East Meets West

The East/West Gallery is tucked away just off Milpas Street, near Santa Barbara Junior High School at 714 Bond Avenue. At the recent opening reception for travel photographer Mark Edward Harris and his show “Wanderlust,” owner Henri Bristol told me a fascinating story about the gallery’s beginnings.

Henri’s father, Horace Bristol, was a Life magazine staff photographer shooting all through the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s. For many years, he lived in Japan with his wife, Virginia, and family. When Virginia committed suicide, Horace gave up his life’s work and destroyed all the negatives that were in his home. His son, Horace, Jr., saved those that were at the East/West Photo Agency by packing them in trunks and storing them. In 1967, Horace left Japan with his second wife, Mosako, and daughter and moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, where Henri was born.

Wanting an American education for their children, they moved to Ojai because it was near Santa Paula, where Horace had spent his childhood. One day in 1985, Henri came home from school asking whether his dad had ever read John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath.” Horace opened up the musty trunks and looked at the photos he’d shot on his travels through California’s Central Valley with Steinbeck nearly 50 years earlier. Out of hundreds of shots, only about 40 survived. This trek is what Steinbeck based his book on. When the movie was cast, you can see a face very similar to Henry Fonda’s in one of the migrant pictures. Bristol’s life as a photojournalist is chronicled in “Horace Bristol – An American View,” by Ken Conner and Debra Heimerdinger.

Fast-forward to the East/West Gallery in Santa Barbara, named after Horace’s photo agency. The parking lot was transformed into a party venue with wine and tasty tacos sizzling and made to order. I had four but they were small.

London Underground kept the place hopping with its music. Inside was the guest of honor, Harris, showing us some of his work, which he attributes to wanderlust at an early age.

“I backpacked around Europe with a Eurorail pass and youth hostel card,” Harris says.

Since, he has done photography in 70 countries. I had just returned from India so one of my favorite pictures by Mark was of a holy cow lying inside a silk shop. She (all cows are female) had wandered in and the shop owner was just ignoring her, going about his business. Instead of the proverbial elephant, this was a real cow.

Mark has a Master’s of arts degree in pictorial/documentary history and has done stills for television and movie companies. His editorial work has been in many national magazines, including Life, Conde Nast, Playboy, Vogue, Elle, People and Harper’s Bazaar. Harris was also signing his book, “Mark Edward Harris: Wanderlust.” His newest book, “Inside North Korea,” is being released this spring.

The show runs through May 15. Call 963-4041 for an appointment.

Wild Orchids in the Flesh

It’s been a long time since I received my first orchid for the junior prom and thought they only came in one color – purple and white. Turns out there are 25,000 species. If you live in Santa Barbara you are in the cymbidium (a species of orchid) capital of America.

This year’s 62nd Annual Santa Barbara International Orchid Show and Diabetes Education Health Fair was a benefit for Sansum Diabetes Research Institute. Back in the 1920s, Sansum was the first place in the United States to treat diabetics with insulin. The Gala Grand Opening evening was dedicated to the late Dr. Albert Svoboda, who was an institute board trustee, student intern program director and international orchid expert. His wife, Sandra, is equally educated in the orchid world.

Event chair Yolanda Baptiste was greeting guests as they arrived at Earl Warren Showgrounds. Orchid corsages were passed out to all the ladies, wine was served, and live music was playing by Luna Gitana’s California Flamenco Rumba, back by popular demand. People filled their tummies with a yummy buffet supper of salmon skewers, rice, steak on crunchy bread and more.

The whole party took place among the orchid displays. The theme “Orchids Gone Wild!” really came true with a 1,000-pound specimen from Santa Barbara Orchid Estate. It was in the “man-eating” plant category, if there is such a thing. Sandra Svoboda led us on a docent tour telling us “that growers come from all the world, particularly Japan and Thailand.” New species of orchids are named after people just like they do roses; Sandra has her own namesake.

Emcee Craig Case headed up the program. Chair Yolanda thanked the sponsors and her committee: Genny Bolton, Curt Cruthirds, Jeannine Glockler, Ellen Goodstein, Judith Hill, Natasha Johanson, Gloria Kaye, Ken and Janis Millett, Susan Murray, Bruce Nash, Ann Peyrat, Rochelle Rose, Betty Roseness, Kay Salveson, Joyce Shaar and Sandra Svoboda.

The silent auction closed and raffle prizes were drawn. The gala was over but the show was just beginning. The displays were open to the public all weekend including orchids for sale and you could visit local nurseries that were hosting open houses.