A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


A Fit Tiko Kerr - A Young Boxer - An Older Little Girl
Sunday, April 06, 2008

They say children grow up a lot sooner these days. Maybe that's not true and what is true from my point of view is that it took me a long time to do so.

In 1985 Vancouver Magazine dispatched me to photograph an article on boxing written by Jim Christy. It involved boxers like Tony Pep and Michael Olajide. In the end Olajide made the cover. Part of my assignment had me photograph several boxing matches. One thing is to see a boxing film and quite another is to hear the punches and see the blood. With me in all those matches was Vancouver Sun photographer Steve Bosch. He was the paper's boxing expert simply because he chosen years before the night shift. Most boxing matches happen at night. The young, athletic and beautiful Olajide was matched against an older white man who was going to be his cannon fodder and he would allow Olajide to climb up into stardom. The fight was no match and the older man was being devastated by continuous and well placed punches. The man's trainer threw in the towel on to the ring. The old man lowered his guard. Olajide noticed that the judges had not seen this so he swung at the man with a punch that floored him for the ten-count. I was too amazed to take any picture. Next to me Bosch's motor drive whirred away. He got his shot. I didn't. It was then that I gained a great respect for the true newspaper photographer who somehow manages to suppress instincts and emotion to get the job done.

Three weeks ago Lauren, Rebecca, Rosemary and I went to VanDusen and we watched an "opera" that included two male Canada geese and a female. It was a courtship that was being interrupted by a less agressive male who seemed to be desperate. Rebecca informed us that it was unlikely that latecomer would find a partner. She said this with confidence and with a matter of fact coldness. The fight between the two males got vicious. The dominant one was pecking the other with the determination of killing him. We were able to approach the pair to within a foot but we were ignored.

I could have gotten an exciting shot with my Nikon FM-2 in the way that I did not in earlier years capture Olajide's haymaker. But again I could not suppress my emotion. We shouted and threw dirt at the pair until the injured one was able to limp away. Rebecca was silent for the rest of the day. There was a look of sadness, almost agony in her face.

Yesterday we went to see Tiko Kerr's show at the Winsor Gallery. Rebecca was surly and did not want to go. I told her to turn off the computer. She was playing a game. "Make me," she said. I threatened to ground her (I have been given this authority by her parents and it involves a curtailing of computer and TV privileges for whatever length of time I stipulate). But I have rarely followed through with the threat and by the time we arrived at the gallery Rebecca was charmed by Kerr's paintings. Some were extremely large. I spotted the luminously beautiful Barbara Bernath (standing behind a computer in the gallery's back office) who in her youth played drums for such bands as 50% Off which was fronted by no less than Lincoln Clarkes. Rebecca enquired about the self portraits which were collages using hundreds of injection ampules and other medical paraphernalia. Trying to soften the blow I interjected that Kerr had haunted the back alley bins of the Vancouver General Hospital to find the stuff. Barnath interrupted to explain, very clearly, that Kerr who has AIDS, takes a huge amount of medication every day. "The AIDS virus will never go away," she explained to Rebecca. When we left Rebecca asked me (whispering so Lauren would not hear) on Granville, "Is Tiko Kerr g - a - y?" spelling out the word. I answered that he was and that he suffered for many years and had been near death until a special medication was provided only after newspaper articles and a general uproar in Kerr's favour had forced the medical bureaucracy to provide the drug. In the end Rebecca posed by her favourite Tiko Kerr painting which happens to be my favourite, too. It's the one with the float plane and the blue sky. Both of us were hoping it is a Beaver.

I explained that it was nice that a fit and happy Kerr now had sold many paintings for very good money. Bu Kerr's happy ending has come with a realization for Rebecca that life isn't easy and that it is not all fun and games. I think that knowledge is captured in a picture I have been afraid to post here. I took the picture in Lillooet in the fall. Rebecca borrowed Ale's (my daughter and her aunt) top. She wanted to look older. She does. I am sad.


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