On my last trip home, I decided to bring my Leica M3 back with me to Afghanistan. There's nowhere to process film in Kabul, but I miss photography, especially the analogue process. I had a chance to practice on a recent trip to Italy, and I'm now waiting (with bated breath) for the 5+ rolls of film to be developed and sent to me. The photo above was taken in front of Castell dell'Ovo in Naples where I was trying to get some good shots of lovers meandering along the Lungomare.
I've been to some beautiful places in the past few months. I hope to be able to write about them soon.
Despite it's dark history, Wannsee is a pretty area one wouldn't quite expect in Berlin if accustomed to the avant-garde neighborhoods of, say, Kreuzberg and Prenzlaur Berg. It's very peaceful, though, with the lakes and the villas and the sailboats, and I was happy to be able to spend some time there last month.
It was disappointing to learn that many of Steve McCurry's iconic photographs were heavily edited. The Taj Mahal train picture has always been one of my favorites. As someone who enjoys photography, I frequently ask myself "What makes a picture good?" This NYTimes article addresses that question:
"Art is always difficult, but it is especially difficult when it comes to telling other people’s stories. And it is ferociously difficult when those others are tangled up in your history and you are tangled up in theirs. What honors those we look at, those whose stories we try to tell, is work that acknowledges their complex sense of their own reality. Good photography, regardless of its style, is always emotionally generous in this way. For this reason, it outlives the moment that occasions it. Weaker photography delivers a quick message — sweetness, pathos, humor — but fails to do more. But more is what we are."
The UAE, particularly Dubai, gets a pretty bad rap from Kabul residents. It's a transit stop for many of us, the place we're often stranded at odd hours of the night on our way back west. There are nice (but expensive) hotels, champagne brunches, and well-stocked shopping malls, but most see it as a soulless and materialistic city they'd like to spend as little time in as possible. It's probably not a place I'd choose to live for an extended period of time, and neither Dubai nor Abu Dhabi compare to fascinating world cities like Istanbul or Tokyo, for example, but I quite enjoyed both emirates when I visited last fall. Perhaps it's because I hadn't had a proper hamburger in over two months and I was starved for normalcy at the time, but I really did like the mix of ultramodern and traditional, the sparkling clean streets, and the glamorous Emiratis. Call me soulless if you must. You can see some photos from the trip in the Emirates album found here.
I very much enjoy William Dalrymple's writing (you can read my review of From the Holy Mountain here), and I was pleased to learn that he is a photographer as well. He says, "Photography for me long preceded writing. In fact, it is in my blood." I think it was the opposite for me, writing then photography, but I do love both art forms. Writers who are photographers, writers who are runners -- they're kindred spirits. You can see more of his photographs here.
My Leica D-LUX was stolen when I was living in Belgium, and while I've considered replacing it with another, I find the camera on my iPhone 6s to be pretty handy and good enough when it comes to taking snapshots. After reading this review of the Leica Q, however, I think it may be time to get back into the Leica game:
"The Q is small but substantial. Solid. It becomes an effortless all-day companion. Strapped across my chest, it was banged sideways against rocks, motorcycles, stone walls, metal water bottles, farmers, cats.2 It captured everything thrown at it and into it. And while I was suspicious of the value of the camera at first, these past six months have made it clear that this machine has serious legs. I now understand the limitations of this photographic instrument, of which there are few. And I trust and enjoy it more than any other camera I’ve owned. Yes, even more than my iPhone.
I believe that in hindsight — and I realize this sounds kind of crazy, as if I’ve binge-inhaled all of the Leica Kool-Aid at once — the Leica Q will be seen as one of the greatest fixed-prime-lens travel photography kits of all time."
From my recent trip to Dubai, this is one of my favorite pictures of all time. After I posted this on Facebook someone wrote, "What kind of work do you do again?! What a life." To which my sister promptly responded, "She is Jessica, Queen of the Camels!" I'll take that. Or maybe Camel Princess? Princess of Arabia? In any case, the UAE is a magical place.
Côte d'Azur, or the French Riviera, is one of my favorite places on earth, and having neglected it in recent years for closer locales, it was wonderful to be able to spend some time this past week in Monaco, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Cap Ferrat, and Villefranche-sur-Mer. With the exception of bustling Monaco - a place with its own particular charms - I still find the area remarkably unspoiled, calming, and exceptionally picturesque. Last winter I read Edmund de Waal's family memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes, and was very keen on visiting the Ephrussi-Rothschild estate in Cap Ferrat. The beautiful seaside villa and gardens did not disappoint, and in fact, Baroness Béatrice's masterpiece may be my favorite grand house in the world (it's pink, neoclassical, and in the South of France).
I'd still like to write a review of The Hare, but for now, I've included an excerpt from the memoir below, and there are photographs here from my trip through the Alpes-Maritimes down to the sea:
The Ephrussis were a grand banking family, as rich and respected as the Rothschilds, who “burned like a comet” in nineteenth-century Paris and Vienna society. Yet by the end of World War II, almost the only thing remaining of their vast empire was a collection of 264 wood and ivory carvings, none of them larger than a matchbox.
The renowned ceramicist Edmund de Waal became the fifth generation to inherit this small and exquisite collection of netsuke. Entranced by their beauty and mystery, he determined to trace the story of his family through the story of the collection.
Looking forward to this photo exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London:
A selection of more than seventy images will define Hepburn’s iconography, including classic and rarely seen prints from leading twentieth-century photographers such as Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Terry O’Neill, Norman Parkinson and Irving Penn. Alongside these, an array of vintage magazine covers, film stills, and extraordinary archival material will complete her captivating story.
A view of downtown Manhattan from downtown Brooklyn. The roadway straight on is the Manhattan Bridge, and to the left, the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo taken from the roof of my friend's apartment building.
I still enjoy film photography, and recently purchased a new (vintage) Canon AE-1 Program. Film purists probably wouldn't be caught dead with a "program" model (sets aperture and shutter speed automatically), but I think it's perfect for social outings or impromptu photo shoots when there isn't a lot of time to compose the photo using the manual settings. I was quite impressed with the quality of the pictures - especially because I used cheap Kodak film - and will be using this camera much more in the future. I can't say it's as good as the Leica M3 with Ilford film, but it's fun and convenient and a nice change from the usual digital routine. Have a look at the album here if you'd like.
The Upper East Side is in bloom!
From my nine mile walk around lower Manhattan today
From my apartment, looking north