Saturday, March 14, 2020
|Rebecca Anne Stewart & John Bishop |
Right off the bat I will clarify that I never call women ladies in this 21st century. I have been informed that it is politically incorrect. The title of this blog is related to a lovely song by Duke Ellington.
Both my Rosemary and I will never be apologetic in
considering ourselves to be snobs. It was my mother, when I was a little boy
who would often say to me, “Alex hay poca
gente fina como nosotros.” It sort of translates to, “There are few well-mannered and sophisticated people like us.”
As humans we anthropomorphize things, animals and with
humans we try to make them to be like us.
Such was the case when our first granddaughter, Rebecca Anne
Stewart was born 22 years ago.
Because her mother worked on Saturdays Rebecca
was dropped off with us at a very young age. In this Polaroid I have found
while thinning my files I note that I took the photograph on a Saturday. We
would place her on a blanket and turn on the radio to CBC’s Saturday Afternoon
at the Opera
Last week I made a reservation at Bishop’s. I have
previously written of this lovely restaurant here
Rebecca and I showed up at 5:30 last Tuesday. John Bishop
mentioned that all that Rebecca had ordered was daring. I can attest that she
has eaten snake and lots of food I would never touch. She has a fondness for
holding snakes, and bugs including spiders. Yes, she is adventurous.
Bishop sat down to chat several times during the evening and
I was proud of the fact that Rebecca can hold up to scrutiny. For dessert she
informed me that we had to have caffè corretto
(espresso with grappa).
While Rebecca is my granddaughter, I also felt that I was in
the company of a sophisticated woman who would have made my mother proud.
The Woman From Whiskey Creek
Friday, March 13, 2020
To me what has happened in the last week and half seems like
a renewal of my once collaborative relationship with writer Les Wiseman. In the
days of gung-ho journalism we
worked for many magazines. I was his Lenso the Argentinian Lensman. He wrote
and asked me if I still photographed beautiful women! Perhaps when I am on the
other side I will be snapping pictures of female angels.
told me that a former journalism student of his wanted photographs taken. I
contacted Emily who hails from Whiskey Creek, Vancouver Island. She told me she
had been born on the wrong side of the tracks. But then she confessed that she thought she was dyslexic.
up at my door on Friday and we took pictures. Emily considered everything in
her suitcase of stuff (mostly black underwear) to be female and she talked to
the many wigs she brought as, “She is
difficult to put on but I really like her.”
thanked me for doing this for him. I believe that the thank you should go to
him from my direction. Emily was a delight.
I am sure
all who see some of her pictures will agree.
Polaroid - An all Encompassing Moment In my Hand
Thursday, March 12, 2020
Thinning out files of lawyers and businesspeople is onerous but not heart wrenching. Sifting
through many hundreds of family pictures is heart wrenching. And it cannot be a
quick deal as I must stop and show Rosemary, “Look at this picture of Hilary.
Do you remember?”
Today I found and made a pile of about 32 Polaroids. Our
daughters are pre-teenagers. The camera in question was a Polaroid SX-70. It
compensated for so-so photographs by the virtue that they were instantaneous. In
Spanish a snap is called an instantánea. I wrote about the history of Polaroid here
With further thought today it occurred to me that a Polaroid
is an example of an all-encompassing object that is a memory and I can hold in
my hand. There is no negative in the files or a picture in the back display of
my Fuji X-E3. The Polaroid is that moment in the past somehow becoming an
instant as I retrieve the place and the time.
It is magic.
Rosemary, Hilary Anne & Alexandra, bottom left
|At the Space Needle|
|With Silas Huckleback in North Vancouver|
|My movie star Rosemary|
|Hilary in Burnaby|
|Rebecca Anne - Hilary's daughter|
An Easy Job with Kelly Tough
Wednesday, March 11, 2020
|Kelly Tough - Ektachrome|
In 1956 I was almost 15 years old living with my mother in a
mining community in northern Mexico, in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila. My mother
taught grade 8, 7 and 6 in a school for the children of the American employees
of American Smelting and Refining Company.
We lived in an apartment suite attached to the American
Hotel. We had our three meals at the hotel so my mother rarely cooked. After
lunch or dinner I would sometimes go to the reading room. There was a
Mexican/American engineer called Juan Jaime who lived in our hotel. He was
subscribed to Playboy, True, Argosy and Esquire. He would leave
his magazines for others to read. It wasn’t in a Playboy where I saw my first
semi-nude. In those days Esquire was much racier.
But how could I have possibly imagined that someday in the
early 80s I would be assigned to photograph three Canadian (Vancouverites) ex-Playboy Playmates for
story written by Les Wiseman for Vancouver
Magazine? I did not understand then (and I did not complain) why I was
given the job to take the photographs and not a fashion photographer.
In those days when I shot on location with portable backdrops
made of cushy cloth. I used a Mamiya RB-67 which meant I had the capability of
testing first with Polaroid.
The two Polaroids here I had up in a bulletin board in my
Kerrisdale darkroom until four years ago when we moved to Kits. Today I found
them and filed them with the Kelly Tough file. They do have a charm and
especially as these Polaroids for medium format film cameras are no longer
I don’t know. I’m not sure. I am still thinking. I’m still working.
Tuesday, March 10, 2020
1987 225 cm x 200 cm Catalogue Raisonné: 648-2
Oil on canvas
Gerhard Richter – I wonder how many people who may read my
blog know who this man is. The NY Times
has considered him to be the most
famous and successful living artist for many years. Before 2000 I had read
about this Dresden-born artist’s studio in the Sunday NY Times Magazine
. One of
the features was a floor so clean you could almost lick it. I was intrigued by
the fact that Richter could not be pinned down to one style or another and that
he was also a photographer.
In 2004 Richter published a book, War Cut. Of it the NY Times
wrote in an essay by Jan Thorn-Pricker:
The topic is the war in Iraq. Again, ambiguity is a theme,
but unlike his earlier political work, the result is colorful and abstract. The
book consists of collages: 216 photographic details of Mr. Richter's 1987
painting ''No. 648-2,'' accompanied by an equal number of newspaper articles
from The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on March 20 and 21, 2003, the beginning
days of the war. The result links two normally unrelated mediums, creating a
hybrid commentary that can be seen as a kind of absurd historical novel.
The article made me very curious. I went to the then arts
bookstore on Granville and Broadway called Oscar’s. I asked Oscar about the
book. He placed it in my hands. It was a thing of wonder I could not afford to
buy. But it left a lasting impression on how an artist could protest in his own
way the iniquities of war machines.
In this Friday’s March 6 article on a Richter exhibition at
the Met’s Marcel Brauer Gallery I read with interest that this 90 year old man
may consider this to be one of his last exhibitions. But important to me was
something reviewer Jason Farago wrote to close his essay:
For 60 years, he has treated uncertainty as an ethical duty.
That remains true even at this final celebration, and with every pass of the
squeegee [one of Richter’s painting techniques] he has modeled how an artist
can create in the face of doubt, face down the fear of wrongness, mistrust
oneself and still fight on.
That is the priceless example he offers today’s young
artists, whose every mistake or hesitation gets pounced on by the digital
Savonarolas. So much dogmatism out there, so much high-volume moralizing. The
voice we need to hear is the voice that says: I don’t know. I’m not sure. I am
still thinking. I’m still working.
Those are words to inspire this old man to keep kicking for a while longer.
Exciting photographic possibilites for 2020