John Turner - June 7, 1929 – September 18, 2020
Saturday, September 19, 2020
Stability and Honesty (almost an alien concept for this Argentine-born and sometime Mexican). Stability and honesty is how I would define John Turner.
John Turner, Ron Basford & Audrey Hepburn
They say that coincidences are more often than not.
When I first saw my Rosemary from the rear (she was yet to
be my Rosemary) I marvelled at her legs. They matched the excellence of my
mother’s. Both my mother and Rosemary shared that upbringing of being gracious
and well-mannered. From my grandmother Lolita Rosemary “inherited” that special
talent of knowing when to move on when a near future was not predictably a good
My grandmother as a widow took her three children from
Manila to the Bronx and they prospered. Just before the stock market crash,
they moved back to Manila. She saw a war coming and again they moved, this time to Buenos
Aires in 1938. In 1954 with Perón in charge of Argentina we moved to Mexico
It was in 1974 that Rosemary told me that she thought that Canada
would be a better place for our two daughters. She said that Montreal would be
tough as I knew no French and that I would not like Toronto because of the
We moved to Vancouver and to this day I cannot fault her
decision. Nor can I fault her insistence that we purchase a house in Kerrisdale
in 1986. Thanks to that decision we sold well recently and were able to inherit our two daughters
while we are still alive.
But there is one more thing about my Rosemary’s foresight.
It has been in Canada where I have enjoyed stability (unknown in my Argentina or
in Mexico). This includes a stability of good electricity, fresh air and clean
I participated in a coup as a conscript sailor. I met a young
lieutenant who years later slit the stomachs of left-wing prisoners and dumped
them into the River Plate from a helicopter. I was used to that and almost found it normal as it was to bribe Mexico City traffic cops.
In Mexico the four of us lived with the corruption of
politicians, police and a terrible postal system.
All that, is gone. And there is one incident that has always
been in my memory and my heart. And this is of going to a neighbourhood meeting
hosted by Prime Minister John Turner. There were no police or soldiers with
machine guns outside. We were served coffee and doughnuts. I could not have
imagined that anywhere else.
I believe that the scandals that happen in any country are
to be expected but, the little ones here in Canada in comparison, are events that
still allow me to sleep nights.
I remember years ago when Premier Vander Zalm when he was at
the bottom of his popularity wanted to show the CP rail yard behind the CP
Station to a mayor friend from Holland. I was hired by CP to take the
photograph. I waited outside the station. Vander Zalm arrived. He parked and
put coins into the meter and crossed the street with his friend. The Premier was
wearing a very nice leather jacket. He had no body guards. Only in Canada!
I wrote about taking a portrait of John Turner for Vancouver
Magazine here and how that became memorable in connection with Audrey Hepburn.
John Turner died yesterday. I remember his easy going way,
his honest smile and the fact that he remembered me in that restaurant so many
Yes, it is strange how my Rosemary inherited all those talents
from my family. And it did help that Rosemary is Canadian.
And I am too.
She in My Brogue Shoes
Friday, September 18, 2020
plural noun: brogues
A strong outdoor shoe with ornamental
perforated patterns in the leather.
A rough shoe of untanned leather,
formerly worn in parts of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands.
In this strange 2020 I have to stare whenever I see a man
dressed in a suit. Will the suit be a fixture to be found only in politics or
in business districts?
In the early 70s my Rosmary and I taught English in
American Companies in Mexico City. I felt I had to dress properly. It was
around 1970 that I purchased a pair of black leather brogues at Sears Roebuck
de México. I wore them for many years. Here in Vancouver when I photographed politicians,
lawyers or an annual report at the Vancouver Stock Exchange I would wear a suit
and my brogues. This way I could blend in and make my subjects relax when they
faced my camera and lights.
Now my brogues and suit are in my closet and I cannot see
how I could possibly wear either of them. I have a fine collection of ties.
What will happen to them?
It is now about five years that I have worn my
rubber/plastic Native shoes. Leather and I have parted company.
But because I am an old man with old man ideas I find it
thrilling to photograph lovely women wearing my suits, smoking expensive cigars
or in this case wearing my brogues.
Looking Good (Ugh!)
Thursday, September 17, 2020
|Anita Roberts - 2017 - Painting by Nora Patrich|
One of my most awful pet peeves is the social media comment
on a photograph of a woman of a certain age that may have been manipulated to
remove skin pores and bags. The comment is “still
beautiful”. This is worse than the banal “looking good.”
If I were the woman receiving that “pleasant” comment I
would buy a gun and do away with the perpetrator.
My Rosemary is 76 and she does not look like the girl (when
that word could be used a man without any criticism) that I married in 1968.
And of course I am not the man now that she married then. We have been married
for 52 years and one (I, me) learns that outside beauty changes. What remains
is the beautiful inside and this inside is even better now simply because I am
more familiar with the comfort of knowing what I have in her.
|Polaroid - Painting by Juan Manuel Sánchez|
I am 78 and I love to photograph beautiful women. My desire
to snap pictures of women that would now be of the age of Rosemary in 1968 is
gone. I want to photograph older women. I want to photograph much older women.
Into the mix came my friend Anita Roberts in 2017 when she
was in her mid 60s. She posed with paintings by Nora Patrich (visiting from
Argentina) and by he deceased husband (and my friend) Juan Manuel Sánchez.
Ms Roberts revealed all her body and as far as I am
concerned she is not still beautiful. She is beautiful. And better still she
had the guts to trust me and I believe that is the reason why these portraits
are so lovely.
Two for the Tub
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
“There must be quite a
few things a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them. Whenever I'm
sad I'm going to die, or so nervous I can't sleep, or in love with somebody I
won't be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: "I'll
go take a hot bath.”
Sylvia Plath - The Bell Jar
The tub and taking a bath in it is a pleasure my Rosemary
and I share. In a more romantic past of ours that sharing would have had us
both in the tub at the same time.
We have all kinds of bubble bath liquids (mine is
lavender-scented). In this trying year the tub is a daily (sometimes twice)
solace. My youngest daughter Hilary gave me a special tray with which I can
read and drink my tea with a snack while in the bath.
Photographically I have scads of many lovely women in tubs.
Here are two that happen to be sisters Julia and Virve Reid.
The Poetry on Her Face
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
In school as a boy the worst homework assignment was to
memorize a poem. My mother would make me repeat and repeat and I remember how I
cried in frustration.
My inability to memorize poems meant that I did
everything possible to not read poetry.
It was in the early 80s that I was dragged by my friend
Ian Bateson to listen to poet Allen Ginsberg and hi
s partner Peter Orlovsky. I
hated Ginsberg’s concertina playing and I could not connect with Orlovsky’s
angry poems about Vietnam.
I was saved and became a poetry enthusiast when I heard
at that same session, our local Gerry Gilbert. I loved how he read his poems
and I understood his humour. I was sold and have been since.
One of the pleasures of these last few years and
particularly now with being stuck at home is to find a photograph of mine that
will illustrate some of my fave poets like Homero Aridjis, Eduardo Galeano,
Mario Benedetti, William Carlos Williams, Julio Cortázar (a present obsession),
Jorge Luis Borges, Alfonsina Storni and Emily Dickinson.
As a photographer my principal interest has been
portraiture. It was my bread and butter for most of my years here in Vancouver.
Because I am a raging heterosexual I have a special interest in the faces of
women and especially faces of women who are handsome/lovely/striking.
One such woman is the Baltic Surprise (that’s my nickname
for her) Virve Reid. She has a face that is memorable but unfortunately sometimes
it was less memorable or as noticeable because of her curvaceous body.
This lucky man had the opportunity to photograph part of
her and all of her for many years. I have one regret in that in my effort to
show off all her charms I took fewer permissible photographs that can pass
muster in our 21st century repressed times.
The pictures here I took on the black sands of Wreck
I have another regret to confess here. I am frustrated
that I cannot write a poem describing how two eyes, two eyebrows, one nose, one
mouth, and two ears produce this piece of visual poetry.