A Stellar Starry Night Concert of Solo Bach with Marc Destrubé
Saturday, November 25, 2023
It was most appropriate that the concert that I attended
today with my house guest Sandrine Cassini, new ballet mistress at Ballet BC, was at an Anglican church.
It gave me the opportunity to quote to myself the words of
Christ as written by St. Luke in the King James Bible.
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
At age 81 with most of my family and many friends dead, and
especially with the death of my Rosemary 3 years ago, I am surrounded by
thoughts, memories, photographs and music like today’s which I dedicate to
those departed from my life.
The stellar violinist Marc Destrubé, (multi-talented in that he plays from baroque
music to music of this century with
baroque violins and modern one), offered us, an extremely lucky
audience, with Bach on his solo violin that made me forget my uncomfortable
church pew. I was deliberately keeping my feet unmoved as Destrubé told me not
sit in front of his gaze as my feet distracted him!
Bach, with only the adornments of Destrubé’s playing, and no “distracting”
orchestra made me realize that I was in a place that anywhere else in the world
(and not our provincial Vancouver) would have been attended by hundreds. At my
age, the statistical possibility of being present again for this kind of program is
There is something to be said about a performer that plays
with a virtuosity that reminds me that years ago, the magazine Saturday Night,
asked me to photograph the then very young violin prodigy Corey Cerovsek with
the idea that his talent came via the devil.
Destrubé is far too charming and warm to be associated with
that fallen angel. And not only that, he
is a born teacher, so his explanations for the music he is about to play, always
make me learn something new.
Listening to Bach today made me remember that my mother often told me
that on a desert island she would listen to Bach’s 6 Brandenburg Concertos. When Destrubé mentioned those Brandenburgs in his talk I recalled that he commissioned
years ago, a local (scary looking but not scary) composer, Bradshaw Pack to
create a piece that would go along with Destrubé's Pacific Baroque Orchestra
playing those 6 Brandenburgs. After the concert Pack told me, “Only a couple of
people left during the playing of my composition!”
Sweet playing Destrubé is the man whose Microcosmos Quartet
exposed me twice to all 6 of Bartok’s string quartets, and recently, to this
beautifully difficult house concert.
Microcosmos House Concert
I have attended many concerts with my Rosemary where Destrubé has played. One lovely memory happened some years ago when Rosemary, our
granddaughter Rebecca and I, went to Washington, DC. We made a special trip to
one of the Smithsonian museums for one specific reason. We wanted to see the
beautifully decorated quartet of Stradivarius instruments that the Axelrod
Quartet plays in concerts in DC (but not anywhere else as it is too expensive
to insure those instruments). And we should all know that Destrubé is the leader
of this quartet.
The instrument that Destrubé played in today’s concert is an
Italian 1685 violin that was retrofitted some years ago from being an
instrument that was modernized to be able to handle metal strings to one that
could be fitted with gut strings. And of course, courtesy of Destrube’s
teaching, I know that he did not have a chin rest today. The chinrest, was
invented by composer Louis Spohr around 1820.
Artificial Intelligence in Photography - My Take
Friday, November 24, 2023
|Albumen print of Mrs. Duckworth by Julia Margaret Cameron 1867
|Max von Sydow - 1992 scan of 6x7 cm b+w negative
In the last few months, the news besides being about the
orange guy and wars all over, has been obsessively preoccupied about the
concept of Artificial Intelligence. From the point of view of being a
photographer and a portrait photographer I have been mulling lots about how it
will affect me. Since I am 81, I don’t have to worry much, as statistically, I am
not long for this world.
I do think that since I started taking photographs in 1958
and currently (I will not use that awful word still) taking photographs that I
may have some kind of insight.
Right over the top, those photographers who may be earning
pennies for their sunsets, sunrises, pristine nature takes, closeups of eagles, fauna and macro photos of flowers will be unemployed. Many who use phones have no idea or memory of the concept of Rembrandt lighting. A portrait (in two dimensions) will show the appearance of 3D if the light on the face is not flat.With Rembrandt lighting one side will be darker than the other. Another way to define Rembrandt lighting is to call it window lighting. Note the photograph I took of Mexican writer Jesús Vargas Valdés below.
| Mexican writer Jesús Vargas Valdés - October 2023 in Mexico City - Galaxy 5
What is not considered in this concern on AI is what I have
come to understand. We know that algorithms are really good. AI depends on
algorithms. But not included in the many articles I have read is that that
algorithms are not intelligent. They use the 21st century ability of
computers to find similarities and connections it what might be disparate
elements to some of us.
Not in the consideration is my assertion that AI will work
if the person using it, is not only intelligent, but also has a good cultural memory and particularly of the past.
As my prime example are two portraits. One, an albumen
print, was taken in 1867 by Julia Margaret
Cameron (in my opinion the best portrait photographer of the 19th
century) of Julia Prinsep Stephen, née Jackson; formerly Mrs Duckworth
(1846-1895), Wife of Sir Leslie Stephen and mother of Virginia Woolf and
Vanessa Bell. The other is my portrait of Max von Sydow which I shot in October 1992 at the hotel Vancouver.
When I was getting my studio flash equipment ready for the
session (I was in a separate room to the actor) I saw him in profile. I
immediately connected it to my memory of the Cameron portrait. I quickly
mounted a long lens on to my medium format Mamiya, which was mounted on a
tripod. I guessed at the long exposure and took it. I added the colour to match Cameron's when I scanned the b+w negative.
My belief is that AI could not reproduce my von Sydow
without an intelligent person having a memory of the Cameron portrait.
I will place here other photographs of mine in which since I
am not a famous photographer the chances of some person going through the
connections before instructing AI are awfully slim.
|Charlie Chaplin & Claire Bloom in Limelight - Lauren Stewart
My two granddaughters on a Saturday some years ago watched the film Limelight with Charlie Chaplin and Claire Bloom. Lauren, in picture here, was dazzled by Claire Bloom's makeup. Her older sister Rebecca said that she could reproduce it from memory. This she did and she styled it also. I just took the photograph.
|Sandrine Cassini circa 2008 - right girl in Mexico City 1963
It would be difficult for someone instructing AI to combine the idea of a then Ballet BC dancer who had started at the Paris Opera Ballet when she was 14 with my photograph of the little girl in Mexico City. With Cassini we were going through the poses of Marie van Goethem (14 she was) when she faced Degas for his famous sculpture.
The above photograph I took in the 90s of Vancouver bodybuilder Carla Temple involved me taking other photographs of women in relation to their diet to keep fit. Vancouver Magazine art director Chris Dah's instructions were,"Alex make the photographs heroic." For this photograph I located some Greek columns in the CBC's storage facility in Burnaby. Dahl, editor Malcom Parry and writer Les Wiseman, all assisted me into loading them into a rented pickup. For lighting I used three lights, inspired by my then interest in the Hollywood photographers of the 30s and 40s, especially George Hurrell. In this 21st century, studio lighting is all but forgotten and photographers like Irving Penn, Bert Stern, Edward Steichen, Richard Avedon and Edward Weston for anybody under 30 might not be known.
|Bia d' Medici by Bronzino - Rebecca Stewart
My granddaughter Rebecca is now 26 and has little inclination to pose for her old grandfather. For all the years that she did, she knew I would never ask her to smile. I did this inspired by the photographs of Julia Margaret Cameron and the Reverend Dodgson who both photographed Alice Liddell not smiling. I was further inspired by the paintings of children by the Firenze artist Bronsino. I also knew that in the late 19th century Victorian times children held terrible and long jobs, as they were considered to be adults.
Above is my portrait of my other granddaughter, Lauren who has a most startling gaze. I used some not very good (therefore wonderful!) President's Choice 35 mm colour negative film (no longer made by Fuji) in front of one of our hydrangeas in our old Kerrisdale garden. I insist that family portraits not of the families of Irving Penn or any of the many current celebrities are safe from AI manipulation.
Few connect the idea of AI with Photoshop:
Adobe Photoshop is a raster graphics editor developed and
published by Adobe Inc. for Windows and macOS. It was originally created in
1987 by Thomas and John Knoll. Since then, the software has become the most
used tool for professional digital art, especially in raster graphics editing.
The software's name is often colloquially used as a verb (e.g. "to
photoshop an image", "photoshopping", and "photoshop
contest") although Adobe discourages such use.
My current Photoshop, Photoshop 8 (19 years old) is sufficient for all my negatives and slidea and print scans and works nicely with the downloaded files of my Fuji X-E3. I don't need to place a penguin in the Arctic. In this blog I recount how Bert Stern in the early 50s convinced Smirnoff Vodka to send him to Egypt's pyramids to photograph the ultimate dry Vodka Martini. Now that photograph would be done in little time with almost any Photoshop.
Bert Stern & a penguin in the arctic
|Bert Stern left - right photograph by yours truly in 1986
The photograph on the right above was for one of my first cover stories for Vancouver Magazine. I wrote and photographed authors with one of their children. Many of the children had written about their parent writer. I was given $1000 for the best cover of the year. People asked me where I had taken my idea. None knew who Bert Stern was. Using my memory as Artificial Intelligence I took my photograph. What was a tad difficult is that I had to go to Whistler to shoot the portrait. The only white wall was at a staircase. It was tough!
|Rosa 'Margaret Merrill' November 2023
My wife, who died 3 years ago, and I, were serious gardeners. We had a large corner garden with 200 old roses, rare trees and many perennials. Since 2001 I have been scanning (I suspend the plants over my Epson flatbed scanner ) the plants of the garden. I may have somewhere around 3000 scans, all done at 100% size, showing accurate colour and the date. I don't always do pristine scans. Here you can see black spot on the leaves and blooms that are past it. Important for me is that I grow the plant I scan and know its name and history. What is the competition? Usually macro shots done at noon (the worst possible light) and with what I think is no respect for the plant itself. Will AI as instructed by a well versed in botany person achieve pictures like this one?
|My wife (we were married for 52 years) Rosemary
One of the forgotten instruments of this century's technology is the scanner. Besides scanning my negatives, slides and prints I use it as a tabletop camera and place objects on it. Of late, many of my object scans involve my memory of my Rosemary. My Epson V700 scanner has incredible depth of field. I like the size of the glass (I could get a larger one) as I find its limitations inspirational.
I do hope that some of you might have gotten this far and feel hope, that as far as photography is concerned, some of us are safe for a while from interference in what we do well.
Julian Bearisto - Modern Dancer - Yukon Territory
Thursday, November 23, 2023
|Julian Beairsto - modern dancer - Yukon Territory
Julian Beairsto – modern dancer – Yukon Territory
I am an 81 year-old photographer and while not a
gunfighter who is a good as his last duel (and if not…) I believe that I
have retained my spark. I took the last photograph here last night. I shot my camera only
once, and because I was using the electronic shutter of my Fuji X-E3, when I went
from my studio to my computer Julian did not know what was happening. "You took a photograph?" he asked.
We opened the one image and what we saw was a completely black
vertical rectangle. Why?
The technique is to use the modelling light inside my softbox
without using the flash. The exposure is 1/30 second at f 7.5 at 200 ISO. The
severe underexposure produces the black rectangle. In levels and then in in the
LAB Shadow/Highlight application of my Photoshop 8 (19 years old) I get the
result of the first portrait here.
Then I made a duplicate and went to my Corel XII and applied
with one click the Photo Effects – Time Machine – Cyanotype. The result is the
second image here.
What was the most fun was my intention of only taking one
photograph. And I don't even own a Colt .45.