Mark van Manen would do most anything to get a photograph.
Hang out of a helicopter, hundreds of feet in the air. Rearrange somebody’s apartment. Argue with the U.S. Secret Service about how close he could get to the president.
Then there was the time he commandeered hundreds of extras from a film shoot.
“Mark was sent to the fair to shoot a human-resources story about people who’ve made their entire career at the PNE,” says the PNE’s communications head, Laura Ballance. “They went to Playland because he wanted something colourful. There was a movie being filmed at Playland, and Mark walked over to the director and said, ‘I’m going to need all these people on the ferris wheel.’
“The director said, ‘Well no, we’re in the middle of filming a movie.’ And Mark held up his lanyard (with his press ID) and said, ‘If you want to be on the cover of The Vancouver Sun tomorrow, you’re going to have to do this.’
“And they moved a thousand extras working on the movie set over to the ferris wheel for the most Disney-like photo in the history of the Canadian newspaper industry.”
Van Manen died Saturday at Vancouver General Hospital after a two-year battle with esophageal cancer. He was 58.
Mark Richard van Manen was born on Aug. 11, 1960, in Vancouver. He was something of a boy wonder as a photographer, landing a job at The Sun before his 20th birthday.
“He spent his whole life there,” said former Sun photographer Bill Keay. “I remember him coming in the first day. Somehow he got friendly with (photographer) Brian Kent, and Brian Kent said, ‘Go on in.’ So he came in, and (head photographer) Charlie Warner said, ‘Take him to the darkroom and see what he knows.’ ”
Keay laughs: “And a star was born.”
Van Manen was irrepressible, and utterly fearless. When he was sent to take a photo of boxer Mike Tyson at the airport, Tyson was so incensed that he trashed van Manen’s camera. Mark was undeterred, filing a shot of Tyson attacking a BCTV cameraman.
He would make people pose for shot after shot until he got it right. One time he was tapped to photograph Nivek Ogre, the singer in Vancouver’s gloom-and-doom noisemeisters Skinny Puppy.
Van Manen wanted him to smile. Ogre said he didn’t want to, that wasn’t his image. Van Manen cajoled him again and again (“C’mon pal, just a little smile, c’mon pal”) for several minutes until it got so ridiculous that Ogre laughed. And van Manen got his photo.
“He was never early for anything, but oh my God, he turned everything off when he did a picture,” said Keay. “All he saw was the background, foreground and the subject, and it was all in focus for him. Nobody else was near him, nothing else was happening, that was what was in his head. It was total, absolute total (attention to the) picture.”
Van Manen was also a technical whiz.
“He is the master of outdoor lighting, where you’ve got the sun right behind the subject, hitting their hair and everything,” said Keay. “He backlit a lot of the subjects, because he wanted them to stand out. He was the master of that backlighting. Everybody tried it after they saw his pictures, but nothing ever came out like his.”
Van Manen loved to shoot rock shows. He caught the pomp of Freddie Mercury at Queen’s concert at The Coliseum in 1982, took a number of great photos of Mick Jagger over the years, and was proud of his shot of Bryan Adams meeting Lady Diana backstage at Expo 86.
In his private life, van Manen lived in Lions Bay and was an avid skier and golfer. He co-owned a boat with his close friend and fellow Sun photographer Ian Lindsay. When Ian died, also from cancer, he left money to upgrade to a bigger boat that Mark shared with Ian’s son Paul. They called it the Kodachrome.
Van Manen is survived by his girlfriend, Heide Eden, aunt Doris Coleman and uncle Alex Cook. A celebration of his life is being planned.
There should be some good stories there, like the time Mark was sent to photograph former U.S. president Bill Clinton at GM Place Stadium.
“Clinton came to town for one of those famous live things,” said Ballance. “They’ve got all of the media in a bullpen, dead-centre at the back on the floor. Everybody’s there, and I’m watching the manoeuvring in this tiny little bullpen. And then I see Mark come in.
“It was a classic van Manen. He comes in late and everybody else is set up. He takes one look and goes over to the GM Place staff. His arms start waving and he holds up his lanyard. ‘If you want Bill Clinton on the cover of The Vancouver Sun tomorrow you’d better do this!’
“This goes on for about 10 minutes and is escalating up the chain. From where I was sitting I could see from behind the curtain. And I thought, ‘Oh my God, he’s actually activated the Secret Service.’
“These two typical Secret Service come down. I thought, ‘If he pulls out the lanyard to these Secret Service I’m going to buy him a bottle of wine, because this is the best thing I’ve ever seen.’ Sure enough he’s holding up the lanyard, arms flailing.
“The amazing thing is, after 15 minutes they literally allow the media to move the bullpen. So Mark walks them over there, and gets the best position! And the guys that have been sitting there for an hour-and-a-half to get their little piece of elbow room end up at the back.”
A British Columbia wildlife refuge says staff are upset and shocked after a bear cub that was rescued near his mother’s dead body this spring died unexpectedly in his enclosure.
The bear named Malcolm was asphyxiated after getting his head stuck in a small rope handle attached to a plastic buoy, the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre said in a statement on Monday.
“In the morning of his death, he was routinely observed on the cameras playing contentedly on the large tree stumps that had been provided in his cage. In the mid-afternoon, animal care staff were at the pre-release building and opened the food hatch to check on Malcolm’s activities,” the centre said.
“At that time the cub was seen to be immobile and on the ground beside one of the tree stumps. Staff immediately entered the enclosure recognizing that there was a serious problem. … There were no signs of a struggle and we suspect he got his head through the loop and then very quickly asphyxiated.”
There has been a buoy suspended by a chain from a tree stump in Malcolm’s enclosure since he was first introduced, it said. The buoys have been a common source of enrichment for bears and there have never been any hints of injuries or mishaps, it added.
“We feel that it represents a very unfortunate accident involving an extremely rare set of circumstances. Caring for these special animals is an emotionally intense experience and we feel this loss profoundly. However, we will learn from this and be better at what we do,” the centre said.
Founder and operations manager Robin Campbell said in an interview that the centre has now removed the ropes attached to the buoys from all enclosures. He said in 20 years there had never been an incident like this.
“It’s just a terrible, terrible thing,” he said.
The cub was about eight to 12 weeks old and extremely malnourished when it was discovered in May lying on its mother’s carcass in Tofino, B.C.
“There was a lot of drama in saving it,” Campbell said. “Every little step of the way was like a little miracle. So when he finally turned into this wild bear and he was in his home stretch, all he had to do was go into hibernation and then next summer he would have been released.”
The centre’s statement said despite some initial health problems associated with emaciation and hypoglycemia, the bear had shown good physical and behavioural progress while in care. He was sedated and examined on Oct. 18 and found to be healthy and in very good body condition, so he was moved to a pre-release enclosure.
The enclosure affords lots of space and enrichment and less contact with people, but allows for good CCTV monitoring from several angles, the centre said.
Jennifer Steven and her husband John Forde, co-owners of the Whale Centre in Tofino, spotted the tiny cub in Ross Pass in May and rescued it by scooping it into a dog kennel.
Steven said Monday she was “devastated” by the bear’s death but she hoped people would not blame the wildlife refuge.
“It’s sad because so much was put into the effort to save the bear. Accidents happen in life and there’s definitely no hard feelings against the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre. They did so much to save that cub,” she said.
She and her husband visited the cub a few times at the wildlife refuge and he appeared to be doing great, she said. The refuge also sent them videos showing his growth into a “very large” bear, she said.
There are many animals that would die without the centre, Steven said, and she urged people to support it.
“They did the best that they could and accidents happen. We always learn from accidents like this, and if they can be prevented, great,” she said.
“I hope everyone can make a small donation to them because he’s not the only bear there, he’s not the only animal there, and they do such a good job.”
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