The current show at New York’s The Jewish Museum, The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951, is a wonderful portrait. It is a portrait of New York street life, a portrait of a tumultuous period in US history, and a portrait of changing photo documentary style. All three portraits are captivating. For a New Yorker, to see familiar buildings and streetscapes in their earlier days, is to engage in time travel, always a compelling version of travel for one, like me, with that particular bug. To see documentation of this tumultuous historic period, from New Deal social programs, the war effort and ending with the Red Scare, is instructive. And the changing style of street photography, from the early days when the objective was documentation to the latter years when aesthetics began to frame the content, is to view an early chapter of contemporary street photography. This large treasure trove of images comes from the cameras of the New York Photo League, a group of amateur and professional photographers who banded around social and creative issues and found its voice in the social issues of the time. It also ran aground on its social vision when it was infiltrated by an FBI agent and was subsequently blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Tell me the stories.
Speak to me of the past, that I might better appreciate the now.
Repeat for me the orations and whispered conversations of love and intrigue.
Play for me the riffs and liquid notes that once escaped through blackened doors on
clouds of smoke.
Show me the windows of the famous, and the infamous streets — walk them with me –
so that I might, for just one moment, travel back in time.
Tell me the stories. Tell me more and more…
Located in a bit of Scottish paradise on the shores of Loch Dunvegan in the Isle of Skye, The Three Chimneys is one of those sweet spots to dream on. Privacy is key here, the food amazing, and the six romantic rooms in the next-door crofter’s cottage, The House Over-By, are incredibly romantic. And the views over the open sea are an escape in themselves.
The Three Chimneys began as a restaurant, and it is renowned as one of Scotland’s best. It’s been described as The French Laundry of Scotland, with people traveling from around the world to dine in Chef Michael Smith’s kitchen. All the food is harvested locally, and the menu changes weekly.
The Isle of Skye is a gorgeous place, rugged and wild, shaped by the winds and the sea. With The Three Chimneys as your base, you can spend days exploring the white sand beaches and inlets, the ridges and valleys, tiny villages and historic keeps.
I.M. Pei was coaxed out of retirement at the age of 91 to undertake the building of Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art. After traveling through the Muslim world for many months to learn about Muslim architecture and to soak up the culture, he came up with this extraordinarily inspiring building which sits off the Qatari capital’s corniche on Doha Bay. The building is an architectural feat.
The main building’s angular volumes step back progressively as they rise around a 164ft-high central domed atrium. The dome is concealed from outside view by the walls of a central tower. A sheet of glass rises to a height of 148ft on the north side of the Museum offering views of the Gulf from all five floors of the atrium. Ceilings are constructed of intricate cast-in place architectural concrete coffered domes, finished with individual molds. At the top of the atrium is the circular oculus of a stainless steel dome, which captures facets of patterned light. The form of the dome changes as the structure descends, so its perimeter becomes an octagon and then a square, which in turn is transformed into four triangular column supports.
While the structure is endlessly fascinating, the collection, gathered since the late 1980s, is a marvel of diversity, depth and breadth. Manuscripts, ceramics, textiles from Spain, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, India and Central Asia form one of the most complete collections of Islamic artifacts in the world. And they are displayed with such restraint that each item sits within its own aura of peaceful beauty.
180 Degrees South is a wonderful film that follows Jeff Johnson and some of his equally adventurous friends as they set out to trace the 1968 journey of his heroes, Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, to the far reaches of Patagonia. After finding footage of the 1968 expedition that the two friends took in their Ford Econoline Van, and then speaking with them on the phone, Johnson sets out from Ventura California to meet the two men and to climb Corcovado Volcano. His own weeks at sea, a month long stop in Rapa Nui, and the final leg by bus into Patagonia is no less an adventure if one uses Tompkin’s definition of the word…”To me adventure is when everything goes wrong.” The film is stunningly beautiful, passionate, interesting and graceful.
It is the two men, however – Chouinard and Tompkins – that captivate.
The former is the founder of Patagonia; the latter of North Face. Both have an enduring friendship and an exceptional humility: ”Conquerors of the useless, that’s what we were” says Chouinard. The friendship is that much more interesting because of the differences in their personalities and in the life choices they have made. Chouinard seems the less confrontational, more laid back type; Tompkins the activist of few words whose life work, along with his wife, Kris, has been to purchase and conserve vast tracts of Chilean and Argentine Patagonia. What they share, however, is an appreciation of the land and the enormous pleasure derived from living in it.
The film has many quiet and moving sequences, but it ends with my favorite. After a thrilling recounting of the Corcovado ascent, the last frames of the film show the two extraordinarily fit septuagenarians heading off on a climb of Cerro “Geezer”. The climb, however, strikes me more as a walking meditation, a deeply empathetic and gentle communion of two extraordinary beings with the earth.