|Firoz Rasul - Ballard Power 1997|
Few remember this Crimean war.
The Crimean War was a military conflict fought from October 1853 to February 1856 in which Russia lost to an alliance of France, the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom and Piedmont-Sardinia.
But people remember the US Civil War.
Both wars were covered by photographers, but none of the photographs were seen except in galleries. It wasn’t until the late 70s of the 19th century when the halftone process was invented that photographs began to appear in newspapers.
The combination of photographs with writing began a mutual process in which one helped the other. The process popularized magazines and good newspapers. They all competed in having original photographs that would not appear in competing publications. Money was spent to send photographers all over the world to take these photographs.
This mutual process had its apogee in Vancouver in the 80s
and early 90s when city magazines
(Vancouver Magazine), shelter magazines (Western Living) and business magazines
(BC Business and Equity) ruled the roost. Even in the beginning of the 21st
century the Georgia Straight published original photographs and very few
provided by the organizations they wrote about. And in those beginning years of this century the Vancouver Sun and the Georgia Straight competed in wanting to have original photographs.
All the above has pretty well ended in our city. Now, in my estimation, few photographers can make ends meet as photographers.
Many place their very good photographs in social media or in whatever gallery may be open to showing them. But for me, since I was a magazine photographer, photographs by themselves are only the half of it.
Those photographs (phones are extremely good cameras), as perfect as they are, do not tell a complete story if they are not accompanied by typography.
In those heady days of magazines and newspapers, I had to see art directors who showed me manuscripts I had to illustrate with a photograph or photographs. From Toronto, or other cities in the world, I was phoned or sent instructions via couriers. Then when technology started, those manuscripts were sent via fax. These were followed in emails. From there I witnessed a problematic change. I would be told to take a photograph before the writer had interviewed the subject or subjects.
And then all work stopped.
In this blog I show an elaborate photograph which without
the copy would have no meaning. I know I photographed my subject Firoz Rasul in
1997. He was the CEO of a Vancouver company, Ballard Power that was a pioneer
in hydrogen fuel cells. Currently Mercedes Benz, the largest truck maker in the
world is considering if it should produce electric or hydrogen fuel cell
trucks. It was Ballard that in 1997 had approached Mercedes Benz.
I took Rasul’s photograph with my medium format camera. I
then borrowed a blueprint of a fuel cell. I projected my b+w negative on 8x10
inch Kodalith film and processed it in photographic paper developer. What I had
was a large b+w slide. Since I was not adept yet at using a scanner I placed
the slide on the blueprint outside on a cloudy day and re-photographed it with
my medium format camera. I know this because I kept a b+w Polaroid that shows
my garden behind the photo. A bonus of the method is that by using my camera for the last shot my trademark filed-edged enlarger negative holder shows.
I know that there is a wonderful pleasure in taking a photograph and looking at the result and liking the process. But to see one’s photograph go hand in hand with copy is what I call "one & one are one".