Nicole Scriabin - A Freckled Beauty
Saturday, June 15, 2019
On Friday I had lunch with two friends. One was the very good
writer John Lekich, the other was a sharp mined beautiful woman, Nicole Scriabin.
I would have first seen her in St. Petersburg but I have never been there.
When I was
struggling to write anything for magazines, newspapers and ultimately these blogs, it was Lekich who advised me to finish whatever I
was writing with a citation found in the beginning paragraph. That has served
well in all these years.
Scriabin who taught me to admire a sort of shy but gracious beauty. She greatly
increased my business of photographing city lawyers who would demand that I
bring Scriabin again as the person to do makeup.
Scriabin and my wife share one very important story in that I first met them by
seeing them from their rear quarters.
In Mexico I
saw my Rosemary leaving a school where I was teaching. She had long and
straight blonde hair to almost her waist. She was wearing a miniskirt and her
legs were astounding. Not too many months later we were married.
At a CAPIC
(Canadian Association of Photographers and illustrators in Communication I was
sitting on the front row of photographer Rick Etckin’s studio. In front of me
was a woman in a short and extremely tight skirt. Her legs were like my
Rosemary's and somehow it was all put together in such a way that her black flat
shoes added to my enjoyment. Because this was back in the 20th
century I did not feel in the least guilty.
with Scriabin and Lekich in a lovely and intimate Italian restaurant in
Trafalgar and 16th Avenue I was trying to adapt to the protocol of
this century. Do you tell a woman who is past 50 that she is beautiful? Is it
important to tell her?
Lekich is the
kind of gentleman (in the 21st century we men can call other men
gentlemen but ladies are now always women) who wears that little white
handkerchief where it belongs and would never attach a bow tie (one that he
would tie himself) to a button-down shirt. He is a gracious man who is
obviously a product of that past century where we both came from.
photographer, a portrait photographer who invariably will buy the post card and
not photograph the landscape, the cityscape or a sunset, my interest lies in
people. These are people that invariably are more interesting than they seem
and obviously more beautiful than that first impression. It all happens when
you intrude on them slowly and sometimes by trick. Invariably people will show you
what they want you to see in them. The photographer with some experience can
pry more on the sly.
As an about-to-be-77-year-old man, I am long past the mid-life crisis and that young redhead
in that red Miata. I have been married to my Rosemary for 51 years and I love
her and like her exactly as she is now. Neither of us is in our mid 20s.
As I have
gotten older my interest in taking photographs of women has also been in the
direction of women who are closer to my age. The perfect 20-year-old on a
desert island would induce me to feed myself to the sharks. The idea of Rosemary and her
husband on that island would mean that we would learn quickly to enjoy
coconuts. Sharks would not interest me.
years as I watched my lovely roses and my Rosemary’s perennials lose their
spring freshness and summer over-the-top beauty. I began to appreciate that fall
going to a 40, or 50, or 60 year-old woman and telling her, “I want to
photograph you in the decay of your beauty that so reminds me of my collapsing
hostas, and drooping Gallicas.” The slap would be instant.
And yet in
spite of the rise of a genuine equality between sexes (and sexes not, the
neutral one and the neither nors) old men photographed with dramatic lighting
will result in portraits of men with character.
If you do
this to other sexes, including those of the female (womin if you prefer) it is considered character assassination. Why?
Scriabin I first saw from the rear and subsequently from the front had luminous
white skin. The Scriabin at the restaurant had freckles! Could I convince her
that I love freckles? Would I insult her if I told her, “If I were 40 I would
want to be in the middle of nowhere with you where I would count all your freckles, one
If I had
the accreditation and the access that a good magazine would give me and the art
director would say, “We want you to photograph interior designer Nicole
Scriabin for next month’s issue,” I would have justification.
Do I have
any justification otherwise? I would not want to consult Lekich on this as his
confusion would not be any different from mine.
person who would give both of us an avenue of justification is a Swedish
actress we both met a long time ago called Viveca Lindfors.
cue from the advice of John Lekich ( although not from that first paragraph) , I must state here that our lunch gathering has put me into a post-mid-life crisis of sorts. And consider that
Scriabin does not have red hair.
That beautiful woman does have freckles.
Majestic Elegance in Our Garden
Friday, June 14, 2019
|Above Hosta 'Hirao Majesty' below Hosta 'Liberty'18 June 2019|
Many who may have known me for some time might remember that
my interest in gardening began when my Rosemary made us move from a Burnaby
townhouse in 1986 (we owed no money) to a splendid house with a corner garden
We were paying then a mortgage of $3600 a month so we could
not afford the neighbourhood Japanese gardener, Harry Nomura
Because the garden had a lot of shade, garden books
stipulated I should have hostas. That is how I discovered hostas and ultimately
became a card carrying member of the American Hosta Society. Many of the over
600 specimens I had in that Kerrisdale garden came from the US in my luggage
wrapped between newspapers. After nine eleven I ceased in this exciting
If the roses in our smaller Kitsilano garden are to be
defined I would say they are sumptuous, beautiful and striking but I am not sure I
would call them elegant.
Hostas, particularly blue hostas are handsome and almost
remind me shapes I might find at MOMA. The flowers in hostas are universally
frowned upon (perhaps when compared to roses) even though the species hosta
Hosta plantaginea (called the August Lily) has flowers that are surreally white
and have a delightful fragrance.
I might state here that the flower stalks of hostas,
elegantly called scapes have elegance and beauty in spades.
W. Eugene Smith & The Toluca Rocket
Thursday, June 13, 2019
American photographer W. Eugene Smith loved to go to his
darkroom (it was a mess) with a bottle of Scotch. He would then turn on his
stereo and work on printing a negative.
I understand this minus the Scotch, of course. In the
beginning of my interest in working in a darkroom, in 1963, I would go to the
one at the University of the Americas on the Toluca/Mexico City highway with my
friend Robert Hijar. He was studying for a fine arts degree so that gave him access
to the darkroom. I was smuggled in. To get there we took a second class Flecha
Roja diesel bus that had so many forward gears that when it stopped for
passengers it took it a while to get to cruising speed.
In that darkroom Hijar would bring a reel to reel tape
recorder. Our fave recording was Focus
with Stan Getz and Eddie Sauter.
I'm Late, I'm Late - Focus
The water in the room was so cold we had to warm it up with
water from a kettle in order to have that all-important developer at 20 degrees
Celsius. As soon as we discerned a vibration we would stop our activity with
the enlargers. This meant that the bus, which we called the Toluca Rocket was
on its way up the hill (to Toluca). The room would shake and I swear dust would
dislodge itself from the white (!) brick wall and deposit itself on our
negatives and enlarger.
Now three years and a bit more in our Kitsilano home my
Kerrisdale darkroom is but a memory. Its particular smells (that fixer, that selenium
toner) are still vivid in my olfactory recollection. The equivalent endeavour
that so pleased Smith and yours truly is now experienced in a clean room
overlooking the deck where I can hear Rosemary snipping with scissors. She is
deadheading some of her perennials and our roses.
I sit in my comfortable bench with my monitor in front of me
and I look at negatives from my files, particularly the ones with those contact
sheets of yore.
One of the pictures here perhaps would have never seen the
light of day. It is a grossly overexposed Kodak b+w Infrared Film. The wonders
of scanners is that they can bring back detail that is embedded that was beyond
the range of my German Componon enlarger lens.
There is a bit of that old Roman Catholic guilt involved.
This is so much fun that something wrong must happen. Will it not?
And who would know that as I finish this I am hearing Focus on YouTube?
Fair Bianca's Surprise
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
|Rosa 'Fair Bianca' 29 June 2019|
Sometime around 1988 we approached the then President of the
Vancouver Rose Society for advice on purchasing roses. One of her suggestions
is an English Rose that has been in our garden since. She is Rosa ‘Fair Bianca’.
For years I have told people that she is named for the much more pleasant
sister of that nasty and reluctant Katherina in William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.
Fair Bianca is a reluctant bloomer and not very vigorous.
The plant we now have may be a second or a third purchase. When I look at the
almost white blooms that have a heavenly (for me) myrrh scent I remember Janet Wood
and her now gone garden in Southlands.
Plants and especially roses have a tendency to surprise.
Every once in a while Fair Bianca does not emerge completely white. Note the
pink dabs in this one.
Looking to find a quote by Fair Bianca to insert here I was
amazed that Goggle took me to Shakespeare’s Othello:
Cassio. What make you from home?
How is it with you, my most fair Bianca?
I' faith, sweet love, I was coming to your house.
Bianca. And I was going to your lodging, Cassio.
What, keep a week away? seven days and nights?
Eight score eight hours? and lovers' absent hours,
More tedious than the dial eight score times?
O weary reckoning!
With Fair Bianca having a double life in my garden I
smile at the thought that all these years the Fair Bianca in Othello was the
fairest of them all!
Elsbeth Coop - a Luminous Artist - Brigitte Nielsen & Murray Pezim
Tuesday, June 11, 2019
This blog is about a mystery that finally has come to a
resolution for me just a few weeks ago.
I received an invitation by Yukiko Onley for an opening at her
that is a retrospective of artist Elsbeth Coop. The
invitation instantly took me back to the Diane Farris Gallery sometime around
Many local photographers (including this one) were
interested in an opening there that featured American celebrity photographer
Greg Gorman. In particular we wanted to see a large nude
photograph of Danish
actress Brigitte Nielsen.
Diane Farris had prepared a surprise. She did not give
Gorman a one-man-show. Gorman had to share space with a Victoria artist
(unknown to me) who painted realistic female nudes placed in close quarters
like corners, boxes, etc. I was so drawn to these paintings that I rapidly lost
interest in Gorman’s works.
I was told that Coop also worked with the Victoria Police
Department helping them with murder investigations through her ability to
correctly show human anatomy.
And then Coop disappeared from the art scene. Every once in
a while I would become curious and I would search the internet. But my searches
took me nowhere.
While I am not an art critic, I have seen enough art in my
77 years to consider Coop a phenomenal artist whose day in the spotlight has
arrived. Kudos to her sister Jane
for pushing her to exhibit. And Kudos, too
for exhibiting her.
|Brigitte Nielsen & Mark Gastineau|
|With Murray Pezim|