Raymond Burr, A Main Spring & Other FailuresSunday, October 07, 2007
I photographed Raymond Burr twice. The first time it was 1986 (seen here in colour) and the second time a few years later. In the first sitting I worked with writer Les Wiseman and Vancouver Magazine and in the second with John Lekich for the Georgia Straight. I remember the second session better because of my two camera failures.
New Westminster born (1917) Burr was a very large man. In order to take the best portrait I used a longish Mamiya lens (140mm, the lens in the bottom of the picture). With this lens I could focus on his face (while being not too close) so that all of Burr's features were in a proper proportion.
That second session Burr was much larger and spoke about restaurants with Lekich. I took a Polaroid with the 140mm which pleased Burr and me. When I put on the b+w film back and took my first exposure, nothing happened. The main spring of the lens's shutter had failed. I was then forced in using that not as long 90mm lens (the upper lens in the picture) which if used at the distance I had used the 140mm woul have made Burr's nose look extra large. I had no choice except to use that 90 but pulled back to get more of the body (something I did not want to do) with the idea of then cropping in for the magazine. And that's how it was.
When I processed that roll I noticed that one exposure was a double one. This rarely happened or happens with my Mamiya RB Pro-S or the newer model I now have the Pro-SD. These cameras have an excellent double exposure prevention mechanism. It is only for today's blog that I ventured to see what that double exposure looks like.
Burr was one of the warmest and most charming men I ever met. His role as the would-be wife murderer in Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window scared the hell out of me the first time I ever saw it. It always troubled me to reconcile the actor acting that with the person I photographed twice. Yet I think that this double exposure somehow shows that duality of the charmer and the man capable of cutting up his dead wife with a saw and stuffing the parts in a suitcase.
Shortly after I took that second picture I decided I would never take my chances again and I purchased a second 140mm. I never leave home without both of them in my camera bag.