April in November Amidst a Lost Galaxy
Saturday, November 17, 2018
|April on Vine|
This week has been an unsettling week of turmoil for me.
Three days ago I dropped my phone (it fell out of a shirt pocket) on a back
Unlike years before I did not feel the heart wrenching loss
of having my computer die and be told that the hard drive is gone and all the
stuff in it, too.
This time around my losses would be (and were) WattsApp
contacts. Since I never used my Galaxy S-5 as a camera there were no
I figured if I got the same phone again (bought outright
from Telus) that I would be back where I was, comfortably.
That was not so as the same phone now has “improved” apps
which to me means more complicated. I have managed to renew my contacts and
even (I am really proud of this) to pair the phone with our Chevrolet Cruze.
There was one very good result of my loss. For two days I
finished the complete short stories of Julio Cortázar (in Spanish) and most of
his poetic output. I had withdrawal symptoms in the morning around 7 when I
normally switched on the phone and connect to CNN to see what new blunder was emanating
from the White House. I also had the custom of reading some of the next day’s
op-eds in the NY Times on line the night before.
I have now resolved to lay off the phone and read more. The
one sad fact is that I have nobody around to share my thoughts on Cortázar. So
many of his stories so depend on the manipulation of Argentine Spanish that few
of his stories have been translated.
It is in times like these that I go to my origins. Take as
an example this blog which is illustrated by photographs I took of April around
1978. She posed for me on Wreck Beach and with her I took my first nudes
weren’t all that bad. I used three types of films, One was Kodak colour
negative film and the other two were Kodak Special Order 410 and Kodak
Black+White Infrared film.
Life in 1978 was much simpler (but I did carry a pager or beeper as they were sometimes called). My equipment was simpler. For
these photographs I used a Pentax S-3 and a Pentax Spotmatic F. Both had the
venerable screw thread of my venerable first camera (it is fully operational) a
Light in 1978 was simpler, too. I did not yet have a
really good studio (the one I did have was in the basement of our Burnaby
home). From the very beginning of my photograph (with a definite interest in
human beings, not things) I have adored window lighting. All you see here came
from a house that was on Vine Street in Kitsilano, a block away from the
Safeway on 4th
. I believe that April may have been the girl of Jerry
who lived there. He was a downhome relaxed kind of guy (did not smoke pot as
far as I could tell).
I like these photographs which I have picked so as not to
show stuff that might offend those who now live in this 21st
Because since 1961 when I first started processing my film
at home I have always washed and washed my film to remove all traces of fixer.
I am happy to report that these 39-year-old negatives are pristine.
Friday, November 16, 2018
When I read this lovely story
in my NY Times today about the role (a first in photography) of the cyanotype in the 19th century I learned one startling fact. This is that another name for a cyanotype was the architect's blueprint.
Using my Corel Paint Shop Pro XII I can convert my plant pictures to startling imitations of Anna Atkins seeweed cyanotypes.
There is something to be said about a plant, Rosemary's Acidanthera murielae
that today is brilliantly in bloom.
|Acidanthera murielae October 19 2018|
Once the Pictures are Digitized, Everything Old is New Again
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
|Ellen Carter - Buenos Aires 1929|
Almost every day at breakfast in bed (18 years, daily with
Rosemary) there is something in my hard copy New York Times that shakes me up
and immediately installs on me a thinking cap.
I write “almost every day
” because on Saturdays it also
happens after dinner. It is around 8PM every Saturday that we get the Sunday NY
Times. This past Saturday/ Sunday (November 11, 2018) I was really jolted.
The paper had a special section (in a smaller format the size of their book
review) called Past Tense California – History Through the Eyes of the New York Times.
It had lovely old and more recent photographs in black and white of
California. On the last page I read this:
“Once the pictures are digitized, everything old is new
Jeff Roth, Researcher & Archive Caretaker - The New
On page 2 of the main section of the paper I found one of
my fave daily columns called Inside TheTimes – The Story Behind The Story.
feature this time around was The Times’s
(note that ‘s!) Capsule of History
can read that here
. A photograph taken in 1948 shows the photo library and I
immediately note the presence of metal filing cabinets identical to the ones
behind me in my oficina
as I write this. Well not quite identical. Mine stack
four drawers and the one at the Times five. I don’t have six million
photographs. My 7 filing cabinets hold my output from 1989 until the very
|The New York Times photo library in 1948 when it was located in the art department|
Because I also shoot digital I never fill my storage
cards (I shoot jpgs not RAW). I download them into my computer and an outside
backup. But (and this is important) I store my storage cards with my photo
files, all in alphabetical order. I suspect I may have 250 thousand negatives,
slides, transparencies and many photographs.
As I read that beautiful statement by Jeff Roth I
wondered with what photograph from all the ones I have that somehow would
portray “old is new again.”
The photograph came quickly. Some many years ago (perhaps
1967) my uncle Leo Mahdjubian (who was not my uncle in reality but we in the
Waterhouse-Hayward family adored him. He often helped us with loans that were
infrequenly paid back) gave me this photograph of my paternal grandmother Ellen
Carter that was taken in 1929.
In our family she has always been Ellen Carter and never
Ellen Waterhouse-Hayward. She was married to my grandfather Harry
Why was this? Well it seems that Harry, Ellen and son
Harry traveled from their native Manchester to Buenos Aires in 1901. Buenos
Aires records show us that Harry senior and Ellen got married not long after in
Buenos Aires. Thus so my father stated (in rumours as he never told me this
directly) Harry Jr. was a bastard son and thus did not have the right to have
the middle name Waterhouse due to the male firstborn. My father then was the son who was born in
wedlock and passed the fine middle name to yours truly. As for Harry Jr. he
taught me how to make Colman’s Mustard. It was most important to add sugar.
I would like to finish here to point out if you do not
read the above The Times’s Capsule History that with a Google partnership the
NY Times is digitizing all that material.
This has a crucial connection with Vancouver (an opposite
crucial one). A few months ago the Vancouver Sun donated 2 million negatives to
the Vancouver Archives. Many of those negatives are colour negatives shot in
the 80s. Colour negative is an intrinsically unstable material that needs
Now consider that you might need a couple of minutes to
scan one negative. By my calculations you would need 33333.333 hours to do the
job. Will anybody at the Vancouver Archives take on that project? Is there
enough space there for refrigeration?
Now there really is no comparison between the NY Times
and the Vancouver Sun. By donating the 2 million negatives the Vancouver Sun
has simply passed the buck.
And consider that since I have been blogging from January
2006 some of my blogs have links to articles in the Vancouver Sun. Most are
gone. My question now is how the digital output (both in written articles and
accompanying photographs) of the current Vancouver Sun may be handled.
In these days we have “lest we forget” in our minds. Just
a few days after if we are thinking of our city heritage I would say “we are
sure to forget”.
There will be nothing there to help us remember.
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
photographed Kay when she was 22. Now that she is 61 she consented to pose for
language of the 21st century these are not nice pics. They are
lovely photographs which I took (and did not capture). Kay is beautiful. She is
not still beautiful.
74 year-old-Rosemary parades around the bedroom without any clothes, she is not
the woman I married 50 years ago. Neither am I. That is certain.
Our 21st century esthetic
will accept lines on an old man as being character lines. But if I show those
lines on a woman’s face they are character assassination.
beautiful. And that is just the way it is. So there.
My Photographic Lineage With Lisa
Monday, November 12, 2018
I manage to talk to my granddaughters I tell them that in dance there is a
continuity/legacy that comes from dancers that came before. These dancers
taught dancers, who taught dancers who eventually taught my granddaughters.
That one of those teachers is Desirée Dunbar who was taught by Judith Garay who
was a prima ballerina for Martha Graham’s Dance Company.
I tell them
that through the Calculus is becomes evident that if you pore a bottle of
Scotch into the Pacific Ocean it would be feasibly possible to find traces of
it sometime later in the Atlantic Ocean.
the above is about is that yesterday it was Lisa Prentiss’s birthday. I first
met her around 1980 in a dark club. She was sitting at a table and I was enthralled.
I had a little Minolta imitation of a Leica with me so I asked her if I could
Those first photographs were followed by many more in a time
spread of about two years. With Lisa I experimented with different films,
lighting techniques and approaches. I was particularly pleased by a series
that I shot using fast Kodak Ektachrome with a 35mm camera pushed with only the light in her bedroom. These pictures are as close to as I
ever got to shooting that sleazy/nasty/and many other words ending in y that is
boudoir. I believe that these pictures as dark as they are, may be edgy and not
Today (I wrote this blog yesterday, November 11, I will be taking photographs of a beautiful woman who is 61. I previously photographed her when she was 22. This time around there will be some strong and plentiful photgraphic lineage in the works. There will be a bit of Lisa in the room, in my memory and perhaps even in my shutter finger.
Happy birthday Lisa.
Remembrance - Not
Sunday, November 11, 2018
The word vicarious
somehow has always been seen as a positive pleasure in sharing something with
someone else while not having experienced previously the vicarious moment enjoyed.
I can think
of seeing my two daughters or my two granddaughters interact in a way that I
have no idea what it is like. It was only recently that I was able to have a
small glimpse of that when I found out I had a half-brother.
often would tell me, “Alex you will never know because you will never be a
mother.” She was long dead before I realized I could have retorted, “You will
never understand because you will never be a father.”
Remembrance Day I see sepia photographs of the fathers or grandfather s of my
social media friends. I see them kind of longingly but at the same time with no
understanding. The only relative who had any connection with a war (and then he
was really not) was my “tío postizo” Leo Mahdjubian, an Armenian who fought in
the Great War in the Black Watch ( I smile at the idea of an Armenian in a
grandfather Harry Waterhouse-Hayward moved from Manchester to Buenos Aires with
his son and not-yet-wife Ellen Carter in 1902.
By now it would be impossible for me to find out if Harry had any
relatives who fought in that Great War.
mother’s side there is my uncle Don Luís Miranda y Roxas who was a chemist for
San Miguel Beer in Manila. When the “Japs” (as he called them) landed in Manila
he went to sabotage the brewery plant, “To make sure the Japs don’t drink my beer.” I
was too stupid to ever ask him if the Japanese found out and that is why they
took over his splendid house and made it their headquarters.
perch in Buenos Aires I never understood war and death except by books and
because of this that I can never make myself go to the Cenotaph on VictorySquare on this Remembrance Day. I would feel like an interloper showing fake
emotion and passion for people gone that I never knew.
But at the
same time every occasion when I read or hear “Lest we forget,” I take it
personally that people in this city have a short memory for events of the very
own city they live in.
It was in
the 80’s that I was dispatched by Vancouver Magazine to photograph at night
(because the art director Chris Dahl told me so) the buildings, bridges and
monuments that had been built by Thompson, Berwick, Pratt & Partners
(ceased to operate in 1990) and by a precursor firm headed by Major G.L.
Thornton Sharp who built the Cenotaph. The article was written by Sean Rossiter and alas we no longer have credible writing about our city architecture.
eerie to photograph that Cenotaph at night as it was free of pedestrians. I had
to put my camera on a tripod to use a technique (made irrelevant by digital
cameras later) called Extended Range Night Photography.