Who Took the Photograph?
Friday, November 17, 2023
In late November 1992 I was to face a photographer. I
waited in her Vancouver hotel room until she came out fresh from the shower.
Her skin glowed but later I noticed she had hangnails. I set up my equipment:
A Mamiya RB-67
extremely sharp 140mm macro floating element lens.
3. A 220 back
loaded with Kodak Plus-X rated at 100 ISO.
4. A Dynalite
800 pack with two heads. One with a grid and the other with a 2x3 ft Chimera
5. A Manfrotto
Model #055 tripod with the original model Arca Swiss Monoball head.
When I faced the photographer she told me, “This is
unreal. It almost seems like I am taking the portrait. Your equipment is like
I took 12 exposures. This one was the fifth.
A Lord Byng Secondary School Choral Concert - The Royal Hudson & AI
Thursday, November 16, 2023
|Hilary and Alexandra on the Royal Hudson
This afternoon I went to a choral concert at Lord Byng
Secondary School. I was invited by my friend Olena and her husband Alex (my
tocayo) because their teenage daughter Vasilisa was in the Junior Choir.
My memory of performances in the schools in Mexico City and
in Vancouver, where our daughters Alexandra and Hilary went to many years ago, made
me melancholic knowing that those moments are in a past that will not return.
But I was nicely distracted as the three different choirs sounded professional
and not like some of the not so nice school concerts that I can remember.
One of the songs was called The Royal Hudson. As the choir sang they imitated
the locomotive and train that used to run in West Van and went to Squamish.
While listening to song with those credible imitations of a
locomotive I had a St.Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment.
In the minds of many these days, and especially with
photographers and cinematographers, is the real and scary advent of Artificial
Intelligence. This blog will be my first one on the subject and in subsequent
days I will write another one.
The train song reminded me of going on the Royal Hudson with
my Rosemary and daughters Alexandra and Hilary when they were quite small.
As we were moving on an aisle of one of the rail cars
that had wooden slat seats painted in multi colours,
I watched our two daughters sit down. The vision was so splendid that I
asked Rosemary to lend me her Pentax ME (it was a dog but this time it worked
just fine. It was loaded with Kodak colour neg film) and I took one shot of the two girls.
Framed the photograph is on one side of my bed because there
is something about the portrait that says something about the innocence of
youth, something that I saw in the choirs tonight. There were all these girls
and boys looking radiant and good, much like a brand new shoe before it gets
scuffed (with the damning experience of adulthood).
I believe that portrait photographs, and particularly family
portraits, will never enter the realm of AI. Who will have the knowledge to tell
Siri, “Make a photograph of two little sisters wearing straw hats sitting on a multicoloured train seat in British Columbia"?
That will not happen. And if it does I will be in my personal oblivion
and will not care.
Thanatos & Me
Wednesday, November 15, 2023
The world was predictable and a happy one for me until one
day around 1969.
It was then that my mother, 58, was suffering a disease
called Vertigo Ménière. She had a constant ringing in her ear that was making
her deaf and she had terrible bouts of vertigo.
Of vertigo I understood, as from birth, I had an inability to
ride in trains, cars, trams without getting dizzy to the point that I would
throw up. As a kid I could never ride swings. To this day when I drive I cannot
look down without feeling vertigo. And I get dizzy if I am in a car and I am not driving.
My mother from her bed told me, “I am 58, I have no male
companionship and no sex, and I believe that the god that exists does not concern himself
with our affairs. I have lost my belief in prayer." I was speechless. I did not know how to comfort her.
Three years later she died in bed in the presence of my
Rosemary and me.
My Rosemary had a lovely smile but often when I photographed
her she put on this sad face. I could never understand it.
I do now and I will
explain how I have come to understand her.
When we both worked we felt useful and we raised our
daughters and in years after we helped educate and take care of our two granddaughters.
Sometimes we had two cars and sometimes only one. In our later years I would
take her to her office in our large Audi and pick her up in the afternoon when
I needed the car for a job. Eventually she retired from her job and stayed
home. The same happened to me. Our one car was sufficient. But it was about
then when I noticed her sadness.
About five years before she eventually died on 9 December
2020 she would tell me when she was in bed in the morning, “I don’t want to
live.” I took this seriously and did everything to cheer her up.
I believe that by then she could see how our immediate
family was fragmenting. She was realizing that we were only important to them
financially. We were not useful in any other way.
I have been giving a lot of thought, in the last few weeks, to her
shocking statement. And I can explain
To not want to live has nothing to do with wanting to die.
Rosemary was not suicidal. She was not going to pop sleeping pills.
I am 81, and I mostly skip reading about politics, wars and
I despise the social media emojis with their thumbs up and their LOLs. In my
head, is the memory of my good friend Abraham Rogatnick who told me a year
before he died, “Alex I am not long for this world and I am glad.”
In short I am losing my will to keep on living just like
Rosemary’s “I don’t want to live”. I feel that I am no longer useful to my
small family and since my Rosemary died my granddaughters don’t call or visit. I get my human affection from my two cats.
I have called friends I had not talked to for years:
Right off the bat, one said, “I don’t read the newspapers as
they all hate Trump and I am a conservative."
Another friend I connected with after many years writes in
some of my sad blogs, “He is always with you. You are never alone because He is
Why cannot people keep their politics and religion to themselves?
Three first cousins, one used obscenities when I mentioned
President Kennedy, another sends me Covid conspiracy theory emails, another
told me, “I am depressed. If Trump loses we lose our family values.”
Most of my good friends and writers I worked with are dead
as are all of my influential mentors.
What keeps me going? It is the knowledge that my almost
human, brother and sister cats, would not have anybody take care of them, if I met
And so I wake up in the morning to feed my cats. I bring my
breakfast in a tray to bed (Rosemary and I did this for 20 years with the NY
Times) in memory of my wife. And then I think, “Do I have to do anything today?
No.” And I stay in bed perhaps reading with my two cats on top of me. Before I know it a week has gone by without me knowing what day of the week it is.
not have to do anything is an existential problem sometimes defined as angst.
Rosemary understood and that is why she did not want to
As for me…
Bit & Pieces of My Life With Rosemary
Tuesday, November 14, 2023
|Rosa 'Abraham Darby' & right Rosa 'Margaret Merrill' 14 November 2023
Today is November 14 and when I walked into the garden I was
surprised to see a couple of roses. One was open the other will probably not open
if the cold weather continues.
When I scan my roses (I call them scanographs) I am involved
in carefully removing dust spots that are there even if I think my scanner bed
is spotless. This detailed work is about the only activity I do on any given
day that in the precise moment of doing it I don’t think of my departed
But then when I am finished she is there immediately. With
her around I would have shown her the scan and she would have smiled.
But not all I can record here that while our mutually
favourite rose was the single Tea Rose, R. ‘Mrs.Oakley Fisher’ she adored R. ‘Margaret
Merrill’ and I have always had a preference for ‘the English Rose R. ‘Abraham
Darby’ which we purchased in the late 80s and has healthily survived until now.
If anything these roses represent my persistent memory of
my departed Rosemary.
I am including in this blog the coincidental arrival of two
holiday catalogues that Rosemary and I always enjoyed perusing as we often
found gifts for our daughters and granddaughters. With the advent of my
granddaughters no longer being children I will probably give cash to them and
my daughters. While Rosemary would have agreed, she would have understood the
passing of better and rosier times with our family.