On the QLT
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
|Lee Anne Pilson|
By the time I was an established magazine photographer in
Vancouver in the mid to late 80s I became ambitious and I wanted to get more
work. This meant that I began to travel to Toronto almost every year to see
magazine and newspaper art directors with my portfolio in tow.
One of my best clients became the Globe & Mail.
I am particularly proud of this photograph for the Globe
in which I was given a one week lead time. It meant that I had to photograph the two principals in one session, get results and then go to a cemetery. This sort of thing soon died as soon as stuff had to be done very quickly.
Before the advent of in-the-minute news cycles and before
the internet the magazines and newspapers planned their issues a month
(magazines) or a week (newspapers) ahead. This meant that they knew that a certain
film director (an example Martin Scorsese whom I shot for the Georgia Straight
which is a weekly) would be in town and I was assigned to shoot my subject most
of the time during or after an interview with the writer.
|Dr. Julia Levy|
I was given time to process my film (b+w) which I could do
the same day or in some cases in hours in my home darkroom or if in colour
(rare in the 80s) there was half-day developing in the film labs.
All that meant that I had a personal relationship with my
Fedex agent. I would call them and they would know where I lived (and probably
what I had had for breakfast that day).
As soon as something called a cable modem came into
existence I would shoot 6x7 cm transparency and then have my guy at DISC, Grant
Simmons scan the transparency with his drum scanner and then he would send the
file to the Globe or other Toronto magazine by that early internet.
Those folks, the Globe and Toronto magazines paid me for my
film, my shooting and for the scan and transmission fees (via that modem).
At that time when I was most happy with my situation, a
local photographer went to the Globe and told them that he had a scanner and an
internet modem and that he could do what I did for a lot less money.
I lost my work.
A few months later another local photographer went to the
Globe and told them that he had a digital camera and that he would not charge
for scanning. That was the end of that first photographer.
But in those heady days of the 80s and early 90s my forte
for getting assignments was my readily identifiable personal style.
There are two pictures in this blog today. The colour one is
of the head of QLT Technologies, Dr. Julia Levy. The shot was for the local
Business in Vancouver weekly tabloid. Levy and her company were the high tech
darlings of the time.
It seemed a good idea to photograph her (not in her office)
but in the back seat of the car she normally drove.
These last weeks, I have been thinning my files. Most of the
law firms are now gone from them as are many business people I photographed for
This picture of Lee Anne Pilson did not ring a bell. All I
had written in the file is that I shot it for the Globe. I looked around in
Google and found that PIlson had been assigned by QLT Technologies as Director
of Marketing on October 20 1992. My guess is that I shot this soon after.
What makes the photograph interesting is that it was shot
with a then cutting technology. This was a Polaroid Instant 35mm B+W slide
In my efforts to stay competitive this film enabled me to
process it with a little machine right after shooting it.
Four years ago when my Rosemary and I prepared to move to our smaller digs in Kitsilano I threw away that neat Polaroid processor. It was a beaut but useless. I am on my way for the same reason.
La La La Human Steps in the Bathtub
Tuesday, February 18, 2020
In these blogs I
often stated that writing, photography and prostitution are the last of the
In the 19th century wealthy English men (and
a few women) pioneered the idea that it was low class to work for pay. So they
invented the term, defining themselves, as amateur gardener/botanists or archaeologists.
The idea is that they did this for the love of doing it and not for money. In
this 21st century that term has been replaced by the one of plight and
which is a prefix. So we have the starving artist. Those who do not starve, and
may be pretty good, then dabble at the arts.
I am no amateur photographer simply because I may have
charged a penny or a bit more for a photograph. If you sell you are not an amateur
even if you love what you do.
It was in December 1995 that I embarked on something that
became a passion for me. This was a love for dance.
Previous to 1995, when Rosemary, my two daughters and I
arrived to Vancouver from Mexico City, we made sure we gave them all the opportunities
this province provided. They went to French Immersion schools in Coquitlan, had
swimming classes at the CG Brown Pool in Burnaby, and studied dance/ballet at
the Vancouver School of Music. Our eldest daughter Ale also studied classical
guitar. She did not give it up and the knowledge of reading music gives her the
opportunity to accompany on the piano school performances in Lilloet where she
teaches and lives.
I must state that I put them in ballet not because I was
inherently interested in the art but that I thought it was what one was
supposed to do as a parent.
In 1986 when we moved to our corner home and garden in
Kerrisdale my Rosemary and I became amateur gardeners (in the English
tradition. She is a Master Gardener and both of us are card-carrying members of
the Vancouver Rose Society and the American Hosta Society). We became so at
first because of economic necessity. We could not afford to pay the Japanese
In 1995 I had to accompany the Canadian ballerina Evelyn Hart
for a couple of days with Georgia Straight dance critic Shannon Rupp. It was
then when It was impossible for me not to fall in love with a woman who
represented (and represents) the Platonic Essence of Dance, Elegance and Grace.
Suddenly after watching her dance it came to me what a fool
I had been when I had taken many years before our daughters to see the AlvinAiley Dance Company
and watch one of their signature numbers involving white
clothing and white parasols.
Since 1995 and thanks to many further dance assignments from
the Georgia Straight I became what I believe I am now, an amateur dance critic.
If not exactly that I believe I know when I see good dance; I can tell when a
young dancer has the promise of being a great one, and not quite best of all
(it is a negative talent of sorts) , I can differentiate outstanding dance from
It hit me like it did Archimedes when I was soaking in the
tub that there was one dance company that I had not seen for many years (they
dissolved in 2015) called La La La Human Steps,
that was the single most
original dance company in my memory. I was so overcome that I called former
Vancouver Sun critic Max Wyman
who agreed with me and told me that the founder
and choreographer of La La La Human Steps Édouard Lock was a good friend.
I saw this group three times and I was close to the front
row. The dancers danced with phenomenal speed as if they had amphetamines in
their blood stream. Women lifted men with what seemed to be ease. I left the
three performances physically and visually exhausted.
Because we live in this 21st century where some
stuff is really better than stuff from the other I can place here a couple of
YouTube links to La La La Human Steps and in particular one with David Bowie
that is superb.
Mamita & Harry
Monday, February 17, 2020
|Harry Waterhouse Hayward & Ellen Carter|
It is not too often that I get completely blown over by
reading something that hits home as much as the essay (below) in my NYTimes Sunday Magazine by Montreal writer
Durga Chew-Bose on framing. My mother always told me that no house was a home
until pictures were put on the wall. I have faithfully followed her advice
since. Of late I have been going to Sally Anne stores to find antique frames. I
have purchases many bargains. What makes it even more fun is that with my
Canon-Pro1 inkjet printer I can print to size to fit any frame. But I will go
to my framer, Magnum Frames where they will see to the backing (archival one)
and the glass.
There are two photographs that I have found in my present
thinning of files in my oficina that will need the professional and gentle care
of the folks at Magnum in Vancouver. They are photographs (the only ones I have) of my
grandfather Harry and his wife Ellen Carter. I have no idea if my daughters
will value them. I will be interested in how the torn-at-the-edges pictures of
Ellen and Harry will be handled. The second one has a special meaning. When
Harry died in the 20s my grandmother started a pension in Buenos Aires. One of
her boarders was an Armenian gentleman called Leo Mahdjubian. Curiously he had
worn a kilt during WWI as he had been a member of the famous Black Watch. Leo was
so well liked that he became “adopted” by Ellen. In later years Leo who owned
an Assurance company in Buenos Aires was a wealthy man who helped my family
when they had rough times.
During my time in the Argentine Navy I would go to Leo’s
house for lunch on Saturdays. His wife would serve pasta and roast beef and
would make pies, cakes and flan for dessert. The men (Leo had two sons) and I
would retire for siesta. We would be summoned for tea (a complete tea) at four.
Leo who was a gourmet had four pepper mills at the table with pepper from
different parts of the world.
In circumstances that escape me he called me up one day to
say, “Alex you father has kicked the bucket. Because he was taken to the hospital
by a policemen you will have to go to the police station to sign some papers.”
The significance of Ellen’s portrait is that she dedicated
it to Leo and it was only then that I found out that people called her Mamita. As a boy members of my family all called Ellen, Ellen Carter. Why was her maiden name so important? Read below.
One of the tragedies of getting old is realizing that in
youth (this guy in particular) was not curious enough to ask questions of people who
were alive to answer them. Because of this my information on the grandparents
on my father’s side is spotty. I know that they were from Manchester and that
they moved to Buenos Aires around 1901. My grandfather Harry apparently working
for a shipping company. There is additional information that came via my
There was a family tradition in England that Harry Hayward
used the middle name Waterhouse because he was the male firstborn. They had a
son in Manchester (my Uncle Harry) and the three came to BA. But Harry, the
son, never used that middle name. It was further revealed that a marriage
license was made in Buenos Aires. My father then figured that Harry was born
out of wedlock and thus he George (my father) was the legitimate firstborn.
|Leo and me.|
When I was born my father wanted to continue with the family
tradition. When he went to register my name he was told that in Argentina
foreign names could not be used. I could not be called George Alexander (the
name of my Argentine godfather). I had to be called Jorge Alejandro. And when
my father tried to insert Waterhouse, that was rejected. My father then slipped
money under the table and told the bureaucrat that Waterhouse was the surname and
that there had to be a hyphen between it and Hayward.
Letter of Recommendation: Framing
By Durga Chew-Bose
Feb. 4, 2020.
NYTimes Sunday Magazine
As if through a sieve, the kind you might use to dust
confectioners’ sugar on a cake, the snow began to fall one Sunday afternoon in
January — white diagonals obscuring the view just outside my mother’s
living-room window. I called it picturesque because I was removed from the
wind, the wet, the biting cold. I took pleasure in being deceived.
I was happy to be where it felt cozy, surrounded by walls of
my mother’s framed things: leatherwork from Shantiniketan, Amrita Sher-Gil
prints, the walnut-shaped eyes in a Jamini Roy. I grew up in a home where going
to the framer’s was an errand I occasionally ran with my parents on weekends,
or an errand that they would return from with pieces wrapped in brown paper. My
grandfather, Amiya, framed in the eulogizing dignity of burled wood. My
grandmother, Chameli, mounted on the wall in a simple black frame, the glow of
her face understated but not contained; she looks like an actress.
When I left New York and moved to Montreal, I found an
apartment with more rooms than I could fill. So instead, I arranged. A mirror I
didn’t hang but propped against the wall. Magazine stacks, anywhere. My
apartment maintained the kind of ambivalence indicated by a pile of once-worn
shirts that I moved from the arm of a chair to the foot of my bed, depending on
the time of day.
But arranging allows for reluctance. You’re not hammering
nails into walls; you’re chasing light — carrying a vase from the front of the
apartment to the back, and so on. By the time it was winter, my walls were
still empty, and my piles of sentimental stuff were beginning to grow.
Eventually, I found myself unmoored, homesick in my own
space. The first framer I tried was affordable and fast, but I stopped going
there when I noticed a bagel seed stuck beneath the pane of glass, right in the
middle of a Bill Gold poster I purchased impulsively on eBay. I will never come
around to finding the mistake tragicomic or charming. So I found a new place. A
framer located cater-corner from a health-food store and across the street from
a neighborhood coffee shop. Since starting, I can’t stop. Consecutive weekends
might include a quick trip to the framer, along with other essential errands:
laundry, parents, balsamic, framer.
Framing serves an uncomplicated purpose: It yields results
but isn’t fixed to clear thinking. The relationship with my framer exists
beyond plain transaction. Piece by piece, my framer has become intimate with
me: my choosiness, my fondnesses, my dumb, entirely sincere urge to create
remarkability. The decision to frame a double exposure of my mother and her
sisters on a rooftop in Calcutta, for instance, or a poster of Barbara Loden’s
“Wanda,” is ultimately subjective and extravagant (framing isn’t cheap). Should
it really cost this much to affirm what’s meaningful to me? Building a home
takes time, but it’s also an investment in anticipation, in wagering on the
energy of a random Thursday when I find myself between moments, landing on that
photo of my mother and her sisters hanging on my wall. She looks young and
joyful; her knobby knees — her girlhood — caught in motion.
My framer is regularly asked to follow through on choices
that might seem fanciful, even dramatic. Like safeguarding a falling-apart
cover of Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca,” where just below the title it reads:
“Her Novel.” Or how I chose wood in a shade of pale mint to scaffold a tiny
photograph of my father, the week we found out he had cancer. Some of us are
born a little mournful, and we spend our lives discovering new traditions for
housing those ghosts we’ve long considered companions. Framing, I’d venture, is
central to this urge. It gives memories a physique.
It’s funny how adding four corners brings out the thing. But
what I derive from getting things framed isn’t perfection; it’s completing a
task that comes with rules, consideration for light and an opportunity to
preserve — and not in my cluttered, humming mind, but with a tactile
compromise. Hanging in my hallway is Frank O’Hara, surrounded by three inches
of black mat and gallery-brushed silver. The image hasn’t lost the romance of
why I fell for it in the first place. Visible in this photograph, taken by John
Gruen, five years before O’Hara’s death, is the poet’s smile — more specific,
his small teeth. Formerly, it was a piece of cardboard floundering on my fridge
door. Now, it’s a proposition; the satisfaction of something made-ready.
Recently, I took a few pieces to the framer, among them a
photograph of my friend Sarah. Backlit, Sarah passes forms. She is portrait and
shadow, the way silhouettes obscure yet disclose the oneness of a person’s
contour. A few weeks elapsed, and when the photograph was ready, I went to pick
it up. Specially made objects are a rare pleasure because they demand what is
scarce: time, consideration, belated results. The low-stakes sport of making
surface choices like metal over wood, or lacquer for a different finish. And
while these preferences are sacred, it’s lazy and untrue to describe my reaction
upon seeing Sarah, framed, as divine. Sometimes what’s bespoke compels the
opposite of novelty — it captures what’s right in front of us: the
plain-spoken; the dear friend; her most conspicuous chin. I held the frame and
could only say, over and over, “There she is.”
is a writer and an editor based in
Es la boa
Sunday, February 16, 2020
En los años 60 surgió una orquesta cubana de música tropical llamada La Sonora Santanera. En México nos volvimos locos con una canción de ellos, La Boa. Al ver estas dos diapositivas que tomé hace muchos años en el Drake Hotel en Vancouver inmediatamente hice la conección.
Habana quien ya no conoce
anda muy bien vestidito, que parece maniquí
conocen por Panchito!, porque baila el cha cha cha
boa, es la boa, es la boa
boa, es la boa, es la boa
corazon es para ti, Mi corazon es para ti
corazon es para ti, Mi corazon es para ti
bailar! A bailar el nuevo ritmo de la boa
y pa'lante con la boa
nuevo ritmo ya todos lo saben
todos dicen que suave que suave
nuevo ritmo ya todos lo saben
todos dicen que suave que suave
boa, es la boa, es la boa
boa, es la boa, es la boa
locutores, lo saben, lo saben
periodistas, lo saben, lo saben
ingenieros, lo saben, lo saben
los del poli, lo saben, lo saben
los pumas, lo saben, lo saben
los rebeldes, lo saben, lo saben
estan oyendo, lo saben, lo saben
me faltaron, lo saben, lo saben
santanera lo sabe, lo sabe
Reyes Hernandez / Felix Reyna