A Few Good Films

July 7th, 2012 | Posted by Jill in video - (3 Comments)

I don’t know if it’s the heat and humidity or what, but I’ve been holing up and watching lots of documentaries lately, including a few great photography films. There are lots more on my list to see, including Bill Cunningham New York [Netflix Instant], Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Impassioned Eye [Amazon], and EugĂ©ne and Berenice – Pioneers of Urban Photography [Amazon Instant]. In the meantime, I thought I might share a few of the documentaries I’ve really enjoyed lately and a few thoughts.

Let me know if you check them out, and if so, what you think. I’d also love to hear your recommendations — please send them my way. Stay cool!

Strand: Under the Dark Cloth (1990) – [Netflix Instant]
I recently watched this documentary about New York photographer Paul Strand after checking out another documentary on the Photo League at a theatre in the Village. This film is a nice biographical portrait of Strand’s work, following its progression throughout his career from his early New York abstract photographs through his later film career and world travels to France, Mexico, Ghana and more. The narration about Strand’s emphasis on structure and light was particularly interesting.

Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe (2007) – [Netflix Instant]
To escape the heat this afternoon, I holed up and watched this documentary about curator / visionary Sam Wagstaff and his partner / photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The film features loads of interview footage with Patti Smith, Dominick Dunne, Dick Cavett, and other contemporaries in the New York art scene. Though I’ve had more exposure to the the well-documented controversy around Mapplethorpe’s work, I knew less about Wagstaff. Though the dynamics of the relationship between the two men are discussed throughout, the real focus is on Wagstaff and his his huge contributions to the photographic world as a life-long curator.

Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman (2008) – [Netflix Instant]
Wow. This film was the trifecta for me. Architecture, modernism, and iconic photography in the beautiful light of Southern California. Even if you’ve never heard of Julius Shulman, you’ve no doubt seen his photographs, which pioneered and elevated architecture photography. This documentary features both Shulman’s work – and Shulman himself before his death in 2009 – as they recreate and and narrate some of his most famous photographs. Lots of emphasis on Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, John Lautner and Frank Gehry here as Dustin Hoffman narrates this gorgeous film. Shulman steals the show in much of the footage as he goes around to interview the artists and architects he shared with the world decades before. Seriously, a must-see.

The President’s Photographer (2010) – [Netflix Instant] or [via PBS]
Since its creation, I’ve followed the Flickr stream of the White House, largely because the vast majority of its images come from Chief Official White House Photographer Pete Souza. Souza’s behind-the-scenes coverage of the White House and the Obama family is unparalleled. It offers such a different perspective of the President’s day-to-day personal and political life, and the work is nothing short of groundbreaking and historical. This documentary from National Geographic, narrated by Morgan Freeman and originally aired on PBS, features interviews with President Obama, President George W. Bush, and lots of political staffers. Souza’s hard work and the gravity with which he approaches his job as Chief Photographer contribute to amazing documentary images. Such an interesting / emotional / inspirational documentary.

Manufactured Landscapes (2006) – [Netflix Instant]
A few years ago, a friend recommended this documentary to me after it originally appeared on Netflix’s instant line-up. They took it down before I had a chance to check it out, but fortunately it’s back! The film features the work of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, who is most known for his large-format photographs of austere landscapes altered – and sometimes completely decimated – by industry. Mostly shot in China, this documentary is as much about environmental issues as it is about photography. Burtynsky highlights the effects of our industrial interests on the world we live in and the problems our consumer culture has given rise to — some of these landscapes may very well be invisible if not for his photographs.

The September Issue (2008) – [Netflix Instant]
And last, but not least to be sure, is this documentary about the high-fashion world of Vogue and all the preparation leading up to the publication of the 2007 fall-fashion issue. Though I’d say much of the film centers around the cult of Anna Wintour and her complicated relationship with Grace Coddington, the sleeper here is the photography. This film really illuminates the process of publishing a huge magazine like Vogue and all the preparation that goes into producing so much of the amazing commercial photography in the iconic issues. A really fun film.

Brooklyn Mix #3: Fight the Fading Light

July 6th, 2012 | Posted by Jill in music - (0 Comments)

To celebrate FINALLY installing our a/c units in the house, I put together this summery mixtape featuring another round of awesome Brooklyn bands. Maybe now instead of actually FEELING like I’m at the beach while inside my living room, I can just plug in my headphones and dream about it.

This tape includes twelve of my recent favorites, including tracks from Tanlines, Slowdance, Beach Fossils, French Horn Rebellion and more. If I could include the entirety of the new St. Lucia album, I would. Turn up your speakers, dance around the house (or at your desk), and hope you enjoy!

And if you’re on Spotify, you can subscribe to my playlist here!

For my previous Brooklyn mixes, check them out here and here, or over on 8tracks.

Garden, Year Two

July 1st, 2012 | Posted by Jill in garden | home - (2 Comments)

It feels like forever since I’ve done a proper garden update, and that’s probably because I’ve spent more time getting my hands dirty out in the front yard than inside writing and editing pictures. This time of year, it’s a serious undertaking to get the garden watered sufficiently while temperatures blaze into the upper echelons of bearable. We’re the only ones on my block without a shade tree, and even though I’ve chosen lots of drought-tolerant plants, even one hot day without water can scorch and kill a lovely plant.

Last weekend at the Mermaid Parade, Joel joked that I’m a little obsessed with my garden, and he is absolutely right. I love it. Even when it’s a million degrees outside, it feels so gratifying to experiment in our tiny little front yard. I’ll never get over that child-like wonder of watching things sprout and grow, and I already know I’ll be gardening until I’m old and grey.

Anyway! On to the pictures. This past week after tweet-promising a proper update, I went back into the garden archive to see the photos from when we first planned the garden last year. I had forgotten how awful it was. HIDEOUS! And then the garden looked like this on July 7th of last year. I was so proud at the time:

And today, here she is:

garden overview

So, yeah. I’d say she’s filled out just a tad over the past year! Of course, the extra-warm winter didn’t hurt, and all the rain we got this spring really kick-started everything into high gear. I’ve already had to cut back our oregano by half – and the butterfly bush that grew to three feet last year is TOWERING over the garden at more than eight feet tall already! It’s starting to flop over and go to seed, so I’ll probably have to prune it soon as well.

A few things have changed in the garden as you can see in the overhead photo below. Zach and I got real irritated with the chrysanthemums last fall when an errant snowstorm came and crushed them. They were originally planted by the previous owners’ estate to cover a huge stump in the front yard when the house went on the market, and they grew out of control last year. We dug all of them up except one, and now they live in pots with all my neighbors. In their place, I decided to plant some annual heathers, which should hopefully fill in the bare spots in the center of the garden rather quickly.

garden overview

We’re also aiming for a lot more flowers in the garden this year. I enjoyed growing zinnia so much last year that I found a company online – Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds – which offers loads of heirloom varieties, including zinnias. I ordered several and they’re starting to grow all around the garden. Really excited to see the colors start to appear, especially the acid green one I ordered!

Besides the zinnia, my clematis bloomed for the first time this year – and it was stunning. The yarrow has burst into tiny flowers everywhere, my several varieties of salvia are going through their second round of blooming, and tiny white flowers on the calamintha bring legions of butterflies and happy bees to the garden, which in turn are making the tomato plants really productive. The garden is really starting to achieve the wild look I was going for, and now I think it’s going to be a delicate balance to keep it under control. Instead of, you know, turning into THAT NEIGHBOR.

the clematis! it blooms!butterfly bush
hot pink yarrow
hot pink butterfly bush spikesgettin' wild and crazy

This year, we also decided to plant new window boxes, which I filled with petunias, vines, and other trailing flowers whose name I can’t remember off the top of my head. Next year, I’ll probably try and plan the window boxes a little better instead of grabbing whatever catches my attention on a trip to Home Depot (lame, I know).

In the center window box, I also planted a bunch of freesia bulbs that have begun to sprout — we’ll see how that works out because it’s been kind of a chore to keep all the boxes from frying in the heat. It seems like all our neighbors with shadier front yards have an easier time keeping their window boxes full and beautiful, but in the meantime I’ll just enjoy the color they bring.

new window boxes!

A late addition to the garden last year in early October, I planted two rhododendron that were on sale for cheap and needed a home. And who am I to say no?

Fortunately, they got established before the freeze and made it through the winter as small plants. Early this spring, both plants bloomed quite a fuchsia display and completely justified my decision. I was a bit worried about them since we had a freeze after they’d begun to bloom, but they bounced back and put out new growth quickly. I’d love for them grow tall enough to become a hedge in the back of the garden one day, filling the spring garden with pink blooms!

rhododendron, new growth

And last, but certainly not least, all the sedum are doing exceptionally well in the heat of my front yard. Sedum are close to my heart because my grandmother has many kinds planted in her midwestern garden, and I remember being fascinated by all the different kinds as a child. Every time I see them, I think of her.

Anyhow, we have several varieties planted in pots and in the yard, including hispanicum Blue Carpet, Platycladus, spurium Red Carpet, Sieboldi, spectibile Brilliant, and Angelina. The sedum in pots do exceptionally well, and the Angelina are becoming exactly the funky, textured groundcover I had hoped they would be in the front of the garden. I just want to pet it.
sedum starting to bud

So there you have it! A garden update almost exactly one year later. This week I’ll write a bit more about the edibles and herbs we’re growing. Are you growing a garden this year? If so, link me in the comments! I’d love to see what you’re up to outside this summer.

Most stereotypes of the Mermaid Parade are heavy on the gawking and light on clothing. And while it’s no secret that you can expect to see a whole lot of boobage every year at the parade, I have some serious admiration for those who dare to venture to the dark side. As with the hugely-creative mermen, I must pay my respects to all those who who bring the imaginative, the dangerous, the post-apocalyptic, the goth, and the death-defying feats every year to Coney Island.

Some of my most favorite costumes this year fell into this camp, including the group of brave souls who hauled heavy Blade Runner-esque android junk the entire length of the parade. The sharks were hugely memorable, too — what make-up artistry and attitude! Check out some wonderful shots below of the Mermaid Parade’s mysterious underworld.

“Bite,” by Travis Keyes:

Untitled, by Stan Raffes and “#132 on Surf Ave,” by Pat Merino:
Coney Island mermaid parade 071#132 on Surf Ave

“Vampire Pirate,” by Scott Lynch:
Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2012: Vampire Pirate

“Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2012,” by Scott Lynch and Untitled, by Taras Hnatyshyn:
Coney Island Mermaid Parade 20122012-06-23 at 15-13-45

“Shark,” by Scott Lynch:
Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2012: Shark

“Slither,” by Travis Keyes and Untitled by Rob Feiner:
SlitherConey Island Mermaid Parade 6-23-12

Untitled, by Taras Hnatyshyn:
2012-06-23 at 14-56-18

“Sea Zombie,” by Travis Keyes and Untitled, by Oscar Rivera:
Sea ZombieDSC_3336