Permanently Impermanent on the Net Nation
Saturday, February 22, 2020
|Rebecca wearing her grandfather's glasses in 2002|
Back in that other century it seemed to me that change was
slow and almost not noticeable. But then you reach my 77 years and suddenly I
no longer avoid looking at the Vancouver Sun obituaries.
In that past century if I wanted advise on roses I went to
Janet Wood who was the rose lady. There were equivalent experts for ferns, clematis,
dwarf conifers, etc. Now for advice all I can do is look at myself in the
mirror and then Google.
I bought my first medium format camera, a Mamiya RB-67 in
1977 and it was only about 15 years ago when they stopped making them in
versions that were almost digital. Now any digital camera, as your iPhone is rendered old-hat
within a couple of years.
There were some who said that the internet was permanent.
Anything you put into it was there in perpetuity. I have found that this is not
My web page and blog are domain name and web hosted by a
company called Net Nation. At one time they were here in Vancouver by the
Bentall Centre. They have long been purchased by a US company.
Somehow this company has never been able to catch on the efficient idea of
billing me for both services at the same time. Twice in a near past year I suffered
the indignity of not remembering that my credit card had a new expiry date. My
web page was yanked as somehow I did not heed the Net Nation warning. In the
case of the web page it took about a whole week for bits of it to slowly come
to a zero/one reality. I have learned my lesson. But every time I am asked by the
company how I would like to have them improve their service they ignore my
suggestion of billing me one a year.
A friend in Portland, Curtis Daily, the baroque string
bassist, informed me a month ago that the lead photo of my granddaughter Rebecca
on my web page was gone and replaced by code gobbledegook. My friend artist, but
former designer, Ian Bateson has told me that my 2004-designed web page by the
local Skunkworks has coding that has expired its relevancy.
The folks at Skunkworks are busy trying to remedy the
situation. I was asked to provide them with the password for my web page. Are
you kidding? Would I remember a password from 2004. All this has been solved
and soon, I hope, Rebecca will be back where she belongs at the start of my web
But all this shows you just how impermanent anything related
to the web and things digital.
If Dante were alive he would assign the darkest hole in hell
to those who invented pin numbers and passwords. They would share their ultra-hot
darkness with Steve Jobs who ruined this century with his iPhone.
Authenticity - Effects be Damned
Friday, February 21, 2020
|Georgia Straight - May 20 2004|
When photography came into being in the 19th century it was
celebrated for its ability to accurately show the detail of reality.
Nobody considered that the first human in a photograph was
Daguerre’s photograph of an almost empty Paris street with a man having his
shoes shined. There is a lot of evidence pointing to the fact that in order to
take this over at least 3 minute exposure Daguerre paid the man not to move.
The Soviet Union of the 20th century deftly (and
sometimes not so deftly) removed people from photographs in their propaganda
In short photography can lie. I like to quote a Canadian
press photographer, Nick Didlick who with the advent of digital photography (he
was and is a master) said, “You can
trust a photograph if you know the photographer.”
As a beginning photographer in the early 60s I
liked to call myself an authentic photographer who eschewed any special effects
or any kind of filters. I soon found out that in b+w film, yellow filters and
orange filters can help diminish effect of the blue/ultraviolet sensitive film (it is also true to
this day of colour film, video and digital camera sensors). So I began using
those yellow filters to make the dramatic Mexico City skies look the way they
looked to my eyes.
But in all my years I have had a few rules that I keep with
me at all times. One is that I never persuade anybody to do anything they might
not want to do. A corollary of this is
that I never tell anybody to do something I would not do.
A rule that kept me in good business with periodicals is
that I made people look as good as I could (or even better). I never knowingly
made anybody look worse except a couple of times and one I remember well when a magazine editor
(Malcolm Parry) instructed me to go to City Hall and take an unflattering
photograph of the mayor.
All kinds of early special effects like one called cross-processing (telling a lab to process a roll of slide film as if it were colour negative film) I only
used for my personal work.
While I used many kinds of lighting techniques, my portraits,
I thought were honest.
But I can remember the first picture that I digitally
manipulated. It was of Canadian mezzo soprano Jean Stilwell
. She had short hair
and did not resemble in any way you run-of-the-mill diva. The manipulated
photograph appeared in black and white in the May 20 2004 Georgia Straight
Photoshop was almost brand new. It is the same one I use now.
Now with negatives, slides, photographs I work with my
scanner to go beyond whatever were my standards back in the 60s. But I will
keep my standards in making my portraits as authentic of the person as I can
muster, effects be damned.
Al borde de la desesperación
Thursday, February 20, 2020
manera de hacerte comprender que así no llegarías nunca a nada, que había cosas
que eran demasiado tarde y otras que eran demasiado pronto, y estabas siempre
tan al borde de la desesperación en el centro mismo de la alegría y del
desenfado, había tanta niebla en tu corazón desconcertado.
Julio Cortázar – Rayuela
Besides being overcome by the overwhelming of thinning out my extensive negative (and
slides) output that began in 1960 I have arrived at a melancholy moment of my
life when an important person in my life seems to have lost her way.
ago when I mentioned her name to my about-to-die mentor, Brother Edwin Reggio,
C.S.C. he immediately told me, “Don’t tell her anything. Let her find her way.”
Only in these last few months have I come to realize that pointing out stuff to
her only faces me with her anger. So I have let go. But I live in hope.
thinning of my files I have found stuff that I could not have found before. As
an example it was a file called VGH Cuts. In it are some images of which I have
no recollection on how I took it. Did I get a nurse from VGH to come outside to
pose by that hospital smokestack (it is long gone)?
believe it fit the bill at the time for whatever article in the Georgia
Straight it appeared. What you see here is not a scan of the pristine 6x7cm
negative but of the deteriorating (I think it adds to impact) contact sheet
In our cosy
Kitsilano home I live in harmony with my Rosemary. We have wonderful breakfasts
in bed. We go shopping with her Rolser in the close by shops and Safeway. Our
cats bring calm, consistency and order during a political upheaval that has me
turning my phone to CNN as soon as I wake up in the morning.
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.