.
If you were coming in the fall, I'd brush the summer by
Thursday, October 25, 2018
|Acer (found on the street) October 25 2018|
In the last few weeks I have been writing blogs in
Spanish my native (materno in
Spanish) language. Some of my followers (or at least the decidedly vocal ones)
have objected to this. Since returning from our trip to Buenos Aires in
September I have felt nostalgia for that place. I must remind anybody reading
this that the absolute necessity for having nostalgia is to not be in the place
you have nostalgia for. I have been answering an inner voice to write and think in Spanish.
Imagine then that after a quick search on the net and in
my books in Spanish I have located three poems about fall from two Mexican
poets (Homero Aridjis & Octavio Paz) and by Argentine Julio Cortázar. The fourth poem (yes! In English) is
by Emily Dickinson.
Having left Buenos Aires at the start of a South American
spring and arrived to a warmish Vancouver fall but today, wet and cool I find
it most interesting that Dickinson’s poem about love injects a Southern
Hemisphere aspect to what she writes by mentioning the person she loves and
expects to see might mean that Dickinson might ignore (I’d brush the summer by)
the coming spring and summer as her lover’s spring would coincide with
Lovely, as that poem addresses my present confusion
between my Buenos Aires spring and my Vancouver fall.
|Rosa 'Duchess of Portland' & Rosa 'Abraham Darby' October 25 2018|
Otoño – Octavio Paz
En llamas, en otoños incendiados,
veces mi corazón,
solo. El viento lo despierta,
centro y lo suspende
que sonríe para nadie:
presencia, un cuerpo,
rompe los muros
nacer las formas embriagadas,
un son, un giro, un ala apenas;
delicadas y sombrías,
que sueñan labios,
que sueñan pájaros...
que no se sabe y dice «nunca»
cae del cielo,
mi Dios y mi adversario.
que las puertas de tu ciudad
con estatutos inviolables
acojan como habitante
vida que en ti se desenvuelve
que la lluvia de silencio
me impregnaré de ti
que sea humo en tu voz
sobre mis hombros tu futuro
llegue el otoño
descubriré al rostro de los hombres
en tus vasos alimenticios
nutrirse de esperanza
de otoño – Julio Cortázar
bóveda de la tarde cada pájaro es un punto del
Asombra a veces que el fervor del tiempo
sin cuerpo vuelva, ya sin motivo vuelva;
belleza, tan breve en su violento amor
guarde un eco en el descenso de la noche.
qué más que estarse con los brazos caídos,
corazón amontonado y ese sabor de polvo
que fue rosa o camino.
El vuelo excede el ala.
humildad, saber que esto que resta
ganado a la sombra por obra de silencio;
rama en la mano, que la lágrima oscura
son heredad, el hombre con su historia,
la lámpara que alumbra.
If you were coming in the fall - Emily Dickinson
IF you were coming in the fall,
I ’d brush the summer by
With half a smile and half a spurn,
As housewives do a fly.
If I could see you in a year, 5
I ’d wind the months in balls,
And put them each in separate drawers,
Until their time befalls.
If only centuries delayed,
I ’d count them on my hand, 10
Subtracting till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemen’s land.
If certain, when this life was out,
That yours and mine should be,
I ’d toss it yonder like a rind, 15
And taste eternity.
But now, all ignorant of the length
Of time’s uncertain wing,
It goads me, like the goblin bee,
Monkeying Around Behind a Glass Door
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
This picture began as a b+w Fuji 3200 Instant Film print. My
subject who had posed for me years before was not reluctant to shed all
clothing. She had a wonderful milky white door that was partially translucent.
I took a few photographs and I was most gratified with the
Two years ago I might have monkeyed with the negatives. I
still had a darkroom. But the fact is that I shot everything with my digital
As for the Polaroid/Fujiroids prints and peels I could not
have done anything with them in that wet darkroom.
Now in this 2019 while I shoot film I enjoy the capabilities
of scanning my negatives, prints with my Epson V-700 or working with my digital
camera (or my iPhone3G) files.
A case in point is the enjoyable task of beginning with a
workable Fuji Instant print and fixing it with my 13 year-old Photoshop. I
dabble with contrast and shadow/highlights and then I go to Corel Paint Shop
Pro XII. For the initial photograph here I used the Photo Effects – Time Machine
with the cyanotype option. And presto something to entertain my afternoon on a
gray Vancouver day.