Rudy

Rudy, New York, 1999

It’s now been about three months that much of us have been in lockdown, and as it is with many things, there is the good and there is the bad.  For me, the good is working from home, as I can stay in bed more than an hour later in the morning, I don’t have to deal with commuting on the subway and when I finish work, I am already home.
The bad?  Well, I miss many of the things that New York City has to offer, like museums, galleries, concerts, the opera, restaurants and so on.   “Don’t you know it’s always so, but you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone,” Joni Mitchell wrote, and I guess that’s the case here. At least it should give me an incentive to go out and do more things when it’s possible to do them again.
Another thing that I miss, of course, is photography.  I was able to get to Hawaii in early March, but my subsequent photo trips planned to Morocco, Iceland and Great Britain were either cancelled or postponed.
Still, perhaps I will be able to combine exploring New York City again with photography.  I usually tell people that almost all of my photography is done when I’m away from home on vacation.  For my art nude photography, there just aren’t any really good locations with privacy here in the New York City area, and for my travel photography – well, I need to be travelling.
On the other hand, New York City is one of the most interesting places in the world to photograph, and many exceptional photographs have been made here, so why haven’t I tried to photograph my home town more frequently?  I suppose much of it has to do with time and attitude.  When I’m on vacation, I can devote all of my time to photography, which gets me into a photographic frame of mind.  Here at home, I spend most of my daytime hours working, and when I’m not, I’m busy taking care of other things, so that attitude just isn’t there.
However, even before the lockdown began, I was thinking of starting a New York City photo project – perhaps just with my Holga, so I could feel a greater sense of freedom compared to carrying around a heavy camera and bag.  (I did this in London and it felt great.)
The truth is, though, that I did once take photos of New York City, as I used to carry around in my bag one of my two old point-and-shoot film cameras – a duo lens Olympus Infinity Twin and an Olympus Stylus – loaded with black & white film.  I didn’t really seek out photographs to make, but if I happened to come across a scene that looked interesting, I’d take the camera out of the bag and make a snap or two.
Here is one of those photos, showing a protester in front of City Hall Park in New York City.  Though there is no date on the print that I got from the lab, it dates to 1999, when then New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani wanted to set up an art decency commission and cut off funding from the Brooklyn Museum because of an exhibition there that included a controversial painting by African (and Roman Catholic) artist Chris Ofili titled “The Holy Virgin Mary” that used elephant dung among its materials.  Listening to Giuliani, you’d have thought that it was a traditional religious painting of a white woman splattered with shit, but that is definitely not the case.  (I also wonder how much of the controversy was because Mary is shown not as lily white but as African.  You can see it and read about it here and here.)
Of course, Rudy is still in the news these days, as Trump and his lap dogs have just fired the US attorney in New York who had been looking into possible wrongdoing in Giuliani’s dealings.  (Jee, I wonder why.)
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Smiling Eyes

Smiling Eyes, Northern Vietnam, 2006

We are living at a time when people should be wearing face masks or face coverings (though many people do not do so or they do so incorrectly).  I heard or read one commentator saying that because of this, it’s difficult to tell if a person is smiling or not.
Well, this may or may not be true.  I guess it depends on the circumstances of how a person’s face is covered or perhaps even how perceptive the viewer is.
In this case, I am presenting to you a case where part of a photographic subject’s face is covered and one can see a smile behind the covering – or at least, I think there’s a smile behind it.  We tend to think that a smile is done with one’s mouth, but I believe that more of the face is involved in it.  Here, even though the lower part of her face is covered, I believe that we can still discern a smile in her eyes and in her cheek bones.
I made the photo on my first trip to Vietnam in 2006, up in the northern hills of the country where several ethnic minority groups, or “hill tribes,” live.  This particular young woman belongs to the Flower Hmong group and is dressed in traditional attire, which includes a head covering.
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Four Davids in Florence (and One in Rome)

Statues of David by Verrocchio and Donatello

I thought I’d try a bit of a different blog post today, one about art history.  While I am certainly not an art historian, I do have an interest in art and how it has changed over the years – especially when the change occurs in the works of just one artist.
In this case, I was taken by two statues that I had seen in Florence in 2017, on my last trip to Italy, when I was in the Bargello – the national museum of Gothic and Renaissance sculpture.  (It may not be as well known as the Uffizi and the Accademia in Florence, but it should be, as its collection is unparalleled.)   There, in the same room, were two sculptures of David by the great artist Donatello, made about 30 years apart, and the two could not be more different.
The earlier one, dating from around 1408, is made of marble and shows him standing with the head of the defeated Goliath at his feet.  It still has a somewhat gothic feel to it and seems a bit staid.

David by Donatello, c. 1408

The other, thought to have been made during the 1440’s, is the much better known, showing David again with the head of Goliath at his feet.  This time, though, the material is bronze and the figure of the hero is nude.  In fact, this is the first freestanding male nude sculpture to have been made since Roman times and was the first unsupported work of bronze cast during the Renaissance.  Here the pose is more relaxed and the hero seems more triumphant, but one has to wonder how much Donatello had to stress over creating such a daring work as this at that time.

David by Donatello, c. 1440

However, depictions of David don’t end there, as in the same room stood the statue of the heroic boy by Andrea del Verrocchio.  Made about 20 or 30 years after the later Donatello piece, it’s also of bronze and shows the triumphant David with the head of Goliath at his feet and makes an interesting contrast to the earlier bronze.
By the way, if you have never heard of Verrocchio, you have probably heard of one of his students – a fellow by the name of Leonardo da Vinci.  It was said that Leonardo was an exceedingly good-looking man, and there are some who think that he may have even been the model for this sculpture.

David by Verrocchio, c. 1466-1475

Still, when thinking of statues of David, there is one that towers above all others – both literally and figuratively – and that is of course the magnificent marble statue by Michelangelo that once stood outside in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence but now resides in that city in the Galleria dell’Accademia.  Made from 1501 to 1504, several decades after the David by Verrocchio, and more than half a century after the later Donatello, the hero is shown not looking triumphant after defeating his foe but instead is depicted earlier in the story, poised to strike with his sling, bringing the viewer much more into the action about to take place.

David by Michelangelo, 1501-1504

More than a hundred years later, in 1624, the great sculptor of the Italian Baroque, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, completed his own version of David.  If Michelangelo brought us more into the action than his predecessors, Bernini upped the ante and took it even further, showing David having just begun to launch his stone at Goliath with the sling, a grim look of determination on his face.  This piece is one of several magnificent Bernini masterpieces now housed in the museum of the Villa Borghese in Rome (click here and scroll down), and it is said that Bernini used himself as the model for David’s face.  (An Italian banknote with Bernini’s face on it does seem to have a resemblance.)

David by Bernini, 1623-1624

As I said, I am no art historian, so if you are interested in learning more about these great works, there is plenty of information to be found.
I’ll return to my own original photographs in my next post.
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Gone But Not Forgotten

“Untitled Nude, 2018”

Like many other people, I have not been going outside much.  For the last several weeks, I’ve only left my building about once a week to do shopping or something else that needed to be taken care of.  It had been a while since I’d taken a real walk, so this past Saturday afternoon, as the weather was nice, I decided to finally go out for a nice stroll and to get some air.

The place I decided to walk to, wearing a mask, is a natural beach not too far from where I live.  Not surprisingly for a warm Saturday at a time when people are itching to get out, there were quite a few people there.  In fact, the parking lot was full, which I don’t know if I’ve ever seen before at this place.  The fact that the tide was very high at the time – probably at or close to its maximum – reduced the space for walking, too.  Still, the amount of people who come here is relatively low and not like a regular beach where people go for sunbathing, so I was generally able to keep my distance from other people, some of whom were wearing masks and others who weren’t.

The reason that I’m mentioning this is that I used this beach as a photographic location when I worked with Sienna Hayes during her visit to New York in the summer of 2018, but things had changed since then.  The jetty where we first began working was still there (though at high tide it was inaccessible).  However, toward the far end of the beach, there was an area of tall grass where we had made some good photos, including one that earned an Honorable Mention in last year’s Black & White Spider Awards.  (See here.)  Sadly, the grass was now gone.  I don’t know if it was done intentionally or if it happened naturally somehow, but what’s done is done.  I guess I was fortunate to photograph there when it was still around and make some good use of it.

As I need to take the time to scan all of my film photos, I am never able to scan all of my good images, so I decided to take some time over the last few days to go back to this photo session and scan a few more. Here they are.
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Strike While the Iron is Hot

Nude, Hawaii, 2020

I remember, when I was preparing to apply to graduate school around 40 years ago, looking through the catalog of the University of Chicago.  One of the things I read in it that amused me was its saying that the university had fairly good athletic facilities considering that one of its past presidents is supposed to have once said, “Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until it goes away.”
Of course, on the other hand, if you want to get things done, you cannot simply “lie down until the urge goes away.”  Such is the case with me and my having been staying home these last few weeks.  I had thought that with more time being spent at home, I would have plenty of opportunity to do things like scanning photographs – and I have plenty to scan, indeed – but that’s not what I’ve been doing.  Instead, I’ve been occupying most of my free time by doing something else:  cleaning up my apartment.
I have said for a long time that I could use a good amount of time at home to straighten up around here, but having the time is not enough to get things done.  One has to have the urge and impetus to get things done, too, and since that has finally appeared, I’m going with it while it lasts, because if I let it pass, who knows when I while have the urge to do so again?  So, I’ve been shredding old documents I no longer need, have gotten rid of boxes and things that I don’t need, organized my CD collection and done other things that needed to be done.  I have more to do, but at least I’ve taken a big step forward – and when I do finally get to a point where I can stop for a while, it should make scanning photos a bit easier with fewer other things to worry about having to do.

Another quote that I’ve been thinking of lately is from a song by Joni Mitchell: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…”  While Joni was writing about paradise being paved by a parking lot, I’ve been thinking of missing things like going to museums, art galleries and such places here in New York City.  When something is always there, you don’t necessarily place a priority on going because it’s always available and you think you can go whenever you want.  I suppose that now we shouldn’t take such things for granted any more.
Getting back to Joni Mitchell’s song, “Big Yellow Taxi,” I just read that she wrote the song in response to some things that she had seen on her first trip to Hawaii.  It’s appropriate then – and quite coincidental – that I had planned to illustrate today’s post with some photos from my own first trip to Hawaii last month.  Here then, once again, are Anoush Anou and St. Merrique on the island of Kauai.
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Femina

Nude, Utah, 2019

As I look out the window here from my apartment in Brooklyn today, I see clouds and rain. Yesterday, I saw blue skies and sun.  Still, right now it doesn’t make too much of a difference to me, as I am trying to stay in as much as possible.  Fortunately, I am able to work from home via my computer (though I am off from work today), so being able to stay in isn’t much of a problem.

Otherwise, I’ve been doing things like straightening up my apartment, catching up on videos and television programs (I finally watched the final season of “Poldark” on PBS, but have just begun to record the new series, “World on Fire”), but also scanning negatives.  Regarding the latter, as I’m sure I have noted here before, I make photographs at a much faster rate than I can scan them, so there’s a huge backlog to go through and it’s always a difficult choice of what to scan next.

Today’s photos, however, from my art nude trip to Utah in August of last year, were scanned a few months ago (though I certainly have more from it to scan).  In my first few posts from this adventure I had posted photos of the three primary models involved, but today I’ve decided to display photos of just one of them, the lovely Viribus Femina.  This was my first time working with her, and I will simply say that I hope it will not be the last.
Take care, stay safe and be well, everyone.
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Dushanbe

Dushanbe, Tajikistan, 2019

It’s always an interesting and exciting proposition to visit a city for the first time.  When that city is in a country that I have never visited before, it is even more so – especially when that country is in a region of the world that I had not been to previously.
However, when that city is a national capital and it’s a place that you had never heard of before???  Well, I guess that takes it to another level altogether.

Such was the case when I began my journey to central Asia – the region of the old Silk Road – last year.  I had begun my trip with three nights on my own in Istanbul, which is certainly one of the best known cities in the world.  However, I still remember looking at my travel documents from the tour company and reading that after Istanbul I would fly to Dushanbe.  My first thought upon seeing that was “Where is that???”
Dushanbe, for those that don’t know (as I did not know then) is the capital city of Tajikistan, one of the five former Soviet republics in central Asia.  The name is derived from the Tajik word for “Monday,” as the village from which it grew had a major market that was held on that day of the week.  While I was certainly familiar with the names of fabled Silk Road cities like Samarkand and Bukhara, the name Dushanbe was new to me.

Arriving into Dushanbe was also a little unusual, as my flight from Istanbul left at 9 pm.  After passing over the Black Sea and then the Caspian Sea, plus the lands in between and beyond, we finally landed in Dushanbe at around 3 am, so the drive to the hotel – which is when one usually gets one’s first glimpse of a new place – was not very revealing.
However, after a group visit to the national archaeological museum later that day, I had a chance to do some exploring on my own.  In a situation like this, on my initial visit and my initial walk, I try to keep to a path which I can easily retrace back to my point of origin, so after leaving my hotel, which was on a fairly quiet street, I walked to the corner, made a right turn, walked for a few blocks and then made another right turn onto what looked like a major avenue.

One of the things that I sometimes do when I take my first walk in a new and unfamiliar place is to simply observe before I begin to seriously think about photographing, and that’s what I did on this occasion, especially when it comes to photographing people.
Dushanbe may not have the great medieval monuments of some of the places we would visit later in our tour, but it is a pleasant enough place in which to walk, and I did take a few photos of some things that caught my eye, plus one man who didn’t mind being photographed.

As I walked back to the hotel, the roll of film in my camera not yet exhausted, I was searching for some interesting scenes to photograph to finish up the roll.  Not having found anything by the time I reached the hotel, I looked across the street and there it was – a young man sitting in front of a house playing a guitar.  My camera and I did not appear to bother him as he continued to play, so I finished up the roll then and there.

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Constantinople

Interior, Sultan Ahmet Mosque (aka The Blue Mosque), Istanbul, Turkey, 2019

I hope that all of you reading this are safe and coping well in the midst of the current worldwide pandemic, despite the upheavals that have been wrought upon all of us.
I’m certain that I’m not the only person whose plans have been changed due to the current situation.  Today should have been the final full day of a photographic trip to Morocco of a little more than a week, but instead I’m sitting here at home writing this.

Decorated Street, Istanbul, Turkey, 2019

As I had already planned to take the past week off from work, I decided to just stay home, anyway.  One of the advantages of this is that I was able to spend more time than usual scanning my negatives. At first I was working on photos from my recent trip to Hawaii, but then I decided to switch my focus to my travel photographs, which I had not scanned for a while, beginning with those that I made last year in Istanbul, Turkey, before I continued further east for my three week trip to central Asia.

Aya Sofia and Tram Tracks, Istanbul, Turkey, 2019

So, as a follow-up to that, here are some photographs from Istanbul.  These were made in the Sultan Ahmet section of the city, which is basically the city’s historic center on the European side of the Bosporus – the waterway that divides the city between Europe and Asia.  This area contains three of Istanbul’s biggest attractions: the Aya Sofia (aka Hagia Sophia), a Byzantine era cathedral turned into a mosque and now a museum; the Sultan Ahmet mosque (aka the Blue Mosque, so called because of its blue interior tiles); and the Topkapi Palace, where the Sultans ruling the Ottoman Empire lived.

Roasted Corn Vendors in Front of Aya Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey, 2019

While Istanbul is the city’s current name, it only officially received that designation in 1930, having previously been called Constantinople, following the Roman emperor Constantine moving his capital of the Roman empire there in the year 330 CE.

Minaret near Aya Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey, 2019

Looking forward, I’m going to see if I can keep scanning photos on a daily basis. A few weeks ago, I told myself that I would try to scan at least three negatives each day, but that never happened.  Starting this week, I’ll be working remotely from home, so I will no longer have entire days that I can devote to myself, but at least I won’t have to spend time doing my two hour daily commute, so hopefully I’ll be able to use some of that time saved for my photography.
Be well and stay safe, everyone – and let’s all travel with our photographs until we can get out and visit the real places again.

Egyptian Obelisk of Thutmose III, Hippodrome, Istanbul, Turkey, 2019

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Five-O

Nude, Hawaii, 2020

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but this year is my 25th year of doing art nude photography, and as such I decided to celebrate by going on a 25th anniversary tour of sorts by signing up for a number of photo events and doing some planning of my own.
Well, it looks like things will not be going according to plan due to the coronavirus pandemic that has come down upon us.
Today, for example, I was scheduled to arrive in Morocco a few days ahead of time for a photography event with four models.  (I was scheduled to leave last night.)  That event has been cancelled.  The good news is that I was able to cancel my hotel booking in Marrakech without having to pay anything, thanks to the kind hearts of the hotel’s understanding management, as I cancelled after the no-fee deadline and they could have charged me the full amount of 237 Euros.

Now I’m just waiting to see what Air France has to say about the air cancellation.  I cancelled my flight a few days ago and requested a refund, but due to what I’m sure is a large demand, I haven’t heard anything back yet.  Interestingly enough, I received a message from Air France yesterday telling me that my connecting flight from Paris to Marrakech had been cancelled, and having recently looked at my reservation, no replacement flight has been added to my itinerary, so hopefully that will allow me to get a refund.  (Hopefully the worst that can happen is to get a credit good for a year.)
This is the next question:  will my group photo event in Iceland scheduled for late April still go on?  Though I’d like to go, the possibility of having to wait hours at JFK airport in New York waiting to be tested for coronavirus, standing shoulder to shoulder with other passengers, followed by a two-week self-quarantine, is not exactly appealing to me.  Some other participants have requested a postponement for similar reasons, so let’s see what happens there.

I have also been planning a solo photography trip to Europe for several weeks in June, so I need to decide eventually whether it’s worth continuing on with that.
On a more positive note, a week ago I did return from the first art nude travel adventure that I had planned for this calendar year – to the state of Hawaii.  I had never been to Hawaii before, so I thought that this would be an opportune time to do so, and I joined models Anoush Anou and St. Merrique, along with three other photographers and organizer Aaron Feinberg of Art Nude Workshops for several days of rigorous hiking and good photography on the island of Kauai.  Here are a few photos that I have scanned, with more to follow.

As for this week now that I was scheduled to spend in Morocco, I could go back to work and try to save my time off for later, but right now I’m thinking of just staying home so I can avoid riding on the subway and catch up on work that needs to be done here – which includes, of course, scanning photographs.
Be safe, everyone.
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More From Mexico

“Nude, Mexico, 2019” with Dasha U

Photographing art nudes for the past 24 years has lead me to visit a number of places for the first time, from maritime Canada in the east to California and Oregon in the west and New Orleans in the south.   Last year I went to a place even further south that I have already written about:  Mexico.
I’m glad I went, as it gave me a chance to use the Spanish that I had studied for three years in high school and gave me a chance to experience some of the wonderful and authentic Mexican culture.

“Nude, Mexico, 2019” with Kate Snig

Of course, the models I photographed – Dasha U, Kate Snig and Sienna Hayes – were wonderful, too, as were the locations chosen by the people at UTadventures.
Here are three more photos from that trip last year.

“Nude, Mexico, 2019” with Sienna Hayes

 

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