Rosemary - A Botanical MuseMonday, February 19, 2007
On a cold day in late February of 1992 (it wasn't raining as it is today) Rosemary said, "Let's go to VanDusen." I could not understand why she wanted to go. What could there possibly be to see, with no flowers of any kind? I grabbed my Widelux, a Japanese swivel lens panoramic camera, loaded it with Kodak b+w infrared film and followed Rosemary out the door. I took several photographs but it is the nature of infrared film, in complicity with the Widelux, which is a highly unreliable camera, that I had few of the 20 exposures turn out. I printed them in my darkroom and I could not believe their beauty. It was about this time that I discovered what other photographers around the world had noted about Agfa Portriga photographic paper. If the properly washed (to remove all traces of fixer) photographs were placed in a 1 to 3 dilution of selenium toner (served hot) they developed a strangely beautiful split toning. They had a rich magenta/maroon and in some places a cold cyan/gray.
Because of Rosemary I had discovered a new interest in photography that I had ignored for years. I had always been attracted to the portrait and avoided the landscape. Shooting landscapes has helped me get away from possible portrait blocks (portraits are my bread and butter) and made me appreciate plants much in the same way as Rosemary appreciates them.
Last year the Vancouver Urbanarium Society paid me (a first for me!) to have a show at the Pendulum Gallery at the Hong Kong Bank of panoramics done in the style Rosemary had somehow pressed me into back in 1992.
Yesterday the sun came out. It was a bonus day as it was supposed to rain. Rosemary and I worked in the garden cleaning it up in preparation for spring. I have to prepare a lecture for next week at UBC Botanical Garden on plant and garden photography. A radio station is interviewing me tomorrow on the subject.
In this age of specialization, it took Rosemary to teach me that versatility is far more valuable.
The first photograph above is from that first series in 1992. From that angle it was impossible to believe that I could be in the middle of a large city and not be able to see a building, a car or a person! The second picture I took last April at VanDusen. If it looks different it is because this is a straight scan. Alas! Agfa Portriga is no longer made and Agfa declared bankruptcy a few years back. Even if they return I think Portriga is history.