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


Snow White's Evil Queen Looks At Herself In The Mirror
Monday, November 16, 2009

Snow White’s evil queen looking at herself in a mirror is seen as the tragic flaw that initiates a series of events that result with Snow White living happily ever after.

There is a lesson here that I have wanted to teach Rebbeca. A few months ago I took a beautiful light jet print of Rebecca to Grant Simmons at Disc so that he could use it as reference for the scan, one of four that would result in my latest promotion attempt with postcards. Grant looked at the print and said, “I can do a better job than that. Leave that print behind and I will make a new one. You will see the difference.” Rebecca was bothered as we left by Simmons’ cocky faith in himself. Rebecca saw this as a flaw. She said to me, “He’s full of himself.” I was really unable to explain that when one is an artist or one has an artistic temperament the only (when money is scarce) encouragement one can have to keep at it is a faith in one’s ability. “If you think you are the best,” I told Rebecca, “you are better for it.” She was not convinced.

I did return to pick up Grant Simmons’ version of the Rebecca picture and the difference, while subtle, was overwhelming for those of us who know about correct skin tones and the keeping of texture and detail in very light areas. The print was superb. Grant Simmons is, I believe the best drum scanner in the business and his use of Photoshop is never noticed, it is that good.

Snow White’s Queen, is a beautiful woman who begins to have doubts of her beauty. She must know that she is the most beautiful. This “flaw” affects models, dancers and, yes, photographers. We must know that we are good. In some cases it is not important to be told so. Deep inside, we must know by ourselves.

Vancouver does not understand sustainable excellence. To be exciting you have to be a dazzling and short-lived shooting star. I remember the years of struggle that Christopher Gaze went through before he made his Bard on the Beach the success it is today. This success is now taken for granted by many and no hats are taken off to salute the man’s excellence, talent and perseverance.

There are some who tell me they like this blog. They tell me they like something I wrote. For someone who is a photographer that is a very good thing to be told. To be told that the writing is okay. But is seems to me that the photographs are taken for granted. A couple of years ago someone that I don’t know sent a contact submission through this blog’s parent web page that read, “Today’s photograph of Rebecca is ugly.” I felt hurt and indignant that someone would spend the time to send me such a message. Now I am beginning to warm up to it. It means that someone was noticing the pictures.

I am particularly proud (and I will have to explain to Rebecca that being proud of what one does well beats false modesty), of today’s black and white portrait. I took it for the inside of the Georgia Straight in 2005. I had been commissioned to shoot the cover which was about Ballet BC’s second mounting of its popular and racy Carmen. For the cover I used a ring flash which was positioned crooked to get that neon/ring look on the side. This happens because the camera's wide angle lens "reads" or sees the edge of the flash. The folks at the Straight could not understand it so they cropped it out. To make things worse the dancers arrived late and had to go early. Suddenly not only did I have to shoot a cover but I had to take an inside shot that looked different. I removed the ring flash and used one low open flash fitted with a honeycomb grid that narrows the light. I took the pictures in a hurry with a very slow shutter. In spite of the stress I was satisfied with the result. The look of the picture resembles the avant-garde of the late 20s. It reminds me of a photograph taken by German photographer Herbert Bayer in 1932, above, left. I was very happy even though I didn’t get a boo from anybody. I will have to explain to Rebecca, what counts is that one knows that one took a good picture. I am proud of it. I don’t need a mirror to know that.

From left to right, Acacia Schachte, Edmond Kilpatrick, Sandrine Cassini.


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