Edward Clendon River — Michael Turner & Modigliani
Today Sunday October 15, 2017 I photographed a handsome young man in bed at a local hotel, the Rosedale on Robson. When I returned home I watched Richard Wallace’s 1943 spy thriller,The Fallen Sparrow with John Garfield, Maureen O’Hara (since this was a sort of noir film in b+w I had to imagine her red hair) and a villainous Walter Slezak.
At one point this was the dialogue:
John ‘Kit’ McKittrick (John Garfield): Finally, here to us.
Toni Donne (Maureen O’Hara): What is it you really want?
John ‘Kit’ McKittrick: The girl that looks like you shouldn’t ask a question like that and you know why.
Beginning with Garfield calling O’Hara a girl and the rest of what he said I immediately understood that the dialogue would not wash in this 21st century. In fact most, if not all of the films I saw with my parents in Buenos Aires in the 50s and others and some more recent simply would make many people uncomfortable.
I have a male writer friend who tells me that he now does not compliment women, “I say nothing.”
While walking on Broadway this afternoon a woman (young she was) was coming my way. I knew that I had to either avert my glance or unfocus my eyes. And even though I am an Argentine I have learned not to turn my head and look back.
Six years ago my architect friend Abraham Rogatnick (he was 82) died. Before he did, he told me as he confronted this modern world, “I am not long for this world and I am glad.”
Sometimes I concur.
It was in July of 1994 that the editor (I have forgotten his name) of the staid Canadian literary magazine based in Toronto, Quill & Quire called me with the assignment to photograph the young Vancouver poet Michael Turner.
I have forgotten the circumstances as to why I suggested to Turner that I photograph him in the best room of the sleazy hotel (and exotic dancer lounge) The Marble Arch. I told him that I wanted to photograph him in bed, smoking a cigarette and to convey that he had recently had sex with a woman lounging on the bed behind him.
I sent the photograph to Toronto (via FedEx as the internet did not quite work well yet). When the magazine came out, two days later the editor called me. He said, “Alex, we had instant hate letters thanks to your photo. It has been exciting around here. Thank you!”
It was obvious that he was pleased at my sexist photograph that objectified the woman behind him. But a man photographed in bed does not suffer that now-so-relevant epithet of being objectified.
In that spirit (in spite that I now sort of share with Quill & Quire the idea of being moribund and or staid) I contacted yesterday the male performer of the New Zealand theatrical/circus troupe The Dust Palace which performed its last show last night at the York in something called The Goblin Market which I saw twice. I told him I wanted to photograph him in bed.
If you consider how gruelling the Goblin Market act the act was and, for so many days, you would think that Edward Clendon River would have turned down my request. He was flying off to New Zealand at 4 in the afternoon today but he said he would be delighted to pose for me at 11.
Taking Clendon’s photographs was amn exciting situation because the man is a perfectionist and he looked at every picture I would take with my Fuji X-E1 and would change his pose in this way and that way. I was finished by 11:45 and agreed that the last photograph was the best.
I asked him why he was keen. It would seem that living in the Southern Hemisphere does have some limitations even though they (those in the Southern Hemisphere) do get to the see the Southern Cross on the night sky. He was happy to take any opportunity that came his way.
Our work was truly a collaborative effort and the idea of pleasing someone while pleasing yourself is a rare high for me these days.
The room at the Rosedale Hotel was beautiful. Clendon had a large wall to ceiling window overlooking the Vancouver Public Library and the condo towers that surround and hide (alas!)our CBC.
Because the room was not large I had to use my camera on the wide angle setting. Because of that his torso looks a bit more elongated and because his face is further away his face is smaller, too.
I told him, “You look like a Modigliani painting.” He smiled and we both knew we had something.
Objectification? Who cares.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.