John Loengard - A Photographer With Style - Sept 5, 1934 – May 24, 2020
Saturday, May 30, 2020
|Anna Loengard - John Loengard - 1975|
The chances that the death of this man on May 24 will be
paraded by the ambulance chasers of social media are probably nill.
Before continuing I must point out that I never met the
man, never saw him from far away nor did I ever pick up from the pavement a
cigarette that he may have smoked.
Loengard was a man I admired because not only was he a
noted magazine photographer he also wrote well of his experiences of being
|The longtime Life magazine photographer and photo editor
John Loengard, as captured by his Life colleague Alfred Eisenstaedt in an
undated photo. In 2005, American Photo magazine ranked Mr. Loengard 80th among
the 100 most important people in photography.|
Since I can remember, probably when I learned to read, I
have loved magazines and I have been enthralled by them. The pleasure (particularly considering the present pandemic situation) of
turning pages in a Life Magazine and licking one’s fingers to be able to do so,
brings thoughts on the taste of the ink and the feel of the pages and the
rustling noise they would make.
I was 10 when my grandmother purchased a subscription of
Mecánica Popular, perhaps a couple of years before I had first seen American Heritage Magazine at the Lincoln Library on Calle Florida in Buenos Aires. It was in that magazine that I saw my first photographs of live and dead soldiers of the American Civil War taken my Timothy O'Sullivan.
In Mexico I would buy magazines that had photographs that
showed Brigitte Bardot’s handsome cleavage. Cleavage competed with car
magazines like Mechanix Illustrated where chaps like
John McCahill would inform me how many horses the engine of a Chrysler 300 might have or what a Torqueflite transmission was all about.
In the late 50s I saw my first photographs of
semi-undraped females in Playboys and Esquires
at the American Hotel in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila, Mexico.
By 1977 I was working for Vancouver Magazine and for many
more of the best Canadian magazines like Saturday Night. Some of my photographs were then published
in magazines around the world.
|Jennifer Loengard - John Loengard - 1983|
If I take a picture of my daughter, our relationship changes and she
is not my daughter any more. She could just as easily be the Duchess of
Malfi. If she says, "Oh, Dad, not now!" I'll treat her exactly as I
woud Georgia O'Keeffe if she said, "Oh, Mr Loengard, please not now!" In
my head I think, "There is a beautiful picture here and by God, short
of murder, I'm going to get it. So shut up and hold still!" But what I
say is : "You look wonderful. I'll just take a minute. It's marvelous.
We're doing something very special."
I learned the part about a minute from a dentist. I learned the rest from Carl Mydans. For the magazine's thirtieth birthday, Life
photographers were asked to photograph each other. Carl was assigned to
me. To see such an intelligent and distinguished man concentrating on
the problem of taking my picture was extremely flattering. Still I felt
tense. After all I was being scrutinized. Carl kept telling me what
wonderful pictures were being made. I believed him, and soon I relaxed. I
was a success at being a subject!
(You should tell these things to a person as you photograph him - even if it is a lie - which in this case it was. Life photographers as it turned out, could photograph anything in the world except each other.)
One of the photographers that was dear to me was
Loengard. I wrote a few blogs about him. In one I placed a photograph (a
selfie, too!) that he took of his daughter Jennifer as a little girl. It was the lead shot to this blog of his other daughter Anna
who announced her father’s death as written in this NY Times Obituary.
It is because I am 77 that I am blind to photographic
style in this century. I assert there isn’t one. I hope I am wrong. I wonder who
will be the Loengard’s of the future and if there will be magazines (with
glossy paper) that will amply reproduce their photographs for us to notice,
admire, copy, emulate and perhaps even have then help us acquire a style of our own.
Rosa 'Souvenir de la Malmaison', Corn Tortillas & Earl Grey Tea
Friday, May 29, 2020
|Rosa 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' 31 May 2020|
Some people can follow the instructions to make a pot of
loose tea, or to fix a dozen Mexican corn tortillas. But many will fail. There
is some magic involved.
Our former Mexican housekeeper in Burnaby in the late 70s
(we brought her so that our daughters would not lose their Spanish) Clemencia
made the best Earl Grey Tea. One day I spotted her re-boiling some of it and I
was shocked! I never did notice the difference. She had the touch.
It is the same with roses. Some of us can grow this rose or
that one. I could never grow the multi-petalled Bourbon Roses because the
blooms would never open in Vancouver’s rainy weather.
Rosarian of note, Darlene Sanders told me she had a fine
specimen of Rosa ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’. I told her this could not be true (I
almost called her a fibber!). So some years ago I visited her West Vancouver
garden and her Souvenir de la Malmaison was glorious.
Now, yesterday Saturday, Sanders visited our garden. She
brought me a little gift. You can guess exactly what the gift was. Today Sunday
I scanned it.
This blog is filling a an empty hole on another day, the day before yesterday. But the
date of the scan is 31 May 2020.
Perhaps someday soon Sanders might invite us for tea. I am sure
that it would be excellent. But in making Mexican corn tortillas I believe she would be
as good at it as I am in growing Bourbon Roses.
The Best Years of My Life
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
On Monday, Memorial Day in the US, my Rosemary and I watched
William Wyler’s 1946 film The Best Years of our Lives.
Since my mother was a fan of Dana Andrews (and Laura) I am no
stranger to this film. I saw it sometime in the early 50s on a Calle Lavalle
movie house in Buenos Aires.
After seeing the film I could not but go into my memory
banks to write what is below.
This blog is my 5076th since I began in January
of 2006. I did not really know what a blog was then. All I knew was that it was
going to be ancillary to my first (and last) web page which was up that month, too.
My first attempts at writing the blog were short and sketchy
but I soon learned not to rant, to complain, or to argue about religion or politics.
I like the Spanish word bitácora which translates to ‘ship’s
log’. It defines perfectly what my blog represents to me. I write my thoughts
or impressions of the day. In some cases I scour through my photo files to find
a match for what I may want to write. Sometimes it is the opposite. I remember
or take a photograph and then try to find a poem, an excerpt from a writer I
may admire or a theme for the day.
Plenty of what I write is about my past life. My eldest
daughter told me once, “We like to read your blog as you reveal stuff about
your life that we did not know or did not want to pry and ask.”
My blog is also a gadfly reckoning about so much of my city, Vancouver, in which I have lived since 1975, that I consider
important for people (who may read the blog) to know and to remember. We live in a city with a
poor memory for its past.
Since I began working as a magazine photographer in 1977 I
learned about the delights of taking photographs to illustrate fine copy. As
magazines and jobs began to fade I found that I could write the copy for my own
magazine, a magazine in which space is infinite (not so with paper magazines). A
virtual magazine where, in spite of a constant criticism that my copy needed a
good editor or fact checker, I enjoyed being the editor, writer, photographer
and art director.
That this blog may be popular, or not, is irrelevant to me.
What is important is that writing it every day has helped to clear my head and
now in this 2020 sequestration is one of the few things of value to myself that I perform
Watching The Best Years of Our Lives cements for me that I
am a product of another century in which I am not tempted by Netflix or most of
the films and TV films made in this one. I am not a stranger to shouted obscenities or
extreme violence. But it does not mean that I have to like them
The characters in Wyler’s film would not be believable in
this century of cynicism. They are too good, too human, too complex, in their
simplicity. The values of the film with one (and only one) character briefly proclaiming facts
that anybody in that past century of mine would have deemed untrue (true lies)
are perhaps too lofty for this century.
Film noir is awfully popular now. My Rosemary and I watch
Noir Alley with Eddie Muller on TCM every Saturday at 9pm. The crux of film
noir consists of characters that are flawed somewhere between being good and
being bad. The women are rarely pushed around
and they know their own minds.
For me The Best Years of Our Lives is film noir. The three
men coming back from the war have their flaws and are uncertain as to how to
proceed. The women are valiant and even Virginia Mayo, the blonde wife of Dana
Andrews knows what she wants (a man with money).
But to rest my case Teresa Wright who plays the young
nurse/marriage wrecker could never be that character in any contemporary film.
She is too good an actress (I am old fashioned and I like gender specific
noun/professions), too lovely and she would look terrible in cleavage.
As this century soldiers on I want to get off soon.
P.S. As for Teresa Wright not looking good in cleavage I could be wrong.