Alexandra on my bathroom wall
Saturday, January 22, 2022
|Alexandra Elizabeth Waterhouse-Hayward 1989
Back in December a friend asked me what it was, that as the photographer
that I am, that I would hang in my home’s walls.
I answered here that they are mostly family portraits.
I forgot about one photograph that is hanging in my
bathroom. It has been properly framed so as not to be affected by the moisture
that it is subject to.
In 1989 I was working on a project for a gallery show that
involved 12 or more women in tubs. One weekend my Rosemary asked me, “What
floozy is coming to pose for you tomorrow?” I answered, “Someone you know, our
daughter Alexandra. She asked to be part of the project.” Since she was 21, I had
another subject of mine, about her age, come so that I would make it a bit more
comfortable for all.
I am so glad that I am not a plumber but a photographer.
What would my friend Tiffany ask a plumber as to what he/she would have on
their home walls?
The peculiar look of the image here is that is a scanned Kodak Kodalith b+w positive mounted on silver card. It looks nice on a wall but the direct light of the scanner affects a bit the lovely effect that resembles an old Daguerreotype.
Mati Laansoo - The Last Estonian - 15 April 1942 - 19 January 2022
Friday, January 21, 2022
|Mati Laansoo left - Gary Marchant - right - Illustration Marv Newland
It is a paradox that this photographer does not have a
single photograph of this writer friend who had an unusual sense of humour. But
I have various communications from him. His editor, and long time friend,
former editor of the stellar Vancouver Magazine has sent me one of his better
known articles about Laansoo's grandfather Gerry called The Last Estonian which I will place below.
There are many apocryphal stories (they may hide some
truths) about Laansoo. One was
that he slept with a .45 under his pillow. Another, too far-fetched to believe, is that when he returned from a war-torn Beirut where he was a CBC sound man, the sound equipment coming to Canada may have included a rocket launcher.
about Laansoo involves my trip to London years ago with my Rosemary and two
daughters Alexandra and Hilary. Laansoo picked me up at our hotel in the morning and took me
to underground bars that in those days served alcohol. By the afternoon I was tipsy. In the
evening Rosemary and I got into Laansoo’s Mini with his wife Joanne on route to
the Old Vic Theatre to see Deborah Kerr in the Corn is Green. Being in a small
car close to the ground that was driven by a man with lots of liquor was scary. I
was disappointed by a Deborah Kerr who acted like the grandmother she surely
was and I saw no glimpses of her with Burt Lancaster on a Hawaii beach.
were back in the hotel I was coaxed into the bar and told that because I had
the keys to our hotel room the bar could not close. At around 1 in the morning
Laansoo told me he wanted to meet my daughters. I woke them up and they met the
story, that I find unbelievable, is that one day I received a call from him and
he asked, “Do you think that Carolanne Rule at Western Living would want a
story on croquet?” I was doubtful, but eventually dumfounded when Rule said, “Do
it.” And so Laansoo and I worked on a lovely piece on croquet which I photographed
with Kodak b+w Infrared Film.
Malcolm Parry & Mati Laansoo's Vancouver Magazine
In its prime in the late 70s and 80s and a bit of the 90s when Vancouver Magazine was the best magazine of our city, articles that appeared in it were widely read. There were a couple of those articles that generated next-morning hate mail that rivaled the instant emails and social media comments that were yet to come.
One of them was a cover article that featured Santa Claus in Hawaii posing with lovely women in bikinis. The other was one of Laansoo's columns Over There which he wrote from abroad (mostly from London). He and his friend, Gary Marchant (who wrote the Vancouver Magazine travel column Faraway Places), had eaten canine meat at a Filipino restaurant. Parry told them to make sure they brought the receipt.
The Last Estonian
Alex: Four more images for your delectation. Only the clifftop one
was by me and subsequently scanned (not particularly well) from a
Fujichrome transparency. It was taken during a week when Mati, Joanne,
Nancy and I cruised the River Yonne and Canal du Nivernais in a
converted Dutch barge.
|In France - Photograph Malcolm Parry
And one more! Alex: Here's one from 1975 showing James Labonte (then Jim Labounty). me, Mati. Ron Stern, Bill Featherston and Robin Arkell.
Laansoo wrote why he liked Bach here
And he illustrated it with this:
Other Laansoo gems
|Illustration Carl Chaplin (in relation to postacard below)
Quo Vadis Opus Dei - Alsatian Moo
Soledad & Time in my hands
Thursday, January 20, 2022
The origin of the idiom 'time on your hands' isn't known;
what scholars do know, though, is that this saying is an old one. The earliest
printed example available is from Charles Lamb's 1833 Last Essay of Elia: “It
seemed to me that I had more time on my hands than I could ever manage.
me pesa. La compañía también.”
“Solitude weighs on me. Company does too.”
Jorge Luís Borges
With all the time in my hands, living alone with two cats and
as a magazine photographer of yore being now obsolete, redundant, retired &
inconsequential, I do a lot of thinking. Plenty of it happens at night and this
prevents me from getting a good night sleep.
I sort of speak two languages (Argentine Spanish, Mexican
Spanish, Canadian English and Texan English with a smattering of Tagalog). This
means that I am constantly shifting gears from one to another, and, especially so
since because I have so much time in my hands, I do lots of reading in both Spanish and
English. This means that I am constantly observing, comparing and contrasting
words in both those languages and discovering how some words do not have equivalents
from one to another.
As I have written here before, Astor Piazzolla knew what he
was doing when he gave one of his loveliest compositions a name in
English,Oblivion. The word translates into Spanish as olvido which means
forgotten. Strangely oblivion has a philosophic synonym in Enbglish
nothingness. Nothingness and nothing do not mean the same thing and the Spanish
nada does not in any way relate to nothingness.
Of late in my solitude I have been thinking of that
lovely word in Spanish soledad. As a just-why-not, I would like to add here
that Art Bergmann many years ago had a girlfriend with the lovely name of
Soledad. The origin of the meaning
behind solitude in English is not as direct as in Spanish as solo, alone is the
root of soledad. A not too often used word in English because it sounds awkward
Soledad is much in my thoughts but I have come to the
conclusion that I am not completely alone. My two cats, Niño and Niña are
constantly with me like glue and they vie for my attention. Walking Niño around
the block (without a leash) on nice days provides me with good company even
though it reminds me that Rosemary is who taught Niño to gallivant in our
My grandmother used to tell me, “El que espera desespera.”
This can barely be translated as in Spanish there is a play on words involving
esperar to wait and to desesperar to despair. So my grandmother’s expression
would translate as, “He who waits will despair.”
Somehow these words below by Epicurus bring me a “I don’t give a
damn attitude” so I do not despair as I wait for my inevitable oblivion.
Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo (I was not; I was; I am not;
I do not care)
As Good as the Last Shot
Wednesday, January 19, 2022
|19 January 2022
Aging photographers are like the aging gunfighters of the Wild West. You
are as good as your last shot. You are dead if you are not.
In my past as a magazine photographer I knew I had to return
from an assignment with one useable photograph. I was a fisherman who had to
return with one fish and not mention how another had gotten away.
With our ranging pandemic and my grief on the loss of my
Rosemary on 9 December 2020 photography is one of the last things I want to
attempt. I cannot hang up my camera as I have too many cameras to hang up and
little wall space in my oficina.
Fortunately I have friends and C is a good one. She has
picked up my spirits by posing for me today.
Because of Covid I did not want to use my small and intimate
studio so I converted my living room into one. This meant I tripped over cables
and had a hard time dealing with my Fuji X-E3 that today amply proved that inanimate
objects have free will.
Fortunatly with the lovely inspiration of C I think I may
now be out of my doldrums.
I have yet to look at the Fuji pictures but what you see
here is a photograph I took with my iPhone3G (it has no SIM card).
I believe, going back to the comparison with the aging gun
fighter, it would seem I will be around for the next shoot.
Tuesday, January 18, 2022
My Rosemary and I had daily breaksfast in bed with the
NYTimes and the Vancouver Sun for at least 22 years. In spite of not having her
with me now (she died Dec 9 2020) I keep the tradition, and at the very least I am accompanied by Niño
and Niña, my two orange and white cats.
One of the high points of the week is the pragmatic
discourse in the Times between the lefty Gail Collins and the more conservative Bret Stephens in The Conversation on the editorial page. They are kind to each other.
Back in 1965 when I was beginning my two-year stint as a
conscript of the Argentine Navy I stayed for a while in the home of a teacher friend
of my mother, Mrs. Sullivan. Her eldest son, John was doing his service in the
army. One day we talked about the world. I told him that everything was either
black or white. I told him I had principles. Previewing “situation ethics”
before they became fashionable years later, John said, “No Alex the world is
gray.” I now see his point and how pragmatism is missing in this 21st
century of extreme polarization.
I have a Peronist friend in Buenos Aires who does not read
Julio Cortázar (he was a lefty) or Jorge Luís Borges (Argentines from the left
call him a facho for his right-wing
views) because both authors disliked Perón.
Today I found this lovely essay by Mario Vargas Llosa (now
seen as a right-wing kind of man) on having interviewed James Baldwin without
having read any of his books. The essay reads as an apology (in both meanings
of the word). Here it is in Spanish.
Mario Vargas Llosa on James Baldwin
Furthermore Mario Vargas Llosa, who in his youth was a lefty,
wrote the most beautiful obituary on his former lefty friend Cortázar here (unfortunately
in Spanish) proving that differences of opinion do not have to end friendships.
La Trompeta de Deyá - Vargas Llosa's obituary of Julio Cortázar
In today’s The Conversation, Stephens writes:
Fully agree. Social Media has created the phenomenon of
Together Alone, to borrow the name of an old Crowded House album. Only it’s the
wrong kind of togetherness and the wrong kind of aloneness.
The old togetherness taught people how to negotiate
differences in communities they hadn’t chosen for themselves. And the old aloneness
often entailed long periods of engaged solitude like reading a novel or
gardening or building a model ship. But the new togetherness allows us to
select the communities to which we belong, mostly with people who like what we
like, hate what we hate, and never challenge our assumptions. And the new
aloneness often means scrolling among endless internet distractions without
ever focusing on anything in particular. The result is that we now live in a
world where people know neither how to be together nor how to be alone. It is
the ultimate recipe for unhappiness and bad behaviour.
This 21st century has been called The Age of
Communication. I would amend it to The Age of Miscommunication.
My long departed journalist friend, Mark Budgen, who for
many years represented for me stability and pragmatism years ago stopped with
an unusual blow/excuse when I called him up on my then only landline. He said, “Alex
I cannot talk to you. I am monitoring a fax.”
Since then here are less creative excuses I have heard when
I call friends and family in a recent past and recently:
1. "Alex why do you call me every time that I am about to go
to a zoom meeting?"
2. I called a couple at different hours of the afternoon and
evening, some years ago. And every time the reply was, “We are about to have
3. Garbage is usually collected in the early morning. A
friend upon calling him said, “Sorry, Alex, I have to go to take out the
4. “I cannot talk to you right now, I am on my horse.”
5. An Argentine couple that lives in Burnaby, when I call
them I get the distinct impression that I am somehow preventing them from
removing themselves from a Netflix film. I don’t call them anymore.
6. “Sorry, Alex, we are about to leave for the supermarket.”
7. From San Diego, “Sorry Alex, we are looking at houses we
8. “I have an important call on the other line. I will call
you later.” They invariably do not.
9. From Guadalajara, "Sorry Alex, we are about to buy tomatos."
I can come to these conclusions:
1. I am persona non grata.
2. I am paranoid.
3. I have a strong telephone body odor.
4. Or Bret Stephens is right.
I have been told to text, "Is it ok if I call you in an hour?"