31 October 2013

Happy Halloween

Veronica Lake from I Married a Witch

Happy Halloween, everyone! Things are jumping here in New York with the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade (saw some brilliant costumes). I'm also celebrating the birthday of my favourite boy, my cat Poe, who turns 12 today. Hope you have a spooky time!

30 October 2013

Oh, You Red Sox!

The Red Sox have won the World Series, the first time they've clinched the title at Fenway Park since 1918. I wish I was in Boston right now celebrating with my friends and fellow Sox fans. Instead I'll just have to celebrate here in New York. 

Love you Papi. Love you Jacoby. Love you little Koji. And love you Red Sox.

Photo: Boston Red Sox Facebook Page.

29 October 2013

Sleepy Hollow

On a recent Sunday morning a friend and I met at Grand Central Station to take an early train up to Sleepy Hollow. What better place to visit in New York at this time of year?

Immortalized by Washington Irving in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, this village on the Hudson River was originally called North Tarrytown. It wasn’t until 1996 that it officially adopted the name it was better known as—Sleepy Hollow. It's small and charming and yes, there are signs of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman all around.

We started off at Philipsburg Manor, a historical site that was once home to the Philipse family, one of the largest slave-holders in the Colonial North and staunch supporters of the crown. During the Revolutionary War, British Army General Sir. Henry Clinton was headquartered at the Manor where he issued the Philipsburg Proclamation, proclaiming all slaves owned by Patriots freed. After the war, the Philipses' land was confiscated and sold off into parcels. 

We soon turned our attention to all things Irving. After crossing the spot where the Headless Horseman Bridge once stood, we visited the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow whose groundbreaking occurred in 1685. It makes an appearance in the legendary story as does its small burial ground where the Headless Horseman is supposedly buried. At night, as the story goes, his ghost “rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head.” The grounds are filled with the graves of the village’s early Dutch residents, many of whose names were inspiration no doubt for Irving.

"Don't blink."

A Celtic cross marks the grave of Andrew Carnegie.

Next door is the quite large Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where generations of famous New Yorkers are buried including Andrew Carnegie, Brooke Astor, Harry and Leona Helmsley, Walter Chrysler, and Washington Irving (naturally). There is even the grave of Dan Draper (oh, so close), the founder of the New York Meteorological Observatory in Central Park. The cemetery is huge (90 acres) so we did not see all of it but it is very pretty with one side dropping down to the Pocantico River. The cemetery is filled with a mix of simple headstones, statues, and mausoleums. One ring of angels immediately brought to mind the "Blink" episode from Dr. Who and gave me a chill.

Afterwards, we headed over to Tarrytown for lunch where we enjoyed the largest Greek salads I’ve ever seen at Lefteris Gyro and walked around, peeking into some of the antique shops and checking out the Music Hall. We stopped in at Coffee Labs Roasters for coffee and a sweet before heading back to the train and Manhattan. It was a nice break from the city and a great way to get into the Halloween mood (even if the weather was a bit too nice; a bit of fog would have suited nicely).

And if any of you are wondering, I have been watching the new Fox series Sleepy Hollow. It’s become my new guilty pleasure show (along with Scandal). It’s all over the place (a recent episode involved the Lost Colony of Roanoke, which was is in Virginia but okay) yet it's a lot of fun.

Photos by Michele.

28 October 2013

Edith Head Tribute

Today is the 116th anniversary of Edith Head's birth on October 28, 1897 in San Bernardino, California. Google is honoring the occassion with a doodle that pays tribute to probably the most important costume designer in the history of film. The winner of eight Academy Awards, Head dressed some of the greatest actresses of her day including Audrey Hepburn, Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck, Ingrid Bergman, Olivia de Havilland, Marlene Dietrich, and Grace Kelly. 

Grace Kelly in a gown from Rear Window (1954)

Head designed Kelly's amazing wardrobes for Rear Window (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955). In Rear Window, Kelly wears the gown pictured above when she makes her memorable entrance, zooming in to kiss James Stewart. 

The Google doodle is only up today so be sure to check it out here. And Happy Birthday, Edith Head!

23 October 2013

Capa's Voice

"Robert Capa" Ruth Orkin (1952)

Yesterday I posted my ode to Robert Capa in honour of the 100th anniversary of his birth. One thing I forgot to mention (wait, you ask, there’s something you left out of that rather large post?) was that although I know what Capa looked like, I’ve always wished I could hear his voice. As a fan of silent movies, I’ve had this same wish before with stars who never made it to the talkies (Olive Thomas being the one I would most like to hear). I knew Capa would have a Hungarian accent but beyond that I could only guess as no one had ever found any recordings of his voice. That is, until now.

The International Center of Photography (ICP), which houses the Robert Capa Archives, announced yesterday that a recording of a radio interview with Capa had surfaced on eBay (their chief curator, Brian Wallis, discovered the interview listed with a starting bid of 99 cents!) and that they had purchased it. Even better, they had uploaded the interview to their site for everyone to enjoy. 

The recording took place on October 20, 1947, when Capa appeared on the popular radio morning show “Hi! Jinx” to promote the release of his war memoir Slightly Out of Focus. Entitled “Bob Capa Tells of Photographic Experiences Abroad,” the interview is absolutely wonderful to listen to with the show’s married hosts, Jinx Falkenburg and Tex McCrary, appearing to have an easy rapport with Capa, especially McCrary who starts off by telling Capa he can’t talk with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

Capa’s wit and humour come through in the interview in which he discusses his recent trip to Russia with John Steinbeck, the critical response to his book, and, maybe most importantly, explains how he came to take the photo known as “The Falling Soldier,” the only time that he spoke of his most controversial image. He also, reluctantly, talks about how he got his American-sounding name and makes a blatant plug for listeners to buy his book.

As for what his voice sounds like? He has a heavy accent and mixes some words up (friends said he spoke "Capanese") but who cares? It’s likable and warm and pure Capa. I love it.

So thank you ICP for sharing. If you want to hear for yourself the only recording of Capa’s voice, visit the ICP's site here.

22 October 2013


"Portrait of Robert Capa, Naples" George Rodger (1943)

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Robert Capa, the greatest war photographer of the 20th century. Ever since I read Richard Whelan’s biography on Capa in high school, I’ve been fascinated with the man and his work. Although my blog may be filled with images of Cary Grant, Capa is my ultimate history crush. I simply adore him.

Capa was talented, daring, funny, brave, and charming (he was a noted ladies man) who made friends wherever he went, which just happened to be all over the world. Ernest Hemingway noted that Capa “could speak seven languages but none of them well,” and friends dubbed his way of speaking “Capanese.” He could appear carefree and irresponsible (which he often was) but was serious about his work and hated war though he covered five of them. Even when he was scared, and he certainly was in enough situations to warrant feeling that way, he masked his fear and never asked for special treatment. He went where the fight was, right alongside the soldiers. He defined what it meant to be a war photographer and the image he created helped to romanticize the idea of a photographer in combat although he would have been the first to tell you there's nothing romantic about war. Ultimately Capa’s dedication to his craft, to get the best photo no matter what, would cost him his life.

He was born Endre Ernő Friedmann in Budapest, Hungary on October 22, 1913 to a Jewish family of dressmakers. As a teen, he was involved in student political protests, which led to his arrest and the authorities telling him to leave the country. He moved to Berlin to study journalism but took up photography instead when a fellow Hungarian, Eva Besnyö, got him a job as an errand boy with the photo agency Dephot. He was soon helping out in the darkroom and in December 1932, he was sent on assignment to Copenhagen to shoot a lecture by Leon Trotsky. The resulting image would be the first time his work appeared in print.

With the rise of Hitler in 1933, he left Berlin for Paris. The following year he met a dynamic German émigré, Gerta Pohorylle and the two became a couple. He taught her the fundamentals of photography and she helped him book jobs. Soon they were shooting together.

But finding work was difficult so in 1936 they concocted a plan to help increase the sale of Friedmann’s photos. With Pohorylle acting as an “agent” she made it known that she represented a famous American photographer who was available for work but that he demanded only the highest commissions. The name they came up with for the great photographer? Robert Capa. Derived reportedly from actor Robert Taylor and director Frank Capra, the name had a decidedly American ring to it and was easier to remember than Friedmann. Their ruse was soon discovered but Friedmann adopted the name permanently and would be known as Robert Capa for the rest of his life. Pohorylle also changed her name to Gerda Taro.

In August 1936, Capa and Taro headed off to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War, which had erupted the month before. Capa would make numerous trips to the war-torn country over the next few years where he would hone his skills as a war photographer.

On September 5, 1936, in Cerro Muriano near Córdoba, Capa cemented his reputation with a photo called "Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936" but better known as  “The Falling Soldier,” in which he captured a Republican fighter at the moment he was struck by a bullet. Capa later claimed that he just lifted the camera above his head and took the shot without looking through his viewfinder. Controversy has followed the image with some believing that it was staged. Whatever the truth, that photo has become one of the iconic images of war. Capa was finally getting attention for his work and the following year the magazine Picture Post ran a piece on him, declaring Capa “the greatest war photographer in the world.” He was just 25.

Taro was not so lucky. Now a photographer of some talent, she made a trip to Spain in the summer of 1937 without Capa. During a retreat, she was injured when a tank rammed the car whose running board she was riding on. She died the following day on July 26, 1937. Capa, who had proposed marriage to Taro (she turned him down), was devastated by her death and some believed this to be the reason why he never married.

Shortly afterwards Capa made his first trip to America to see his mother and brother, Cornell, who were living in New York. After securing a contract with Life magazine, he travelled to China where he spent seven months covering the Second Sino-Japanese War.

He returned to Spain in 1939 to witness the end of the war and was working in France when World War II broke out. Capa returned to America where he worked on a series of assignments for Life but events in Europe beckoned.

1941 found Capa in London photographing Londoners recovering from the Blitz. After a trip back to the States to do a story on Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn in Sun Valley, Idaho (they had become friends earlier in Spain), Capa returned to Europe and the war.

Once again Capa showed grace under pressure. After covering stories in England, he travelled with Allied troops in Tunisia and Italy. Capa did what the soldiers did only he carried a camera instead of a gun. When they went without heat or beds to sleep in so did Capa. And when the 17th Airborne Division parachuted into Germany, Capa jumped alongside them.

But Capa’s big day came on D-Day, June 6, 1944, when he and the 16th Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division landed on Omaha Beach as part of the second assault wave. He took 106 images that day while under enemy fire. The four rolls of film were rushed to London where an overzealous lab technician accidentally set the dryer too high causing the negatives to melt. All but 11 images were destroyed. “The Magnificent Eleven” became the definitive images of the D-Day invasion and stand as testimony of Capa’s famous quote “if your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Capa would go on to cover the liberation of Paris, the Battle of the Bulge, and the Allied capture of Leipzig and Nuremberg.

"Ingrid Bergman and Alfred Hitchcock on the set of Notorious" Robert Capa (1946)

After the war, Capa became an American citizen and went to Hollywood with the idea to make movies. There he continued an affair with Ingrid Bergman that had begun in Paris. When she made Notorious with Alfred Hitchcock, Capa took stills on set. (Can you imagine, Capa and Cary Grant in the same room?) It is believed that Capa and Bergman were the inspiration for James Stewart and Grace Kelly’s characters in Rear Window. During this time he worked on his war memoir that would become Slightly Out of Focus. It’s a great read, fast and witty like its author. But Capa hated Hollywood and left.

In 1947, tired of magazines owning photographers’ work and with the idea of making more money, Capa along with Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger, David “Chim” Seymour, and William Vandivert formed Magnum Photos, a photographic cooperative. Based in Paris, the agency would attract some of the best photographers in the world.

"Robert Capa & John Steinbeck, Self portrait" (1947)

Later that same year, Capa toured the Soviet Union with John Steinbeck who wrote about their adventures in A Russian Journal with photos by Capa. Some who believed the Communists had manipulated the two criticized the trip. But Capa was already off on another assignment.

"Woman carrying luggage accompanied by a small boy, Haifa, Israel" Robert Capa (1949)

For the next two years most of his photography was of Israel. He covered the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and the plight of refugees pouring into the country. Many of his resulting photos were published in Irwin Shaw’s book Report on Israel. By now Capa was tired and seemed to have had enough of war.

"Robert Capa and George Ninaud (office manager) at the Magnum Paris office." George Rodger (1952).

Beginning in 1950, he lived in Paris where he enjoyed going to the track, gambling, and seeing various women. His focus was on Magnum, which he became president of in 1951. Capa’s charm proved useful in persuading photographers to join the agency and in putting off creditors when funds were low.

The Korean War had started and was the first major conflict that Capa sat out. He insisted that his days as a war photographer were over and instead did pieces on European locales and ski resorts.

In 1954, Capa was invited to travel to Japan for the launch of a new camera magazine. There he was feted as a hero and spent his time photographing children. During the visit, he received a call from Life who, needing a replacement photographer in Indochina, asked Capa to fill in and offered him a large salary. In need of the money, Capa accepted and flew to Hanoi.

On May 25, he travelled with a French convoy out to the Red River delta. At one point, Capa left the jeep he was riding in and walked up a way, taking photos of a group of soldiers advancing through the grass. Moments later he stepped on a landmine and died at 2:55 pm. Robert Capa was 40 years old.

"Robert Capa" Gerda Taro (1937)

Today Capa remains a giant in the field of war photography. The Robert Capa Gold Medal, created in his honour by the Overseas Press Club of America, is awarded every year for "best published photographic reporting from abroad requiring exceptional courage and enterprise." His brother and fellow photographer, Cornell Capa, founded the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York in 1974 to keep the legacy of his brother’s work and other 'Concerned Photography' alive. It is home to the Robert Capa Archives and routinely hosts exhibits of Capa’s work.

To celebrate his centennial and the upcoming “Capa in Color” exhibit in January at the ICP, Magnum will be posting a different Capa photo each day, for the next 100 days, along with an image that “responds” to Capa’s. Dubbed “Get Closer,” they are asking people to post their own responses with the tag #GetCloser100. For more information, visit here.
So Happy Birthday, handsome. You're the top!

21 October 2013

97 Orchard Street

The Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side is a favourite place of mine; not only does it appeal to the history geek in me but it’s a great place to take out-of-town visitors. The one downside is that photography is not allowed. So when I heard about “Snapshot,” a one-night event during which people would be allowed to shoot anywhere in the building, I jumped at the chance.

The museum is centered around a former tenement at 97 Orchard Street. Built in 1863, it originally consisted of 22 flats and a basement-level German beer saloon. Roughly 7,000 people would call it home over the years until 1935 when the last residents were evicted and the building boarded up. Purchased in 1996 by the Tenement Museum, the building is used to educate visitors about the immigrant experience in New York.

Normally, visitors to the museum take a tour with a guide who tells the tale of one or two of the families who lived in the building. On this night, although there were staff members on hand, we were able to roam at our own pace. I began in the saloon, which I had toured earlier this year, and worked my way up to each floor. While the rooms were interesting, I was drawn to the layers in the building—paint, flooring, wallpaper that remain as evidence of different decades and times at 97 Orchard Street.

For more info about the Tenement Museum, visit here. All photos by Michele.

20 October 2013

Happy Birthday, Ollie!

Born on October 20, 1894 in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, Olive Thomas was a star of the Ziegfeld Follies and a popular silent screen actress who was named "the most beautiful girl in the world." I just adore her. Watch Ollie's few surviving films, and you'll see why. She is moving, funny, charming, feisty, and yes, absolutely lovely. Happy Birthday, Ollie!

To find out more about Ollie, check out these posts (here and here). 

18 October 2013

A Darker Colour

Oh, colour black. You never let me down. Which is why I choose to wear you almost every day and why I shall definitely be dressed head to toe in black when I head out to Sleepy Hollow this weekend. I can't wait to get out of the city, even if it's just for a day. Besides, who doesn't love tramping through cemeteries and peeking into old churches, especially in October? Everyone, right? Have a wonderful weekend.

Image from here.


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