Mr and Mrs Keith

When Keith and I visited India in 2006 we had dinner with Ahmed’s family.

 Keith and the men folk went off together and I was left with the women and children. We were presented as husband and wife. The house had been tidied and arranged for our visit.  Asmat’s English was very good and in the course of conversation she asked me how Keith and I had met. I said we had gone to high school together. Her face broke into a huge smile. “Ah” she said “So it is a love marriage!” From then on we were known as Mr and Mrs Keith.

 

Indian Trains

I’m sure I rode the train in India when I was a baby, but December 2006 is my first memorable train trip in India. Ahmed’s brother arranged for my ticket – Train number 241B, Coach A3, Seat 15 Lower Bunk.

On the way to Allahabad

It was an easy trip on the lower bunk. I left New Delhi in the evening at 9:30 and slept all through the night on the way to Allahabad. Kusum and Geoffrey were there to meet me at the station. Of course it arrived later than scheduled. My return to Delhi was equally pleasant.

When Peggy, Barbara and I took the train in 2012, we had a different experience. We had arranged for someone in Delhi to buy our train tickets to and from Allahabad. It was to leave Delhi at 9:30 PM. As we embarked I noticed this train was not at all like the one I had taken previously. I had travelled in a car with two tiers of bunks, this compartment was a triple bunker – all inhabited by men, who viewed us curiously. Our beds appeared to be on the uppermost of the three bunks. Peggy looked visibly disturbed. That was when the kind Mr Singh, who was on his way to join the army in Allahabad, volunteered his lower bunk to Peggy. He also gently made up the bed for her. She reclined for the night – and oh, what a night….. One fellow watched his tablet –and Peggy – for the evening. In fact all the men in the car were watching Peggy.

Peggy was a subject of some curiosity

Barbara was bundled up , fully clothed, with her scarf covering her face, using her backpack as a pillow. As she stared at the wall, a cockroach scuttled by.

Barbara’s travelling method

At stops along the way vendors would walk through the car with various things to eat – a pail of curried peas, something wrapped in paper – Barbara stuck to her power bars.

Of course the train was late. When I woke it was stopped by a railway bridge and children were selling food from the tracks. As I stood at the end of the car a cupboard door slid open and a smiling lad popped his head out. He was a worker and that was his couchette!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was looking for the key for years

We arranged for a car and driver to take us through Rajasthan for a few days. Our first night in Pushkar we stayed at a hotel recommended by the tourist association. It had seen better days. The mattresses were wooden and everything was more than slightly shop worn.

Our door key

Bicycle man in Jodhpur

It took a lot of maneuvering to lock our door.

After that experience we would stay in places recommended in Lonely Planet.

Jodhpur, The Blue City

The Cozy Inn in Jodhpur was at the top of a steep hill that was impossible for the car. Ravi, our driver, nervously watched us treck up the hill with a promise to meet in the morning.

Our room at The Cozy Inn

We found a sweet refuge with clean cozy rooms, a rooftop restaurant and a book exchange.

There is a great book exchange at the Cozy Inn

It was there I found “The White Tiger” by Aravind Adiga. What a treat it was to read it while still in India! Well written with an insight into the intricacies of the caste system.

Sweeper

I guess I liked the quote from the book – I wrote it down – my other favourite aphorism is “Life’s a journey, not a destination”. Ain’t it the truth?

But, what does it all mean?

This is such a handy little book. It fits in a pocket and is a firm writing surface. There are ribbons and elastics to mark a page or keep everything together.

As I look at the first page with telephone numbers and peculiar codes I’m forced to think back. Some mention of Rupees and phone. London Paddington. Heathrow.

 

Was it gate 5 or December 5? That must have been England in 2012 or 2014. I know Keith and I had phones for India, so the K and R are our respective numbers.

mr and mrs Keith Taj Mahal

I must have tried to phone Canada too – those prefaced numbers are so complicated – but so rewarding when the call finally goes through! But there’s an Indian phone number and some code, then some more phone numbers – ending with a London cel number.

Fish and Chips on Brighton Beach

Bullock in the market

Tom’s house

Well, I bookended England with India on one trip – hmmmmmm. What is that reference – in pencil – to comix? To quote Robert Browning “When I wrote it, only God and I knew the meaning; now God alone knows.”

When I googled the strange codes 3801 – CS Photography it all came back to me. Of course! I taught Photographic Nude at Langara for a number of years in Continuing Studies.

My Moleskin

My constant travelling companion

Raipuri, UP, IndiaEditor Barbara Pulling gave me this Moleskin back in 2006. It’s a handy little book. I have taken it on two trips to India, one to Europe, a cattle round up in Alberta, teaching Nude Photography at Langara and a couple of doctors’ visits. The pages are by no means chronological, but sections do tend to stick to one particular time.

I plan on posting pages on my blog, with photographs.

It’s always so hard to choose from the myriad of photos that present themselves in India.

I usually burst into tears the moment I enter France. It’s a country I love to visit. To eat, to drink, to dream and to talk. Being around cowboys is another of the places I feel happy.

Francis is one of my favourite nude models. He has a great sense of humour and a magnificent body!

I taught nude photography at Langara for a few years.

So jump aboard as I turn the pages – who knows what will turn up next!

Salsa Time!

Onions, garlic and a beer

Onions, garlic and a beer

Well, it’s getting on to Fall and time to start the salsa making. I like to roast everything outside on my barbeque. It’s the right time of the year a fire in the outside fireplace. I usually buy my tomatoes and chillies at Sunrise Market on Powell Street at Gore.

 

I roast everything on the cowboy grill. It’s a classic! Made from iron, it has collapsible legs – it would sit perfectly in a saddle bag for a pack trip, roasting something tasty on the Great Divide! I have a tiny grate that fits underneath. It’s the right height to roast without burning.

 

I like to sit by the fire with a beer and turn my veggies. Play some country music and in about an hour put the vegetables in a colander so the liquid has a chance to drain off into a bowl. That liquid is a tasty essence of my salsa. While the roasted veggies cool off I chop the onions into quarter inch pieces. Knife skills!! Another bonus to doing this outside is I cry a lot less when I’m cutting the onions.

 

 

Now the tomatoes and chillies are cooler, I skin them, remove the seeds from the chillies and chop every thing up coarse “a la rustica”!

Ready to start canning!

Bearded Ladies – World Premiere!

DSC_0165August 19th was a landmark day in Vancouver! The world premiere of Bearded Ladies: The Photography of Rosamond Norbury at the Vancity Theatre. It was a sold out screening – complete with a standing ovation! In attendance were most of those wonderful people who participated in the film. Carlotta Gurl turned up in full drag to hold my hand during the screening. There was a question and answer afterwards – according to Peggy Thompson, Barbara and I ask each other every morning: “What kind of fun are we going to have today?”IMG_7238

Kemble was a music contributor. A number on months ago my piano playing buddy Kemble Skatchard was visiting. He told me he had written a piece of music with me in mind. Good timing or what? I put Kemble in touch with my producer Sharon McGowan and she was able to put The Rod Bush Ramble into a scene. Also, because it is incredibly expensive to have any form of copyrighted music in a film, Kemble was able to composed a disco ditty to put in the scene where Carlotta and Connie Smudge and I were getting into a drag mood at Carlotta’s apartment. Big thanks to Kemble for his creativity and cooperation. To me, this film is like a home movie – with cameos featuring my favourite friends!DSC_0057

Afterwards, The Junction, on Davie Street hosted the after party. The featured cocktail was “The Bearded Lady” – although I stuck to dark rum – with three and a half ice cubes – as usual. Carlotta, again, the consummate hostess, she performed to her usual standard – ending up with her trademark cartwheel and a toss of her wig!

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Bearded Ladies: Vancouver Courier

bearded

Today it’s an article in The Vancouver Courier. The photo was taken at the back of the old Pow Wow

Cowboys, drag queens and bearded ladies — these are just a few of the unique subjects Vancouver’s Rosamond Norbury has photographed during her career. And a new documentary from Sharon McGowan captures it all.

Bearded Ladies: The Photography of Rosamond Norbury documents her life and career from her early days renting space in the back of a store called Pow-Wow on Cordova Street and shooting ads for Vancouver Magazine and Western Living to her photo installation of the same name at the 2012 Queer Arts Festival.

“We would use the street as our studio,” Norbury says in the film while sitting on the stoop of the Greedy Pig, the former location of Pow-Wow. “We had some really, really fun times.”

The film, which screens at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Aug 18, touches on themes of gender, sexuality and female leadership.

 “I’ve always found her to be an absolutely fascinating and engaging character and I always thought she’d make a great biography,” explained McGowan of her inspiration for the film.

Norbury’s Bearded Ladies exhibit serves as the centerpiece of the film, featuring women wearing facial hair and posing as male personas for the first time. McGowan says one of her favourite scenes is when the women see their new bearded looks for the first time.

“Their hands fly up to their faces and they kind of start laughing uncontrollably and then all the things they say afterwards are really wonderful,” McGowan says.

Norbury has been a pioneer in the field of photography, tackling unique subject matter and paving the way for women in the arts. She was part of the first class of women to be accepted to the graphic arts program at the Vancouver School of Art.

“She’s a trailblazer and she was a trailblazer in her work. All the photography that she’s done has really broken a lot of boundaries,” says McGowan.

She gained attention for her photography of rodeo cowboys, culminating in the book Behind the Chutes: The Mystique of the Rodeo Cowboy. She moved on to capturing the transformation of drag queens in Guy to Goddess: An Intimate Look at Drag Queens with author Bill Richardson.

It was through her time documenting the drag world that Norbury began to explore her own gender identity. She tried performing as a drag queen and wearing facial hair in public. Now she has two alter egos: drag queen Rose Bush, and gay man Rod Bush.

“It’s a little bit peculiar, but I do it with a good heart and with fun in my soul,” says Norbury.

The film shows her transformation into Rod, a homoerotic photographer whose work has been displayed at the Grunt Gallery in Vancouver. Norbury says Rod allows her to be an observer in places that she wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

“If you’re a middle-aged man, you are wallpaper, you are absolutely invisible, you’re not noticed, which is brilliant as a voyeur,” Norbury says.

McGowan hopes that the film will help people gain a greater appreciation for how Norbury plays with gender identity.

“Playing with gender is something that’s empowering and not scary,” she says. “It can be fun and we should open our minds to that kind of thing and be more accepting.”

“It’s just really bubbly, like a really kind of sweet look at gender not hard hitting and serious. Basically it’s the way I approach life,” Norbury adds of the film.

The film also explores Norbury’s sexuality, following her participation in a Human Library as the title Omnisexual Photographer. With the Human Library people volunteer to be books that others can “check out” to learn about diverse life experiences.

“I’ve had meaningful and sexual relationships with men and women and with a transgender person,” explains Norbury. “So I say, it’s big, it’s omni, I do it all!”

Norbury recounts the first time she revealed her sexual orientation, confiding in her oldest friend Keith Wallace, a writer and curator whom she met in high school.

“He said to me, ‘Never be ashamed to be anything you are,’ and I’ve always held that dear.”

Norbury is happy with how the film captures so many aspects of her life and work.

“It reflects my seriousness as an artist but it also says that I’m up for a good time. I don’t take myself too seriously, I like to have a good laugh,” she says.

She hopes that other than introducing people to her work, the documentary will also encourage viewers to be more self-accepting and open.

“Don’t be ashamed of who you are, enjoy your life and don’t self-censor,” she says. “Open yourself up to the possibilities, you never know what will happen.”

Bearded Ladies screens at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival on Aug. 18. Details at queerfilmfestival.ca.

emily_blake@live.com

@BlakeEmily

– See more at: http://www.vancourier.com/entertainment/movies/documentary-snaps-portrait-of-trailblazing-photographer-1.2030319#sthash.Pvi8tWZi.dpuf