Unless otherwise credited, all photographs are © David Ritchie and may not be used without my permission.
Feb 27 AM radio music in 1963 was a confusing mix of leftover 50’s smarmy pop, early rock ‘n roll, Motown was revving up, country and western staggered along, while the bland, white-bread orchestral sounds of Montovani etc. poured saccharine into the ears of parents- it was not a vibrant era for youth.
I found real music, the blues, sounds that resonated with me. Late at night, if I turned my radio on the shelf to just the right angle I could pick up Chicago blues stations. It was like getting hit by lightning- I knew there had to be better music and I had found it. Hooked for life on the blues.
One night after playing a Willy Dixon tune,”I Just Want to Make Love to You” the DJ laughingly said something like, “Believe it or not, that was done by a white band from England, the Rolling Stones.” I was hooked. Another time I heard the Stones doing “Carol” by Chuck Berry. I had to hear more of both that band and more of the blues.
I was in high school in London at the time. A classmate, Nick Panaseiko (who later turned to music promotion) worked at the Disc Shop downtown. I told him about the Rolling Stones recordings and asked him to get me anything available.
No Stones records were available. Then, in 1964 Billboard magazine announced that a Rolling Stones album was coming to North America. I hounded Nick every single day, “Is the album here yet?” I’m certain that Nick considered me a pain in the arse, but he loved music as much as I did.
Finally one day in early 1964, Nick told me that the album was to be included in the shipment received that very day. After school, we went together to the Disc Shop. Nick opened the box of albums and found the Stones albums.
I said to him, “Nick, this is going to be the best rock and roll band in the world. Make note of the fact that I bought the first Rolling Stones album in London.”
My parents said, “In five years, nobody will even remember that band.”
I sold my album collection last year but I could not part with this one. It’s ratty. tatty and worn out from thousands of playings, but it is the first Rolling Stones album sold in London, Ontario in 1964.
I still like the Stones. I never bought a Beatle’s record- to me they were pretty boys singing cute harmonies. They sang “I Want To Hold Your Hand”. The Stones sang “I Just Want to Make Love to You.” I was tired of hand-holding.
The Beatles were first through the door of the so-called British invasion, laughing and joking, those adorable mop-tops singing nice pop tunes that even some parents hummed along with.
The Stones followed, kicking in the door, unruly and unkempt, playing nasty, gritty rockin’ blues, based upon American music that was mostly unheard of in Canada.
It’s odd that many people were introduced to the music of American blues artists through a band from England.
Keith Richards- “If you don’t know the blues… there’s no point in picking up the guitar and playing rock and roll or any other form of popular music.”
Feb 25 In the spring my mind turns to motorcycling. Not spring yet but there was a definite hint in the air this past weekend. Turn on YouTube for my motorcycle racing video fix.
Can you imagine road racing on the roads in North America? I’m not talking about the occasional Formula One events that happen in Toronto and Montreal- those over-hyped, outrageously expensive, fenced-off, with spectators kept well away from the action.
You’ve heard of the annual Isle of Man TT motorcycle races? Actually, the TT is a time trial (although it stands for Tourist Trophy) with riders starting at ten-second intervals. Possibly the most beautiful of all racing venues, the TT is a week-long festival. With the exception of the paddock and grandstand, it is free for spectators. Motorcycles racing past at speeds that can surpass 200 mph, mere feet away with no barriers. Close enough to reach out and touch- if you want to lose an arm. Fearless riders brave curbs, bridges, jumps, and brick walls that line the roads.
Here’s a good video to illustrate– well worth the watch. If it doesn’t make the hair on your arms stand up…
In Ireland, the races are even more radical. Mass starts, narrow country roads, rain or shine. Every weekend- that’s correct every weekend of summer. These riders bash fairings, elbows and other bits. They are remarkably composed, expert riders.
All of the racers are privateers, no factory teams. Manufacturers do not want to be associated with races that often result in death. Not that MotoGP (equivalent to Formula One) is without danger, but there are fewer deaths.
A video of Irish racing I watched had a funny exchange between a son and his mom:
“Son, when are you going to buy a house? You can’t sleep in your motorcycle.”
“I can’t race a house, mom.”
Here in North America, the authorities try to wrap us in a mantle of supposed-safety. The sports that carry an extreme risk of immediate death like free-climbing mountains are generally out of the public eye, although the internet and tiny, wearable cameras are changing that.
Notice that I wrote the risk of immediate death. Gladiators of ice and gridiron are paid to pound each other in front of ecstatic fans. Most deaths occur after many years of concussions, well out of the public eye. Just don’t race motorcycles on the streets.
This past Saturday I took in the Railway City Art Crawl in St Thomas. Over a dozen venues highlighting many more dozens of local artists. It was a fine day, many people on the street walking between venues, restaurants were buzzing (I enjoyed tortilla soup), live music, and a wide variety of artistic styles and media. It was interesting talking to artists about their work.
Of course, I bought another painting. Somebody stop me- wall space and money are both in short supply.
Feb 21 More forgotten images uncovered in my ongoing film archiving digital dive. This image from a test of Ektar 25, a new (in 1989) incredibly fine-grained film capable of extreme enlargements.
What a strange location. Located on Hwy #3, it was a bizarre graveyard of tobacco kilns, wrecked cars and other machinery (including aircraft). Eventually, it was all auctioned off drawing widespread media attention.
I drove by many times but did not photograph it until the day I saw cattle grazing among the vehicles- they added an even more surreal touch to the scene.
Here’s another image from the same location- even the Fina wrecker has a wreck graveyard.
Tech info: images scanned and processed using traditional darkroom tools only- contrast, dodging and burning (lighten or darken selected areas).
True-to-life colour reproduction and saturation, smooth contrast and exceptional latitude- a superior film. The extremely low speed (ISO 25) required very slow shutter speeds and/or wide apertures- basically requiring a tripod for most work.
Unsurprisingly, it was not a popular film but it was made in the golden age of film when Kodak and Fuji faced off, each flexing their colour negative, b&w neg, and transparency muscles. Exciting times to be a photographer.
I had an earworm that I couldn’t name, nor remember all the lyrics. I know that I had the vinyl record before I sold my collection. Google to the rescue.
A humourous poke at country music, it has all the sad elements and a classic last line hook. Here’s the last verse.
The finance company dropped by today and repossessed my home
That’s just a drop in the bucket compared to losing you
And I’m down to seeds and stems again, too
Song by Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen, done in a classic style complete with steel guitar. Knowing the ‘seeds and stems’ reference automatically adds grey to hair.
Feb 18 Nonplussed?
Have you ever heard that word spoken aloud by anybody? Me neither, but I have read it in several novels. Curious (ever the word hound), I looked it up in my Oxford English dictionary (the online version, not my tatty old finger-grease stained “vintage” copy.)
Strangely enough, nonplussed has two separate, totally opposite definitions. Stranger yet, they are also geographically opposed.
The classic English definition is, “So surprised and confused that one is unsure how to react.”
The North American definition is, “Not disconcerted; unperturbed.”
How strange is that? Not so strange in the no-holds-barred linguistic world of today. A world where whitebread Canadian wannabe rappers try to emulate black American gangstas, and where word and speech trends are pounced upon like Wilson on a pork chop. Trends from the past, “Know what I’m sayin’?” at the end of every statement, or the more recent fad of beginning every sentence with “So.”
In ever-evolving word usage, one particular period that always makes me laugh is what I call the Oh, Dahling period of cinema. Some b&w thirties films when American actors spoke in fake Brit accents, the female leads often beginning a sentence with a breathless, “Oh, dahling..”
One movie, title unremembered, had Bette Davis (bitch supremo in her better, later roles) trying on the plummy Brit accent with plenty of “oh, dahlings,” her sultry features in soft focus, film noir lighting. Devilishly handsome male lead trying to emulate a Brit upper-crust toff. Always in a suit and tie, everybody smoking like champs. Hilarious.
Know what I’m sayin?
Feb 14 Old technology, old memories.
Although film seems like such old technology today, film technology constantly evolved. The first roll films were considered fast or high speed referring to the film’s sensitivity to light) with a speed of 100 ASA (ISO today), the colour slide film (transparencies) were a tripod-requiring 25. The race was on.
When I began photography the faster b&w films were 400 ASA and could be “pushed” to 1200 in the darkroom, although the grain became course. I settled on Kodak Tri-X 400 for most of my personal work. I used it for the next 30 years along with T Max and other b&w adventures. Many of my blog images are on Tri-X film.
The need for speed is the same then as it is today- faster shutter speed reduces camera shake, stops motion and allows shooting in lower light, to name a few benefits. Your cell phone makes those same decisions on every photo you take.
A high point of the b&w film race was Kodak’s T-Max that could be pushed to 6400 ISO with good resolution and grain. I jumped on it, loaded a Nikon and took some shots in front of the store. This photo is from the first film test.
Cody 1988 TMZ @ 6400
Feb 11 Archive deep diving.
Editing and scanning of four-plus decades of negatives, slides, and prints require much more than a physical and technical effort. Images unviewed for decades can carry personal emotions with them.
Some of the memories that images arouse are funny, some personal and emotional, others show historical change- even if it’s the growth of trees in your yard. Dozens of people from the past.
Which got me wondering about this photo (larger version in Gallery)
Riding with Bob Leggett, locomotive engineer, hauling an insanely long freight train through a spectacular, if not frightening winter landscape in the Rocky Mountains.
Mount Robson close up, dangerous looking rivers. Monster icicles hanging like that Damocles dude’s sword. Steel overhang avalanche sheds.
At one point I pointed out another train across a lake traveling in the opposite direction.
“That’s our train,” Bob told me. The enormity of a two-mile-long freight train stretched out over the landscape gobsmacked me. Confusing switchbacks unfold, revealing scenes of the landscape in reverse.
Bob was a high school friend and much more. We partied, rode motorcycles together, I was best man at his wedding, we were tight and our world would last forever. Except it didn’t. It never does.
I lost touch with Bob, mostly through my own fault but I would like to find him again.
Feb 8 Discovered: new Fochemax. I had forgotten this one. Added it to the Fochemax & Abstracts series.
Update. I realised that the image is not from the Fochemax series. It is simply an abstract, and I have moved it to that section.
Feb 7 A quote worth repeating.
Does this sound familiar? “A small number of men hold the greater portion of the world’s wealth, and the signs of the times indicate that this number is growing less every day.”
That was written by Frank Hunt in Essays on Elgin County, published in 1891.
That is not a typo, 1891.
“Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.” Loosely translated, the French expression reads, “the more things change, the more they remain the same.”
I’m not fluent in French but my 9th-grade teacher each day would write a French expression on the board that we students had to translate into English. Another expression that comes to mind has several French versions, but I remember it as, “Quand le chat parti, les souris dansent.”
“When the cat’s away the mice will play.” Another truth that stands the test of time.
Feb 6 Our upside-down vision of the world is strange. The photo I posted below touches on the subject from a different aspect and got me thinking.
The same image that goes through your camera lens is “seen” and recorded upside-down on the sensor, the film, and our brains. We see upside-down and then our brain ‘flips’ the image to present the show in front of you. Amazing.
Studies have been done with optics attached to subjects that flip the image they see. Subjects have adapted within days to the point they can easily navigate a room. Again, it amazes me.
But the weekly change of shift would be nasty.
Feb 2 Another amazing woman from our history. I wrote about the amazing physical feats of Abigail Becker earlier, see post at bottom of this page. Now I have learned of another, equally strong and accomplished woman in the late 19th century, Louise Armaindo of Montreal.
A book review in Canada’s History tells of her amazing skills racing high-wheel (Penny Farthing) bicycles against the best male athletes of her era. I also learned the origin of six-day bike races. I knew the modern version from my club bike racing days, watching the six-day on a velodrome in the Delhi arena. There were a few hours of races each evening over six days. The hall was thick with smoke and noise- many were tobacco farmers of European descent, screaming at the top of their lungs to encourage the racer they had wagered on. Yes, gambling was very much part of the event.
Armaindo’s version was far more rugged racing. In 1883 she raced against two male rivals for the U.S. championship. A grueling event held on a large indoor track in Chicago, they raced for twelve hours each day. Louise won the race handily beating the two best male racers with a total of 843 miles over 72 hours.
It is difficult to imagine the scope of the racing- two thousand spectators each night, reporters from every major newspaper. Plus, I’d be willing to bet, screaming fans encouraging their favourite rider on, cash wagers changing hands in the smokey hall.
There you have it: another famous female Canadian from our past to celebrate. Makes me want to ride one of those high-wheel bikes. There are even races for them now and they are being made new today with modern components. I’ll take a pass on racing them.
Jan 31 Upside-down or just right? Some of my photos look better, in my opinion, turned 180 degrees. The chairs photo in the Fochemax and Abstracts gallery is one example. There are two other photos in there that are also “flipped”, although they are a 90-degree turn only. Can you guess which?
Here’s another photo that I recently scanned from a colour negative. It was taken at a Remembrance Day march in 1987. I prefer seeing it upside-down. The shadows were more interesting than the actual figures and a better feel of the march.
More rants, essays & observations at: