Every Picture Tells a Story

I am reviewing my photographs a lot these days. Sorting and ruminating on what to do with the years of collected images. My ideas so far have exceeded my ambitions. Part technical ability, part uncertainty, but mostly procrastination. I knew from a young age I was prone to postponing laborious endeavors, so I mitigated my qualms a bit, by at least taking the photo. Always in the back of my mind I had the small consolation that the image was there if ever I set about using it. Of course, that’s the crucial part, if also the least I could do. Well, enough of the self incrimination, and on to some of the images long ago captured. Or 1986, depending on your perspective.
This set is special to me in a couple ways.
First, they were taken with a medium format camera I rented from McBain Camera in Edmonton. A Pentax 645, that still commands a decent price on eBay today. I check, but I’m holding out for it’s big brother, the classic Pentax 6X7. They command a premium today too.
Beth and I were just married, and on our way to Germany to meet the Philipp clan in the communist East. We flew to Frankfurt and stayed a few days with Stef’s family, the Deunerts’, then proceeded on to Dresden, where we were met by Heinz and Ronnie Philipp. Dad’s brother and his son, my cousin of nearly the same age as Beth and I.
Crossing the border with it’s multiple check points was something I was prepared for, having been to East Germany with Mom and Dad before. Twice?
I want to say yes, but this might have been only my second trip, and we all went just after the wall came down, for a total of three trips to the East. Mom?
In any case, it was very disturbing for Beth, and were it possible to turn around at the border, (we were on a train), I would have had some convincing to do. Long story short, we enjoyed our time in East Germany, and had a couple excursions with Ronnie, Lottie, and Heinz, to abandon ruins, and back to Dresden for some shopping. Those who have been to East Germany while it was still under Communist rule are free to roll your eyes at the idea of shopping in Dresden, the beautiful crystal not withstanding, which you weren’t allowed to take out of the country. Or maybe just not much. Certainly not a large Samsonite full or other large quantity? In any case, I did make a fine purchase in Dresden on one of those trips. As I write this I am not sure if it was on the trip I’m describing now, in 1986, or when we didn’t risk jailing the entire family hauling a suitcase full of Moser Crystal across the frontier. Whenever it was, I became the proud owner of a fine German 35mm camera and a couple assorted lenses. A black Praktica I was very found of, and used for many years. I also bought some 35mm film in Dresden and captured one of my iconic images using that film, which actually posed all manner of challenges in the printing phase. Camera good, film not so much.
I thought the Chrystal in question was called Meisner. I found Moser in the intra-web.
Swimmers: Fort Providence, 1980’s.
This image was captured on film purchased in East Germany.
That’s the image I got with East German film.
All in all, Beth and I had a month touring Europe by train.
We saw Germany some more, including an absolutely glorious few days and nights at the Hotel Das Kleine Staplehausechen with Werner Frumpter in Cologne. My apologies on spelling it wrong. I have no idea the correct way, but did find a nice link. Ours was the room shown first, in row three. Or one like it. There are not many rooms at the Inn. We spent a night at his home overlooking the Mosul too. Werner was a treasure, and I know became very good friends with mom and dad. For those who haven’t heard how he came into the Philipp sphere, at the Snowshoe Inn, you most have mom tell it to you. The man was a Paris trained chef, looking to have some Mackenzie River fish he’d just caught prepared. I’ll leave the rest for mom.
Our trip was highlighted by a few nights in Bologna, Italy, and the small Italian island of Isola, populated with fishing villages in the middle of Italy’s largest lake. We stayed at the only inn still open, being September, the other small hotel was closed. I recently read an article about the village we stayed in, now being made famous by the artist Christo.
Funny how I started musing on some long neglected images and we still have yet to see one.
Chrystal Gardens, London, UK.
Our trip ended in London, with a dash back to Frankfurt, and home. So, I’ll bring up a couple from London first. Reverse order you might say.
Before I came into the open space with Sphinx’s, I meandered randomly along the streets near where we where staying with a friend from Brentwood College, who was in fact away on a trip for school. The friend was Hilary Moses (nee’ Denny) and she was attending the prestigious Royal College of Art.
Hilary is still creating art and teaches at Emily Carr College in Vancouver.
In fact, she has just completed an epic labour of love recently, The hand drawn animated short film, “Creamers”. Keep an eye out for that.
Hilary has been a great supporter of my photography, for which I am very gratefull. She has also offered her help in somehow getting some photographs on a wall, like a show or something. I’m getting back to you, again, soon on that Hilary. Trying to get to Vancouver actually. It’s coming due. Thanks for your kind words in the mean time.
A blurred figure walks past ads for American sports in London, UK.
This set up caught my eye before the figure in the centre arrived. Really, it was a set up.
First, I was struck by the fact the posters showed very North American sports with hockey and American football. It then occurred to me, if I could add another element and have it depict motion, it might contrast well with the freeze frame nature of the posters. Here is the result.
The next two images were taken in Germany. That is all I can say for sure about them. The image with two men at a fountain may have been in Frankfurt, taken while waiting to be picked up by Dieter, (Stef’s dad), to return to his home just outside the city, where Beth and I just spent the day. I’ve a dim recollection of us being late, or in the wrong place too. No cell phones and all, it’s a wonder we ever met up.
Young lad awaits a bus with his mother
With this photograph, I only recall trying to be sneaky. I don’t think I pulled it off. I was never comfortable with “street photography”. Sometimes I can’t resist, but often chicken-out, or hesitate and miss the shot. In the end, I’m just a small town lad from the sticks.
The next shot is what got this whole missive in motion. I have always liked the image. Everything about it works for me. What story does this picture tell?
Every picture tells a story
What’s in the bag?
Is that my empty box of film on the ground, in the bottom right corner?
It looks like the right size, 120mm film comes in long skinny boxes, and not common outside a studio. I would not have deliberately left it there.
Again, I was trying, extra hard, to be sneaky. Not sure if the conscious one noticed my snap, but he certainly didn’t seem to feel it was a priority at the time.
Does that say tired to you? Wary? And more.
I’m going to wrap up with a couple colour photos taken on the same trip, using my trusty Nikon FE.  Dad bought it for me at a camera store in Victoria, just before dropping me off at Brentwood for the first time. I loved that camera, and went on to own at least three more.
David Byrne stands in for me in 1986.
A wary look from mom and son, and a scowl hurled back at me.