Madeleine Morris's Mouth
Saturday, May 13, 2006
My Spanish grandmother would have said, "She has the map of Jerusalem on her face." In retrospect I can see what drew me to Madeleine when I first spotted her face - the pale skin made even whiter by the contrast with her red lips - in the summer of 1985.
As a boy growing up in Mexico City I would stare at the darkish faces yelling a strange archaic Spanish from the inside of the orange school bus that passed by every day. On its side was the inegmatic message " Colegio Hebreo Sefaradita"
. Ever since, Sefaradites or Spanish Jews, have been a mixture of the exotic and the mysterious for me.
In Madeleine's face I can see apparitions of the past. In the deep shadows of her eyes, I see the little girl peering out from the left corner of El Greco's The Burial of the Count Orgaz
hanging in the church of Santo Tomé in Toledo. In her cheekbones I see her ancestors praying in a tiny white sinagogue in Granada. Nearby, in an ornate cathedral, lie the lead caskets of the Catholic Kings who would exile them forever from Spain in 1492.
Madeleine was raised in Spain, and she always makes it a point to remind me of the source of power over me in her throaty and impeccable Castilian. As I photographed her in her tub, she said, while carefully pulling the top of her yellow and black '50s bathing suit, "I had to wear something, after all. It has to do with my Jewish sense of morality."
Marthe's Lovely Foot
Friday, May 12, 2006
I first saw Marthe when I had to photograph a rehearsal of Jennifer Mascall's dance tribute to Emily Carr, The Brutal Telling
, in October of 1998. The two dancers in the performance, Marthe and Olivia Thorvaldson both alternated dancing the character of Emily Carr, and Woo her pet monkey. I decided to photograph them in my studio and asked them to bring period clothing. I was astounded how, as soon as she had changed into the clothing, Marthe (bottom, right) seemed to have slipped into the present from Emily Carr's past. In a short chat I found out that Marthe was from Quebec and that she had danced for a short period for Ballet BC. I decided I wanted to photograph her again and she consented to return to my studio. In this portrait of Marth (above, left) I simply said that it was a pity the feet were so far from the face. "That's easy to remedy, " Marth told me. My Argentine tango teacher, Carlos Loyola gave her a couple of classes and he could not believe how quickly she caught on. I saw her dance the tango wearing fishnets and I can assure you she could have put many Argentine female dancers to shame. A couple of years later I found out Marthe went back East and I have not heard from her since.
Vancouver - Post Nuclear
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Just like the French drink Champagne between courses to cleanse the pallet I feel the same about shooting landscapes between portrait jobs. Landscapes don't close their eyes, they don't object and they are patient. On June 8 my landscapes will open a show at the Hong Kong Bank Pendulum Gallery. The show is called Secret Gardens
and they are 12 gardens in the city that are on roofs or on podiums over the street level. The show is being put together by the "secret" Urbanarium Society and partially sponsored by the city. Here is a photo that would not make the cut as to me it looks like a horrific post nuclear apocalyptic image. I took it on the roof of the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library. I used a Pentax MX, a 20mm wide angle and Kodak Infrared film.
John Hurt In Bed
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
The past seems rosy at times precisely because it is rosy. Editorial photography has changed. There is less time so there is less fun to it. Sometimes I photograph actors before the writers have interviewed them, or worse still the art director assigns me to shoot an actor and does not offer to show me the writer's copy. Some art directors, who don't read, assume that we photographers don't need to either. But once in a while (and this was more often in my rosy past) I get to work in tandem with the writer. And sometimes it may be a writer I specially like. The picture above of John Hurt came about because writer John Lekich and I have worked together often. I don't think this photograph would have happened if I had gone alone. John and I knocked at the door of Mr. Hurt's suite at the Hotel Vancouver. The big room had a huge canopied bed. I asked Hurt to pose in bed or as Lekich wrote in the March 12, 1998 issue of the Georgia Straight
"When he's asked to pose for posterity on a hotel bed in a manner indicative of total pleasure, his craggy features suggest that this is the best idea he's heard all day. "I'm delighted to do exactly as you wish
, "he says with a smile. "Really you mustn't hold back
Miss Havisham & Isabel
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
When I was 6 I fell madly in love with a remote Filipina girl in Buenos Aires called Isabel Opisso whom I met in an excursion to the outskirts of Buenos Aires in Anchorena. I never saw her again. A couple of years later our teacher read us Great Expectations
in class during a month. I fell madly in love with cold and unreachable Estella.
In Dickens's Great Expectations
Estella is Miss Havisham's ward. Miss Havisham wears only one shoe, because when she learned that Compeyson had jilted her, she had not yet put on the other shoe. When I took this photograph of a friend, an Argentine tango partner, a few years ago I immediately saw Miss Havisham. I wonder where Isabel Opisso might be and if she ever married.
the great expectations of Judy Brown
Monday, May 08, 2006
May has to be one of the most exciting months in my garden. I go out to during the day and I can discern growth in some plants from one day to the next. This is particularly the case with my hostas. In May and in June they look fresh and perfect. None more so than Hosta 'June'
(abover,right). Because I obtained my June from the American Hosta Society when June first entered the stage my specimen is an English one. The 'June' available in Vancouver in local nurseries is an American version which I don't find as attractive. 'June' is a sport (mutation) of Hosta 'Halcyon'
which is the most handsome and elegant blue hosta. English gardener Eric Smith crossed a Hosta 'Sieboldiana Elgans' (it flowers in June) with a Hosta 'Tardiflora' (flowers in September) that just happened to bloom early one year. From that cross Smith obtained some of the best blue hostas ever (called the Tardiana Group) that share the blue colour of 'Sieboldiana Elegans' with the pointed leaves of 'Tardiflora'. Most have mauve flowers and thick substanced leaves that resist slug damage. American Hosta Society
A Scottish Friend Indeed
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Try to find someone you know who is willing to sit down with you in the living room on a Saturday, for a four-hour stretch, to listen to a live Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Handel's Rodelinda.
I would define such person a friend in much the same way only a friend will help you move. In my case it was easy. I invited Scottish designer, Graham Walker. Besides being a expert on sineage and typography (with a side interest in shoes and etching), Graham loves unusual and obscure music. His love is in the baroque period and both of us have discovered the wonders of the 17 Century early baroque, sometimes called the fantastic style period. We had never heard a whole rendition of Rodelinda so the prospect of hearing this one with soprano Renée Fleming and countertenor Andreas Scholl was too good to miss. Somehow both Rebecca and Lauren (3½)walked in and out of the living room so they got a bit of Handel. Plata, my female cat was partial to Handel, too as she sat on my lap. We ate what was left of lunch, deviled eggs and cucumber sandwiches which we washed down with a pot of strong Earl Grey. Graham brought some sweets.