Friday, April 30, 2010

On Assignment in 1979

I was working in the NSCAD photo department cage one day in July 1979 when somebody, I don’t recall who, asked me if I wanted to pick up a little freelance photo job. “Sure!” I said. Perhaps it was David Mackenzie, he told me to go up to Garry Kennedy’s office and see him.

I had never really spoken with Garry at that time and was a little nervous. Later as president of the student union I got to know him well and recall many board of governors lunch meetings in his office with George Publicover and Lonny Lonsdale, but in 1979 Garry was sort of a towering figure who I’d never dream of just walking up to and chatting with at an opening.

With this in mind I climbed the winding staircase to the third floor offices and presented myself to Linda Cameron, Garry’s secretary. Linda sent me straight in. Garry had a corner office on the top floor of the Duke Street building with a view of the harbour. The office was a little cluttered, but tastefully decorated with a beautiful Arthur Lismer panorama painting of Chebucto Head, a small terra cotta horse on a side table, lithographs from the NSCAD Litho Workshop and a few of Garry’s pieces. The centerpiece of the room was an antique table, around which Garry held his meetings. His personal desk was a small writing table beneath the Lismer painting and I believe there was a couch in the room.

Garry asked if I’d like a cup of coffee, a gesture I appreciated very much. Linda brought in a carafe and we got down to business. Garry had a curious manner about him, which I thought at first, was disdain for undergraduate students, but discovered later to be natural shyness and reticence. I use to study Garry at board of governor meetings. Watch his handsome, sharply featured face and bushy, somewhat sinister, pointy black eyebrows responding affirmatively or negatively to points being made by board members. I noticed he would squirm visibly, as if his chair was burning beneath him, when contrary points were raised, particularly from faculty reps expressing their views about a faculty union.

That was a few years later, but in his office that day Garry had a job for me and I was hoping to do it well. Garry explained that a Toronto writer was doing a piece about the art college for the Globe and Mail and wondered if I would take a series of pictures around the school to be published with the article. It was a great little job and I think NSCAD paid me 100$ for what amounted to a days work. Garry had a tight deadline, as I suppose the story was already written, so I got to work right away.

I produced ten black and white prints of scenes from around the school, three of which appeared in the article. As a point of interest, I am the painter mixing paint at the bottom of the page. I got lots of action shots, like the woman at the loom and the guy firing ceramics, but when I got to the painting studio it was empty. The painters must have been down at the Ocean Beverage Room, so I put the camera on the tripod and photographed myself pretending to mix paint in a coffee can, a typical NSCAD painting student.

I dropped the pictures off with Linda and went on about my work. Two weeks later Garry sent a memo to my student mailbox, with thanks, advising me the piece would be published on August 11th. I recall buying the paper at Sieverts Tobacco on Barrington Street with my usual pouch of drum tobacco and Export cigarette papers. I took the paper back to NSCAD, but as it was a Saturday in the summer semester, there was no one around to show it to.

No comments:

Post a Comment