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|
As an Argentine
Thursday, November 15, 2018
|2016 on a wall in Buenos Aires|
My multilingual mentor and friend Raúl Guerrero Montemayor
identified himself as “híbrido”. At the time that he told me this in the late
60s it did not make much conflict in my head nor did it clash with my idea of
nationalism (perhaps patriotism is a better fit here).
The fact is that I was born in Buenos Aires; my mother was
from Manila and my father was and Englishman born in Argentina. In 1954 my
mother and grandmother moved us to Mexico City and I received later a high
school education in Austin, Texas. During my college education in Mexico City I
was drafted into the Argentine Navy. I lived in Buenos Aires for three years. I
married my Canadian wife in Mexico and we had two daughters who were born in
Tacubaya, a Mexico City neighbourhood. We moved to Vancouver in 1975.
I have a family in Buenos Aires of Irish or English heritage
who are mostly very Roman Catholic and whose political views drift to the
In Vancouver I worked for many years taking photographs for
the left leaning Federal and Provincial NDP.
My wife and I both are extreme fans of Rachel Maddow on the
Politically I would define myself as a pragmatist who
believed that there is no difference between the corruption of the left and
that of the right.
As an Argentine, and I feel very Argentine as I have come to
understand that one suffers/endures/loves nostalgia for a place one is not in
at the time. As an explanation if I were to see a beautiful woman in Venice I
might approach her and say, “You are most beautiful. I would like to photograph
you under an umbrella to show my nostalgia for my native city of Vancouver
where it rains lots.”
As an Argentine I have pride for that which is Argentine. I
am proud of our pope, of Messi, of Julio Cortázar, of Jorge Luís Borges, of
Astor Piazzola, of our wine (even though I am not a connoisseur) and most
recently of writers I did not know anything about like Alfonsina Storni.
As an Argentine who participated in a coup (my excuse is
that I had to obey orders) and knowing Argentina has a terrible track record
with military takeovers and their infamous disappearing of people, I have mixed
thoughts on that other Argentine of not, Ernesto Guevara.
As an Argentine who understands that politics in Argentina
is far more polarized than even in the present US I can appreciate and brag
that someone like Mario Vargas Llosa (who abandoned his loftiness as he matured
to be an old man) wrote the most exquisite prologue to a recent compilation of
all the stories of Julio Cortázar. Among the stories is one where only in the
last page do you find out that the protagonist is non-other than the Che
himself. That a novelist of fame from the right could possibly write such a
glowing forward to a writer who hated Perón and adopted all things Cuban/Che is
As a photographer I have my lists of the most striking
photographs of the 20th
century. One of them that shocked me from
the very first time I saw it was that of a dead Che Guevara on a slab in
Bolivia. There is a most interesting account here
on how Guevara died.
Few might know that Guevara was a medical doctor who must
have had conflicts with his Hippocratic Oath during his revolutionary career.
Recently I read a one-page essay by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano called Nacedor (one who is born):
será que el Che tiene esta peligrosa costumbre de seguir naciendo?
Cuanto más lo insultan, lo manipulan, lo
traicionan, más nace.
Él es el más nacedor de todos. ¿No será
porque el Che decía lo que pensaba, y hacía lo que decía?
que por eso sigue siendo tan extraordinario, en un mundo donde las palabras y
los hechos muy rara vez se encuentran, y cuando se encuentran no se saludan,
porque no se reconocen?
Why is it that el Che has that dangerous custom of being born over and over?
The more he is insulted, manipulated and betrayed the more he is born.
He is the one who is most born of all. Could it no be that el Che said what he thought and did what he said?
Would it not be then that he keeps being extraordinary, in a world were words and deeds rarely connect and when they do so they do not greet each other as they do not recognize each other?
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.