Rodney Graham - A Very Serious Goofball
Saturday, November 30, 2019
|Vancouver Sun 30 November 2019|
U-J3RK5 (pronounced "you jerk"—the five is silent)
was a Vancouver based band from the late 1970s. Their style was post-punk/new
wave,] but was more art rock than synth pop.
|Rodney Graham -Alex Waterhouse-Hayward channels Graham's upside down trees|
U-J3RK5 was formed by Vancouver visial artists Ian Wallace,
Jeff Wall] and Rodney Graham in addition to Kitty Byrne, Colin Griffiths,
Danice McLeod, Frank Ramirez and CBC Radio host David Wisdom. Their self-titled
debut album included the single titled "Eisenhower and the Hippies",
a song inspired by a work of American conceptual art proponent Dan Graham.
Their album was released by the independent label Quintessence Records with a
second pressing on Polygram of Canada.
I have two copies of the above record. I purchased a third
and sent it to a friend in Mexico who told me it was unplayable. Why? The LP
sized record had to be played at 45RPM!
|Rodney Graham channels Stravinsky - Photograph - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
The Globe and Mail article, Saturday, June 7, 1997, by Sarah Milroy, ran my picture with the
following and “all revealing” cutline: Vancouver’s Rodney Graham, a very
One of the repeated observations that people who live in
Vancouver have is that this is a “no-fun-city”.
I would like to amend that to “no-sense-of-humour-city.”
Most who know me will not contest that I am a fairly
competent photographer. Beyond that I will not opine on being an artist. Considering
oneself to be an artist in Vancouver is an almost suicidal personal belief in
which few may find reality in becoming an artist and to be seen as one by the
Failing as an artist in Vancouver can result in a
melancholic bitterness that can crumble one’s personal self-esteem.
In my many years in my studio in the Farmer’s Building (now
gone) on Robson and Granville I was on the same floor as two established
Vancouver artists. One was Neil Wedman
and the other was Rodney Graham.
From my studio I could often hear Wedman’s catchy and loud
laugh. He is a happy man. Graham is another story. He looks at you behind those
glasses and he looks like an angry German intellectual who might have been
photographed by August Sander in the 1930s.
|Rodney Graham channels one of August Sander's angry intellectuals - Photograph - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
But those glasses and that seriousness are all a front.
Graham is a funny man. His art is mostly funny as was the programmable piano he
had in a show at the Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery that was playing, one note
at a time a work by Wagner and that would take thousands of years to complete.
Art (even though I am not an artist or well-versed in art
criticism) can be funny. I wrote about it here
I cannot understand how people in social media from the
comfort of their warm homes rant about the environment, politics, religion,
global warming, saving the cockroach from extinction, etc think that these rants will
change the world without having to open the front door.
Graham’s under-the-Granville Bridge chandelier has been
bombarded by such rants and how the developer could have spent 4.8 million
dollars on more constructive endeavours instead of the very heavy plastic
While this may be completely off base, one could argue that
Canada should close CBC Radio and TV and use the money to build shelters and homes
for the homeless. Perhaps the VSO should be disbanded as we do not need to go
to the Orpheum as our phones will bring us the world in YouTube. And so on.
The developer that contacted Graham did not use public
funding to pay for the chandelier.
If art can make us laugh and can also get us out of that
front door, perhaps with a smile on our faces we can tackle homelessness and
all the other maladies of the 21st
Kudos to you Graham I am seriously laughing.
A Study in Red
Friday, November 29, 2019
|All photographs- 28 November 2019|
When we were looking for a new little home almost four years
ago it was important that it have a room where we would be able to place our
then soon-to-be-restored Chickering baby grand piano.
When restorer Mike Storey saw my vermillion psychiatric
couch and an antique reclining chair also upholstered in the same material he
told me that the piano bench should be the same and that he would work in red
into the felts of the piano.
And so we have this lovely room in red with antique
bookcases and the piano by the window (always with blinds that are closed).
The room has served as a more interesting location for some
of my photography as I find my very small garage/office turned studio/office small and devoid of character.
This past week my bassist friend Curtis Daily and I decided
to photograph our friend and model/subject Olena in that room. My approach was
to contrast her white skin with the red of the piano, the reclining chair and
Rosa 'Westerland' Persistently Orange - Not
Thursday, November 28, 2019
|Rosa 'Westerland' 28 November 2019|
November is almost finished. Rosemary and I have pretty well put our small garden to bed for the season. But I have been watching a bud of Rosa 'Westerland'. I wrote about this rose here.
Could it be possible that Westerland was going to open? It did. Here is the proof from today's scan. Surprisingly the cold has affected its brilliant orange as today it was definitely a warm yellow. The scent of apricot (in my books of synthetic apricot jam!) was there. I was reluctant to snip it as it might have opened a bit more in the next few days.
While I may have been a tad dissapointed the Westerland was not orange I was happy to note to myself that our cats, Niño and Niña are orange and white. Christmas may not be here but orange is a colour that puts me in a festive mood.
An Almost Predictable Accident
Wednesday, November 27, 2019
|Olena - 28 November 2019|
Many of my photographer contemporaries like the fact that
the digital world has brought with it the certainty that the photograph taken
(captured in our contemporary vocabulary) is just fine as the proof comes from looking at the
In that past century the Polaroid was sort of the same
thing. You would take your Polaroid and upon checking it you knew all systems, shutter, flash synchronization, correct exposure, sharpness, were all in order.
But before Polaroid backs for expensive cameras used by
advertising or magazine (me) photographers were available, we had what was
called the latent image. This was the possibility of an image (and a hoped for
useable image) but it first had to be processed by the photographer or a
commercial lab. I give thanks to that Great-Photographer-In-The-Sky that I was
never told at the professional labs I used for my slide and transparency
processing, “Alex there is no charge.” This meant that the lab might have had
some problem and the film processed in that particular batch was all ruined.
Amateur photographers were often asked, “Did the pictures
turn out?” Nothing was certain.
To me in spite of the stress involved I liked to anticipate
what those pictures that I had taken might look like or even better some
pleasant surprise caused by an unlikely accident.
I had an unlikely accident in a year past. I wrote about it
. A methodical photographer does everything in the same way. It is
almost a ritual. This way when something goes wrong that photographer can trace
back to locate where the error/accident happened.
My state-of-the-art Fuji X-E3 (perhaps for only a few weeks
until a new non-plus-ultra version is launched into the market) can be
deliberately forced to take gross underexposures. When this happens I have ways
(not complicated) of bringing back some light to a completely black rectangle.
The results are not predictable. But sometimes they are surprisingly rewarding
as is this one that I took of she-of-the-blue-hair
El Piano - Mario Benedetti
Tuesday, November 26, 2019
|Olena - 28 November 2019 - photograph Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
El Piano - Mario Benedetti (English translation below)
hace cinco años
hundió aquel barco tan seguro
cincuenta pasajeros y un piano
cincuenta se ahogaron sin remedio
piano en cambio logró
tiburones no les gustan las teclas
el steinway esperó tranquilo
que sea de noche
de turismo o de cabotaje
haber pasajeros de fino oído
el eterno mar está sereno
de brahms o de mussorgsky
albeniz o chopin
cerrarse la tapa.
The Piano - Mario Benedetti - My translation.
When that safe ship sank
five years ago
with fifty passengers and one
the fifty sank without remedy
but the piano on the other hand did
sharks do not like keys
so the steinway calmly waited
now when the cargo ships and passenger ships
whenever it is night time
sometimes there are passengers with an acute ear
that if the eternal sea is serene
or better still, very serene
they perceive faint
chords of brahms or mussorgsky
of albeniz or chopin
and then a little knock
when the lid closes.
Lots of Support from Max Wyman
Monday, November 25, 2019
|Max Wyman in Lion's Bay, B.C. Photograph - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
I fondly remember a day in 1997 when Vancouver Sun
called me to tell me he wanted me to review Marilyn Yalom’s book The
History of the Breast
. He told me something like, “When this book arrived at my
desk I thought of you
.” Within hours the book was couriered. I wrote the review
and somehow even though reviewers could keep the reviewed book I have not been
able to find it in my collection. Perhaps I gave it away or it was borrowed.
Clear in my mind was seeing one of the illustrations: Gabrielle's
sister pinches her Nipple, circa 1594 that is in the Louvre. The artist is
unknown. I will not use this painting to lead this blog as I am sure that the
nipple patrol of social media would censor it. For those who have gotten this
far, said painting will be at the bottom of this.
It would seem that even 23 years ago I somehow had some sort
of notoriety that had to do with photographs of undraped females. I am sure
that my reputation in this city has not improved since then.
All this came back to me with the NY Times obituary for
Marilyn Yalom who died on November 20. In the obituary I read this quote from
her: Though breasts still carry an overload of cultural and sexual
expectations, many women hope to see the day when their chests do not have to
bear such a burden.”
While she might have written that back then it is obvious
that now more than ever that female burden is universally visible with the least
amount of cover material and in fact is cover material at the supermarket
Few in this century might know (I know) where all this breast interest really began in ernest. The stellar
photographer Bert Stern
invented cleavage lighting and his formula was used for
. The important light was high pointing down at 45degrees and it
was to one side of the photographer at 45degrees. This guaranteed plentiful (strange
as cleavage is empty space) cleavage
I did review other books for the Vancouver Sun that were not
so made to measure for this reviewer. I have never liked to shoot landscapes
but Wyman did send me an Ansel Adams autobiography (unfinished when he died in
1985) that was completed by his editor Mary Street Alinder
I understand that here in Canada the female breast has been
deemed viewable in public without fear of arrest. As far as I can see no woman
has yet taken up that challenge.