Going back to old blogs (5763 of them) means that I forget what I wrote in most of them. This particular blog contains, in the beginning, and extraordinary paragraph by American photographer Richard Avedon in which he explains how after connecting in a studio with a person all that remains of the experience is the photograph:
On Photography - Candice Bergen - My Failure
I always prefer to work in the Studio. It isolates people from their environment. They become in a sense…symbolic of themselves. I often feel that people come to me to be photographed as they would go to the doctor or a fortune teller – to find out how they are. So they’re dependent on me. I have to engage them. Otherwise there’s nothing to photograph. The concentration has to come from me to involve them. Sometimes the force of it grows so strong that sounds in the studio go unheard. Time stops. We share a brief and intense intimacy. But it’s unearned. It has no past…no future. And when the sitting is over- when the picture is done – there is nothing left except the photograph…the photograph and a kind of embarrassment. They leave…and I don’t know them. I’ve hardly heard what they’ve said. If I meet them a week later in a room somewhere, I expect they won’t recognize me. Because I don’t really feel I was really there. At least the part of me that was…is now in the photograph. And the photographs have a reality for me that the people don’t. It’s through the photographs that I know them. Maybe it’s in the nature of being a photographer. I’m never really implicated. I don’t have to have any knowledge. It’s all a question of recognitions.
| Negative scanned today|
When I walk around my Kits home I pass walls and walls of portraits I have taken of my family. I look at them and I get the same feeling that the past memory of the portrait is now disconnected in my mind. They almost look like strangers.
I have a very good memory and I can retell what the persons facing my camera might have told me. I have thousands of photographs but there but a few where I have forgotten their name. They stare at me from the contact sheet and I feel sad and blank at my act of eliminating with my memory the existence of a human being.
There is a landscape taken with my Widelux swivel lens panoramic that hangs in my guest bathroom. It is titled “Rosemary’s Garden” and dated 1992.
The reproduction I have here to illustrate the blog does little to highlight the fantastic effect of having used a now long discontinued photographic paper called Agfa Portriga. When immersed in Kodak Selenium Toner (a known carcinogen, touch wood now that I am 80) it resulted in what we darkroom photographers called split toning. Adding to the effect is the film I used, Kodak B+W Infrared Film.
What is the significance of Rosemary’s Garden which is a photograph I took in VanDusen Garden on a cold January winter?
While I had previously taken scads of photographs of our lovely Kerrisdale garden this photograph is really my first landscape. I must insist in pointing out that I am a portrait photographer.
It all began when Rosemary said, “Alex let’s go to VanDusen.” I told her that it was cold and the weather was lousy and that there would be nothing to see. She insisted so I picked up my Japanese Widelux and loaded it with the infrared film.
I took many pictures but this one had something that I immediately thought was unique.
This photograph became the first of a series shot in the same way in all the Vancouver botanical gardens and it became a feature in the then thick and wonderful Western Living.
There is more to the photograph. It launched my personal career in shooting landscapes wherever Rosemary and I travelled. Because I have a Russian version of the Widelux called a Horizont and a German Noblex that loads with larger 120 film, Rosemary taught me the wonders and the restful pursuit of the landscape that rarely brings into mind anything that might have troubled Richard Avedon.
And wonderful to me, is that every time I look at Rosemary’s Garden, can hear her gentle voice telling me to do something that much later I will think back, “Rosemary you were always so right.”