Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

For most of last year I was immersed in geographic academia and geographical detail remains intriguing to me. This morning I chanced to hear just the beginning of a radio interview with Jake Gorst, director of Modern Tide, about modernist architecture on the East Coast of the US.. The first thing that struck me was his statement that Long Island was 100 miles long. I don’t know why this hadn’t registered with me in the past. But on reflection it makes sense, as many of my literary/arts favourites have some sort of connection to the island and yet I had never really connected.

Jackson Pollock lived and died there. The Pollock Krasner house in Springs in the Hamptons is now a study centre and museum of sorts.

Both Armistead Maupin and Edmund White’s (especially Forgetting Elena) stories of Fire Island.

Large parts of John Irving’s “Widow for One Year” takes place in the Hamptons also at Sagaponack. This is not an easy book but captures human nature so well like much of Irving’s writing

The wonderful book “Architect of Desire” about the infamous Stanford White was largely located at the Box Hill estate in Smithtown.

The decline of Box Hill led me to research the fading history of Long Island and I discovered this website about the mansions of Long Island and the architectural relics of its heyday.

The mansions of course bring us to one of the most know Long Island stories “The Great Gatsby” and I was surprised how close to New York in modern terms Gatsby’s Estate was. Wikipedia states that ” In this novel, Great Neck (King’s Point) became the new-money peninsula of “West Egg” and Port Washington (Sands Point) the old-money “East Egg”. Several mansions in the area served as inspiration for Gatsby’s home, such as Oheka Castle and the now-demolished Beacon Towers.

New Picture

Lou Reed’s Coney Island Baby and I am sure there are many many others….

Finally Rufus Wainright’s song Montauk is also a great favourite

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In the stress of life and a new job, I have frequently found myself at 3am worrying about work. My remedy has been to listen to audio books which I find soothing and I manage to get back to sleep. I should add at this point that a recording of Ginsberg reading ‘HOWL‘ did  not have this effect.

However my recent late night/early morning sorry has been Patti Smith reading her book “Just Kids“. There is an intimacy in an audio book read by the author, it felt like Patti was telling her (and Robert’s) story directly to me. I was surprised at her accent (yella, fella etc) and affected by her vulnerability. In fact, yesterday morning at 5am I found myself weeping as the story drew to a close with Sam Wagstaff’s and then Robert Mapplethorpe’s deaths. Yesterday was that kind of day and the book on reflection is full of reminders of our mortality.

Patti and Robert lifted from here

It is an old story. I watched a film a while back that is an intersection with Just Kids.  Black White + Grey, is mainly about Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe’s relationship. Ron Brownson has written about this here and I agree it was sad not have more focus on Wagstaff and his amazing collection of photography (which Smith details the beginnings of in Just Kids). I have been dreaming of black and white photographs of American Bison since: the great herds of the great plains of the west, now as non existent as the New York of the 1970s that Smith and Crump document.

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A pile of American Bison skulls waiting to be ground for fertilizer: photographer unknown, mid-1870s (image by Chick Bowen, 27 May 2011)

I hate the concept of ‘bucket lists’ and yet I sort of have one. Sadly often the things I want to see or do don’t exist or can’t happen. For example I wanted to stay at the Chelsea Hotel (a feature of the Just Kids story and many others) but it has been bought out and closed. “ A property developer recently bought the down-at-heel building for $80 million (£48 million) and has turned it over to an architect best known for designing bland Holiday Inns.” Gone the way of the bison, ground into fertiliser.

[This post was written to a soundtrack of Smith’s “Horses” and aided by strong black coffee.]

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Recently I got around to arranging a photo shoot as I needed a picture to send out with my bio details for work. It’s taken months for me to get around to this as a) I am the least photogenic person in the universe, possibly because b) I hate getting my photo taken.

Anyway a photographer whose work I really like, Ferg Campbell, happens to live locally so he and his is able assistant Paul Le Comte came by and did their best  to capture me on film. I say did THEIR best because I inadvertently did my best to squint, slouch and look angry.

Part of the deal though was to recreate a ‘famous’ New Zealand photograph. I hope that the original photographer takes this as a compliment or at least doesn’t cringe.

Pauline and Florence

Pauline and Florence (2013) Ferg Campbell [click pic for larger image]. Ferg created a B&W version too but I like this one.


Self-portrait with rooster. (1977) Peter Peryer

I love the symbolism that the blurb on the Govett Brewster page attributes to this photo

Self-portrait with Rooster has a brooding anxiety that is offset by a touch of the theatrical. Man and rooster look equally ill at ease. With an injured expression, Peryer clasps the rooster to his chest protectively. Roosters, with their associations of virility and machismo, are usually depicted strutting proudly, displaying glossy plumage. The rooster that Peryer clutches so anxiously seems rather bedraggled. As well as their popular association with male sexual potency, roosters also suggest the Biblical story of St Peter. When Jesus was arrested, St Peter escaped arrest himself by fearfully denying his relationship with Christ :before the cock crowed” as Christ had predicted he would. The two Peters, photographer and saint, are conflated into a tragic-comic figure who stands, back against the wall, as if before a firing squad, glaring anxiously down the camera’s lens.

As for my photo, I am a midwife and I am holding a hen. Hens lay eggs, eggs are fertility symbols. As an aside, Saint Bridget is the patron saint of midwives and poultry farmers (and lots of other stuff). I’ve recently found out that her feast day is my birthday. You know…whatever.

And yes we got a few great shots that I can send out with my work bio, but I am really tempted just to go with the chook photo.

NB – all my best wishes and love to Peter.

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A week or so back, I got to attend a showing of some of Joanna Margaret Paul’s short films at the opening of an exhibition at Brett McDowell Gallery.

The films were wonderful and two can be viewed on-line here. These I’d seen before but there were many others completely new to me. I particularly liked the lushness of ‘Roses’ and the isolating ordinariness of the everyday (Paul’s forte) e.g. ironing.

During the showing, it occurred to me how photography and particularly film, is just light, captured and store. Simple and yet amazing and illustrated when a car turned on the street outside and the headlights back-lit us through the gallery window, momentarily projecting our outlines onto the screen. In this instant we became part of the film, part of the light show.

I also thought about how impossibly delightful it would be to have a loop of ‘Napkins showing’ at my work. Recently we had some floor to ceiling windows were covered up by a blank wall and it would make a great screen….

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