George Bowering - And The Other One That I Photographed
Saturday, August 15, 2020
People who might not know first Canadian Poet Laureate,
George Bowering might think he is an old grouch. I know him well enough to
dispute this. But I must admit that if you say that one plus one is two he will
find some way to object.
A few years ago I photographed him wearing my mother’s red
shawl. I asked him to write something to accompany the photograph. Here is the blog with his little essay. I should have known that he was going to persist on
the idea that my photograph was not of him.
|Photograph and design - Robin Mitchell Cranfield|
This year he has published a book of essays called Writing
and Reading. It is published by New Star Books. It has the interesting concept that the book begins with short essays and they get longer as you go the next
Some months ago (quite a few as I have been thinking about
this rebuttal for a while now) a package arrived. My Rosemary asked me if I had
purchased a book. I told her I hadn’t. Inside was Writing and Reading. I then
threw the box away. My Rosemary is thorough and looked inside and told me that
there was a cheque for $100. I wondered until I found on page 28 my photograph
(originally in colour) in stark black and white. I read the essay. After
reading it I decided to tackle (again) Susan Sontag’s On Photography and Roland
Barthes’s Camera Lucida.My volume of Barthe's book has been consumed by years of literary silver fish.
I allowed some time
for what I had read to sink in. I used many stickies to mark relevant passages
for my rebuttal.
I even wrote this preliminary blog on the subject. And I even wrote another.
But then I came to the conclusion that the serious Mr.
Bowering just likes to argue at a time when conversation is pretty well gone. he does it because he has a keen sense of humour.
I will leave it up to those who read this to make up their
own minds if my photograph of George Bowering is indeed of him.
But I did find an old blog of mine where I found something
that might serve me well in a gentle and well-mannered rebuttal. Here it is.
The passage in question by Susan Sontag:
The powers of photography have in effect de-Platonized our
understanding of reality, making it less plausible to reflect upon our
experience according to the distinction between images and things, between
copies and originals. It suited Plato’s derogatory attitude towards images to
liken them to shadows – transitory, minimally informative, immaterial, impotent
co-presences of the real things which cast them. But the love of photographic
images comes from their being material realities in their own right, richly
informative deposits left in the wake of whatever emitted them, potent means
for turning the tables on reality – for turning it [in italics in book by
author] into a shadow. Images are more real than anyone could have supposed.
And just because they are an unlimited resource, one that cannot be exhausted
by consumerist waste, there is all the more reason to apply the conservationist
remedy, if there can be a better way for the real world to include the one of
images, it will require ecology not only of real things but of images as well.
A Better Century?
Friday, August 14, 2020
Today, 14 August, 2020 Lauren Elizabeth Stewart, 18, is
coming to help me clean the house in preparation for my Rosemary’s return from
her stay with Alexandra in Lillooet. I will be picking her up (sort of halfway)
in Pemberton on Sunday.
I miss Rosemary lots. It is it terrible to sleep alone (not
quite as Niño and Niña are there all night like glue) on our big bed now that the
pleasure of our satin sheets has faded.
In this terrible pandemic 2020 and an almost terrible century (thanks
to Steve Jobs’s iPhone) there are a few things that are better than from my 20th
But it would seem that some of these “improved” features of the
century have spelled a doom to custom framers. Why put a framed photograph
or piece of art on the wall when a flat screen TV is much better?
Those framers (I know) are hurting and in a way I know why.
Consider the scanned frame of two pictures of Lauren, wearing my mother’s red
shawl. Today I combined them and seized them to fit an antique frame I
purchased at Hob Two, a lovely snobbish version of a Sally Ann store on
Broadway just a few blocks from our house. It cost $5.00.
Lauren will arrive at 4 and I am sure she will be delighted.
Since this sort of stuff is in my thoughts, I wonder if many
years from now she will look at the pictures and remember, “That’s the day I
helped Papi clean the fridge.”
Kitsilano Cover Art
Thursday, August 13, 2020
In my Vancouver and international career as a magazine
photographer I believe I may have had at least 1000 covers.
But amazingly, only twice have I been the subject of the
It was during the 1982 Malvinas (Falkland) War that Vancouver Magazine Editor Malcom Parry
pressured me into writing about my experiences in the Argentine Navy. He would
take the portrait that appeared on the May 1982 issue.
There were a few difficulties involved. Of my uniform I had
kept the collar and the band A.R.A. S. De Marina (Armada Repúplica Argentina –
Secretaría de Marina). The Mauser and bayonet came via Mac’s friend Alan Lever
from Lever Arms. After much asking around I found a man who collected German
uniforms from WWII. My sailor hat was identical (but of plastic not of cloth). Because
of the problem of getting a permit to carry a firearm, Mac took the picture at
Lever Arms with my RB-67 Pro-S loaded with Ektachrome.
The second time I have appeared on a cover (this time with
the company of my Rosemary) is on Kitsbeach
Magazine which is distributed in some Kitsilano homes but is impossible to
find in a newsstand.
Statistically this has to be my final time on any cover
(while I am alive). It feels good. Best of all when Rosemary walks our male cat
Niño around a few blocks outside our Kits home many neighbours recognize Niño.
When my face was on the cover I remember going to the Eaton’s magazine stand
wearing sunglasses since I did not want to be recognized! Should I fit Niño
The Hosta Watch
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Above you see the leaf of a Hosta 'Paul's Glory' and a hosta watch I purchased and ultimately forgot about in the end of the 90s in Indiana at a American Hosta Society National Convention.
This blog is particularly relevant because I have been attempting to navigate the "new and improved' Blogger dashboard. Because it was probably designed by Googlelites under 30 their idea of improvement is to make it all much more difficult. They have added all kinds of features I do not want and have made it more difficult for me to go back to old blogs to correct typos.
But I have been helped by the folks of Skunkworks and in particular by Farley Peck.
So here goes.
Function Follows Form
Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Bad Industrial Design in Ascendance
Form does not follow function
Free Will - Function follows form
Perhaps for me one of the best advances of this century has
to be the presence of Wikipedia. It is a good place to start when one is researching
a subject or idea. I will convey a startling fact about Wikipedia while not
revealing my source. I have a friend in Vancouver who is one of the Wikipedia
editors for the entry God.
Form follows function has been in my thoughts these last
couple of years as I battle to understand and deal with the so-called
improvements of the digital age. It seems that for many designers the idea of
improvement involves the addition of unnecessary features which result in a
On the other hand I could no longer live without a heated
toilet seat that does not drop with a thud when one lets it go after practicing
my now greatly reduced manly action of doing it standing up. I could no longer
live with a car that does not have a rear camera or burn your butt seats.
I believe that form follows function is a term that many of
us (or at least this guy) associated with the German movement of the 30s called
Bauhaus. I also connected it with the wonderful designs of Raymond Loewy.
When my Rosemary, our two daughters and I arrived in
Vancouver in 1975 my first book purchase (from a bookstore then on Granville)
was The Random House Dictionary of the English Language – Unabridged Edition.
It served me well but as a dictionary it is now obsolete. Or is it if you
consider that function may follow form?
The dictionary props up (rather nicely) to eye level my Dell
Cathode Ray Tube Monitor.
Form follows function
Form follows function is a principle associated with late
19th and early 20th century architecture and industrial design in general, and
it means the shape of a building or object should primarily relate to its
intended function or purpose.
architect Louis Sullivan coined the maxim, although it is often incorrectly
attributed to the sculptor Horatio Greenough (1805–1852), whose thinking mostly
predates the later functionalist approach to architecture. Greenough's writings
were for a long time largely forgotten, and were rediscovered only in the
1930s. In 1947, a selection of his essays was published as Form and Function:
Remarks on Art by Horatio Greenough.
was Greenough's much younger compatriot, and admired rationalist thinkers such
as Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, and Melville, as well as Greenough himself. In
1896, Sullivan coined the phrase in an article titled The Tall Office Building
Artistically Consideredthough he later attributed the core idea to the Roman
architect, engineer, and author Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, who first asserted in
his book De architectura that a structure must exhibit the three qualities of
firmitas, utilitas, venustas – that is, it must be solid, useful, beautiful.
Sullivan actually wrote "form ever follows function", but the simpler
and less emphatic phrase is more widely remembered. For Sullivan this was
distilled wisdom, an aesthetic credo, the single "rule that shall permit
of no exception". The full quote is:
be the sweeping eagle in his flight, or the open apple-blossom, the toiling
work-horse, the blithe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base,
the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun, form ever follows function, and
this is the law. Where function does not change, form does not change. The
granite rocks, the ever-brooding hills, remain for ages; the lightning lives,
comes into shape, and dies, in a twinkling.
It is the pervading law of all things
organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things
human and all things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the
heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form
ever follows function. This is the law.
developed the shape of the tall steel skyscraper in late 19th-century Chicago
at a moment in which technology, taste and economic forces converged and made
it necessary to break with established styles. If the shape of the building was
not going to be chosen out of the old pattern book, something had to determine
form, and according to Sullivan it was going to be the purpose of the building.
Thus, "form follows function", as opposed to "form follows
precedent". Sullivan's assistant Frank Lloyd Wright adopted and professed
the same principle in a slightly different form—perhaps because shaking off the
old styles gave them more freedom and latitude.