Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Incredible documentary on the BBC last night about an amateur photographer called Vivian Maier.
Vivan Maier was born in New York in the 1920s and mainly lived in New York and Chicago with occasional trips back to her home country of France during her lifetime. In that time she made her living as a nanny but in her spare time she took photographs.
The photographs she took were apparently for her own personal interest and pursuit of her hobby. They were mainly either street portrait photography or pictures of the families she worked with. She never showed them to anyone. She had her negatives developed when she could afford to but often it seems she could not.
She was, by all accounts a rather stern and reclusive person who in later life was often just considered an eccentric. Her early life as it is currently understood would certainly explain why she might have a few demons to deal with.
Over the years she accumulated a massive amount of pictures and, being in a transient profession with no permanent home, she kept them in rented storage lockers.
Eventually she could no longer afford to pay the rent on the lockers and, just as you see in the TV shows, the contents of the lockers were sold off unseen in public auctions.
It can only be by some fluke that somebody noticed the quality of the old photographs amongst all the other things that had been accumulated by a now elderly lady. She was apparently a hoarder so the lockers were filled with a lot of other stuff.
People have tried to piece together her secretive life in retrospect. She appears to have been self-taught although she did know some photographers in her early life who almost certainly would have helped and influenced her.
Have a look at some of her pictures here - they look spontaneous (which is of course their genius) but it seems to be generally agreed they would have been carefully considered and thought out by an expert photographer who truly understood her art.
The BBC programme is here - watch it if you have only the slightest interest in photography.
She died in 2009 only a couple of years after her first photographs were discovered and by the time she died it seems her work was only just starting to gain recognition.
Thursday, May 09, 2013
I'm currently reading 1000 Years of Annoying the French - a deliberately mischievous title - by Stephen Clarke; a man who obviously loves France but also is constantly bemused by it oddities. Bill Bryson has brilliantly done a similar job on the British - he loves Britain but as a visitor he can instantly spot the eccentricities that we have long since accepted as the norm and see nothing unusual in. I like books like this.
The section about the French Revolution is both gruesome and comical - something of a theme throughout the book. If you think times are bad now then just be grateful you weren't born sometime in the preceding 1000 years and you'd be wrong to assume the only victims of the French Revolution were a few dandified aristocrats .
Prior to reading the book I vaguely remembered that the revolutionaries introduced a new calendar to mark their new beginning but I'd never been aware of the detail.
Each month was divided into three 10-day 'weeks'. Each month had a new name and every day of the year had its own special name. They even redesigned the clock using the metric method of 10 hours in each day, each hour containing 100 minutes and each minute containing 100 seconds. Considering the obvious desire to work within the decimal system I don't quite understand why they didn't have ten months but I suspect any attempt to bring numerical order to a natural cycle such as an earth year is going to be difficult and goes some way to explaining the odd method that we still currently use.
I was born in the month of Brumaire (roughly translated as "foggy") on the day called Scorsonère which is actually the plant black salsify. Month names were intended to reflect the prevailing weather or agricultural conditions at that time of year and days were named after animals, tools, plants or minerals.
The new calendar actually functioned for about 12 years from late 1793 to 1805 when it rather imploded on its own preposterousness.
Vive la revolution.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Has it been a whole year? Yes it has. Tomorrow I have my volunteer training for my second year at the Sundance London Film and Music Festival 2013.
You may recall I blogged about it last year here, and here, and here. This year I'm filling the role of Assistant Theatre Manager - a promotion. I am flattered. I might even have my own walkie-talkie.
They seem to have another great line up of films, several of which I'm hoping to see.
Particularly looking forward to the documentaries - Muscle Shoals and History of The Eagles Part One.
Based on last year's experience, I would happily recommend walking into any film on the Sundance schedule and you can be pretty sure of seeing something interesting.
Looking forward to it.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
I watched the film Frenzy over the weekend. It’s an AlfredHitchcock and I admit to not having seen many of his films – not deliberately – I’ve just never got around to them. I do remember being scared to death as a kid watching The Birds but I don’t specifically remember it as being a Hitchcock film. It was just a film that scared the bejeesus out of me at the time.
Anyway, back to Frenzy. An interesting film made all the more interesting by it being filmed in London in an area that has been completely transformed since the film was made. As a longtime resident of London it was interesting just at that level.
One of the actors was called Jon Finch. He looked familiar but not familiar enough for me to know what other films he’d been in. A quick glance at his Wikipedia page led me to conclude he was the unluckiest actor in the world. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt in saying that it was misfortune and not down to poor judgement on his part.
This was the man that turned down the role of James Bond in Live and Let Die – it went to Roger Moore instead.
This was the man who was taken ill shortly after accepting a role in Alien. He was replaced by John Hurt who went on to play one of the most memorable scenes in cinema history.
This was the man who turned down the role of Doyle in TheProfessionals – an iconic 70s British TV show which, although it has dated rather badly has pretty much immortalised the actors who starred in it. He rejected the role because of a strange reluctance to portray a policeman.
If he had completed just one of the above roles it would have meant we all knew who Jon Finch was. Sadly most of us don’t. Reading between the lines of his Wikipedia page, he died alone and in poor health.
I think he deserves some recognition. Poor bugger.