Wilfred Stanzer

Wilfred Stanzer, author, film maker, explorer, May 17, 2014.

Wilfred Stanzer, author, film maker, explorer, May 17, 2014.

Some people seem to live more than one life. Wilfred Stanzer might have rested after making six documentary films for Austrian and German Television. He was travelling among the nomads of Afghanistan and east Persia, he admired and studied their carpets, but when the situation in Afghanistan became too difficult he knew he had to leave.

He began travelling in Morocco. He had already written KORDI — Lives, Rugs, Flatweaves of the Kurds of Khorasan and Morocco was new and strange territory. Wilfred Stanzer's Moroccan explorations would become the foundation for his next book, Berber published in 1991. 

I was able to travel with Wilfred for a few days in 2014, an opportunity I owe to the intersection of Maiwa's interest in natural dyes and Wilfred's interest in reviving traditional artisan work in a small village in the Anti Atlas mountains. Wilfred is a remarkable man, at ease barefoot on the Saharan dunes or trekking through the hail when our mountain road was washed out by flash floods. He demonstrated the kind of facility for memory a man develops when he is constantly among new languages, patterns and cultures. When Wilfred left our small group he said goodbye to each individual with a comment tailored to who that person was, or what they had experienced.

This portrait was taken on the edge of the Sahara.

A letter is like ...


A letter is like the first page of a book. It is a leaf without a history, nothing preceding — no ancestors or parents. A letter is an orphan who makes his way alone, puts on his shoes in a quiet hallway when the other children are gone; the sun through the windows picking out motes of dust in the air, as if they were the stars in the heavens and like the stars the beautiful transit of their orbits traces a geometry without purpose or conclusion; a cipher we can never understand. A letter lives alone in the heart, like a man in a tenement, waiting for the right day to go out into the world. A letter is a solitary that dreams of the society of others, that keeps an ember of longing alive, that believes in a purpose. A letter is like the first page of a blank book and it carries with it the essence of promise. 

Yukiko Onley

Yukiko Onley, photographer March 18, 2014

Yukiko Onley, photographer March 18, 2014

Its a daunting task photographing another photographer. I guess the reasons are pretty obvious.

Yukiko Onley and I did some sessions in the Spring of 2014. She was the perfect model with grace and poise and an intuitive sense of what a photographer might be looking for. In the end this was my favourite shot from the session. In my mind it harkens back to Avadon's work with Audrey Hepburn — the black shapes of the figure, the grey backdrop.

This was part of a photographic exchange. I met Yukiko at my exhibition at the Ferry Building Gallery in 2014. She asked me if I would be the subject of a portrait shoot and, as turnabout is fair play, I asked the same.

Yukiko is well known in the Vancouver photographic community for her black and white portrature of such figures as Arthur Erickson, her photography of the Kokoro Dance Theatre and her long artistic relationship/marriage to painter Tony Onley. Her studio/gallery VISUAL SPACE which she shares with Peter Eastwood and Noriko Tidball moved to Dunbar St. in December 2014.

We did this shoot in Yukiko's studio when it was still located a few blocks off Main street.

Kathy Para

Kathy Para, writer, June 29, 2013

Kathy Para, writer, June 29, 2013

By the summer of 2013 I had been working on the portrait project for three full years. I was preparing for my third exhibition and was optimistically working with a printer on a hardcover book. People began to contact me about the possibility of a portrait. One such person was Kathy Para. Her manuscript Lucky (a novel about a photojournalist in Afghanistan) was generating a lot of interest. It was due to be released by Mother Tongue Publishing in the fall and Kathy needed an author photo.

At a certain point Kathy put her hands together in a most unusual way. That was it. I could have used just her hands as a portrait - they seemed to say so much. A book publisher needs something a little less abstract, however, and so the photo below was selected.



Esmé, graduate, June 25, 2013.

Esmé, graduate, June 25, 2013.

The summer seemed to last forever.

But as all days do, this day slowly slips into the past, like a coastline as the boat pulls away from the shore. First the rocks, covered briefly by shallow water, where the measurements are all human: the water is ankle deep, now up to my waist, now over my head, now it is the distance I can swim out to, and now we are beyond that distance also; drifting; the waves are no more than a line where the land and the water meet. Now the deep greens and blues of the coastline are signatures, signing the landscape. Now we are far away. Now we are years away.

Crispin Elsted

Crispin Elsted, printer, poet, April 30, 2013.

Crispin Elsted, printer, poet, April 30, 2013.

"The Elsteds have been operating Barbarian Press for more than thirty-five years. In that time they have done commercial work, such as stationary and cards, and fine press work, including broadsheets, pamphlets and forty books. They've published classic authors—William Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, John Keats—and contemporary ones, such as Theresa Kishkan and Tim Bowling. They have created, and live, what might be called a handmade life, carrying on traditions and practices that have remained unchanged in their essentials since the fifteenth century, when Gutenberg modified a grape press in Mainz, Germany, and used it to print a bible. They are now among the most senior and respected members of a very small group of people worldwide (the Fine Press Book Association's website lists just 118 member presses) [...]"

Michael Hayward - Geist 87 Winter 2012

H Craig Hanna

H Craig Hanna, artist, March 23, 2013.

H Craig Hanna, artist, March 23, 2013.

I first came across the talented Mr. Hanna when Charllotte handed me his sketchbook. "Here," she said. "You will never believe what we found in Paris." In the warren of gallery spaces known as the Left Bank, on rue Bonaparte, she had found the Laurence Esnol Gallery. Hanna's work was visible from the street.

I did a little research. I looked him up online, trying to find out if he might be a good subject for a portrait. He looked like a pugilist from Hemingway's Paris. Not without a certain nervousness I contacted the gallery and introduced myself. Then the answer came: Craig liked the sample photos I sent him and was willing to do a shoot. Timing might be difficult. Was I flexible?

On the last day of my visit to Paris I got a message from the gallery. Could I be there in an hour? Indeed I could. I felt considerably out of my league. I was in Paris, five-thousand miles from home, with some black velvet cloth and a portable studio set-up in a roller bag. I had support though. My seventeen year old daughter, Esmé would be my assistant. Together we did a quick set-up in the gallery. The results were exactly what I wanted.

Photographing Craig Hanna in the Laurence Esnol Gallery. Esmé McLaughlin-Brooks

Photographing Craig Hanna in the Laurence Esnol Gallery. Esmé McLaughlin-Brooks

In the end I need not have been so apprehensive. Craig was humorous and engaging. Laurence Esnol was kind, generous and very accommodating. During the shoot I had talked to Craig about differences between photography and painting. Before I left he inscribed the front of my copy of his sketchbook.


A photo captures a moment in time.
A painting is time.


On Falling Off the Edge of the World


Falling off the edge of the world ... that's what it feels like. To work so intensely on one project that you put everything else aside. When this happens in the movies it's so dramatic. The person doesn't sleep and forgets to eat. They walk distractedly into traffic and are almost struck down by angry drivers. The music is paced to indicate that time is passing quickly and great advances are being made. Or, perhaps the opposite: that vast resources are being expended on attempts that do not succeed. The tension mounts. Will the project be a success? Or a failure?

For the past year I have been working on a book manuscript with Charllotte Kwon. It is a great undertaking made possible through the company, Maiwa. The project involves writing, photography, mirrors, threads, the British Raj, and great caravans of up to one-hundred thousand pack-bullocks.

The manuscript was finally sent to the publisher last week. Now, we don't want to jinx anything, so we'll just keep it mysterious and low-key for now. But I wanted to say, when I disappeared ... that is where I went.

With that deadline met, I am making plans to return to these posts and to Image on Paper.