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


James Parkinson's Paralysis Agitans
Friday, September 12, 2008

Last night, while preparing my projected lecture (I talk and project jpgs from a CD through a lap top connected to a digital projector) I found a devastatingly disturbing portrait of great American photographer Margaret Bourke-White. The portrait was taken by Life Magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898 - 1995) in March 1959. Bourke-White who had taken the first cover for Life Magazine in September 1936 and flown in bombing mission (the first woman) in January 23, 1943 over Tunis she was previously and dashingly photographed by Eisenstaedt. The difference between the pictures made me think on not only how Bourke-White's career ended quite suddenly around 1953 when she learned she had Parkinson's but also how many of my friends (6) here in Vancouver have that terrible disease. I also know that Edward Weston, ultimately stopped taking photographs because of the crippling disease.

A couple of years back I had a student, Alan Jacques in my class at Focal Point. He had Parkinson's and he told me once, "I have my good days and my bad days. And today is a good one." This cheerful and talented photographer had mastered a special technique. He used wide angle lenses (they tend to minimize shake) and he opted for Nikon FM or FM-2s. He held these cameras firmly on his forhead and would use a wide stance with his legs and get close to his subjects. He shot beautiuful nudes in my nude photography class. A few months back I ran into Jacques whose photography business is going strong. I would suspect that this is one instance where digital photography has become a distinct asset.

I have heard of various photographers in the past who have been so in spite of being clinically blind. It seems to me that Parkinson's must then be the cruelest of all diseases to hit a photographer. Every morning when I wake up (more and more I do this) I check my hands.

In 1978 I took still photographs for the Vancouver CBC. One of my jobs was to photograph drama. The particular drama that took me to studio 40 one day was a show called Leo and Me. It featured Brent Carver (Leo) and a young boy (the me of Leo and Me) called Michael J. Fox. Years after I would go into my files and look at Leo and Me and go to throw them away. And then for who knows what reason I kept them. Here is one of the very young Michael J. Fox. He was a cheerful kind of kid and everybody on the set loved him. How were we to know?

In 2002, an investigation was launched into Leo and Me after an unusual cluster of Parkinson's disease cases was noted among former cast and crew members of the show. Fox and director Don Williams were among the four with the disease, along with a writer and a cameraman


Previous Posts
Mr. Rampage, Mr. Pinhead And A Backseat Bombshell

The Portuguese Bombshell In Red

Rebecca, Che Guevara & My Pyrolytic Carbon Pipe

The Women - My Women - A Stray Man

My Privileged View

Suspended Over A Forest

Ms. Hernandez, Cordelia & Jan Morris

María Felix Sleeps In Paris

Lady Windermere's Fan

Dichroa febrifuga & Friends

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010