A "dead' Architect, & The Squirrel Tree Inn
Saturday, October 31, 2020
Back in the other century writer William Gibson clued me in
to something called Altavista. This was a primitive search engine. Since then
most of us rely on Google.
Search engines are important if we want to find stuff. In
this 21st century and in this pandemic I long for talking to human
beings in person or at the very least on a phone. I rely on Canada 411 to find
people. But since so many of us (not me) are getting rid of land lines unless
the person you want to find is on social media you are sunk.
My 2002 diary/phone book (the last one I ever had) is full
of names of people who are long dead or have moved elsewhere and I cannot find
Sometimes you want that instant satisfaction of calling
someone and not have to resort to Messenger or Twitter for a “please call me”.
This is the case of a former acquaintance and friend,
Architect Thomas Zimmerman. His web page is under construction and the phone
numbers to be found related to him are all one number that is out of service.
My reason for wanting to contact him is not all that important so I will not
email him. He is now officially (for me) dead.
Why that preamble? It has all to do with buying the second volume
of the Edward Weston Diaries – California (I have the first one – Mexico) at
MacLeod Books on West Pender and Richards.
I brought the lovely book and upon opening it at home I
found an invite addressed to Russell A Vandiver Jr. and a hotel bill for the
My research has only given me the possible connection of him
being an interior designer who once worked for Thomas Zimmerman. There is no
obituary found if Mr. Vandiver is no longer with us.
The MOMA invite is lovely and when I looked the strange
photograph (to me) with the info Charis, Lake Ediza 1937 it was a blank for me.
Further research, thanks to that modern search engine and also in my Edward
Weston diaries took me to the fact that a nude photograph of her is one of the
most famous of the 20th century. And yes there are several
obituaries for Charis Wilson.
|Charis Wilson - 1936 - Edward Weston|
La Mujer Dormida & an Airplane Hangar
Friday, October 30, 2020
|Ivette Hernández - Iztaccíhuatl - La Mujer Dormida|
Sometime in the late 50 as I was walking in downtown Mexico
City I passed by what looked like a
photo studio. On the street behind a little window were sepia postcards of
Mexican volcanoes. I stopped. The name of the photographer was Hugo Brehme. I
subsequently found out he had arrived in Mexico in 1912.
In 1969, while I was teaching English at an ad agency in
Mexico City, one of the executives gave me his card and told me to go to an
address (it was on Avenida Constituyentes) and to tell the man there that he
had sent me.
I arrived at what looked like a huge airplane hangar. Inside
there were multiple photo sessions, a bathroom, an ideal kitchen and a Plymouth
Barracuda with a beautiful English model called Felicity. The man I showed the
executive’s card was Arno Brehme. He must have liked him as he told me that I
could assist him for a couple of months even though he had a most capable one
he called Seco who was prematurely bald.
|La Mujer Dormida - Hugo Brehme|
I learned a lot from this man. He showed me an ad agency
sketch of a car in a garage being illuminated by a full moon. “Look,” he said, “The shadows are all in the
wrong place. They are idiots but I will give them what they want.”
the busiest studio in Mexico City as he was the exclusive photographer for all
ads in Life en Español which was distributed all over Latin America. One day he
positioned three objects one in front and one in back. He asked me where to
focus my camera. I gave the idiot’s answer which was halfway. The real answer
would have been in a spot one third in front of the middle one.
I was not to know until recently that Hugo
Manuel Álvarez Bravo photography. I am a tad proud that his son taught me.
Many years later, my memory is faulty, I did see Brehme,
perhaps in the 80s. I have no idea how I located him. He was in bed
convalescing and I told him how he had been a great influence in my life. He
told me that he had gotten rid of all his large format equipment and had kept a
He said he now was an environmental photographer. No matter how I
search in Google it is almost as he had never existed and I have not found an
The Wall Street Journal, Timothy Findley & Roxanne Rolls
Thursday, October 29, 2020
These days of idle time I often go to my files to look at
what I have. Today this file called Roxanne Rolls appeared. Inside where 36
snaps of a woman, a lovely woman, in bed with a Sony TV set on her night stand.
I have no memory of having taken this picture. It had to be for an early Vancouver Magazine circa mid-60s. I have
been able to find out that she was a DJ in town. I know nothing more about her.
I like the photograph because her long straight hair reminds
me of folksingers of the 60s.
Many think I am or was a celebrity photographer. Of late I
enjoy being able to photograph people who I know who may not be famous. There
is something rewarding about taking photographs of a human being precisely
because they are human beings.
I do not believe that today I would have taken this picture
just as I did then. I know I used a portable (but heavy Ascor) studio light
attached to an umbrella. I like the composition because of the long stretch of
white sheet. Could I have done the same with a digital camera? Would I have
changed my point of view?
Today I received a phone call from New York City. I almost
did not answer thinking it was a crank call demanding money. It was not. It was
a 30 year old Gill Fontimayor from the Wall Street Journal. They have offered
me good American Dollars for my photograph of Timothy Findley. I would say this
is an odd combination - The Journal and a dead Canadian writer?
Fontimayor told me that Journal does not like to use modern
photographs that may be readily available. He said they like historical
This made me smile. Not only am I obsolete, retired,
redundant & inconsequential but I am now also a historical photographer.
That makes my portrait of Roxanne Rolls a historical one,
Music Live & Joe Clark
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
|Wendy O. Williams |
Perhaps any generation will understand and like moments
lived in the past while feeling some sort of alienation in the present.
There is very little popular contemporary music that I like.
One reason is that I no longer listen to it performed live. And this is
particularly true in this 2020.
My first experience with rock and roll happened during an
assignment for Vancouver Magazine where I was to photograph live music at a
time in the late 70s when wired disco was king. It was at the Smilin’ Buddha
where in my ignorance I went afraid for my life and my equipment. After five
minutes of Art Bergmann and the Young Canadians I left my equipment in a corner
and I pogoed with the rest of the fans. It had to do with the fact that the
performance was particularly electric with the virtuoso playing of Bergmann and
From that point on I accompanied Les Wiseman to many (as in
many) concerts in places like the Commodore, the Buddha and quite a few dives.
I was taught by Wiseman who wrote a monthly column called In On Ear for
Vancouver Magazine to be a snob and he clued me in to the wonders of Motorhead
and Lou Reed.
Quickly I learned that my photographs taken below the stage
(and close to it) looked exactly like all the others taken by the many
photographers present. I tried Kodak Infrared Film with mixed results as well
as using a flash on my camera while using a very slow shutter. Soon enough
Wiseman and I and had enough credibility that the then powerful record reps
gave us access to backstage interviews with the bands. It was then that my
photographs worked hand in hand with Wiseman’s excellent interviews.
We decided that we were so good that we would go to New York
City and become famous with the magazines there. We saw Adam Moss at Esquire
who told us that while we were good Canada was boring particularly our then
Prime Minister, Joe Clark.
We decided to try our luck with Rolling Stone. I called the
art director who asked me a loaded question, “Do you have concert shots?” I
quickly answered, “No I have backstage interview shots.” Based on that, I was
given access to the magazine as was Wiseman. When we entered the magazine we
were astounded to notice that most of the men working there had glasses and
looked like Elvis Costello. We were then told that Red Rider was an
inconsequential Canadian band and we were shown the door.
There is one particularly pleasant fact in that I submitted
some Kodachromes of Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics for a book project. My
Kodachrome was used but alas! none were returned.
Little Red Riding Hood & the Cello
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
Few know that there is some truth in the story of Little Red
Riding Hood. I know that she grew up to be a virtuoso cellist. She happens to
be the cellist in this video.
Little Red Riding Hood and the cello