WASHINGTON DC – I’m leaving out the ironic references to “Our Nation’s Capital”. It’s sad to see this disfunctional sprawl close up. But this is a lovely time of year here with the magnolias and cherries in blossom so let’s enjoy the chance to photograph. I spent this afternoon at the Smithsonian American Art Museum guided by the Museum’s director, Betsy Broun. The courtyard, pictured below, is one of my favorite spots for a casual lunch in Washington, but this was my introduction to the collection, which is splendid. It shares the former Patent Office building the the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery. Anyway, the courtyard:
Here’s what’s in front of the Museum Vaquero, Luis Jimenez.
On this day last year: Birch madness. I think that almost everyone who has a camera ranks birches as nearly as irresistible as dogs and babies. I have posted no fewer than 11 pictures with “birches” in the title since a started this project. None of them is much good. Repeat after me: “I won’t shoot birches. I won’t shoot birches. I won’t shoot birches . . .”
NEW YORK NEW YORK – A new camera. I’m shooting today with a new Leica, the Leica M, which is the successor to the M9. It’s one of the few in the country at this point. (I sold my M9 a few months back in anticipation of this.) The changes from the M9 are incremental but important. The shutter release is smoother and quieter – very similar to the Leica M3 which set the standard for smooth and discrete. It has better high ISO performance and is weather sealed. It’s a joy to shoot with.
I found my self in Foley Square this afternoon to attend the investiture of a former partner, Lorna Schofield, as a Federal district court judge in the Southern District of New York. A moving ceremony, but I couldn’t photograph it because cameras are not permitted in the courthouse. Outside, in the rain, I found this behind the New York Supreme Court building at 60 Center Street: a statue (evidently of justice) carrying a shield emblazoned with the seal of the State of New York. It’s an odd figure. Her face and posture signal defeat and depression. This is probably why she’s been placed on a little-used walkway behind the courthouse.
On this day last year: Mottled light in early Spring. This is an image from Central Park which was in full bloom on March 27 of last year. This suggests that Spring is more than a little bit late this year – it was cold today and there’s not a sign of a bloom anywhere.
NEW YORK NEW YORK – Our local Presbyterian church in New York, Brick Church, celebrates the beginning of Advent every year with a ceremony on the Church steps lighting the trees all up and down Park Avenue, and singing carols. We’re members of Brick but not currently that active because of our weekends in Connecticut. When our children were younger we were very active – I joked at that time that at one time or another I held every non-paying job at the Church. A lovely community. Anyway I took my Leica Monochrom and Noctilux lens to this year’s carol sing.
On this day one year ago: Still life with iPhone.
Still Life with iPhone
NEW YORK NEW YORK – Today we sasa terrific performance of Verdi’s Masked Ball at the Metropolitan Opera. Actually I hated the production and loved the singing with Sondra Radvanovsky, Marcelo Álvarez and Dmitri Hvorostovsky leading the cast. I’m still buzzing from the performance almost a week later as I write this. Here’s a member of the audience with my iPhone. A break from my Leica Monochrom.
On this day last year: New Preston CT.
NEW YORK NEW YORK – There’s a relatively recent new installation at Lever House: a large bronze version of the inflatable giant rat that labor unions inflate outside of sites using scab labor. This is a work by a collective called The Bruce High Quality Foundation. Because of the material and the site the work is gently ironical – one assumes that the creators were hoping for more emotional impact. Taken with my Leica Monchrom and 28mm Summichron lens.
On this day last year: Martini. Having fun with my iPhone.
NEW YORK NEW YORK – Well, here we are in front of the Seagrams Building. A typical hangout for me. I often have meetings in the area and the plaza between the Seagrams Building and the Racquet and Tennis Club is one of the great urban spaces in the country. The plaza is presently featuring sculpture by John Chamberlain – works that look like they are made of crumpled up aluminum foil, but on a really large scale. Here’s one taken with my every-present Leica Monochrom and 35mm Summilux lens:
John Chamberlain sculpture
On this day last year: Matthew Marks Gallery.
Matthew Marks Gallery
NEW YORK NEW YORK – A new lens arrived from Japan today: MS Super Triplet Perar 3.5/35 Mark II. I heard about this forum that I subscribe to and through the miracle of the internet got to the site of the Japanese company that makes them, ordered one and PayPalled some Yen to Japan, and voila the lens appeared a few weeks later via Japan post.
This is a fun lens. It’s tiny – very cool looking – I’ll post a picture tomorrow. The tiny controls and eccentric form facto take some getting used to. Rendering is very, very contrasty. Resolution is ok but pretty soft in the corners wide open. The triplet is a typical 1930s optic (the Cooke triplet is a famous large format lens) – back in the day these lenses were uncoated so the small number of elements and air-glass transitions was important. The Perar is completely free flare – the glass modern coatings.
For some reason it tends to show off spots on the sensor.
Some examples on an M9 from an urban walk about. I’ve done a great deal of lightening shadows and spot adjusting to compensate against the contrast. A little more veiling flare might not be a bad thing. All taken with my M9.
En Plein Aire
On this day last year: Still life.
NEW YORK NEW YORK – I took a walk today in Riverside Park from 116th Street to 59th Street with my medium format kit, a Phase One IQ 180 back, Alpa TC “camera” and a Rodenstock 32mm lens. Here’s a sample:
Riverside Park South
On this day one year ago: Lounge 3. Ugh . . . a travel day. This was hard work.
WARREN CONNECTICUT – So here’s the quilt in Connecticut. We bought it at the annual rummage sale at John’s Episcopal Church in Washington CT for very little and then spent 18 months having it restored. It really is of a piece with the quilt that I shot with my iPhone in the Adelphi Hotel in Saratoga. Probably not the same author but the same time, style and fabrics. Taken my iPhone.
Now the picture from the Adelphi. Note the iPhone’s tendency to blow out the whites.
On this day last year: Lamu, Kenya. Where my legal homeys hang in Lamu.
NEW YORK NEW YORK – A dull day in all respects. I shot the swoosh porte cochere that was added to building in it’s renovation with my Leica M9 and 35mm Summilux lens. During our absence in Saratoga an exhibit of Niki de Saint Phalle’s work was installed on the Park Avenue islands so I’ll be shooting it over the next few weeks.
Art on Park
On this day one year ago: Maasai Market.
GLENS FALLS and SARATOGA SPRINGS NEW YORK – In Utah the 24th of July is a state holiday, celebrated sort of as a second Fourth of July. It commemorates the date on which Brigham Young arrived at the mouth of Immigration Canyon and said “This is the place”.
But we’re in upstate New York, not Utah, so no fireworks. We drove up to Glens Falls today to vist a lovely museum, the Hyde Collection. This is an excellent small collection of important European art assembled by two sisters in the early part of the 20th Century, and a terrific collection of Tiffany Glass. Apologies for the long post but this was an interesting day.
Here’s the central space in the collection captured with my Leica M9 and 24mm Summicron lens; two frames stitched in PTGui Pro.
The collection (which by itself was worth a drive up here) includes a current show by an artist named Stephen Knapp who does light painting creating colors with precisely shaped and oriented pieces of polarized glass. Taken with the same rig.
Back in Saratoga Springs I had some fun with my iPhone. Here’s a quilt in the Victorian pile of lumber that calls itself the Adelphi Hotel. It’s interesting because it is very similar to a quilt that we have in Connecticut – a quilt that we bought a church rummage sale and then spent a year and a fairly serious amount of money having restored. I’ll shoot it in Connecticut when we’re there next weekend and you’ll see the resemblance.
More fun with the iPhone in Saratoga:
Here’s a sculpture in Broadway (the main street) in Saratoga – I took this with my iPhone to be my screen backdrop in my iPhone – I got bored with gray.
As I said – this was a long day. Toward the end of the day I spent some time in Saratoga Spa State Park. In the 1930s the space facility was rebuilt on a grand scale (the scale of the complex reminds me of a Mayan temple complex at Monte Alban near Oaxaca). Good Depression era public works, but the scale is far larger than current demand so much of it appears to be in good condition but disused. Maria took a treatment, so I took some pictures with my ever-present Leica M9 and 24mm Summilux lens.
The Baths at Saratoga
Moe of the same:
The Baths at Saratoga
Enough of July 24 2012. On July 24, 2011: Hogmead. No kidding on the name. An inn in Nairobi.
MILAN ITALY – I’m a tourist in Milan this week while Maria attends meetings at Mondadori, the large Italian publishing group. Being a tourist in Milan sounds better than the reality. Milan is actually an ugly city with a few high lights. What is of interest (and there is a lot of it) takes place in courtyards and salons and isn’t particularly visual. I spent the entire day working from my computer – catching up from being more or less off the grid for almost two weeks. This is also a chance for me to catch up on editing pictures and writing posts.
This is another image of the Bauhaus-style building that I referred to in yesterday’s post, taken with my Leica M9 and 35mm Summilux lens.
On this day last year: Lunch at Da Luigi.
Lunch at da Luigi
NEW YORK NEW YORK – A benefit at Alice Tully Hall. Taken with my Leica M9 and Noctilux lens.
On this day last year: Live from Lincoln Center. May 9 seems to be my day to be at Lincoln Center.
NEW YORK NEW YORK – I’ve been thinking about what it is to photograph landscape (whether urban or otherwise). Let me describe the experience. There comes a moment when you physically experience some remarkable aspect of the light. For me the world seems to grow quiet and I work without thinking, intuitively. Time seems suspended. I reach this state of mind on those rare occasions when the light is very special and combines with the scenery in front of me to create a heightened sense of reality. It’s good to have a camera in hand when this happens. I’m not wildly successful seeking these moments out with a tripod.
there was one of those moments this morning in the space between the Seagrams Building and the Racquet and Tennis Club.
Racquet and Tennis Club
Rafael Barrios sculpture “Acrobatic”.
More of the same:
Seagrams Building lobby:
On this day last year: Forsythia in the shape of Italy.
NEAR NASHVILLE TENNESSEE – We woke up after a monumental night’s sleep to a lovely, soft, late spring day. I spent an hour in the morning shooting around Gary and Diana’s house before we took off looking for cowboy boots and barbecue. This was with my Sony Nex-7 and 50mm Leica Summilux lens.
So after driving a while we found a joint (actually a dive) that advertised barbecue. Here’s their sign. This struck me as pretty promising and not bad for an April Fools day (of course the joke is on the pig).
Inside it was clear the the ole boys who populate this place are drinkers (quiet and deliberate), not foodies. The barbecue was very disappointing – it completely failed to live up to the low-down vibe. You just can’t trust appearances any more.
Later in the evening I experimented with photo booth (an app) on my iPad and with some of Gary’s local whiskies. This is how my head felt.
On this day last year (April Fools day 2011): The High Line makes a feeble attempt at Spring.
A hint of Spring on the Highline
NEW YORK NEW YORK – Where is Caravaggio? I’ve been asking myself this question recently. How will people judge us in 400 years (Caravaggio died in Porto Ercole in 1610)? How will they know who we are?
We got an insider’s tour of the Biennial at the Whitney Museum today. Many of the works are ephemeral – accurately reflecting the state of play in the art world today. None of this work will exist in 400 years, so how will people be able to judge us from our art? I’m an effing troglodyte to ask this question but so be it.
I had my Sony Nex-7 in hand with a 50mm Leica Summilux lens.
From a video by Werner Hertzog of works by Hercules Segers and of Ernst Reijseger playing the Cello.
On this day one year ago: weird angle on the New Preston cemetery.