Wednesday, December 24, 2008

In This Season of Renewal




The earth has grown old with its burden of care But at Christmas it always is young.
Phillips Brooks

In my recent travels through Brussels, London and Paris, images of mother and child abounded seemingly everywhere. They are a universal symbol of hope, peace, rebirth and renewal. During a time of care and travail for so many, may this message be remembered and lived.

Happy Holidays to all.

Alison Moyet, "Coventry Carol":

Monday, December 22, 2008

Emergence

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
Albert Camus


Even though I'm a day late, Happy Solstice to one and all. May the coming year bring an emergence of new light, insight and hope.

Loreena McKennitt, "In The Bleak Midwinter":


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Recession, Fashion and Other Stuff

Come, woo me, woo me; for now I am in a holiday humor, and like enough to consent.
William Shakespeare

This is a holiday season for the records. So many people around me are affected by the recession, credit crunch or whatever it's termed in one's country of origin and are in poor spirits. I feel for them, but yet I feel the best I've felt in a long time. I could almost feel guilty for feeling so good. So many people seem to think things aren't going to get better, but I feel yes they will given the right attitude, actions and time. I'm happy that some positive action has been taken to help the auto industry(you can take a deep breath Mom and Dad), but I hope that they use the help wisely. California is another story, I wish I could explain to people out of state who keep asking me why the deficit is so large here, but it's not an easy explanation. But by the end of next year the prediction is that for someone in my salary range is that it could cost up to 25 per cent more to live in California. Another reason driving me towards the East Coast.

I've lost 15 of the 27 lbs that I picked up over the two years from exercise limitations due to my shoulder problem and I'm fitting into some clothes that were in storage. My interest in fashion has also returned and I've found myself perusing budget fashion blogs for ideas. This is because I have to buy my wardrobe on a counselor's salary so I'm a huntress for bargains (hello eBay). They're my new guilty pleasure. But what amazes me is how many people are their own models and comfortable in front of the camera. It's a definite generational difference. Cameras were used mainly for special occasions in my growing up years, so camera poses were of the awkward sort. The current generation is so visually oriented that it seems more strange to them when you're not comfortable in front of the camera. While I was traveling the past few weeks, I received many requests to help people take pictures so they could all be in front of camera. In return they often wanted to know if I wanted a picture of me in front of whatever landmark we happened to be at. As I tell people, I'm behind the camera not in front of it. And they always seemed shocked that I didn't want to be in front of it. For me it comes down to at the end of the day that I'm a very private person. That's why I have no desire to be famous. I like my anonymity.

Any how. I've been enjoying getting out of my uniform of chinos and t-shirts. I'm wearing skirts again and let's not even talk about shoes/boots. For the first time in a few years I can tolerate heels. Amazon.com and eBay have been seeing a good deal of me the last few months. Work gave me a gift card for the holidays so I bought some fashion. So now you know something more about me; that I have a passion for something besides my photography. But then photography and fashion go hand in hand so it's not surprising...

So here's hoping there is humor and joy in the next days leading up to the Christmas holiday.

Madonna, "Santa Baby":


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Back Home Again

He made me suddenly realize that photographs could reach eternity through the moment.
Henri Cartier-Bresson

Just a quick note. After a delay in which I had to stay overnight in Chicago I returned home from Paris and returned to work today. As I indicated in my last several posts it was an incredible one and it helped me to decide that the move back East Coast if I can effect everything I need to put into place by late Spring/early Summer. I feel it's the right decision and where I'm supposed to be.

Hope everyone is doing well and surviving the holiday season.

Massy, "Back Home Again":

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Nooks and Crannies








The flaneuse is an aimless stroller who loses herself in the crowd, who has no destination and goes wherever caprice or curiosity directs her steps.
Edmund White

Today I wanted to live in the sense in which this blog began. To get lost for a bit and see what turned up. The pictures are above are the result of that. Certainly I had a couple of destinations in mind (and still do, since I'm writing a bit earlier then usual), but I wanted to just see what was on some unexpected streets. The weather seemed to be with me as it lost itself all day. Fog, sunshine and then rain. I saw some of the best beauty and the worst.

The Patrick Demarchelier exhibition was excellent (I'll share a video I found on it). But all of the beauty made me wonder about the not so beautiful in Paris. This was driven by a curious phenomena I saw of several old women wearing scarfs and using canes/crutches bent over in half begging. Later the proprietress at my hotel said that it is an ethnic group more commonly know here as "gypsies" who use the elderly women as bait for pickpocketing. I don't know if it is true, but I know that there are certainly other legitimate homeless older people I saw and it lingered.

Onward to the Cluny and Mass at Notre-Dame cathedral.

Patrick Demarchelier Exhibition at "Le Petit Palais":


Friday, December 12, 2008

Louvre Under The Full Moon





Shouldn't a great museum foster serious seeing before all else?
Mark Stevens

It was freezing in Paris today and there was an incredible full moon tonight. I took a couple of brief walks and then decided to save my energy for a good visit at the Louvre in the evening as they offer a nice discount and 3 hours is about the max as I've indicated I can do before museum fatigue sets in. I always find an interesting mix of people in museums. Everything from serious artists sketching to some very immature aping around major exhibits as if to say shouldn't I be part of it? My goal was to shoot a series of perspective shots in the Greco-Roman section. Can anyone guess who the mythological pair in the statue above are?

Another day also of experienced kindness. The owner of the small hotel where I'm staying sat me up with a electric tea kettle and tea as I was coughing when I came in. Most small hotels in Paris don't come with coffee/tea maker we tend to expect in the US. So it was a wonderful gesture and did help keep my throat soothed.

Tomorrow is the the Patrick Demarchelier exhibit at the Petit Palais. And probably the Cluny. I had hoped to climb to the top of Notre Dame, but with the freezing weather and my cold probably not a workable possibility and then it's travel day on Sunday.

Hear the East Coast got hit with bad weather. Hope all my East Coast friends are staying warm.

Since I'm doing the Black & White mood thing and I'm in France:

Edith Piaf, "La Vie En Rose":


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Goodbye London, Hello Paris








As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own.
Margaret Mead

I haven't posted in two days because I came down with the mother of all colds. I actually ended up coming back to the London flat yesterday and considered returning to the US a bit early. The high costs of changing the flight convinced me otherwise. It has been a lesson in and of itself to be sick in an other country. It made me long for home, Bella and familiar comforts.

So I bordered the Eurostar to Paris in late afternoon and I must still have looked miserable (the explosive sneezing/coughing might have added to the effect) as a motherly naturalized American took charge of me till I got to my hotel. And the experience I had with her adds yet one more reason to why I travel. She insisted on buying me tea, sharing a cab to my hotel and didn't let me alone till I was checked in despite my assurances I had done this before. Turns out Allison is an international finance writer who speaks French and English and travels between London, Brussels, New York and Paris frequently. So I told her that someday I would help a traveler the way she was kind to me.

Despite the cold, my sojourn in London still allowed time to see Oedipus with Ralph Fiennes which I found phenomenal (some critics liked it, others thought it wasn't that great). The staging was done very simply and the Greek chorus looked like a bunch of middle aged finance geeks. Ralph Fiennes showed a range of emotions from brute arrogance to a dejected/rejected penitent. His scream when he found out that his wife was his mother and he had killed his father... well I still have chills on my spine from that one. The play is supposed to travel internationally so I don't know if that means an eventual Broadway run, but if it does go see it.

The interesting thing is I could have seen Hamlet last night if I hadn't fallen ill. Turns out the star of the show, David Tennant had a prolapsed disc that pulled him from the role on Monday and has him out indefinitely. Fans of the Dr. Who TV show started returning tickets, so they were available. Apparently the understudy did a fantastic job and showed why the RSC is an ensemble company. But it stirred up the star power debate as the tickets pre-star injury had been sold up to hundreds of pounds, i.e. should a show be based just on the power of a star. I would be less then honest if I said I haven't seen performances due to a well known name being in it. But I have also seen performances with unknowns and enjoyed it just as much, so I think it's just about what you like and want to see in the end. Saw some more photo exhibits including Annie Leibovitz's at the National Portrait Gallery. Sorry not impressed. It's not that it's bad, but there is a certain overdone quality to her work at times. I found I enjoyed the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize more. But variety is the spice of life. It would be boring if we all liked the same things.

This vacation has been so different. Instead of big sweeping tourist sights, I've found myself poking into nooks and crannies. I've enjoyed it. It's not what I expected this vacation to be, but it's teaching me and I'll be reflecting on the lessons for weeks to come.

So here I am in Paris in the Latin Quarter staying at a smaller hotel I found that came fairly recommended. I'll be back in California Sunday night. So I'm going to walk, then photograph what captures my eye and try to share more until then.

The Beatles, "Hello Goodbye":


Monday, December 8, 2008

Light Studies in Hyde Park and London Reflections








I believe in the photographer's magic — the ability to stir the soul with light and shape and colour. To create grand visual moments out of small and simple things, and to infuse big and complicated subjects with unpretentious elegance.
Amyn Nasser

Today started out with a trip to the Natural History Museum to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition. It was inspiring and stirred me. I didn't go through the rest of the exhibits, I decided to go poke around in Hyde Park as it was turning out to be yet another sunny day, plus they had a Christmas Market going on. It turned out an wonderful decision. The breadth and width of the light I experienced over the next few hours was an excellent teacher. I started this vacation with the idea of Christmas Markets. The Christmas Markets while to a degree interesting haven't struck me with creative magic. However, the magic of the light that I have experienced have brought me out again and again to try to capture what I am seeing through the lens. I have three major themes that are evolving from all of the shots I am taking and will be working on them more when I return home. Hyde Park is a good place though to do camera scales: people, animals, nature and landscapes. It was all there today and I left the park exhilarated.

That exhilaration lasted through the evening. What can I say except when one sees a master actor such as Derek Jacobi doing Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night", it is a privilege to have been there. The Donmar productions are getting rave reviews and I can see why. I hope I get to see another production there one day.

It's going to be hard to leave London in a couple of days. Renting a flat/townhouse is the way to go if you're doing extensive traveling or want to get a sense of day to day life where you are. I've been able to get a sense of what it would be like to live in London. I've shopped in the grocery stores, dealt with heat, electricity, garbage issues and cooked/cleaned. Some might not think that a vacation, but again I wanted that sense of what is it to be a native. Expensive and crowded, but full of creative opportunities. It's also been interesting to realize that many of the issues that they are facing are in many cases mirror images of what's going on in America.

The Clash, "London Calling":


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Welcome To Camden Town






Today you are You, that is truer then true. There is no one alive who is Youer then you.
Dr. Seuss

Today's travels took me to Camden Town/Camden Locks to visit the markets. The guidebooks are full of opinions whether its a worthwhile interesting trip or it's just basically tourist schlock. Truthfully, like many places that illicit strong opinions it's a bit of both. Certainly there is the punk/goth and rebellion element. Definitely tourist t-shirts and similar bric a brac. Unexpectedly though, good vintage clothing/furniture, creative artists and some just unexpected sights. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. One unusual thing though. Many of the owners of the shops had signs around requesting no photographs. One gets the sense they get tired of being treated and photographed like an exhibit in the zoo. With that in mind I decided to focus on more accessible sites and leave the people shooting to another day. But I did people watch and didn't get bored. Also there is lots of excellent food. Just come prepared for crowds. I went earlier in the morning and by the time I left early in the afternoon, the sidewalks were so crowded, people were taking their chance and walking on the street.

Suggs, "Camden Town":


Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Theatre of the Marketplace











The Farmers' Market is the slowly turning Lazy Susan of the seasons.
Alice Waters


Today started with a trip to obtain some theatre tickets. I was able to obtain an excellent ticket to Twelfth Night with Derek Jacobi. My quest for the RSCs production of Hamlet was less successful. Apparently it's the hottest ticket in town surprisingly. I'll try again, but have back-up plans for other productions. I always gorge on theatre when I'm in London as the tickets are cheaper then in NYC.

Next was the Borough Market with the intention of obtaining ingredients to make supper tomorrow night at the flat for Caroline whom I'm renting the flat from. Found out why Londoner's can despair about the Underground. I had two lines disrupted as I got on them and was thinking I would never get to the Market when they announced another line would be making the connection. Once in Borough Market I found theatre of another sort. Vendors were shouting out for people to purchase their "veg and fruit" along with meat, fish, breads, cheeses, desserts, and just about anything else you can think of to make the consummate meal. People crowded in trying to taste, touch and discover. However I was there with another mission in mind. I love grilled cheese sandwiches and had seen a show on "The Travel Channel" in which the host called a grilled cheese vendor's sandwich "an epiphany". So I gathered ingredients and searched. Just as I had finished gathering the last of what I wanted and was about to give up, my nose caught the whiff of grilled cheese. And not just any grilled cheese. These sandwiches were made up from large wheels of cheese which had been hand made, shredded and then mixed with herbs, scallions, placed on sour dough bread and grilled on sandwich press. It was so popular they were giving out tickets. I was finally handed mine wrapped in wax paper and I took it along with a cup of hot mulled cider to a grassy square next to a church where everyone else seemed to be gathered. The crisp sun warmed me as I sat done on a bench and I took my first bite. Tanginess exploded in my mouth and I followed this with a swallow of the cider. Perfect food nirvana. So perfect in fact I moaned in delight. Two girls who were sitting beside me grinned at me. Turned out they were eating the same thing. They told me I had just been initiated into a special club when they found out it was my first sandwich. People apparently come back regularly just to have it, it is so addicting.

So I'm now getting ready to head out to St. Martin's-in-the-Fields to hear a classical candlelight concert of Christmas symphony music. A song that will be featured at the concert

Pearsall, "In Dulci Jublio":


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