A Sound Isolation for 2020
Saturday, January 11, 2020
I have written about losing contacts here
. Now in this 2020
my sense of isolation from a previously comfortable and predictable world is worse.
My friend lawyer and former stellar journalist for the Globe
and Mail, Christopher Dafoe is in a job transition. My phone number to him did
not work. In desperation I went to Canada 411 and found one Christopher Dafoe.
I called. The man in the answering machine sounded really old and I instantly
knew that is was Christopher Dafoe père. I have met the man who always seemed
to have a ready smile. He was a well-known theatre critic. I left a message and
his son eventually called.
We had a very long phone chat. As we were talking about music
he told me that he listened to his faves on ear buds. That struck a chord and
has led me to this blog.
The people in the above and my last diary (2007) are mostly
dead, have moved to another city or country or have gotten rid of their land
line. This means that if I want to find anybody I must resort to social media.
It they are not there then they are gone from my miniscule circle.
There are a few with whom I had some friendship issues. In
my attempt to tie up loose ends I called the ones I could call to make amends.
None have called me back. I have a few friends who are very sick. I have left
repeated messages. They do not call back. I am now ready to let it all rest.
I think I know when some of this began. I rarely listen to
music (even in earbuds). Why?
The salient reason is that I used to listen to music in my
very good living room sound system. I would put music quietly when we had
dinner parties or that mandatory Vivaldi Gloria for our Christmas Eve dinner.
As CDs became obsolete ( I have a portable one for our Cruze which I use when we drive to visit our daughter in Lillooet) people listened to music with their
phones. This guy finds it much too complicated to download or insert music in
our Chevrolet Cruze that originaly had no CD player.
People got used to listening to
music without company. After all these years of that the idea of listening to music
to share with people who are with you in person is pretty well gone. Now they share
music in social media and particularly when some rock music luminary dies, “This
was my favourite music by…”
My friend Christopher Dafoe understands all this. We are
soon going to meet over some Calvados and “shoot the bull” as we used to say.
In the heyday of the exotic dancer craze in the Vancouver
80s it was pleasant to meet with friends at the Drake and drink a few beers (in
my case soda water). Now with most of those establishments gone my guess is
that some men look at stuff on their phone in solitude.
I may have at least 12 versions of Gerry Mulligan playing My
Funny Valentine. Without the need of an earbud or my still extant sound system
I can listen to it in the memory of my imagination (in stereo?). The only way I
would ever play it I the living room would be if a some friend would call and
tell me, “Alex I want to visit you so we (that important we) can listen to your
12 versions of My Funny Valentine. I also understand you have an extensive e
collection of Astor Piazzolla.”
That circle is getting smaller and smaller. Alas!
All I Had to do Was Dream
Friday, January 10, 2020
In the last week lots has been written of the sale of the
venerable Georgia Straight to Media Central. Some of it was disparaging and
some of it was with cautionary hope that those remaining hardworking employees
might keep their jobs.
I think that anybody who knows would know that a capable
Editor like the Straight’s Charlie Smith would be over-qualified for anything
in this city. Our local colleges and universities could not possibly hire
anybody more to teach a profession that has no pulse.
Or you have the multi-faceted writer and arts editor Janet
Smith who can write on paper copy and then quickly into a web page and do it on
dance, arts, film or anything else that has to be done. Where would she find a
place for such talent?
This downward slide into inconsequence was not sudden.
Because I worked for many local, Canadian and other publications around the
world as a freelancer I learned the ropes of what good journalism was and is. I
was taught by the likes of Vancouver Magazine's Malcolm Parry what are the ethical standards of a
good periodical and what they must always be. Once when I came back with some photographs he looked at them and threw a camera lens at me and said,"Go back and do it again here you were making the motions."
Parry and former Georgia Straight Charles Campbell saw
talent (even raw talent) in those who could write and who perhaps did not have
lofty schooling. They worked extensively and made good money without having
gone to Carlton. I sometimes feel that the last of the professions left that do
not need a degree or a certificate are writing, photography and prostitution.
I worked with many writers of both sexes and a few in-between.
One of the best was one who knew where his profession was headed. Christopher
Dafoe, a local arts reported for the Globe and Mail was the kind of writer who would
sit in a room with the famous and say nothing. Somehow those he interviewed
would feel safe to tell all. Dafoe would let me watch the interview so I could
observe his subject’s (to be mine after the interview) expressions and quirks.
Dafoe saw what was coming and went to UBC to study law. Now
he is a very good lawyer. Since he is a trial lawyer he must have learned to
talk (ever so quietly as he does) and he must win many cases.
That downward slide began quite a few years before. Reporters would
go to media junkets to Los Angeles and in a large hotel room they would face a
famous actor or director. They would place their tape recorders on a central
table and then ask questions. These recordings were then masked as exclusive personal
That, then suffered a further slide with what was called the
phoner. A reporter or writer would call the famous person on the phone. Without
too often revealing to the reader that it was indeed a phone interview the
piece might begin, “Talking to Clint Eastwood from his kitchen I could hear his
We will never know how many interviews were done as email
interviews before the advent of Skype. Only Skype could positively prove you
were talking or writing to the person you thought you might have been writing or talking to.
I remember sometime in the late 80s when local magazines did
“service pieces”. These were masked
editorials promoting, as an example, lighting fixtures.
I remember most vividly when a local publication published an
article in which the writer quoted the people interviewed. The piece was run
and then the magazine did have the guts to publish protest letters by the folks
mentioned in the piece that they had never been interviewed. That piece was
then nominated by the magazine for a local award!
My personal experience on this sort of shenanigan happened
when I was given the job to photograph and write about front gardens. None of the words I wrote (none I repeat) appeared
on a two-page spread with my name on it. The editor had taken the liberty of
discarding what I had written and inserted what he then wrote.
By now many in Vancouver know how that sacrosanct feature of
a magazine or newspaper has suffered in the last few years. Sometime the whole
front page is hidden underneath a front-page ad. If in anger you peel it off
you will find that the editorial is contained on the other side (the last
But the remaining last straw is the demise of that venerable
feature of any reputable and or respectable publication. This is the masthead.
At least two local weekly periodicals no longer list their contributors and in one
case you have to look hard (on the net) to find out who the editor might be.
For a would-be writer/journalist of photographer what has
disappeared is the ability to dream of an idea. To pitch it to an editor
(perhaps in person) and then if it is a monthly to see that cover photograph,a
cover article or an inside two-page spread a month later and if a weekly a
couple of weeks later. That to me was better than skiing or se..
From from Vancouver Magazine writer and Associate Editor Les Wiseman I learned the importance of research, fact checking and if you did not know the subject you were going to write about you would consult various experts.
It was at Vancouver Magazine that I met urbane lawyer Ronald Stern, its publisher and publisher of many other publications who managed to know that like the separation of Church and State in journalism there was that one between the Editor's office and his.
If you were a music critic you went to many concerts to get an idea of what was hot in our city. Now a critic will post a Facebook question,"Hey guys, know of any good musicians I can write about?"
After many years of having gone to dance performances it was often strange not to see local critics present. Many of us know that publications will state, "If we do a preview we will not do a review."
As a photographer when I was assigned a job I would be sent a manuscript by courier, fax or by email. I knew that if I were asked by the subjects I was going to photograph to not tell them what had been written. In the last few years I was assigned to photograph people the writer had yet to interview.
Anybody who has written for Reader's Digest would know that they had infamous fact checkers that made Albanian interrogators seem like nice guys. Those factcheckers have all turned themselves in.
For many years I dreamed a lot and saw many of those dreams
published with real ink and paper. I remember when my Estonian friend Mati Laansoo
called me up and asked me, “Do you think that woman at that
bathroom/kitchen magazine might want to accept a story on croquet?
” Indeed she
did and I photographed it all with Kodak B+W Infrared Film. It was Laansoo who
with his buddy Gary Marchant ate dog for lunch in the Philippines (told by Parry
to keep the bill to certify their canine repast) and it ran in Vancouver
Magazine. Hate mail arrived by the next day.
Of all the dreams I had that found reality, there is this one
that involved writer John Lekich (who knows how to write about women and when
not to wear a bow tie with a button-down shirt) and Charles Campbell, singly responsible
as Editor of the Georgia Straight in keeping writers from soup kitchens.
And here is the essay by writer John Lekich on the above-mentioned Karen Campbell
As for the death of journalism I like to quote my friend, architect Abraham Rogatnick who when he was my age (77) told me, "Alex I am not long for this world and I am glad for it."
Wherever he is I am sure he has found publications with mastheads and real covers.
Maurice & the Cliches & a Pre-cellphone Selfie
Thursday, January 09, 2020
Perhaps mypost-Christmas-malaise will be jolted by the fact
that I will be lecturing to the West End Community Darkroom Club about b+w
infrared film at the end of this month.
I said yes before consulting my files. I have hundreds if
not thousands of infrared photographs of women taken with this film (in several stages of almost wearing
nothing) and not one, I repeat not one, of a man or boy. I am informing the
higher authorities of this to see if I will still be welcome or considered to be a
sexist fossil of a past age.
So I have been looking to see if I may find landscapes or
photographs of gardens. I have found quite a few so that may just lessen the
impact of all those infrared women.
While searching for stuff I found these, which I took
somewhere by Alberni and Thurlow (or was it Gastown?). It seems I took my two
daughters, Ale and Hilary, to listen to Maurice & the Cliches. In one of
the pictures you will see four lovely blondes who were Cliches groupies. I
knew and know three of them.
What I find amazing is my pre-cell phone selfie.
¿Y si Dios fuera mujer?
Wednesday, January 08, 2020
Mi Vancouver es un lugar donde todo funciona. No hay inflación o cepos bancarios tipo los de mi país natal, Argentina. Tengo pocas preocupaciones. Mi Rosemary y yo ya vamos casados 51 años y la quiero mucho. Pero en este frío húmedo y con una tremenda oscuridad y días cortos del invierno canadiense, sueño del calor latinoamericano y la pasión de sus escritores y poetas. Un maravilloso ejemplo es esta poesía por el uruguayo Mario Benedetti.
¿Y si Dios fuera mujer? Mario Benedetti
¿Y si Dios fuera mujer?
pregunta Juan sin inmutarse,
vaya, vaya si Dios fuera mujer
es posible que agnósticos y ateos
no dijéramos no con la cabeza
y dijéramos sí con las entrañas.
Tal vez nos acercáramos a su divina desnudez
para besar sus pies no de bronce,
su pubis no de piedra,
sus pechos no de mármol,
sus labios no de yeso.
Si Dios fuera mujer la abrazaríamos
para arrancarla de su lontananza
y no habría que jurar
hasta que la muerte nos separe
ya que sería inmortal por antonomasia
y en vez de transmitirnos SIDA o pánico
nos contagiaría su inmortalidad.
Si Dios fuera mujer no se instalaría
lejana en el reino de los cielos,
sino que nos aguardaría en el zaguán del infierno,
con sus brazos no cerrados,
su rosa no de plástico
y su amor no de ángeles.
Ay Dios mío, Dios mío
si hasta siempre y desde siempre
fueras una mujer
qué lindo escándalo sería,
qué venturosa, espléndida, imposible,
La posía narrada fpr Benedetti
What if God were a woman?
Nostalgia for your skin
Nostalgia For Mexico Via Georgia O'Keeffe & the Ukrainian
Tuesday, January 07, 2020
As the cold, grey days persist with glimpses of early
morning sun that dares me to complain I find myself suffering from a terrible
nostalgia for Mexico a place that I lived in my boyhood and where married my
Rosemary. Our two daughters were even born in the working-class neighbourhood
I miss that warmth (but I forget those cold Mexico City
winters were none of us had any kind of heating available) and that smell of
wet or even dry earth. I miss the ochres and the reds and the oranges that are
so lacking in Vancouver where everything seems to be gray, blue or cyan. Those
colours give me the chills.
In the last few days I have been reprising some of the photographs that I took
of my long photographic relationship with Yuliya the Ukrainian woman who
happens to be a professional dominatrix who in spite of that has a warm smile.
Some years ago my friend Ian Bateson went to Japan and
brought me a Japanese bathrobe/jacket.
In May of 2008 Yuliya came to our garden and posed for me
wearing her usual outfit (nothing). I lent her Ian’s coat and she raised it in
some of the photographs.
I immediately thought of (and I have no idea why) of GeorgiaO’Keeffe
and of Mexico.
I long to go to Mexico and will do so soon to take this sort
of photograph but using the harsh Mexican sun and feel the heat behind me.
For this blog I have had one hell of a time removing those
bits that will offend many and particularly the minders of social media.
Instead of scanning the actual 6x7 cm negatives I scanned the contact sheet images
and then further degenerated those offensive nipples. It is a pity but the
photographs still have for me the impact of the Mexico I so much love and miss.
El Artista y Su Modelo en el Estudio
Monday, January 06, 2020
|Yuliya - Robson & Granville - Vancouver - April 2006|
Una de las
metas más soñadas de un joven fotógrafo (lo fui hace muchos años) es el de
tener un estudio propio con el nombre en la puerta.
Rosemary y mis dos hijas Ale y Hilary nos mudamos desde México DF a Vancouver,
British Columbia, mi primer estudio fue el sótano de nuestra casa en Burnaby.
Parte del sótano era una pieza aparte donde tenía mi amplio cuarto oscuro
con su propio baño. ¡Esto era especial ya que en Mexico mi cuarto oscuro era el
era bastante grande pero el techo era bajo. Esto traía muchos problemas que
esquivaba con objetivos gran angulares.
De Burnaby (un barrio de Vancouver)
llegué a tener 4 estudios en los cuales en todos los compartía con otro
estudio fue el mejor. Solo yo lo ocupaba. Tenía un techo muy alto y el edificio
estaba en una esquina en el pleno centro de la ciudad. En ese él los
grupos de danza, los actores, los artistas estaban a dos patadas de mi local.
De vez en cuando citaba a modelos que me posaban sin pago, pero, sí por intercambio
de mis fotos por sus pacientes poses.
Unas de las
mejores era (y será) Yuliya de nacionalidad ucraniana. La conocí por primera vez
cuando yo enseñaba uno cursos de desnudo contemporáneo en una escuela de
fotografía local. Nos llevamos muy bien y por esa razón nos encontrábamos para
tomar fotos de tres a cuatro veces por año.
no le faltaba la plata ya que su profesión era algo singular. En mis 45 años en
Vancouver sólo conocí y fotografié a dos dominatrices. Una era Yuliya y la otra
(no puedo mencionar su nombre) ganó varios premios literarios en Vancouver.
(quizá en apogeo en Francia en el siglo 19) era la relación del artista y su modelo
en su estudio. El concepto es romántico y en completa oposición a la vida de
este siglo 21 tan técnica/mecánica/ rápida y si puedo agregar la palabra metálica.
fotos que ilustran esta bitácora se puede ver mi Mamiya RB-67. La luz se ve
luminosa porque tomé las fotos con una cámara de 35mm (Nikon FM-2) con película
Kodak Infrarroja de blanco y negro. A veces las fotos no salen del todo nítidas
y es parte de su encanto.
momento Yuliya está en Australia (espero, lejos de la conflagración de los
fuegos forestales. Piensa volver en marzo. Nos tendremos que ajustar a mi
pequeño estudio pero anticipo con placer lo que será una continuación de una
excelente relación fotográfica.
¿Y qué estaba tomando con esa cámara de 6x7 cm?