Read the series Introduction here.
Born and raised in Toronto, I left school when I was seventeen and hitchhiked around North America on an unforgettable non-stop three-year odyssey of exploration and discovery. Except for a five-year stint as a personnel manager with a large camera store chain, I’ve worked all my life as a photographer, mostly in my own studio. Twelve years ago, much to my surprise, I met Linda and married for the second time, and a few years after that, closed my studio. I now enjoy life’s unexpected shifts with my retired and also very active wife. I dabble in my basement photography studio and spend a lot of time writing about some of my experiences, which I post on my blog: http://adrian-the-elder.blogspot.com
Please join me and my treasures in the sandbox. I hope you’ll find some of what I have interesting to look at while I tell you what each means to me. You’re welcome to play with them if you like; all I ask is that you take special care with my clay pot, as we have been together for more than forty-six years and it’s far more fragile than I am.
A huge clay pot I bought in Mexico in 1966 for $5 while on my honeymoon with my first wife and it has travelled with me ever since. It often rests in a corner of a room as a decoration and occasionally it gets stored away in a roof attic or garage for some period of time, but mostly I use it as a prop when taking pictures in my studio. I specialize in erotic photography and I find the luscious splendour of its curves and the added phallic suggestiveness a complement to my work. Whenever I look at it I’m filled with memories of the various bodies who have wound themselves around or near my treasured pot.
A box of twenty or so vintage Toronto Life magazines dated May 1991. Gary Michael Dault, who among other things is a painter, writer, poet and former art critic at the Globe and Mail, came into my studio one day for a passport photo and came back every day after that for almost a week. He hung around and took notes as he interviewed me and watched my interaction with clients. Eventually a photographer and his assistant came and took shots of me and my naked girlfriend (acting as model) for a spread about me.
It was all racy stuff for 1991 and in May a full two-page spread appeared titled “Photo Buff,” complete with a photo of me looking rather Mephistophelian. Of course I thought I would be flooded with business after that, but mostly I got an onslaught of heavy-breather phone calls (more than usual) along with my fifteen minutes of fame.
A huge red chaise lounge I’ve used constantly as a prop in my studio. It is magnificently tacky but looks luxurious and is very comfortable to stretch out and move about on. Whenever I unveil it during a session it’s always greeted with squeals of delight (I’m talking about the chaise, silly). When I had a studio on Eglinton Avenue a neighbour’s store was called “The Elegant Garage Sale” and they sold estate items at outrageously high prices that they would never lower (for anyone except for me). Their business model was to get rid of stock as fast as possible. Whenever an item sat around for more than a month, they would come to me and explain that no one had even looked at it so they knew it was likely something that I would love. In this case, they were right. They had been trying to sell it for $600. I got this treasure for $50 — and I’m still using it thirty-five years later.
A few African dashiki suits and some elaborately embroidered African men’s gowns called Grand Boubous. During an almost twenty-year span of my seventy years, I lived and worked extensively in the black community in Toronto. My first wife, from whom I was divorced by that time, brought the clothing back from a trip she made to Africa and gifted me with them. Over the years, I would occasionally wear them to special functions and sometime just to show off in my studio. A dozen years ago, I wore one as my wedding frock when I married my wife. What could be more reasonable than wearing a treasured gift from your first wife while marrying someone else? It made me feel embraced by the past as I moved into the future. Linda felt it was another way to include the abundance of our past lives in our wedding celebration.
I don’t like perfumes, scented deodorants or anything along those lines, except …
A French company named Ed Pinaud makes what they call a hair tonic named Eau De Portugal. I love its very light grapefruit scent, which quickly dissipates; the appeal for me is mostly its astringent effect. They had a bottling plant in Toronto that closed in the early sixties. This was long before the luxury of eBay, and if things weren’t available, you went without. When I found out the plant was shutting down, I managed to get in touch with someone by phone who happened to be walking through the almost deserted building. After listening to my pleading and cajoling, he agreed to find as many leftover bottles as he could for me. The next day I went to the near-empty factory and picked up a box of about thirty bottles. I gave him $50 for his trouble and scurried away. Thanks to his effort, I’m still using what he rounded up for me, and in fact I just started on one of my remaining treasured bottles last week. Seeing as my grey hair is still almost two feet long, I guess the bottler’s claim — that using their product will promote healthy lustrous hair — must be valid.
One of my ears is pierced with one hole in which I wear five earrings. Forty years ago, long before everybody started sticking pins and needles into themselves, I decided to get an earlobe pierced. I felt there was something definitively masculine about doing such a traditionally feminine thing, so the rebel Pirate in me took to the task. Trend-setting is rarely easy and I had great difficulty finding anyone who would do the deed for a man. Eventually I went into a hair salon in Yorkdale Plaza and a zaftig sergeant-major-type woman stepped forward and fulfilled my request. As for the masculinity part, I almost passed out when she shot the bolt into my lobe. But after a few moments of her ordering me to stop being such a wuss and man up, I recovered, and left with my new appurtenance.
Linda and I exchanged earrings — hers a diamond stud, mine a twisty gold hoop — rather than traditional rings when we got married. (We had to practise putting them in each other’s ear before our minister would allow us to do it during the ceremony.) We chose earrings instead of wedding rings because we didn’t want it to be a noticeably big deal if we ever took them off — and yet mine is such a treasure I’ve never removed it.
Boxes of negatives and prints of models I photographed thirty to forty years ago, some even on 4″x5″ and 5″x7″ film. One of my current “in work” projects is trying to locate and, if they agree, re-photograph as many of these women as I can find. I think it will be fascinating to explore the changes age has brought them. I have been going through the boxes to check names and such so I can try to find them. Not an easy task as in the past women almost always changed their names in marriage. But exploring the old shots still brings to mind full details of each individual, and how my much younger self felt while I was taking their pictures.