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


Robson Street Studio Nevermore
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Today is September 30 and it is a special day of reflection and rationalization for this photographer. The last thing I did when I closed the door of my empty and freshly vacuumed studio at 712 Robson, Suite 18 was to peel off the little sign on the door that Darryl Snaychuck made. He was a young up-and-coming Vancouver photographer with whom I shared the studio for the first years some 17 years ago. He did a lot of work painting walls gray and white and making large reflectors out of foam core.

I think that just about every profession must have the concept of having a place to hang one’s shingle that one can call one’s own. This was the case with my Robson Street studio but which in the last couple of years became a case of more money leaving to pay its rent than the money coming in. Today I brought the last of the large paper backdrop rolls. They stuck out of the passenger window of Rosemary’s car. Except for a white one I never used the rest of them which were red, blue and several shades of gray. My backdrop of choice was Darryl’s middle gray wall. I could make that wall black, many shades of gray and almost white depending on how I lit it. I seriously doubt I will ever use the seamless (as we photographers call these rolls) except the gray one which I just might cut in half (its width) and roll it out in my living room to photograph my granddaughters.

The folks at Focal Point have told me that since I teach there I can use their studios (they have three) any time, free of charge, if I give them some notice. This is a good thing and I must admit that my studio location had been getting seedier in the last few years. A pipe shot one floor beneath me wafted pot smoke into my studio in the afternoon. The same pipe shop pumped heavy drum music during most of the day. An Iranian/Lebanese style fast food restaurant on the street level made my studio smell like a kitchen where a horse had died weeks before. The high end tax lawyers from Thorsteinsson’s who thought my studio was funky have moved on to having their pictures taken in their office, perhaps by their office manager.

I reflect on the people who have come to my studio to have their picture taken and I try to decide which were the most memorable. I thought this might be a difficult activity but it has not been. My studio had the best natural lighting in Vancouver as the Sears building (formerly Eaton’s) reflected a whole white city block into my studio which had four very tall and large windows. The light in the afternoon, especially on a summer day was so bright that it sometimes induced migraines. I had to put heavy black curtains to block the light so I could ignore God’s light and use my own controlled lighting.

But there was mid-morning day in 2005 when I was getting ready to take some lit studio pictures of my granddaughter. She was being made up by my daughter Ale. It was then that I noticed the window light coming in and making Rebecca’s face seem like it was the Medusa’s. I put my camera on a tripod and took that rare picture (for me using my large camera without flash is a rare occurrence). In the end the image became the signature image of a show I had that year at a 4th Avenue gallery and I sold a very large giclée version of it to art collector Yoseph Wosk for very good money. His comment to me when he became interested in the picture was, "She looks transformed, almost mystical." I almost replied, "It was God's light."

Not having my own studio now I will perhaps explore God’s light again and see what I can do to attempt to match the picture of Rebecca here.


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