Gone FishingTuesday, February 28, 2006
It is not often that Walter Mosley (right) poses without his hat. He probably never met English writer Jonathan Raban (up) who always wears a hat. Raban told me once, "The quickest remedy for a bald head is a hat." What struck me the most about Walter Mosley was his late-night/FM-Radio voice and his beautiful diction. He told me that even if all I did was change a coma on anything that I was writing, during a day, that was writing. "The next day comes, and the words are waiting."
The Blue Chow (Chow)Monday, February 27, 2006
Many years ago my family doctor was Elliot Mintz. I took my daughter Ale, who had hundreds of warts on her knees, to see him. Ale was 8 years old. Mintz lay her down, and without telling me exactly what he was doing he put her in a trance. Then he told her to rub every wart (three times) with a magic penny (which he gave her) and to go home and bury the penny in a place where nobody would find it. Within the week the warts were gone. A few years later in January 1985 I was assigned by the then editor of Vancouver Magazine, Malcolm Parry to go to the PNE to shoot a dog show. It was there that I spotted Taibo,the blue chow puppy. He was the star of the show and the owner was, yes, Elliot Mintz. Mac decided to put the dog on the cover. If you ever see him and ask him about putting animals on the cover of a city magazine he will frown. Readership and sales always go down with cover pets of the animal kind. The good doctor sold his puppy for lots of money ($10,000 was the sum mentioned in the magazine article). It seems that many people now know what was only suspected then and that is that blue chow puppies lose their colour when they grow. And the art director, Chris Dahl damned me for not having correctly photographed the dog as one of his eyes got no catchlight. Since this was before Photoshop he had a competent retoucher air brush the second eye.
Frank McCourt -Teacher ManSunday, February 26, 2006
A few weeks ago I had the luck to be able to photograph Frank McCourt. Alas! I only have three things in common with this wonderful man.
1. We were born in August.
2. We taught high school.
3. We read Herman Mellville's Pierre Or, The Ambiguities.
"....and she fell upon Pierre's heart, and her long hair ran over him, and arbored him in ebon vines."
Laura Kramer and her Baroque CelloSaturday, February 25, 2006
Laura Kramer is my favourite Vancouver cellist. She is the only one I know that holds a doctorate in the historical performance practice of the cello from Cornell University. While she plays the modern cello very well, I like her best with her baroque instrument (no spike is one way to tell the difference). She performs in the Pacific Baroque Orchestra. Laura is very shy and quiet spoken but when she sits to play she is rock solid. I always wait for those virtuoso moments. With my eyes closed she sounds amazing. With my eyes open it seems effortless for her. And in the difficult parts she always smiles. A few years ago, a full church in West Van (including me) waited a full 45 minutes before the Pacific Baroque Orchestra could begin the concert. It seems that their rock solid cellist was stuck on the Lions Gate Bridge.
Tamsin and Gerry AgainFriday, February 24, 2006
Gerry Gilbert's Bicycle
Sometime in 1980 they sat at a Railway Club table one Saturday night, oblivious to a loud band playing on the stage. As I watched the pair of them, the music faded for me, too. She had this nose and the gaze - piercing for a long time, then remote almost diffused - I had seen seven years earlier at the Italian Cultural Centre. Gerry Gilbert had read his poetry after Allen Ginsberg's rather tedious singing and melodeon playing, and had revived all present. I spotted Gerry often, riding his Chinese bicycle downtown, and caught glimpses of Tamsin as she worked in a shopping mall restaurant.
Carole Taylor, Art Phillips and the three RussiansThursday, February 23, 2006
This week when talking to my friend John Lekich he suggested I blog about Carole Taylor considering that she had just introduced the new Provincial budget. This would be a good excuse to post one of your many lovely portraits of that lovely woman.
When Kerrisdale hair wizard Richard Jeha was cutting my hair yesterday I had a Bill Richardson/Bunny Watson moment. I spied Jeha's three Russians conspiring in a corner. With beautifully shaped and deft hands the poker-faced Sergei cut off Paulina's folksingerish long hair while Svetlana watched the master who had represented Belaurus in recent World Cup Hairstyling Championships. In about 15 minutes Paulina emerged as a Russian femme fatale to die for.
For years I had faithfully followed a personal hairdresser who would change venues once a month. There were days when she would tell me, "I am not in the mood for cutting your hair." So I searched for a less stressful replacement. About ten yeas ago my wife Rosemary suggested, "Try Richard, if he is good enough for Art Phillips, the ex-Vancouver mayor, he should be good enough for you."
While pleasing John by posting a picture here of our Finance Minister I can satisfy my own train of thought by showing her with her husband Art Phillips. Richard Jeha and his staff (including the three Russians)are not only good enough for Art Phillips but for Canada, too! They have swept Canadian hairstyling competitions with many firsts in the last few years and they are poised to represent us in world competition.
Billy "Bud"Cowsill 1948-2006Wednesday, February 22, 2006
One of the great but mostly unsung bands of the 90s in Canada may have been Vancouver's The Blue Shadows. When I was hired to photograph them I knew three of them. Jeffrey Hatcher, Elmar Spanier and J.B. Johnson. I knew Hatcher through his connection with the Odds. Spanier and Johnson had been members of my favourite 80s pop band Maurice and the Cliches (Goodbye Mr Bond!).Taking photographs of he Blue Shadows gave me the opportunity of meeting the legendary Billy Cowsill. I instantly liked him and I will never forget his speaking voice similar to my alto saxophone playing friend Gavin Walker. In recent years I have run into J (pronounced Jay) a lot and I have marvelled at his intricate mechanical devices which he exhibits in such VAncouver galleries as Monte Clark.
John AlleyneTuesday, February 21, 2006
In 1992 when John Alleyne became the artistic director of Ballet BC I swear I might have seen some ballet version of the Maypole dance. I was appalled. Soon after, Alleyne would mix more contemporary stuff with classical ballet and I could see the elder patrons leave the Queen Elizabeth Theater in a tiff. But Alleyne stuck to his guns (quietly) and now we have a cutting edge modern dance company in which ballet really only exists in its name. Going to an Alleyne, Ballet BC performance is always exciting. Part of the attraction is that Ballet BC, and much of the independent dance scene of Vancouver feature new music. Alleyne has commissioned local composers to write music for many of his ballets. There are few venues for this kind of music and hearing it while watching dancers dance is a double delight.
Ballet on a Streetcar
Captain Schork's IntruderMonday, February 20, 2006
It was about 10 years ago that my writer friend Sean Rossiter and I drove to the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station in Washington State. We figured that an air show at a military base would be a tad more authentic than our Abbotsford Air Show. We also figured that pilots flying for fellow pilots would do more daring maneuvers. We weren't exactly right. This was a military base and safety seemed to be paramount. But the American "junk" food was specially good. Sean and I got to see two of our favourite military airplanes. One of them was the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom. Writer Bill Sweetman wrote of the Phantom, "Malevolence expressed in aluminum." I am a peaceful kind of guy but I have always been a fan of war movies and a military airplane buff. I have some internal guilt on this. But guilt goes out of the window when I can see my favourite airplane of all and this is the Grumman A-6 Intruder. An airplane that can hug the ground and evade trees at night, in any weather, while carrying a bomb load second only to Boeing's B-52, is a very special plane. Sean and I talked to pilots who told us that that A-6 was being phased out for the F/A-18 Hornet. They told us that they were going to miss the thrill of flying the Intruders and that in their opinion the Hornet was not a better plane for the job. I was able to photograph the base commander, Captain USN Schork next to one of his beloved Intruders. It was a cloudy day and the light was much like perhaps on an carrier. Captain Schork looked into my lens and when I pressed the shutter I wondered if a man who showed such equanimity was capable of letting loose the destructive power at hand.
the weight of absenceSunday, February 19, 2006
Last night Rebecca and I went to a Ballet BC performance that marked Acacia Schachte's last before she goes to fame and fortune. For Rebecca and I the occasion marked another important one. It was in October of 2001 that both of us met choreographer Dominique Dumais. It was Dumais's (left) the weight of absence (she spells it in lower case) that Rebecca saw at age 4 and was her first full length ballet. And we saw it again last night. We enjoyed the evening but we missed the spirited presence of a former Ballet BC dancer, Sandrine Cassini(right). We only wonder what Sandrine and Dominique might be plotting together since both are now at the Nationaltheater Mannheim. The former Paris Opera Ballet dancer is dancing there and Dominique is an Associate Artistic Director.
Juan Castelao and the VPOSaturday, February 18, 2006
There is plenty of culture in Vancouver but there is nothing worse than conflicting schedules of good stuff. Tonight will be the performance of the Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra's Scandinavian concert, 8pm at Shaughnessy United Church, 1550 West 33. My problem is that I have two tickets to Ballet BC tonight. But my friend, Pamplona born Juan Castelao, the orchestra's musical director always has a fine dress rehearsal on the same day. That's where I'm headed in a few minutes this morning. Juan Castelao corrects my iffy Spanish and we exchange our favourite Spanish and Latin American authors. Best of all we both share a passion for Nando's Chicken on West 41st. Here you can see a picture I took of Juan on Christmas Eve.
Ballet BC and Acacia SchachteFriday, February 17, 2006
Fresh from learning her dance at Arts Umbrella and a new dancer for Ballet British Columbia I photographed Acacia Schachte in Sept 1999 with dancer Terri Gardener. Last week I photographed Acacia again to mark her final performances for Ballet BC this week. My wife Rosemary rarely likes anything so I have been amazed on how she enjoys Acacia's dancing. Acacia has a style all her own and I can only compare her movements to some that I have seen by Evelyn Hart. Acacia is off to dance in the world - New York, Europe? But Rebecca (who assisted me last Friday to help relax Acacia in front of my camera) and I will be there this Saturday night for her last dance.
Libertador General San MartínThursday, February 16, 2006
General Don José de San Martin is Argentina's maximum hero. In 1950, the 100th anniversary of his death, that other general, General Juan Perón decreed that all oficial documents that year would have on every page:
1950, Año del Libertador General San Martin. Furthermore all children in school had to write that on every page of all their notebooks. So I was most amazed when in our trip to Buenos Aires in December 2005, my granddaughter Rebecca felt an affinity and a curiosity for the man. We had to return twice to the site of his tomb inside the Metropolitan Cathedral on Plaza de Mayo. She was awed by the 6ft tall Granaderos who stood guard. Rebecca was almost as curious to see the balcony on the Casa Rosada (very near the cathedral) where Evita had made her speeches to the shirtless masses! At the Jardin Botánico Rebecca posed by the bust of the general surrounded by agapanthus which grows like a weed in Buenos Aires parks.
Wayne GretzkyWednesday, February 15, 2006
Through the years I have had several opportunities to photograph Wayne Gretzky. In one of them I went to Edmonton to photograph the then Canucks coach, Bill LaForge whose team was plastered by Gretzky's Oilers the evening that I was there. I sat inside the TV cameraman's booth with CBC cameraman Mike Varga. On the other side sat Gretzky. But this picture is my favourite as I took it on Gretzky's 21st birthday. He was in Vancouver to sign a one million dollar contract (the highest in NHL Hockey at the time). He was also a guest of the Paul Anka show in CBC's Studio 40. I remember that Anka sang him happy birthday.
Hugh Pickett's LetterTuesday, February 14, 2006
Hugh Pickett - Impresario 1914-2006
This photograph ran in Vancouver Magazine in October 1987. When I asked Hugh to tell me what he would save if his house were to catch on fire he unequivocally pointed out this bust of Marlene.
The Coyoacan ChurchMonday, February 13, 2006
It's Monday but I am still thinking of churches and church doors. This one is in the main square of the lovely and very old Coyoacan neighbourhood in Mexico City. I got married to Rosemary here 39 years ago, a few meters from this door. Since both of us were not Mexican, on two previous occasions the judge had refused to marry us, saying we needed permission from the Mexican government. For once the judges were honest and I was not able to bribe them (even though I knew they were wrong about the rules). The third time around I found a judge who accepted a bottle of Castillo rum as payment for the ceremony. We were married but none of our friends or my mother showed up. Both Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo lived in this "colonia". Leon Trotsky was pick-axed nearby. I took this photograph in 1962 with a Pentacon F and a Steinheil 135mm f4.5 Culminar lens. Looking at the photograph I remember that it was a few days after Palm Sunday.
Rebecca in Guanajuato 2005Sunday, February 12, 2006
When we went to Guanajuato in August, 2005 we stayed at the Hotel Castillo de Santa Cecilia. This hotel was built in the 40s over an existing fortification and it was made to resemble the castle of Segovia, Spain. Rebecca loved running around the long dark corridors but there were quite a few spots with plenty of light, too, like here. Rebecca poses by the door of La Iglesia de La Valenciana. Sometime in the late 18th century, the nearby Valenciana mine produced a big chunk of the world's silver and gold. The money helped build this church in the Churrigueresque style. We had to return several times because Rebecca fell in love with a large 19th century painting that showed Mary Magdalene about to be stoned by angry men but with Jesus intervening. Rebecca was both impressed by the size of the stones on the ground of the painting as well as the fact that Mary Magadalene is portrayed as a beautiful blonde.
La iglesia de la compañía
I took this photograph in 1964. I entered it and two other photographs in the annual Mexico City College student art show. It is the only time I have ever entered photographs but my first prize and considering that the judge was Rufino Tamayo perhaps egged me on to my present profession. I took this photograph in Guanajuato, Mexico. This is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. In August 2005 I returned with my wife Rosemary and granddaughter Rebecca. It was only then that I noted that my photograph was taken in an example of daring archtectural site-sharing. Over this building is the church of the Jesuits. It was the church of the Company of Jesus until the Jesuits were expelled from Mexico.
The LamaSaturday, February 11, 2006
The one-l lama,
He's a priest.
The two-l llama,
He's a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama
There isn't any
-- Ogden Nash
Bill Richardson and Rosa 'Mrs Oakley Fisher'Friday, February 10, 2006
One of my favourite programs on CBC Radio was Bill Richardson's Bunny Watson. It was a program of apparently unconnected random facts. For me our ability as humans to associate may be the one salient difference from other animals. My granddaughter Rebecca(8) will look at my modern shrub rose Rosa 'Jacqueline Du Pre' in bloom in June and connect the white flower with my old Angel LP of Du Pre playing Dvorak's cello concerto. Du Pre's lovely face is on the cover. Or Rebecca might look at the single yellow tea rose Mrs Oakley Fisher and say, "Papi why don't we go inside and have a cup of Earl Grey tea with some buttered toast with apricot jam?" Here you see Bill with his dogs Alice and Badger and Rebecca Stewart posing with Mrs Oakley Fisher.
Jacqueline du Pre
The Photogravure IIThursday, February 09, 2006
Here are two more photogravures from my collection. The one on the left is of English author P.C. Wren who wrote one of my favourite novels, Beau Geste. The 1939 movie with Gary Cooper, which I first saw in 1950 with my parents in the Cine General Paz on Cabildo in Buenos Aires, is also one of my faves. This photogravure of Wren is inside my 1928 edition of Beau Geste published by John Murray, Albermarle Street, London. I only paid $5.00 for it because someone took a shot at it with a 22 calibre rifle or pistol. The bullet pierced the front cover, Wren's heart (note picture) and ended on page 327. On the right is a photogravure of Alexandre Dumas (taken when he was 67). The photogravure is in volume VI of his six volume My Memoirs. This 1909 English edition, translated by E.M. Waller, was published by Methuen & Co, 36 Essex Street W.C. London.
Before the halftone process was invented at the end of the 19th century, the only way of printing photographs into books was through the photogravure process. This is an intaglio process often characterized by an embossed line around the image. On the immediate left you can see American pictorialist photographer Adolf Fassbender's 1938, City - Thy Name Be Blessed. I purchased this photogravure in Seattle for $100 some 12 years ago. It is now worth over $1000. On the far left is a photogravure by ex-Vancouverite Ian Martin. I took the photograph with infrared film in Paris and Martin converted it into the photogravure. Many photographers of the past had their photographs made into limited edition photogravures. The most famous of them was American Edward Curtiss. But Ian Martin (who now lives in Washington State) is one of the few photographers who takes photographs only as an initial step towards his incredible photogravures. In Vancouver he is represented by the Bau-Xi Gallery.
Ian Martin 2
El MateWednesday, February 08, 2006
In Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay and Brazil we drink an enfusion called yerba mate. This tea comes from Ilex paraguayensis (a shrub that is a member of the holly family). Mate has almost as much caffeine as coffee but it also has lots of vitamins and it is high in anti-oxidants. Is is a hunger suppressant. The routine is that each household has only one gourd (also called the mate) and you pass it around most ofen in a clockwise direction. The person who prepares (the verb to prepare is cebar) is the cebador or cebadora. You drink the usually very hot (but not boiling) infusion through a bombilla. You do not slurp. You pass it back to the cebador who prepares it again (by pouring hot water ) and hands it to the next person. If the mate gets cold it is called a mate lavado. It is an insult to offer it as one of the consequences of a mate lavado is that it is a laxative. The mate on the right is about 80 years old as it was my father's mate. The one on the left I bought in Buenos Aires in 2004. For some unknown reason mate in English is always written maté. This is incorrect as we pronounce the word with emphasis in the first syllable. Since the word ends in a vowel, Spanish grammar rules you don't need an accent.
The Pedal AustinTuesday, February 07, 2006
About fourteen years ago I photographed this pedal Austin being restored at Fane's. This body shop was on the corner of Davie and Richards, across the street from Mac Parry's Vancouver Magazine. Fane's specialized in restoring Rolls Royces, Bentleys and Jaguars. Somehow this little car (many had been used in Stanley Park to train children in car safety) had been purchased by a collector who wanted it back in mint condition.
The Willys-Overland in ManilaMonday, February 06, 2006
This is my Filipino/Basque grandfather Don Tirso de Irureta Goyena in his Willys-Overland with his Japanese chauffeur. I know this photo was taken in 1912 because my mother told me it was the first Willys-Overland in Manila. It was that year that John North Willys renamed his company from Willys Overland Division to the Willys-Overland Motor Company. My grandfather was a lawyer and a writer in Spanish. Because of his defense (in the end for naught) of the Spanish language facing an onslaught by American English he was made a member of the Real Academia Española.
TarrenSunday, February 05, 2006
In my life I have met many beautiful women. But Tarren is the only beautiful woman that almost killed me. Some 23 or so years ago I was on board a Tyee Air De Havilland Beaver that was taking me back from shooting stills for a CBC show job up in Egmont. It was a glorious Sunday afternoon and the pilot circled Cold Harbour to land. The water was smooth. There wasn't a breeze to ripple it. He suddenly jerked the plane and for a few seconds I thought he had lost control. Tarren was standing on the end of a dock wearing tiny red hot pants. The pilot had noticed her and had forgotten what he was doing. I remember getting out of the plane and Tarren (she was taking a plane to Victoria) said in that sassy way of hers, "Hiya doin, Alex?"
The Happy Face of Stephen Rogers
Today Sunday we have the first real day of sun after something like 32 days of rain. There is sun in my winter garden and I can almost see spring coming. That is not always the case as we get late February or March frosts that kill many of my rose canes. Still today is a happy day. What can I post that is happy? Many years ago Stephen Rogers was the energy minister for the SOCREDS. He recently lost (to Liberal Stephen Owen) as a Conservative running in Quilchena. Back then when I photographed Rogers for Harvey Southam's Equity Magazine there was no Photoshop. So I soldered a wire to the light bulb and then painted the connection with several coats of Varathane varnish. I plugged in the contraption and after showing Mr Rogers that I could hold the bulb without getting a shock he happily complied.
Spooks and booksSaturday, February 04, 2006
The idea of a public library that you can enter and then exit with book in hand is a relatively modern phenomenon that came late to my country of birth, Argentina, and to Mexico where I lived for many years in the 50s and 60s. In both countries public libraries were places where you read books inside but you could not leave with them. My first experience of taking a book home happened around 1952, when I walked out of the Lincoln Library in Buenos Aires with a book of American civil war photographs. When this US Information Service Library (there were spooks who worked out of these libraries) was not being bombed or stoned by angry Argentine students it was a great place to discover the Hardy Boys and Tom Corbett- Space Cadet. At the Benjamin Franklin Library in Mexico City not only could I borrow books, but on Mondays I could listen to American jazz played with something called high fidelity that involved a device called a turntable. Gerry Hulse was our host and from him I found out about Gerry Mulligan's pianoless quartets. Gerry Hulse moved on to writing travel stories for the LA Times (a good cover for a spook!). Thanks to the Americans I came to love libraries. I borrowed somewhere around 37 novels by Phillip K Dick from the North Burnaby Branch of public library in the 70s. I love Moshe Safdie's main branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
The first and second time I ever went to this garden I was appalled at all the cement and concrete. How could this be a garden? Then patient guides explained the symbolism behind it all. The garden grew on me. It is one of the finest places to go for a rest or to read a book.
The Luminous BuildingFriday, February 03, 2006
This building was once known as the BC Electric. It then became the BC Hydro Building and now it is called the Electra. The architect was Ron Thom, on the right and the man who okayed everything was his boss Ned Pratt, on the left. I photographed Ron Thom only once, weeks before he died. When he posed for me I faced someone who seemed to be in despair. Many say he drank himself to death. Pratt, I photographed many times and he was a cheerful man who was all I thought architects should be. He was urbane and could talk about anything. He was interested in everything. Few in Vancouver have made the connection between his Dal Grauer Substation (on one side of the Electra) and Mondrian. The Dal Grauer Substation could be the only three dimensional Mondrian in existence.
Mildred SeaverThursday, February 02, 2006
Mildred Seaver is 92. She is from Needham Heights, Massachusets. She is a serious hosta hybridizer when she isn't spreading her infectious smile around. Most of her hosta cultivars begin with Sea. So we have Hosta 'Sea Octopus', Sea Monster, Sea Dream and many more. Every once in a while she goes against her naming grain and gives us such wonderful oddities like Hosta 'Spilt Milk'. As Mildred told me, "You find a plain hosta, you splatter it with cream and there you have Spilt Milk." Electric blue is her favourite colour. If I were younger I would marry Mildred.
Rosa damascena biferaWednesday, February 01, 2006
At this time of the year I begin to think about my garden and spring. But most of all I think about my roses and I can remember their scent. This one has been around for some time. Pliny mentioned it as the rose that bloomed twice. After Rome fell, the rose was forgoten but brought back from the Holy Land by the crusaders. That may explain the damascena part of its name. The French may have invented advertising and false advertising, in particular. They named this rose Quatre Saisons. In fact she blooms once in the spring and then again in late fall. Even during the Middle Ages this rose was a sensation as most roses only flower once. Those that repeat (remontant is the word used) usually have been crossed with roses from China.
Vancouver Rose Society