Tú me quieres blanca - You want me white - Alfonsina Storni
Saturday, October 09, 2021
|Rosa 'Margaret Merril' & R. 'Susan Williams- Ellis' 9 October 2021|
It seems that as fall gets colder, the roses I may have
considered delicate are not so. There are Roses R. ‘Margaret Merril’ and R. ‘Susan
Williams-Ellis’ taking their time to wish me goodbye until next year. Margaret Merril was her favourite white rose and while I purchased R. 'Susan Williams- Ellis' when she was alive, Rosemary never saw her achieve her prime as this English Rose did this 2021.
Like everything else that surrounds me in my little Kits
home, these roses remind me of that other rose (how could it be that I never
connected the rose part of her name?), my Rosemary.
Rosemary was always pleasantly thin and her grace hid the fact that she
was a hardy kind of woman. For our second daughter’s birth (Hilary) she
arranged the then accepted procedure of inducing birth. She arranged for Dr.
deKanter to do so on a Friday so that she could have the child on the weekend
and with all things considered she might be back at work on a Monday. I have no
memory if that is what happened.
Another time when Rosemary was visibly 9 months pregnant
(Alexandra was the child to come) we went shopping to the Mexican department
store El Puerto de Liverpool. She was looking for short and very slim waistcoat dresses.
The woman clerk told us that we were in the wrong department and that maternity
was on another floor. Rosemary, who rarely showed off, bent over (with a smile on her face as she did not want to obviously show off) and touched
the floor with the flats of her palms and said, “I am giving birth in a few
days and I will need new dresses.”
I must believe that the only delicate feature that could be
attached to my Rosemary was her delicate and snobbish good taste.
White and blue were her favourite garden flower colours with
a third preference for gray plants.
This blue and white duality take me to my childhood in
Buenos Aires when Mercedes, our live-in housekeeper, would wash white clothes in
our patio and would use a little blue cube the size of an ice cube that was
called azul. It must have been a primitive form of bleach.
The Argentine flag, it was drummed into us at school, was
azul celeste (the colour of a pale sky) y blanco.
No skin is ever white on people who are supposed to be
white. Of late I have used the colour temperature settings (in Degrees Kelvin)
of my digital camera to get pale skin to be as I see it with the eye. In that
century when photographic film had no competition it was almost impossible to
get a true white that was not tinged by cyan or blue. Our present digital world
has corrected that and white will be white.
As I scanned the white roses I thought of Rosemary and how
she would have smiled to see them in bloom at this late a date.
Since I began to blog in January 2006 (5372 blogs including
this one) I have enjoyed matching my images with literature of my choice
particularly that of poets like Jorge Luis Borges, Emily Dickinson, William
Carlos Williams, Julio Cortázar, Mario Benedetti and Eduardo Galeano. I have also
found many other perhaps more obscure (to me) writers that I could match with
my photographs (and of late) and plant scans.
This poem by Léopold Sédar Senghor (former President of
Senegal and poet) was championed and read by Uruguayan poet Eduardo Galeano. I
will translate it into English below. This poem should in these times be better known in English.
yo nací, era negro.
crecí, era negro.
me da el sol, soy negro.
estoy enfermo, soy negro.
muera, seré negro.
mientras tanto, tú, hombre blanco,
naciste, eras rosado.
creciste, fuiste blanco.
te da el sol, eres rojo.
sientes frío, eres azul.
sientes miedo, eres verde.
estás enfermo, eres amarillo.
Cuando mueras, serás gris.
Dear white brother
When I was born, I was black.
When I grew, I was black.
When the sun hits me, I am black.
When I am sick, I am black.
When I die, I will be black.
Meanwhile, you, white man,
When you were born, you were pink.
When you grew, you were white.
When the sun hits you, you are red.
When you feel cold, you are blue.
When you are afraid, you are green.
When you are sick you are yellow.
When you die you will be gray.
Then, which one of us is a man of colour?
Another poem that mentions the colour white in an almost
negative way Design is by Robert Frost:
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth--
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.
And then there is Argentine feminist poem Alfonsina
Storni’s You want me white (poem in Spanish and then in English):
quieres de espumas,
quieres de nácar.
rayo de luna
copas a mano,
frutos y mieles
en el banquete
en los jardines
hacia los bosques,
Vete a la montaña;
salitre y agua;
con los pájaros
You want me white (English) translated by Catherine
You want me to be the dawn
You want me made of seaspray
Made of mother-of-pearl
That I be a lily
Chaste above all others
Of tenuous perfume
A blossom closed
That not even a moonbeam
Might have touched me
Nor a daisy
Call herself my sister
You want me like snow
You want me white
You want me to be the dawn
You who had all
The cups before you
Of fruit and honey
Lips dyed purple
You who in the banquet
Covered in grapevines
Let go of your flesh
You who in the dark
Gardens of Deceit
Dressed in red
Ran towards Destruction
You who maintain
Your bones intact
Only by some miracle
Of which I know not
You ask that I be white
(May God forgive you)
You ask that I be chaste
(May God forgive you)
You ask that I be the dawn!
Flee towards the forest
Go to the mountains
Clean your mouth
Live in a hut
Touch with your hands
The damp earth
With bitter roots
Drink from the rocks
Sleep on the frost
Clean your clothes
With saltpeter and water
Talk with the birds
And set sail at dawn
And when your flesh
Has returned to you
And when you have put
Into it the soul
That through the bedrooms
Then, good man,
Ask that I be white
Ask that I be like snow
Ask that I be chaste
Hegel & the Red Carpet
Friday, October 08, 2021
|Alex & Aunt Inez-1942 Alex 8 October 2021 photograph Ralph Rinke|
Ever since I studied Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel in 1962 I
have been obsessed by his dialectics. Just about everything that I approach I do so
by his thesis-antithesis–synthesis method.
In this age of conflict, people take opposites but never
seem to arrive at a Hegelian synthesis. Hegel would be an excellent philosopher
to discover right now.
When I was fifty and even when I was sixty I liked to
compare my life as standing on a narrow red carpet. Behind me was a long
stretch of it that represented my past. I liked to think that I was rolling it
up in my direction while simultaneously rolling out carpet in front of me my future.
Now at age 79 I have arrived at a Hegelian re-consideration.
This is that I roll back the carpet behind me, as it is that past that I am now exploring so much in my sleepless nights. And, in front of me, there is not
much to unroll towards a future that is not going to be a long one.
It is of course a sobering re-consideration.
Today, at 3pm, I met up with two photographers of my
generation, Ralph Rinke and Robert Kwong. We had a happy-hour repast at the
Sylvia Hotel on a pleasant sunny day.
It was of course very comfortable to compare notes on our
past in photography. I brought some show-and-tell. The main article of interest
why my Jena-made Pentacon-F single-lens-reflex I purchased in 1958. It was my first
serious camera. I sent a one hundred dollar money order from my Austin, Texas,
Roman Catholic boarding school to Olden Cameras (they still exist!) to New
York. A lovely glossy box with the camera appeared at our school PX a few weeks
later. Before Rosemary, our two daughters and I left Mexico City in 1975 to drive our VW to Vancouver had made a considerable amount of money with that camera.
Ralph Rinke, who is of German origin (his parents), was
immediately captivated by my still-working camera and insisted on taking my
picture with it. I am so glad he did. I have been able to combine his
photograph (I really like it) with the first ever photograph taken of me in
Buenos Aires in 1942 being held by my Aunt Inez Barber. Because she had
divorced Barber (a horror then in Argentina) and remarried Alejandro Ariosa
(from Mendoza) she could not be my godmother. She wanted to as she adored my
mother Filomena. So, her daughter Inesita (my first cousin) who may have been 19,
was my godmother. And in honour of Aunt Inez’s new husband I was given
Alejandro as my middle name. I became Alex henceforth.
Thank you Ralph.
Prodded by Emily
Thursday, October 07, 2021
|Emily 20 August 2021 Fuji X-E3|
There I was walking from my dormitory to have lunch at
the school cafeteria (St. Edward’s High School, Austin, Texas) when a short
brother of Holy Cross with burly forearms beckoned me. He said, “Alex, I need
an alto sax player for the school band. And you are it.”
I protested by telling
him I did not know how to read music. He told me he was going to teach me and
that I was to show up at the band room on the next day on some appointed hour.
|Nikon FM-2 35mm lens Kodak b+w Infrared Film|
I was given an ancient nickel-plated instrument and $10
dollars. He said, “Tomorrow you are to go to town and buy a mouse trap. Your
job will be to catch mice and to clean the band room floor. I will give you a
I did learn to read music and somehow I was able to get a
sweet tone out of my instrument which in a later year Brother Edwin, Reggio, C.S.C.
(that was his name) had re-plated. I was not only good enough for the school
band but I became part of the more exclusive jazz band.
|Mamiya RB67 Pro-SD Rollei Infrared Film|
With the first 100 dollars I had Brother Emmett Strohmeyer
at the PX write meup a money order for Olden Cameras in NY City. A few weeks
later I was the happy owner of a Pentacon-F single lens reflex with an f2.8
It would seem that Brother Edwin Reggio in 1958 made me the
photographer I would one day become. He is now gone but the Pentacon-F works
That 1958 camera with which I made good money taking
portraits of wealthy Mexican families in the 70s before Rosemary, our two
daughters and I moved to Vancouver was the right camera at the right time in an
age of journalism and magazines that hit its peak then and pretty well
disappeared in the last 5 years. Nobody is going to pay me to go to Paris,
London, Belgrade, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Lima, Madrid, Florida, Cancún,
Mexico City or to fly in helicopters across Canada to photograph logging mills.
|Nikon FM-2 35mm lens - Kodak b+w Infrared Film|
I learned my profession well because I was inspired by very
good art/design directors and the magazines that I worked for demanded quality
that was also beyond the norm standards.
At age 79 I believe I will go to my grave with all that info
that now would be considered old-fashioned. I don’t think style in photography
has progressed from the excellence of the 20th century. We now have
perfectly sharp images (no longer called photographs) that fit the needed
situations and not much money changes hands.
My friend Emily, who lives in Victoria has posed for me
several times. Because she is a good photographer in her own right I must do
stuff that is (to use her word) different. I have to be on my toes with Emily!
This is why a month ago I photographed her in my little
Kitsilano studio with four cameras:
1. A Nikon FM-2 with Kodak b+w Infrared Film
2. A Nikon FM-2 with Rollei b+w Infrared Film
3. A Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD with 120 Rollei b+w Infrared
4. A Fuji X-E3 digital camera set to 200 ISO in colour
|Nikon FM-2 35mm lens Rollei b+w Infrared Film|
I have been told my many photographers who shoot
exclusively with digital cameras that I can convert any digital shot into to
b+w from its original colour, it can be high contrast and with certain apps it
can be made to look like infrared.
I have been unable to explain that I shot pictures that
because I used four cameras were slightly different from each other while the
ones my friends say is the better route would all be version of the same one.
It is almost like a musical studio recorded session with
more than one take.
I did have some initial but funny problems. The viewfinder
in the Nikons is in the middle while the Fuji viewfinder is on the upper left.
I would place a Nikon at my eye and look through the left and I saw nothing! I
did the same with the Fuji.
|Nikon FM-2 - 35 mm lens Rollei b+w Infrared Film|
One of the reasons for using both Kodak and Rollei film
is that the Rollei is not true infrared film. But both have no anti-helation
layers so that not all light hitting the negative penetrates to the emulsion.
Some of it bounces off. When these films are slightly over-exposed you get
these pleasant halos with portraits. For both films (and the one in the Mamiya)
I use a deep red filter. This makes skin look like Limoges China. But the red
filter would render lips white and make Emily look like a living dead. There is
a quick remedy and this is the use of purple lipstick.
|Nikon FM-2 35mm lens Kodak b+w Infrared Film|
Thank you Emily, for inspiring me to keep taking
photographs. Perhaps the next project will involve the use of Brother Edwin’s
and my Pentacon–F. Yes?
Séances & Asymptotic Hyperbolas
Wednesday, October 06, 2021
|Séance - Neil Wedman|
I have been reflecting about what is not and who is not. That led me to
think of the noise of the Big Bang or the images of stars that have exploded. We
get these sounds and images long after the reasons for the sounds and the
explosions are gone.
This poem by my Mexican poet friend and novelist Homero
Aridjis always comes to mind.
cuerpos de muchachas
puertas que ya no son
puentes que son vaciós
con el sol en la cara
Letter from Mexico
walk with us
through these back streets
the stares of children
young girls’ bodies
cross through them
we travel through them
at doorways that no longer are
on bridges that are empty
while with the sun on our faces
move toward transparency
Eyes to See Otherwise - Ojos de otro mirar
Edited by Betty Farber and George McWhirter
I can begin to understand why Henry Ford and Harry
Houdini were involved in the first half of the 20th century with séances.
I do not believe in them but I see the fascination.
For anybody who has studied calculus and knows of
asymptotic hyperbolas it is then known some things happen at infinity but
not before then.
With that same calculus, no matter how they clean an ocean oil
spill, remnants of it will remain and will only disappear completely when that
curve slowly but surely hits the y or x axis at infinity.
To me all the above is my rationalization for my
obsession with the noting of my Rosemary’s presence. It may not be there
corporally but it is there perhaps in the remnants of a breath or of a word
addressed to me.
When I walk Niño around the block his living presence of
my Rosemary is there and there is nothing that I can do to dissipate it. It is
then when I remember that lovely poem by Homero Aridjis Carta de México.
I adore my framed Neil Wedman Séance I proudly display in my living room.