Staff Sargeant James Wallwork & Daphne du Maurier
Saturday, November 11, 2006
On the early hours of June 6, 1944 (0007 minutes after the invasion of Normandy had started) Staff Sargeant James Wallwork, glider pilot, cast off his Horsa glider from the Halifax bomber that was towing him. At that instant, the invasion had really begun. There were 156,000 men prepared to go into France that day, by air and by sea, British, Canadian and American, organized into some 12,000 companies. D Company's 160 men under the commmand of Major John Howard in 6 gliders (Number 1 was Wallwork's) led the way. It was the only company attacking as a completely independent unit. When Wallwork cast off, D Company was alone.
At 0016 Wallwork's No 1 (Irene) landed (a controlled crash) very near the Bénouville Bridge(later renamed, most famously, the Pegasus) on the Caen Canal. The crash sent Wallwork and his co-pilot, Staff Sargeant Ainsworth out of the cockpit, through the perspex canopy and into the ground. Wallwork was the first allied soldier on occupied French soil.
This magnificent performance and that of the other 5 Horsa gliders was praised by Air Vice Marshal Leigh-Mallory, commanding the Allied air forces on D-Day, as the greatest feat of flying of World War II.
When I called James Wallwork (British born but now a Canadian) yesterday he told me he was 87 and was getting ready to march today with the troops in Ladner. He will not be seeing this blog because his wife Genevieve has disconnected "the magic lantern" for 6 months.
In 1942 when Britain's first airborne troops were formed, the 1st Airborn Division, Daphne du Maurier, wife of the commander, Major-General F.M.A. 'Boy'Browning, suggested a maroon beret for the troops. Bellerophon was to be astride winged Pegasus as the airborne shoulder patch and symbol, pale blue on a maroon background. You can see Wallwork (above left) with his maroon beret as I photographed him in 2004. The other photograph is of Wallwork in London in 1943.
Barbara Sukowa Seduces & Max von Sydow Springs A Smile
Friday, November 10, 2006
One of the most horrific films I have ever seen, I saw with John Lekich in 1991. The German film, Europa
directed by Danish Lars von Trier, began with a man who was underwater, struggling to free himself from a rope or plant. A voice that could only be (and was) Max von Sydow said, "At the count of 10 this man will die." Then von Sydow began his lugubrious countdown. At 0, the man no longer moved.
The female lead was the ravishing Barbara Sukowa. The Georgia Straight
had dispatched John Lekich and me to the Hotel Vancouver for the interview and the portrait session. Sukowa was in town for that year's Vancouver Film Festival. I took some pictures of Sukowa using a lighting technique (grid spots) that enhanced her striking eyes. What I told her before I took the picture , I could never repeat in our politically correct 21st century, "Seduce me through the lens of my camera."
A year later when Max von Sydow was a guest at the same film festival I photographed him in the Vancouver Hotel's Sun Room. I almost always light my subjects and for this occasion I had my lights ready in a corner. But when I saw von Sydow looking out of window during his interview, I snapped this with my camera's long lens. When he finally faced my lights, I told him how his voice had affected me in Sukowa's movie. He looked back seriously but he smiled (below) when I told him under what circumstances I had seen my first art film, his 1960 film The Virgin Spring
. I was 17 and it was my last year in a Catholic boarding school in Austin, Texas. I told my three roomates, "I think it's about time we all went to see a "dirty" movie. We looked at the paper and saw The Virgin Spring
, we figured that was the one.
John Ford & Sun Yat-Sen
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Sometime in 1992 I was taking panoramic photographs of all of Vancouver's botanical gardens. Right after a storm I decided to go to the Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. I was using an unreliable swivel lens panoramic, a Widelux, with Kodak b+w infrared film. This made the combination even more unreliable. But I did get a few good photographs of which this one I titled for a gallery show, If John Ford H
ad Made The Movie, Sun Yat-Sen Would Have Been John Wayne
. Nobody that read the title understood it.
Tuesday night I looked forward the airing of Peter Bogdanovich's documentary Directed By John Ford
on the Turner Classic Movies TV channel. I was not disappointed. I specially appreciated Steven Spielberg's account on how he met John Ford when Spielberg was a 15 year-old boy. Told by Ford to look at a series of Western paintings on the wall and tell him what he saw, the young Spielberg saw only narrative — an Indian on a horse, etc. Ford told him to look at the composition, look at the horizon line — it was low in one picture, high in another picture.
"When you can decide that putting the horizon at the top of the frame or the bottom of the frame is better than putting it in the middle of the frame, you may, someday, make a good picture maker. Now get outta here."
Bogdanovich then cut to a series of Ford landscapes that show that the horizon line is never in the center of the frame. The man practiced what he preached.
For years I have been explaining to my photography students the "day for night" technique used by John Ford in which you would see bilowy white clouds in evening skies. The trick with b+w movies was to underexpose while using a deep red filter. It was the deep red filter that gave me that "John Ford" sky over Sun Yat-Sen.
Frank, John, Maddalena & A Davit Imperial
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
A week ago I was taking photographs of shoe designer John Fluevog on Granville Street. I told him that he and Frank Zappa had one thing in common. Fluevog looked at me perplexed and I explained it all had to do with the davit imperial. I pointed at his soul patch (which Fluevog called an imperial) and told him that I had photographed Zappa in 1980. I had asked him what he called the hairy protuberance under his lower lip. Before he could reply a waiter at Bud's Good E
ats asked him what he wanted to drink. Zappa asked for the list of beers. The waiter mentioned over 15 brands. Zappa said, "Bring me a ginger ale," and looking at me, "a davit imperial."
Buds Good Eats
served Tex/Mex food beginning sometime in 1979. In the last 10 years it became Carlos and Bud's
. Since it has always been prime land, right next to the on ramp to the North end of the Granville Street Bridge, it recently closed to make way to yet another condo development. When I saw the boarded up windows recently I thought of my friend Maddalena (who along with the Reid sisters taught me a few things on how to photograph a woman).
Before she left for Montreal some 12 years ago on her way to Milan (where she is now) she invited me for a drink at Buds Good Eats. It was a hot summer afternoon and we sat in the patio. I told her that I had particularly treasured her taking me to Carlucci's
on East Hastings. I soon discovered that Carlucci's offered more delights besides their succulent gnocci. While Mama Carlucci did not sport the davit imperial ( she grew a generous mustache), Signorina Carlucci was Sophia Loren with a vacuum cleaner. If you arrived for a late lunch, Signorina vacuumed the restaurant. Imagine Marilyn Monroe in the Misfits
in that tight polka dot dress smacking that ball with the rubber band and the paddle.
As far as I can tell Maddalena was never tempted to grow a davit imperial.
Tara Jean Wilkin, Gary Bannerman and Janet Leigh
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
When I first met veteran talk radio host Gary Bannerman I was shocked at his size. He was very tall and intimidating. I had gone to his office to photograph him for Vancouver Magazine. I knew I was going to have a successful shoot because of an event that preceded my session with him. I was waiting for the elevator, surrounded by all my equipment and lights, when the door opened. Out stepped Janet Leigh who stared right at me. While most associate her with Psycho
I was always a sucker for her beauty in one of the worst movies of all time, the 1954 The Black Shield of Falworth
, where she played alongside her husband Tony Curtis. I knew I was going to get a good photograph of Bannerman.
Somehow in my photograph Bannerman lost his cool and it seems my camera peeked into a fragile man that few know. Interviewing Janet Leigh must have been an experience that left him drained and ripe for my camera.
Just about a month ago actress Tara Jean Wilkin walked into my studio looking like this (right). I instantly remembered Janet Leigh.
Virve Reid - A Baltic Surprise
Monday, November 06, 2006
Vancouver Magazine editor of yore, Malcolm Parry wasn't completely wrong but he almost ruined my reputation as a photographer in Vancouver. He used to say, "I want you to meet Alex Waterhouse-Hayward, the photographer who, curiously, can make beautiful women ugly and ugly women uglier." For a while I believed him so I tried to perfect some technique and prove him wrong. Along the way I had a few very patient subjects who posed for me willingly and helped me along. The best of all of them was and is the voluptuous Baltic surprise, Virve Reid with her flaming red hair and beautiuful white skin. She was the first Canadian redhead to appear (undraped) in the centrefold of a known American magazine. Virve is from that generation of women that was either satisfied with her body or kept her mouth shut and never complained. While she was flawless, I am sure that a present generation would find room for surgical correction.
I did not know what I was shooting. Was I doing glamour (with that almost obscene u
that even Americans keep) or was I doing erotic or nude photography? I wasn't sure but Virve posed for me with terrific patience while I sorted it all out. Here are a couple that I took in my garden sometime in 1987 or 88. Thanks to Virve (and her sister Julia) I was eventually able to gain some confidence but Mac changed his tack. Now he introduced me as, "This is Alex, Halfstop, Waterhouse-Hayward." The nickname came from the fact that I tried to avoid, at all costs, overexposing my colour slides. When Mac, Rick (Staehling) or Chris (Dahl) would note that my pictures were too dark I always pointed out to them that I had bracketed by half a stop.
Julia Reid - Another Baltic Surprise
Virve could be difficult (picky) sometimes, but her sister Julia was more laid back. Whenever I called Julia up to ask her to pose she was instantly available. My photographs of her in her tub (as well as Virve's) became my prototypes for a series I did later of tub shots. Julia posed for me once in her West End bathroom apartment for a group of shots of which I can only show one since I made the decision that I would post no revealing photographs here. What a pity!
The Kris Plant - Alocasia sanderiana
Sunday, November 05, 2006
The Genera of Araceae
The Araceae are a family of herbaceous monocots with 104 genera and about 3700 species if the Lemnaceae is not regarded as a generic synonym, or 108 genera and about 3750 species if the Lemnaceae are included.
The vast majority of the genera occur in the New World tropics. Members of the family are highly diverse in life forms, leaf morphology, and inflorescence characteristics. Life forms range from submerged or free-floating aquatics to terrestrial (sometimes tuberous), and to epiphytic or hemiepiphytic plants or climbers. Leaves range from simple and entire to compound and highly divided, and may be basal or produced from an aerial stem. The family is best characterized by its distinctive inflorescence, a spadix with bisexual or unisexual (sometimes with sterile region) and subtended by a solitary spathe on a long or very short peduncle.
It is only recently, that I found out that the kris plant, that my grandmother told me about when I was a little boy, was an aroid and that its botanical name is Alocasia sanderiana. It is called a kris plant because the leaves of this plant which have metallic gray veining resemble a kris a Filipino knife from the island of Mindanao. This southern island of the Filipino archipelago, has a majority Muslim population that the Spaniards, who occupied the Philippines until the Spanish American war, called moros or "moors". These Malay people came from Indonesia and imported many customs including the asymmetrical kris. Alocasia sanderiana is a Filipino native plant.
If a family of plants might have come from another planet the aroids are prime candidates for strangeness. The stinky Amorphophallus from Indonesia may have the largest flower (properly called an inflorescence) on earth. Some arisaemas (Jacks in the pulpit) choose not to emerge in the spring in my garden in some years and when I think they are long gone there they are. They change sex at will like many aroids. There are some aroids that are able to raise the temperature of their flowers (and we though that only some animals could be warm blooded!). Calla lilies (Zantedeschia), the indoor monstera or Swiss Cheese plant are also aroids.
The direct scans of a leaf of my Alocasia sanderiana (note the purple underside) from a plant that I have had in my house for 20 years. At first I thought that when all the leaves of the plant collapsed that the plant had died. I would water it. That would finish off the plant and it would die. I soon learned not to water it and leave it alone until early spring. My pristine plant is not so pristine. Even though the leaves have a caustic sap my female cat, Plata, delights in chewing at them.