Saturday 24 February 2007

Imperfect self-P

This is the portrait of a man who has, much to his chagrin, discovered that his affection was not needed.
A man who was later to be persecuted for not having understood in time the long hand that writes of unrequited love.
A man whose only possible refuge was an imperfect self-portrait, where to end up looking hunted and forlorn.
The frame and corollary of this image are provided by a chemical stain in the print.

Dark series 1

This one is a self-P that got damaged not so much by chemicals in the darkroom, but in life before the shot was taken. Then it went to the garbage bin and at the last moment I saved it from the ignominy of eI Olvido. I saved it for my own visual bin.
It could very well be an appropriate representation of a general state of heart during the difficult days of September 2006.
There is something pathetic in some photographs when they involve anguish and pain. When they shout with their eyes from the silence of a printed eight by ten.

Cuerdas nada mas

En estas cuerdas colgué mis pesadumbres. Desde estas cuerdas escuché el paso temporal de viento. Desde estas cuerdas lloraron mis calzones y mis misaelas. Desde estas cuerdas habré de estructurar la sinfonía de mis días grises.

My book cover

I am announcing that one day I will also publish a book of my photographs. To prove it I am showing for the first time the cover already designed and ready to go. All I need now is a sponsor and a direct distribution line. I can see myself floating in money...

Two doors, only one real...

The woman was sitting on the floor of the church's entrance. I wanted the entrance and its light - don't remember now if it was morning or afternoon- and I got a good image. Later on I decided to use the test-scrap that contains the central character in this image, and use it as a piece in an imaginary puzzle.

I, Grandpa

Some say we end up reflecting -visually representing?- our genes once a certain barrier of age has been conquered. Well, this is the passage of that barrier for me. My grandfather would have probably looked like this, had he been photographed. He wasn't there. But I was. Just off the boat in an England which was more rain clouds than anything else. Except long days and a window that gives onto far-off hills, and a serpentine silvery train, coming from London or going back during long days in a cottage in some hill in Southeast Kent.

Thursday 15 February 2007

Sloman gets the treatment

After having subjected over fifty artists in South Kent to the upside down treatment of his view camera, Neil Sloman is finally ready to show his work to the public in a major exhibition in Canterbury.
This portrait of the photographer himself, as the subject, is intended to pay him homage by showing the rest of cast and crew what he looks like in real life, that is, inside his camera.

The gust of wind, Bellavista, Cali

Living on a hill can have its rewards. Particularly if the hill is in Cali, where the temperature can go as high as 35 degrees at noon. So, it is always refreshing when the winds come from the mountains every day at five in the afternoon. Just in time for a small cup of black coffee and a set-up for a photograph.
The house is in Bellavista -Beautiful view- is the translation; that's where Memo Correa has his home, where this nude was taken; his bohemian refuge, his grotto non-sancto.
Bella vista indeed.

Justin Gilday, L'Exterminateur

Justin Gilday is a lovely bloke who happens to have a most amazingly strong and singular face.
He also has a not very enviable job.
He is an exterminator.
He roams South Kent roads in hot pursuit of vermin, pests, bugs, bedbugs and hairy little creatures.
He finds them and exterminates them in hotels, old people's homes, power stations, the back of cars, you name it.
The night I met him I knew I had to photograph him. We got together the following day to shoot the portrait and this is one of the results.

Tuesday 13 February 2007

Carlos Vega, the virtual millionaire

Carlos Vega was an assistant professor at San Salvador University when he was abducted and kept in confinement for three weeks. Torture included. He managed to survive his interrogators through sheer luck, considering they were one of the cruelest in Latin America, and fled to San Francisco, California. There he became a Biology teacher.
A few years ago, along with a group of former detainees, he decided to sue the former Salvadoran army colonels living in quiet splendour in Miami. For violation of their fundamental Human Rights. And for a lot of money. And they won their case. There was no money paid since the accused claimed bankruptcy, but it was a win of honor.

Faversham, 2002

La Petite as ghost

It was through the eyes of a very esteemed and beloved colleague that I was able to understand this image. Some images need to be sometimes rediscovered by others, independent eyes, for they can acquire a different meaning. The image leaps from the page and elicits thought.

The lamp at Memo's

Lilo completely absorbed by the glint of a light bulb has what can be easily described as the spellbound look. Her air of benign self-absorption lends the image an atmosphere of serenity. The lamp adds to the charm of this portrait by being low and subtle. Her downcast gaze makes her look as if she were listening to something special from a voice somewhere in the corner of the image. The whole ensemble could neatly fit into a scene from a 1950's Mexican melodrama.
A set-piece reminiscent of sculpture. Or painting, or both.

Cali, 1996

Saturday 10 February 2007

Margaret, Quebec City 1974

This is what I wrote five years ago in this blog:

 Quebec City, my first camera and first wife. A small room in a provincial town with wonderful light streaming in from the outside. One never thought of preserving memory, it was all about photographing, not keeping records. But in the end that's what happens. It is a record kept for thirty odd years, of a time nexorably lost.
I must be thankful for the negatives so well preserved. There would be no memory without them.
I must confess, on the other hand, that, having given the image a tinted look it makes it speak of another era, and it can only mean that my mental association with the place evoke visuals bathed on that ineffable sepia glow...

This is what I wrote today:

 Five years ago, going through my old prints, I found this image of my first wife, Margaret Thurlow. It recalled pointedly those early years of my life as an immigrant in Canada, my first attempts at being a man in love with photography and the very first vacation that I had taken as an adult. It was a wonderful time, with wife on board and the fantasy at hand to do whatever came to mind while free of duties and a camera nearby.
A few months ago I received the sad news that Margaret had passed away, in Santa Cruz, California, and of course the dark clouds of reality started to gather over my head. Age and the diminishing probabilities to do what needs to be done before our turn at the head of the queue all came cascading forth. So it goes.
These few sentences and the accompanying nude portrait should suffice to pay homage to the  woman who taught me photography and was a very good human being all of her life.

Indigenous Musician

These men came from the mountains in search of redress, and a plot of land, promised by the government of Belisario Betancur, in Colombia in 1983. They celebrated by playing mournful music (isn't all Andean music thus?); and danced in gentle swirling ways, and swayed to the tunes of their flutes and their drums.
Silvia, Cauca, Colombia.

Los labios de Madame

These lips have not changed in thirty years...or, have they?
Why is the passage of time so perverse, so inflexible, against our physical being; and, come to think of it, is it possible that all that will be left of a wonderful passion could be a meager black and white photograph?
Toronto 1976

La Pupila de Laura

This could be a self-portrait. If one wants to stretch it a bit. It is, it could be argued, since it reflects a human figure trying not to be overlooked by the bright surface of the eye. The eye becomes the camera. The camera is unflinching.
Laura's eye succeeds in capturing what's being reflected upon its shiny surface, the harsh light in the patio, and the photographer's outline, on a sunny afternoon.
Cali, sometime in 1979.

Jorge Lozano, 1976

Jorge Lozano es mi hermano de toda la vida. Una noche de ausencia y largas copas decidí enviar esta carta a sus padres, acompañada de un retrato tomado durante mis primeros años en Toronto.

Nadador de los Andes

I must now regress and admit that the aspect of this man that most attracted me was the eagle in his chest, etched crudely in mid-flight, with its unfinished feathers dangling in disarray. He was visiting his family shortly before going back to Queens, NY; to the grind.
He seems to have acquired wings that combine the mountains in the background and a nearby roof. The descending fog from the gorge gives the image a surreal hint. The wings make him look like an andean angel, despite the Emiliano Zapata moustache. The mountain opens up into a gentle slope and becomes a street, a few hundred yards further down.

Chevalier at Le Sacre Coeur

The imposing Chevalier barring the entrance to the church presents itself as the guardian of his faith. There is always something very intriguing -scary even- about the twined lines running from church to state and vice versa.
But the photographer supersedes the speculative mind of the pedestrian and has to take a shot. Inside the church, two groups of nuns were competing who would hit the highest note in a choral exchange made this side of heaven.

Funeral Day, London 2002

The day was as gloomy as can be and I was in London by chance. Down the road from Trafalgar Square, the funeral ceremonies for the Queen Mother were taking place. There were troopers from the down under and Gurkas dressed with the sober garb of their land, and English veterans of vieux guerres looking proud and dripping with medals.
I decided to have my lunch among the pigeons and sat down overlooking the fountains and the imposing lions.
And then took this shot of Nelson's Column. Afterwards I turned it around and made myself a paper negative, which in the end happened to be a most faithful representation of the time and the place.

Very Distant Relatives, Colombia 1983

The title for this image was a burst of inspiration.
It was issued as a personal comment infected with a big dose of self-deprecating and humorous content. Or so I thought.
Time has proven that I was not so far off the mark, and the title itself has become a true statement, considering that if I look at myself in the mirror, long enough, I will be able to see myself as a replica of one of these fellows, or - is it the other way around?

Vieja leyendo, Paris, 2005

There is always the postcard that was never intended to be. Paris has its armies of old timers doing all sorts of things all over town. This woman was reading oblivious to the hustle and bustle of life in the busy avenue a few meters away whilst doing what comes natural on a sunny spring morning in the park.

Hombre, Colombia, 1975

I've always felt that once reality disappears quickly into the past, memory establishes its reign. But as time passes and memory tends to divagate and waiver from what was and what might have been, then some images become the memory of dreams. This one is one of those.

Sunday 4 February 2007

Neil Sloman, Photographer

My colleague Neil Sloman has been making portraits of artists in their environments around Southern Kent for the past three years. His efforts have now come to fruition with a major exhibition in Canterbury in February 2007. He has been photographing with a view camera, a cumbersome contraption, which yields amazing results for those adventurous enough to explore the universe outside the boundaries of medium format. His work is classic in the sense that it does not stray from the established standards of quality and outlook long ago set by masters of the form (Newman, Beaton, et al) and it is made all the more admirable by the fact that he has done it in between his duties as an Art History and Photography teacher at Canterbury College.

Thursday 1 February 2007

Birthday Long Ago...

In 2000 we came to live in England; well, not really England, it was rather a dismal little cottage on a hill somewhere in South Kent. Then my fifty second birthday came in May 2001 and as such I did my yearly self-portrait and this is what came out of the negative: a man trapped in a room inside a country totally alien to his soul, surrounded by soggy grass and cold rain. Then it all clicked in; all I had to do to discover my real self in the portrait was to trace geometric patterns in search of a solution to my sadness and alienation.
Here it is, in all its functional dysfunction: I am the cat and I am being held by an alien being who looks remarkably suspicious like my former incarnation as Lalo Borja.

By Jack Peilow, ten years had passed since...

This shot was part of a series that young Jack did at the time and was entirely related to beards.  Jack went around town asking men to pose...