In our backwater city of Vancouver (we keep using the expression "world class" we have always felt we just did not measure up. But we did have many vary good magazines. In 1991 my career as a magazine photographer was established. My wife Rosemary and I lived comfortably in a large house with a corner garden that was also large. I had an inferiority complex. I avoided calling myself an art photographer. Photography was not considered art in Vancouver.
Friends who came to visit me and explored my darkroom would always comment on the framed photographs of undraped women on the walls and suggested that I might want to exhibit them in a gallery.
I did, and in particular, in exclusive only photograph gallery called Exposure Gallery.
In the mid October1991 I was called by the Exposure Gallery curator, Brian Lynch who told me, “Alex a show that was supposed to open in a week has fallen through. Could you put together something for us?”
I decided that I was not going to use old photographs and I
would shoot brand new ones. I knew a fabulously beautiful woman called Lisa
Montonen. I was also bonkers about hosta. I combined two of my interests. I
called the exhibition Shade Fanfare (a hosta long gone from my garden). I would use pristine
hosta leaves and photograph Lisa in my studio with only one light and have the
name of the hosta suggest the pose. In the short time I had the 16x20 inch photographs nicely framed.
It was with those photographs that I cemented in my mind the idea that my style had a lot to do with that small studio softbox used close to my subjects.
It was a success although I did not sell one print on that wall. For many years after people would say to me, “You were the one who photographed the hosta lady.” In that 20th century, perhaps a tad more permissive than this one, we men could call women ladies and even photograph them with not much on without offending people.
That has definitely changed and yet every couple of months I get a phone call or an email where I am asked by a woman I don’t know, “I want some different photographs taken of me.” I always know what they mean by different.
Looking back at my hosta lady photographs I bask in the knowledge of my then innocence and how I did my best not to show offending parts of Lisa’s body.
It is difficult for me to believe now that 32 years have transpired and that all of the hostas in those photographs are either gone or in my daughter’s garden in Lillooet, BC.
Back in 1991 hosta nomenclature was not what it is today.