Seaweed & a Rare Portrait
Saturday, July 01, 2017
Photography books are not a recent phenomenon, although
Richard Avedon’s plan to publish 10 in the next little while might be pushing
the dreaded photographer’s bet-noir – overexposure. Good photo books have been
around since Henry Fox Talbot published his Pencil of Nature in 1844. Because
halftone reproduction of photographs in books had not been invented yet, Talbot
personally hand-pasted his Talbotypes into every book. If you can find one of
these it’ll cost you upwards of $250,000. At $90 a copy, George Hurrell’s
Hollywood is a bargain.
I thought the above as true until recently when I discovered seaweed cynotypes of English photographer
Anna Atkins (1779-1871). She painstakingly printed her cyanotypes of seaweeds for
her self-published book in 1843 Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions . It was her friend Sir John Herschel (who discovered
photographic fixer and named the seven then-known satellites of Saturn: Mimas,
Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea, Titan, and Iapetus and the four then-known
satellites of Uranus: Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, and Oberon) who invented the cyanotype.
Anna Atkins and her husband John Pelly Atkins (a London
West India merchant) never had children but Anna was close with her
almost-namesake sister-in-law Anne Marie Atkins (who never married).
My friend Ian Bateson who recently had
his first show of his work in Lancaster
discovered this cyanotype in the back room storage area dated 1857 and signed Anna Atkins. It is my guess
that the woman in question must be Anne Marie.
I am amazed at the modern look and the crop of the portrait. Obviously Atkins may have been an influence on Julia Margaret Cameron.
The Ukrainian Photographer
Friday, June 30, 2017
Of my life I have never complained that I have been unlucky.
At age 75 my health is just fine. I have been married to my Rosemary now for 49
years. No, I am not content. I am happy!
I know another person just like my Rosemary in one
Her name is Yuliya and she is a professional dominatrix. I
have never hired her for her services. We had had a long photographic relationship.
My wife, she is definitely not a dominatrix but she does nag me into action all the
time. Rosemary and Yuliya share a dislike for any photograph I have ever taken
But somewhere in some corner of my Ukrainian’s intelligent
mind there must be a little space where she holds a memory of one or two
photographs that I have taken of her that she almost liked.
The one you see is one of my many favourites. Yuliya, since
she was next to impossible to please, made me try harder to find that picture
that just might make her smile. But then I have almost no memory of Yuliya
smiling. My memory of her is of her temper directed at anybody who might ask
her, “Are you from the Ukraine?” Her
rapid answer was always, “Ukraine, fu-cking Ukraine!”
I am going to see if I can find her again so we can
compare notes on photographs taken and perhaps of photographs yet to take.
The photograph was taken with Kodak's Delta 3200 Professional (the reason for all that gritty grain). I used a Nikon FM-2 with a 50mm F-1.4 lens
Thursday, June 29, 2017
Singer Ferron has been in the news of late. I thought she
had disappeared. But I understand that she will be performing this coming
Sunday at the Vancouver Folk Festival on Jericho Beach.
My portrait of Ferron which I took in 1979 was almost a
failure. I had a new highfalutin medium format camera, a Mamiya RB-67. I had
hardly used it. I had the money to buy only one lens which for this format was
a wide angle lens. This meant I had to be careful when I got close to my
subjects so as not to distort them.
I had also purchased a used Ascor QC-1000 studio flash system.
I had gone to my Burnaby branch of the Bank of Montreal on Willingdon and
Hastings. I needed to borrow $2000 to buy it. The older Scottish woman who was
the loans officer asked me what I could offer as collateral. I put a thick pile
on her desk. At the time Bi-Line
was a weekly gay publication I
worked for. I was a bit concerned about my not-yet-untarnished reputation so I
was listed as Strut McPherson as the photographer of the racy displays of male
(and some female) nudity. Perhaps it was my choice of the Scottish nom de plume
but the woman liked my photographs and lent me the money.
The day of the shoot at Ferron’s house which was somewhere
in Kitsilano, to my shock she only had two-prong outlets in her old house. I
could not use my flash nor did I even think of bringing an adaptor.
Luckily window light worked very well
with Ilford F-P4 with my heavy camera sitting solidly on a tripod.
Ferron was a quiet woman who did not offer me red zinger
tea. We had coffee together.
Trump's Time Magazine Cover & Mine
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
As an Argentine-born but now Canadian citizen I do not like
President Donald Trump in the least. I think he is a shady character I would
never buy a used car from. Just the allegations on his puss- grabbing should
have been enough to disqualify the man from holding office in the United
States. All those financial imbroglios of his and his underlings are questionable.
But somewhere here I believe that too much is being
discussed about the man’s (or his PR department on those Time Magazine fake covers.
In 1988 in the height of the magazine era I had taken
portraits of runner Ben Johnson for Vancouver
Magazine. When his drug scandal during the Olympics unfolded my friend an
Vancouver Magazine art director suggested I send the images to Time. In 1988
Dahl had a new-fangled device called a scanner. He scanned my 6x7cm Ektachrome,
and we faxed my Vancouver Magazine shots to Time. Subsequently I was paid lots
of money for the Canadian cover. This was the dawning of the digital era. Dahl then made a handout promo piece that served me well for some years.
Not long after my wife Rosemary, our two daughters and I
went to Hawaii. In the shopping malls there they had places where they took
your portrait and put it on the magazine cover of your choice. I believe that
Cosmopolitan was popular for young women who wanted to appear in racy clothing.
In the early 90s fellow photographers began to ask me if my
Time Magazine cover was for real. By then some photographers were faking stuff
and putting it into their portfolios. Discerning art directors did enquire and
put those photographers in their place.
At one time I believe that a Polaroid hard copy print might
have been accepted as evidence in a trial. Now the honesty of a photograph can
only be judged by the knowledge we might have of a photographer’s ethics and
I do not believe that Time Magazine should sue Trump over
the fake cover. The cover should be piled up on all that other evidence of the
man’s lack of authenticity.
And it should be left there.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
|Rosa 'La Belle Sultane' June 27 2017
Some garden roses are prone to proliferation which turns
a beautiful flower ugly in its center. Rose proliferation isn't a killer and it
can be avoided.
The reason for rose proliferation is not fully
understood. The effect is usually noticed when a rose bud tries to form within
a bloom that has already opened. Often, a stem with unfurling leaves could grow
out through the flower with the bud at the end of it. It's a freakish event for the rose lover.
Proliferation in roses has been known for centuries.
Botanists of the 18th century called these new buds "childings," due
to the symbolism of the mutation.
Gallica Roses bloom only once in a season. Today June 27
the last two blooms of Rosa ‘La Belle Sultane’
are proliferating blooms. I
disagree with the statement above that proliferation is ugly. It just shows
that we do not know why roses do this. For me the mystery is exciting.
A rose that proliferated in the past