Flattering This Old ManWednesday, January 15, 2020
|Captain Beefheart in tweeds
Soon after we arrived to Vancouver from Mexico City in 1975 I made a valiant, but ultimately useless attempt of getting a photography gig. The last place I tried was the London Drugs photo department. The man behind the counter asked me what my expertise was. I answered, “I am a portraitist.” In sheer amazement he countered with, “I went to McGill to study photography and I don’t call myself that!”
Since the beginning of 1977 I was hired by several local magazines to take portraits. Through the years, art directors at Vancouver Magazine, Rick Staehling and Chris Dahl gently (and sometimes not so) pushed me into not falling in the rut of doing things in the same way. I tried Hollywood lighting techniques (George Hurrell), dramatic grid lighting, natural light, beauty dishes, etc.
Now as an obsolete, redundant, retired and otherwise inconsequential former “portraitist” I have noticed a definite decline in good portrait work with a definable style. At one time you would have known it was a Bert Stern, a Helmut Newton, an Irving Penn, an Annie Leibovitz or a Richard Avedon. Those days are gone.
|With Les Wiseman
Les Wiseman, my former Vancouver Magazine collaborator (he did the writing and I took the photographs) is the man that at one time I would have hired as my lawyer. He often sends me examples of how people use the photographs from my blogs. Here is one that I kind of like. It does not take much to flatter an old man.
Another troubling trend is to be asked (often) to provide one of my portraits for someone who has died.
I often tell people that I feel like Ukraine. This country, perhaps because of a lack of high mountains, suffered numerous invasions from west to east and vice versa. It seems that through the years, thanks to a then healthy magazine and newspaper journalism many people passed and stopped at my camera.