Canadian Sojourn Part 5

Black and White image, profile of a girl, head to knee, in shadow and light.

To continue doing something with determination or resolve despite difficulties or an unlikely chance of succeeding.”


I asked the cop if there was anyplace, like a state park that I could grab some sleep. He told about a state park that wasn’t far that I could try. I found the park without too much trouble and settled in for the night. Next morning the caretaker of the park came around to tell me no sleeping was allowed. I beat him to the punch and told him my coffee was almost ready and he was welcome to a cup, but I didn’t have cream or doughnuts. He smiled and said he’d bring some the next morning, then we sat and talked about his life. He said in the summers he worked there in New Port, winter he went to live in Florida. He got around to telling me about the state trooper who made his rounds at night, he would tell him that I was alright. Then the village was calling me to go explore the sites, so off I went.

Black and White image, young woman buttocks with shadows and light.

I drove back to that park I had tried to sleep in, walked out to the point to have a look around. I found a young blonde hippy chick was there at the point. I nodded a hello and kept walking. Next I drove out to the press site for the festival and presented the letter of introduction I had from the radio station. It said that the radio station was doing a report on the festival, to give me any consideration they could. Even thought I was a member of the press in good standing back in San Antonio, I could see that this was big time, with big coverage. They turned me down flat because they didn’t have time for small town press.

I just gave up for now, when back to the beach to look and to think. Now I had the time to think, to mull my options. Did I want to push them, was I going to Canada or not. The little blonde hippy chick was no where around by then. I did have a place to stay for the week, and a state trooper to check on me.., I was safe as possible. The caretaker and I began a morning ritual, coffee and a long talk. Next morning I went back to the point, there was the girl so I said hello. We stuck up a conversation, explored the beach at low tide. Her father lived there, she was visiting for the summer. Slowly she began to tell me more about herself, how her father would lock her out of the house for coming in too late.

Black and White image, young woman's torso , neck to knees in shadow and light

I got to drop her off at home, then went down to the church were all the kids gathered. I found the billboard where all the acts for the festival were posted. Most of the kid were sleeping on the grounds, but I had a very quiet hilltop view of the ocean to wake up to. That night I attended my first night of the festival. It was a lot of fun as you can guess, with plenty of pot going around to partake. I drove back to my hilltop, music filled my dreams and any thought of my responsibility to the radio station were soon forgotten.

To this day I still have reservations about not doing what I had agreed to, I reasoned that I was not getting paid anything, the letter hadn’t worked, and I was probably not going back for a long time, if not forever. Therefor I’d put out of mind till I was trying to get to sleep. My mind was on the festival and the hippy chick, although not necessarily in that order. I was slowly deciding that I was not going back to be drafted, this was my last chance to see the states.

Canadian Sojourn Part 4

To continue doing something with determination or resolve despite difficulties or an unlikely chance of succeeding.”


Latnia young womam, sitting in window, black  hair, head and shoulders, Black and White images.

I want to speak about my van in the manner of John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charlie”. It was a VW van that had been outfitted by the previous owner from a camper he had found. It came with a closet, pull out bed, another seat/storage area, and a water-tank/refrigerator. I had packed my foot trunk with all the things I would need for my new life. Some years before, during the Cuba Missile Crisis my father bought a camp stove, I had gotten a sleeping-bag, and a survival inflatable boat. Of course I had packed my cameras, and all my other photo gear so I was all set for my trip/new life. The van was outfitted with Wonder bread polka dots curtains.

Black and White image, young Caucasian woman, closeup of her face, sitting in a window.

My only real decisions was did I have the determination to make the move to Canada. The only thing I knew about the palace was in Montreal had a world’s fair that year. I figured that I would learn French at the very least if there is were I’d settled. Part of my cover story was I wanted to see some of my country before I was drafted into a war that I didn’t support. I had made up the cover story to cover my tracks if anyone asked about my reasons for going. I knew that if I did this there was no turning back once I cross that border, that I’d be stuck in my decision for possibly the rest of my life. At twenty-one (21) there was a lot of years left to me so I had to make an important decision.

Black and White image,full length shot of a young Caucasian woman wearing a grown.

As I prepared to leave Virginia Beach I assessed the time I had to get to my next stop. The bulk of my trip was done in the hard driving I had survived. The remaining state were compressed so that I had some time to explore site I had noticed in the area. Top of my list was a telescope array I had seen, I figured it had something to do with NASA. So down a lonely road I drove to a site that was ripe with these dishes that were point up in the air, no trespassing sign abound. I walked around the fence tried for a better view, but then it occurred to me that I was probably doing something that would bring the cops down on me. As I headed back in the direction I had come a jeep full of soldiers came driving up to give me the once over. But they didn’t stop me and soon I was back on the highway heading north.

Again this was back in 1969, the Democratic Convention riot had just happened, the city of Philadelphia was not high on my list of places to be. Neither was New York city, I was intimidated to drive there. So I figure that Trenton was okay because I knew I’d have a place to park my van at least. There were two brothers who were family friend who had a place there, they were kind enough to put me up at their motel. I stayed for about two (2) days to rest and relax, I remember getting a packet of Oreo cookies and milk. I attempted to try New York, but all I did was buy gas for my van and drove on to Rhode Island.

Black and White image, young Latina woman, sitting in window light, tight shot of face and hair.

Providence was a sleepy little seaport town then with cobbled streets and narrow roads then. I drove around to reconnoiter, drove past the church and on out of town. Found a park were I could walk around and a place to park were I wouldn’t be disturbed. Made some dinner and settled down for a good night. In the wee hours of the morning I heard tap, tap, tap on my side window, a voice call “You can’t sleep here”.

Canadian Sojourn Part 3

To continue doing something with determination or resolve despite difficulties or an unlikely chance of succeeding.”


Next morning I woke to clear sky so I made a leisurely breakfast coffee. Because I was safe from the cops, I took my time getting started, had coffee and set my little home ship shape before I left the camp. I had read John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley” a couple of times to make sure I had the rule of the road down pat. In my own travels I mean to follow I-10 into Jacksonville, then highway A1A north, back then in 1969 it wasn’t much a road, but it followed the ocean right up where I mean to go as my jumping off point.

B & W image, late 1960's, high school friend, abandon night club, golf course, female model, white pants suit.

So off I drove into the future, I took a left at the junction and found the blue line roads of fame. Though small towns America I drove with a vengeance, stopping only for fuel for both the van and me. By sunset I started looking for a spot where I could grab some rest for the night. Virginia Beach has some picturesque spots on the beach, so I was hoping to hear the ocean all night. But before I could settle in a cop pull in and informed me that sleeping there would get me arrested. So off I drove in search of a place for the night and fuel for the van, seeing is how I had good luck in New Orleans. Luck held and the owner said that I could park the van for the night just off his pumps.

After I wonder at my luck with gas station owners, it wasn’t until later I found out from a mother that I reminded her of her son who was off traveling. She had the idea by helping me just maybe her son would find help from good strangers as well…, pay it forward it became to be called. I would later find in National Parks all sorts of kind people willing to help me out in all my endeavors. I became the living embodiment of the lost sons everywhere, of course I did not tell a soul of my real intentions.

Black and white image, late 1960's, female model in white dress.s

Even though the real south where I expected trouble, I found kind people. That may have been because I was not staying, just passing through. The late 60’s was a horrible time in America, sort of like the time we are going through now. In Alabama I found, you guess it, a kind gas station owner who warned me off filling my water tank that the water he offered had a bad sulfur content before I filled my tank. In Georgia and again in Florida I saw my first chain gangs with only black inmates. I knew then that I didn’t want to spend time in there, luckily I was passing through and made no contact with the local police. As I was on a mission I had places to be and people to see, I could not tarry.

My next stop was in Trenton, New Jersey, with some friends of my mother who own a small motor court where I would rest for a few days.

Black and White image, late 1960's, female model, swims suit, on a log. 

Sunlight in the studio!

Jean

Red hair, sunlight, nude, nudo, michael vasquez, michaelvasquezart.com
Sunlight in the studio with Jean Dawson.

Last December Jean Dawson came by to play with the sun.  Then my image processing program decided to freeze up on me, Jean’s friend came  over to fix it.  Now I got to get back to my sojourn, but first I  have so adjustments to work out.

Canadian Sojourn Part ll

To continue doing something with determination or resolve despite difficulties or an unlikely chance of succeeding.”

Young, dark haired, night gown, old house in the countryside, overgrown weeds.
In the college l met a young woman who wanted to work on her modeling. Slim and hard working.

A sense of elation…, freedom greeted my passage through Houston as I saw the last sign announcing at I was leaving the city. As I opened a cold brew I was already drunk on my sense of freedom. I was entering the unknown, the furthest I had ever been from home. Now without a doubt I had entered an adventure. That adventure lead me to New Orleans late at night, I pulled into a gas station. I asked the station attendant who turned out to be the owner if there was a safe place to pull into to get some sleep. He very kindly told me that I could sleep there, but to be gone by morning. July was hot and muggy, filled with mosquitoes for a sweat drenched fit-filled sleep.

Next morning I found a lovely park where it was cool from the night air. My plan was to make coffee and hit the road, but a big burly cop pulled up and told me the park was closed. My water was just starting to steam so I told him real nice if I could make my coffee first and he would be welcome to the first cup. He sort of smiled and said I’d better not be there on his next round and left. Thus started my relationship with road cops all there to enforce the local rules, I would ask politely for their help then move off. All done in a self-serving spirit of not wanting to provoke a search, or other encounters. My greatest fears of the road was cops and bigots. Here I was a Mexican driving on their turf far from home. I was also twenty one (21) with a van that had some pot and a wad of hashes I had been given as a going away present. So I was always very pleasant and easy to deal with in all my encounters.

Black and white image, young dark haired model, wearing a shirt, overgrown weeds.
She was very open to my ideas and we work hard on our collaboration.

As I was on a short time fame to get to Rode Island for the folks festival and driving through the south, I knew that I would be in for some hard days. My next stopping point was in the panhandle of Florida at a state park I saw on a sign. I pulled in from a hard rain late in the evening, there I had the luxury of a place to sleep undisturbed, and bathrooms. I remember going to the washroom in my poncho, seeing myself in the mirror. Like a young medieval monk I looked back at myself in the bathroom mirror. Dripping water I could hear the thunder and see the lighting as I washed up for the night. My first real wash in two (2) days and nights. I fell into a deep sleep with the thunder as my background.

A word on the gear I had taken from home for my journey, I had a camp stove to make my coffee and hot meals. It was a two burner with flaps to keep out any wind, it served my purpose very well on my trip and beyond. Coffee became my peace maker, I’d offer fresh hot coffee to any official trying to run me off, or to buy a little time. Even served as a measure of common humanity to make it apparent to all that I was just like them in this regard. Just leave me in peace until I make and get coffee poured.

Black and white image, silhouette of a woman, abandon house, overgrown weeds and sky.
Sadly my escape to Canada cut short our work.


Canadian Sojourn

Old San Antino                      Old San Antonio. old building, Late 68, girl black hair, period dress, staircase.
Late 60’s high school girl in a staircase in old building.

                                                                      “To continue doing something with determination or resolve despite difficulties or an unlikely chance of succeeding.”


I want to address my timeline here before I get to the assisting  proper. I’m starting just after high school because that when my assistanting story begins. I was also a shooter for my local newspaper for about a year after being an apprentice for a local shooter. When I was twenty my world change for me, some would say for the better, some the worst. My life has been one of being addicted to the news. I started as a very young man and of course as the war in Vietnam was played on most television sets in American, I became an avid watcher. I watched as Walter Cronkite slowly turned against the war, and was willing to say so. I listened to friend’s who I knew who had a firsthand knowledge, told the truth about the war that no one on television seemed to acknowledge. I knew that I could not in good conscience would not and could not participate. My country was willing to send me to kill…, send me a half the world away as long as l killed people who had never done wrong to me.

Black haired beauty with a piece of her hair in her mouth.
High school friend, black hair very cool girl and a beauty.

So it was clear to me that I needed an excuse to cover my fleeing to Canada to save myself. The popular sentiment with people in support of the war was, “America, love it or leave it”. So my decision was made, I would flee to the wilds of a country I did not know, but who supported my stance on the war. My cover became that I was taking a trip to see the country, and by happenstance I was going to the Newport Folk Festival. One last chance to see some of the country before I went off to war. I was going to go by bike, a 10 gear bicycle on a trip of over 1000 miles. My first hurtle, one of many, was to convince my mother!

Some 50 years later I can still see the events of that day clearly. I met her in the cafeteria in the basement of her office. She telling all the reasons that I wasn’t going, she had a list full of reasonable reasons I was not to go. I said not a word, safe in my resolve that come hell or high water I had no choice, but to save myself and my conscience. I could see in her eyes that she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt she knew I was leaving. So while she plotted ways to stop me I begin to train for the trip.

Late 60's black haired beauty on a golf bridge over creek.
High school friend, black hair in late 60’s dress.

I rode everywhere that bike would take me, I learned to take racers turns leaning far into my turns. My friend and another Michael trained with me, we rode day and night. My friend was fond of taking risks, riding down a hilly twisty street at full speed trusting fate that there was no car on the road. I made the mistake of showing him the bike of my dreams that I could not afford. He bought the damn thing because he could. Then one night ride he got a cramp in his neck that made him drive right into a curb and wrecking the front tire…, much to my delight. He also decided not to come on the trip with me for reasons I am unsure of. Unfazed I kept to my training riding far and wide.

As the day for my departure approached my mother offed to get a van for me. A VW micro-bus with poke a dots curtains like a wonder bread truck. It had a refrigerator/water tank, a small closet, and a pull out bed; a home on wheels for my trip, and a safe haven for her so she wouldn’t worry so much. Now if she had been less supportive I would have realize the limitation I faced. I hadn’t face really long distances before, I was just getting to those trials.

My preparations included buy a packing trunk, all my so call winter gear when in there. I stored everything I could possible need including all my darkroom gear. If anyone had bothered to check there was no way I was packed for just a summer trip.

Fired!

Black and White, Blond girl, an old speak-easy.
In my learning years I use the girls from my high school. Not necessarily prettiest, but the coolest.

Now I have to discuss a topic that many people find hard to comprehend, the idea of firing someone who should be in charge. I have always worked with people for as long as it pleased me. If someone disappointed me in some way, the first time I worked with them, it was the last time I worked with them. Top of my list is a guy I worked with who happened to work for the National Enquirer. I have strict rules for my working with entities. I was hired under false pretenses, he never told me who he was working with. We were already far from our home base when he told me, so I had to resort to my professionalism finish the job.

We were on a back-road when he told me to stop the car, I checked the mirror to see who was behind us before I hit the brakes. Again he yelled to stop, I put on my signal and pulled to the side of the road. Again I wasn’t fast enough for him and he yelled to stop the fucking car! Listen I told him it’s not my gear in the back of this car, I don’t give a shit if we are hit, but I figure you might. A line of three cars zoomed past us as I shifted in to reverse. Backup he growled, I want to see something. The shoot went downhill from that point on, and ended with not getting paid on time.

I mentioned it to a photographer I was working with in the context of not working with people I had problems with. He looked shocked by the idea, he said to me YOU fire people? Yeah I said I do…, I only work with people that I am compatible with. I told him that I had to fire his main competitor just that week for trying to get me to work with another assistants who I knew was racist. I had the perfect backup who I was training and worked with several times before, I knew the guy would do a fine job for him.

Black and White image, old house overgrown with vegetation, shot in the late 60's.
As a photographer I found it easy to get girls to pose for me. I learned from them how to speak to them which was the hardest part.

In my line of work I find it was to my benefit to have people who could fill in for me and I for them when the need arose. I trained many fine women and men on how to get were I was in the business. I never scrimped on the knowledge I taught them because that would work against me in the long run. I followed a few rules on the hiring of a backup, first and foremost was did the photographer work with them before. Next was how comparable was the assistant with the job to be done. And lastly but not the least of things how hard was the photographer to work with, did he have any problems I knew of that would make for a bad fit.

As I have said it was a good situation for me to run my business with the least of problems. Those who failed in some way to work in my guidelines I let go. To me life was too short to fill it with people who didn’t work with me, or tried to break the rules. Those that know me know I adhere to as few rules as possible in my life. Work was a horse of a different color indeed.

In My Assistant Days

B & W Image, mid-thirties, Michael Vasquez, full length, dapper pose.
Me in my mid-thirties on a wander about the country side.

Assisting Days

In my early assisting days, I was in that learning phase of my career. I was hired by a local photographer full time, I slowly learned how the game was played. There was absolute dearth of information about how to earn a living as an assistant, it was left up to chance to develop my way forward. In the beginning I got the minimum required for the job I performed, as I learned more I about processing film and how to print I became more valuable, my pay went up. I was encouraged to become a shooter as well and that was a big help.

There weren’t many assistants in those days so I pretty much had the field to myself. My city was poor at that time, and very racial, that I learned as a small boy. I could see that the deck was pretty much stacked against me, so as I grew I developed into my own personal set of goals. To get by with blending in, not to draw attention to my ways. I knew that life was short so I decided to enjoy my youth while I was young. To work enough to eat, play, keep a good roof over my head, and help those that I came to love. In school I learned that I was in the working class, blue to white collar was my limited options. I found that I had a calling to working in wood early, I learned to help my teachers on their project. So naturally I found that when push came to shove I had something to fall back upon.

I moved to Toronto Canada while still a very young man, I was an avid watcher of the news, my moral compass was a prime motivation to that move. My first job was for a man who was opening a club, he needed help with the finishing touches. When I went to get my papers which allow me to legally work they asked what skill did I have, naturally I told them about the photography. The immigration man told me those jobs were for Canadians only, to pick something else to do. So for the next thirteen years I worked best with my hands and mind.

When I returned to the states I did not want to grow old as a carpenter, I wanted my dream. Back to square one in my search for work however now I had a goal for me, some knowledge. I even worked for a time in the retail end of the business, but when offered a full time position I quit. I worked for a time as a stringer for a bigger newspaper, then was hired to work with another photographer as an assistant. When business started to fail I started working as assistant to traveling photographers from all around the country and soon developed a reputation so I got jobs with national guys. The more I worked the more I learned. So when the market fell I decided to go to New York and ply my trade.

Color image, shadow of Michael Vasquez shooting the trees.

A side note: I have been having writer-block for the past few months. A lot has been happening like a new model and a visit with an ole friend. If you have read my blog you are used to a certain direction, I’ve decided to try something different here now. It is my hope that you will like the changes, and if you don’t…, well the changes are here.

Erotic Work

Black and White image, two women, nude embracing

Erotic Work

I love doing my erotic work, I love the women who work with me, and I hold them in the highest regard. I consider them as co-creators to my images, without them my pages would be empty. As we work on a piece I give them the leeway to create, giving them instructions only when needed. My job is to run the camera, intrinsically how I want to capture the image before me. Same with my model’s, I give the free rein on their poses, only adding what I am trying to create. Symbiosis, a union of two minds each work on an idea, a feeling that in most cases can’t be explained, but only felt.

Recently I was work with two women, one I had worked with before, the other was totally new to me, my way of working. The new woman had her own views of what she wanted, and that was the other model. After a bit of a warm-up my models made love. No other words come close to describing what they did, I only told them what I want to see more of to be sure I had capture everything, they only too happily compiled.

Some would say that my shoot had been hijacked, I see it in much different way. I knew what I wanted to capture. I had to concentrate on running the camera, all those little details that make the image. For them this was the first opportunity these two women had to be alone with each other. They took advantage of that opportunity, and then some. But when my camera was finished so were they. They both had other plans for that night, bang like curtain coming down they were finished.

They stayed around to finish their wine, to dress. And then were gone like a small summer breeze on hot summer day.