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


Free Will & Wreck Beach
Thursday, January 22, 2009

My wife Rosemary and I differ in how we look at our past. Rosemary spends long hours, as I sleep, wondering about the what ifs and the what if I had nots.

At our religion class at St. Ed's in Austin Texas we often liked to detour Brother Edwin Reggio CSC from the topic at hand. One of our favourites was to bait him with the concept of free will. "How is it possible for there to be free will if God is All Knowing?" we would ask him. To this day I have a deep respect for this adroit man who gave us logical answers and never got angry at us except twice.

Once it involved one of the biggest and heaviest of us, Byron Todd and the other and obstreperous Richard Mosby who was the only black student in our class. Both talked out of turn and pressed some buttons that we did not know Brother Edwin had. Brother Edwin, 5ft 1 was short and a tad compact. He picked Mosby on the one day and Todd on the other (some of my classmates swear it happened on one day and that he picked up each boy at the same time) with one arm and threw him across the room. We were impressed beyond imagination wondering what laws of physics our Brother Edwin had circumvented. It was only last year that Brother Edwin told me that his father and he and his brother had been Olympic ring champions.

My belief is that Brother Edwin welcomed our break-the-topic-of-the-day detour because he liked to debate and make us use our brains. He never gave us a hint at all the he knew what we were up to.

On the day that we asked him about free will he explained it like this:

Picture yourself up on the top of a mountain and you are looking down on both sides of a sharp hairpin curve. You see cars coming, very fast from either direction and you can also spot a large rock impeding one lane where the curve is at its sharpest. You can see that the cars will be involved in a head on collision. Perhaps you could stop the accident but you choose not to. That's free will.

I sleep most nights well while Rosemary agonizes on how we could have better invested our money or obtained better jobs or purchased a better house for less money (and bathrooms that don't leak) and in the right side of Granville instead of the wrong one. She wonders where we went wrong because our daughters didn't marry lawyers or engineers.

When we first came to Vancouver in 1975 I was not able to get work as a photogrpaher. I was simply not as good as I thought I was. I needed experience and knowledge of what was available in town. I ended up washing and renting cars for Tilden-Rent-A-Car (In Canada It's Tilden. May I help you?) The shift work meant that I only had one complete weekend per month. There were days when the girls were in school and Rosemary was at work.

I would go to lie on the sand of Wreck Beach in the Summer. I ran into people who had ways of only working in spring and fall so that they could travel in winter and lie on the beach in the summer. I was jealous even though many worked as waiters or waitresses and in the construction business. These were jobs I was not keen to look for. To this day Rosemary insists I was a lazy bum for many years and that I should have found better things to do with those spare days. "You could have looked for a better job."

What is the connection of the above with the pictures of a blonde school teacher called Marley W that I met at Wreck Beach? It was at Wreck Beach that I honed my photography of the human form. It was my on the spot live art class. I tried new films, odd films, odd film/developer combinations and in a couple of the pictures here I perfected my understanding of Kodak b+w Infrared Film and Kodak Special Order SO-115 which had incredibly fine grain and a shift towards the red that rendered skin luminous. I practiced using extreme wide-angles and learned how much distortion was acceptable. I learned to photograph the human form as pure form. It was later, as a I developed more confidence, that I started shifting towards the portrait.

Marley W. was a lovely and patient young woman who posed for me for long hours without protest and made me feel that what I was doing was the right thing and that it would better me. And best of all she taught me to appreciate poise and elegance.

No if I could only convince Rosemary. She would sleep nights.

St Edward's High School


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La Mujer Durmiente - The Sleeping Woman

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The Scissor - That Singularity

Miss Julie In Red & A Ghost In Black

Terpsichore, Beauty & My Top Ten

The Reverse Strip & A Visual Wit Of Omission

Lisa Ha - The Mystery Of The Exotic

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