22 October 2014

Happy Birthday, Capa!


Today is the birthday of Robert Capa who was born on October 22, 1913 in Budapest, Hungary. At the young age of 25 he was named "the greatest war photographer in the world" by Picture Post for his coverage of the Spanish Civil War. He would photograph five wars in all as well as countless places, people, and events. Charismatic, smart, and funny, he once wrote in his helmet during World War II: "Property of Robert Capa, great war correspondent and lover." Says it all, really. My ultimate crush, I welcome any excuse to post his photo and say, Happy Birthday, Capa!

21 October 2014

Happy Birthday, Ollie!


Yesterday was the birthday of one of my favourite stars, Olive Thomas. Although I mentioned her on twitter, I was remiss in posting anything on the blog so here we are, a day late. 

Olive Thomas was born on October 20, 1920 in Charleroi, Pennsylvania and grew up to become a Ziegfeld Follies girl and silent screen star. Her life reads like something out of the movies—escaping poverty and an abusive husband, she fled to the big city where she found fame and fortune, and marriage to a member of Hollywood royalty—that is before her life was suddenly cut short. But what a life she led. So Happy Birthday, Ollie! You'll never be forgotten.

For more on Olive Thomas, check out some of the posts I've written here and here.

16 October 2014

Stand Back

"Gemini" Stevie Nicks (date unknown)


Last week saw the opening of “24 Karat Gold,” an exhibit of self portraits of the gypsy herself, Stevie Nicks.

Back in the 1970s, singer/songwriter Stevie Nicks decided to learn photography. A night owl, she would stay up and take photos of her only available subject, herself. As Nicks says, “I would begin after midnight and go until 4 or 5 in the morning. I stopped at sunrise—like a vampire. I did everything—I was the stylist, the makeup artist, the furniture mover, the lighting director. It was my joy—I was the model.”

"Trouble" Steve Nicks (date unknown). Looks like Stevie found some other night owls.

Taken between 1975 and 1987 at home and while on tour with Fleetwood Mac, the self-portrait Polaroids wound up being put away in a series of shoe boxes. It wasn’t until earlier this year when Nicks was working on a new album, 24 Karat Gold—Songs From the Vault, that she decided to make them public.

The 24 images in the exhibit have been enlarged while retaining their classic Polaroid shape, and are hand-signed and numbered by Nicks. Some serve like a time capsule, bringing back memories of 80s hair, while others capture the ethereal quality associated with Nicks. And some are just downright beautiful, especially the ones where she’s got a 20s look going on (I kept thinking, she must have the most amazing closets full of stuff). You also see her trying different things like "For Hurrell" where she appears to be recreating George Hurrell's photo of Mary Pickford in her wedding dress. Twenty-four images of an icon that make for a fun and very cool exhibit.

"The Key" Stevie Nicks (date unknown)

The exhibit is at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York through October 31, 2014 and at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in Los Angeles through October 21, 2014. For more information, visit here.

14 October 2014

Salgado's Genesis



“Photography is just my way of life.”— Sebastião Salgado

Recently I attended a media preview of the International Center of Photography's final exhibit before they move downtown next year and their choice has them leaving on a high note.

“Genesis” is the culmination of eight years of work by the Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado. Starting in 2004, Salgado set out to document “the 46% of the planet that is still pristine.” Spending eight months of the year outside, he took 32 journeys to the far-flung corners of the globe. At first the project was a curiosity for Salgado; he wanted to see if he could create the photos. It soon turned into a mission for the photographer who hopes that his images will make people realize that “This last half [of the world], we must protect it.”


 

The stunning results are divided into five sections in the exhibit: Sanctuaries, Planet South, Africa, Amazonia and Pantanal, and Northern Spaces. More than 200 black and white images of animals, land and seascapes, and indigenous people fill both floors of the museum, giving viewers a glimpse of parts of the world that are at times majestic and at other times seem as if from a fairy tale.


There’s the line of chinstrap penguins waiting to dive off an iceberg in the South Sandwich Islands (a personal favourite), a close up of the foot of a marine iguana on Rábida Island that is incredibly human-like, the sand dune in southern Algeria that resembles a modernist painting, a river running through the Brooks Range in Alaska that appears to be a line of fire cutting across the land, a group shot of some young Yali women hanging out in West Papua, Indonesia who could be Western save for their lack of clothing, and an iceberg that looks like a castle. All of these show not only the beauty that exists in nature but serve as a reminder of how fragile the world is and how these things could so easily be lost forever, including the homes and way of life for many indigenous people.

Curated by Salgado’s wife, Lélia Wanick Salgado, the exhibit represents the couple’s commitment to protecting the environment. When in the 1990s Salgado inherited the farm that he had grown up on in Brazil, he discovered that the large swath of rain forest that had once covered the majority of the land was gone. Intent on bringing it back, the Salgados planted more than 2 million trees and have since witnessed the return of wildlife. This led to the establishment of their foundation, Instituto Terra, which is dedicated to the sustainable development of the Valley of the River Doce.

"The eastern part of the Brooks Range, which rises to over 3,000 meters (9,800 ft.), 
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, USA" Sebastião Salgado (2009)

At the preview, Salgado was on hand to walk us through the exhibit. A few days later he discussed his work in front of a much larger crowd at Cooper Union. It’s always a treat to hear directly from a photographer about his or her work, and Salgado did not disappoint. Speaking about being a photographer, he said that if you get pleasure from the work then time doesn’t matter—you can spend all day shooting. He also quickly dismissed the idea that he’s an artist stating, “An artist?” That’s peanuts. Being a photographer is more than just an artist.”

For this project, he shot the first half on film and went digital for the second half after all the new airport security (x-ray machines) started wrecking his film. He mentioned that he can’t stand editing on a computer so his small team makes contact sheets for him to look at. As for the prints in the exhibit? They were all made in his studio in Paris. As Salgado said, “With your photography, you must control everything.”

"Genesis" is truly an exhibit not to be missed. It is at the ICP through January 11, 2015. For more info, visit here.


01 October 2014

October!


"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."— L.M. Montgomery

So am I. October is my favourite month by far. The weather gets cooler, the leaves turn orange and red, pumpkins arrive, and although the days are shorter, the nights are alive with loads of things to do (in New York, the theatre and other events seem to kick into high gear this time of year). And, of course, Halloween and all the fun that entails. I look forward to taking a walk through Central Park with the leaves crunching under foot on a crisp day. And I'll be making a trip to New England, the perfect place to be in October. Welcome, October. I'm so happy you're here.

30 September 2014

Bon Anniversaire, Marion

Marion Cotillard by Studio Harcourt Paris (1999)

Today is the birthday of my favourite modern actress, Marion Cotillard. From her film roles to her advertisements for Dior, I just adore everything she does. Which is why I am so excited to see her in conversation this weekend at the New York Film Festival where she'll be promoting her new film, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Two Days, One Night.

Last night I attended a festival talk with another French favourite, Mathieu Amalric, who was intelligent, funny, and charming. He spoke for more than an hour about the directors he's worked with and his own filmmaking process. Absolutely wonderful. Now all I want to do is watch French cinema. 

25 September 2014

Bookshelf

The always delightful Alice White and friend.

I've managed to plow through a stack of books over the course of the last few months (one upside of insomnia) and am now looking at just four left on my nightstand (one of which is The Goldfinch so it will be a while before I need to get some new books). In writing up my recent reads, I realized that they're almost all British. Hmm. Will have to broaden my horizons. But for now, I bring you another instalment of Bookshelf.

Flavia de Luce, an 11-year old with a passion for chemistry (especially poisons), lives with her two older sisters and widowed father in their old family estate in the English countryside. One day their rather dull 1950s life is interrupted by the discovery of a dead bird with a postage stamp on his beak outside their door followed by Flavia witnessing a strange man die in their garden. Unwilling to leave the mystery to the local authorities, Flavia sets out on her bike to solve it herself. Wise beyond her years and completely endearing, Flavia is a wonderful young sleuth. The first in a series, I’m looking forward to reading more of Flavia’s adventures.

Frog Music—Emma Donoghue
During a heat wave and smallpox epidemic in 1876 San Francisco, French dancer Blanche Beunon witnesses the murder of her cross-dressing friend, the frog catcher Jenny Bonnet. Convinced that her “fancy man,” Arthur Deneve, whom she has left, and his ever-present friend, Ernest, are responsible, Blanche sets out to prove who killed Jenny while also attempting to find her own baby son whom she gave away. Donoghue does a wonderful job of bringing San Francisco to life, from the teeming streets of Chinatown to the nearly deserted outskirts of the city. And while Blanche can try the patience of the reader, Jenny imbues the story with energy whenever she appears.

Maggie Hope is in Scotland, training new recruits while recovering from her undercover mission in Berlin. Suffering from what Churchill calls the Black Dog (depression), she adopts an abandoned tabby and decides to go to Glasgow to see her friend, Sarah, perform in La Sylphide. But when two members of the dance troupe suddenly die and Sarah falls gravely ill, Maggie becomes determined to find an answer and save her friend’s life. Inter cut with Maggie’s story is that of her mother, awaiting her execution for treason, and Japan’s planned attack on Pearl Harbor, which Churchill gets winds of early on. I really enjoy the Maggie Hope series but have to admit that this was my least favourite of the books. Let's hope the next one has more Maggie and fewer story lines (although a guest appearance by Ian Fleming was fun).

Down the Garden Path—Beverley Nichols
A noted author of everything from children’s books to newspaper columns, Beverley Nichols was an avid gardener who wrote a trilogy about his gardens at Allways, his cottage in Cambridgeshire. Down the Garden Path is the first and perhaps most loved of the books. Filled with the trials and tribulations of creating the gardens including having flowers in the winter, turning a field into a wood, and failing at a rock garden, it's a humorous and engaging account. Along the way Nichols makes witty observations about the people he encounters, often with his claws out, and makes confessions: “I would rather be made bankrupt by a bulb merchant than by a chorus girl.” A must read for gardening fans.

The Quick—Lauren Owen 
In Victorian England, introverted poet James Norbury moves to London where he finds lodgings with a member of the aristocracy. When his letters to his sister, Charlotte, in Oxford suddenly cease, she comes to the city to find out what happened to him. What she uncovers is an underworld of nefarious goings-on and creatures of the night with all trails leading to the Aegolius Club whose members have blood on their minds. After a wonderful opening chapter, the book slows down for a while before a sudden plot twist picks up the pace and leaves the reader on edge. I really liked the direction in which the story went and that the author presented main characters who were often unlikeable. I just wish it had been a wee bit smaller.

Love Nina: A Nanny Writes Home—Nina Stibbe 
In 1982, 20-year old Nina Stibbe moved to London from her small town near Leicestershire to work as a nanny to Sam and Will Frears whose mother was Kay Wilmers, deputy editor of the London Review of Books. Nina wrote regular letters back home to her sister, Vic, with observations about life in London and little, everyday details about the boys, her employer, and the guests who frequented the house including their neighbour and regular dinner companion, Alan Bennett. Included in her stories is the cat that no one really likes, her cooking that often gets criticized (turkey mince!), and the abuse experienced by the family car. After a while, Nina becomes a part of the family, continuing to live at the house even after she goes to university. A charming read that brought back some memories for this former au pair.

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