Monday, 26 April 2010

#10 Girl you have no Faith in Medicine.

Mary Baker Eddy, then. A 19th Century down-and-out that decided to form a church and only got bloody rich and famous. As L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology, put it: 'The way to make a million dollars is to start a religion.'

I have confused things by bringing up Scientology, because the church Ms Eddy founded is known as the 'First Church of Christ, Scientist', or simply the Christian Science Church. But is totally unrelated to Scientology; indeed, it is built firmly on the bedrock of traditional Christianity, with added quackery thrown in.

As the story goes Mazzy Baker was deathly ill but manage to heal herself through rigorous application of faith in God and humanity, where the remedies of the day had done nada. (That the remedies of the day included homeopathy, magnetic healing and tapping doesn't seem to have been given much thought as a possible explanation.) Subsequently she wrote a book which tore through the American faith community, explaining how proper faith in Gawd and good honest Americanness would render you, and the world, endlessly and bountifully happy and healthy. Christian Scientists will probably argue I have paid lip service to their faith, but fuck 'em.

To her credit, she was exceptionally generous and charitable, and founded a faith based on much the same principles. She also valued journalism, and founded a now-major international paper by the name of the Christian Science Monitor, which has won much praise for its fair, balanced longview of international affairs.

She enters my narrative because she was a Bostonian, and I went to her church. More than to learn about her, though (sorry babes), I was interested in a beautiful structure known as the Mapparium.

To represent the global reach of the Christian Science movement, in 1935 they commissioned Chester Lindsay Churchill to build a three-story glass glove, onto the inside of which were painted, in resplendent hues, the nations of the world.

The Mapparium has been enhanced by a projection overlay to restore the faded colours to their 1930s lustre, and a fabulously kitsch 'we are the world' voiceover, but the map has not been redrawn at all. So, you can marvel at delights such as 'Italian East Africa', the lack of Pakistan, and muse on the fragility of nations, and the future of our planet. As the kitsch 80s voiceover heartily encourages you to do.

We are the world.

#9 For Boston.

Boston, in a word:


Wednesday, 14 April 2010

#8 Burn in the USA.

It's April. I can't stress this enough. April. I think lambs, trench coats, and crisp sunny mornings. Boiled eggs and soldiers for breakfast. Maybe the odd cold salad for lunch. On a good day.

In no way does 30C (that's about 87F in local-speak) heat square with this ideal. Now, like most British people, I have experienced 30C heat - not in April, I hastened to add - only on holiday, when I am suitably disposed to cope with it, by doing sod all, drinking copiously and larking about in fountains. That's all well and good. 30C is fine then. Hell, it hit a heady 56C (130F) when I was in the Sahara. (Did you know that above 55C your eyeballs melt almost instantly?)

Imagine, then, my frank consternation this week, as New York City experienced the most objectionably hot April it has ever experienced. Oh how I clung to the shadows, and turned up the air conditioning!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

#7 Meet you in Manhattan.

This week I met two astonishing men (neither of which were Vladimir Putin). My studio hosts occasional seminars for professional photographers, and there was such an event this Wednesday.

First up was Dr. Stanley Burns, owner of the most celebrated private photographic archive in America. His Upper West Side digs house some 700,000 photographs of historical importance.

I cannot understate how much importance. He showed us the only surviving photograph of the 20,000 strong crowd watching America's last public hanging. He showed us a huge collection of Holocaust imagery, from albums of SS soldiers showing men having their beards shaved, to a Parisian serial killer who ensnared victims on the promise of providing safe passage to America. He has an astonishing collection of medical imagery - the first corneal graft, the first open brain surgery under local anaesthetic, and so on.

At the lecture he showed a lot of images which have yet to be shown anywhere. A major exhibition on the history of the American civil rights movement, for example, will go ahead at the Met in 2012.

Corbis, the US image library, apparently offered his $30 million for the collection a couple of years ago. Anyway, should your interest be piqued, you can read more at .

Next up was a British photographer called Platon, most famous for his portraits of world leaders. Why the one word moniker, I do not know. Not a lot to say, other than that his work is fabulous, and you should check it out here: .

He was original skyrocketed to fame by the photograph of Putin above, which featured on the cover of time, and won first prize at the World Press Photo competition.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

#6 Culture vulture.

If the Brooklyn Museum were a woman, I would marry her in a heartbeat.

Now, New York is not short of high-minded attractions. The casual visitor is somewhat spoilt for choice. There is Broadway. There is the city ballet and opera. The Met. The MoMA. The Cloisters. The Guggenheim. The aforementioned visitor would be forgiven for not rushing off to Brooklyn to go to another beaux arts museum.


Really, do.

It's wonderful. The collections, of course, cannot match the Met in importance or range (though within the realms of African and Asian artifacts, the Brooklyn Museum is world class). That's not the point. The exhibitions are beautifully curated. The exhibits are well-lit, the signs printed in readable, serifed fonts. They are arranged so that the cloud-pleasing stuff that everyone visits (the special exhibitions - currently on Egyptian mummification - and the African anthropological collections, since this is Brooklyn) are close to the doors. The quirkier stuff - fabulous collections of Islamic and Buddhist art, for example - are squirreled away, and quiet.

I could go on, so I will. There are activity books and pencils for kids to do with their parents (my favourite: choosing your Egyptian burial artifacts on a budget). There are desks with copies of all the exhibition books to read, so you could learn more about any exhibits you were particularly interested in. Can you imagine the Tate letting you read the books it wants you to spend 40 pounds on? The shop actually had nice stuff in it. Oh, and the whole museum is set in the most beautiful cherry garden, so you can head outside and indulge in some hanami if you get bored.

Best of all, however, is the Target First Saturdays programme. After 5pm on the first Saturday of each month, museum admission is free, and a range of cultural events are put on. These events are themed around the special exhibitions, so this month it was Egyptian burial.

It wasn't quite as macabre as it sounds, since it was interpreted fairly loosely. In the foyer was traditional Egyptian music, along with a cheap bar. There were ticketed 'Meet the Curators' talks, and round tables held by students from local universities. I personally plumbed for a free screening of an arthouse film about burial rituals in Japan (again, less macabre than it sounds; Departures, if you're interested). Afterwards, I could have gone to a dance party in the center of the European beaux arts hall hosted by some specially-flown-in Egyptian DJs, and got my groove on about 10 yards away from some original Monet, Matisse and Cezanne paintings, if I'd fancied it.

The museum was brimming with a range of very un-museum-ish people, and I feel as though the Brooklyn Museum is more serious about its public service remit than any museum I've ever been to.

Please go.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

#5 I'm leaving.

Nah, just kidding. April fooling and all that. I thought, for once, I'd actually write about photography.

I started work a week ago now. This week there were two big projects. Firstly, we photographed some kiddywinks as part of the 'Growing Up Project'. The idea is to document childhood by photographing a cohort of children once a year. Some of them came under the spotlight when they were bumps (literally: Howard has done a series of pregnancy studies), and have stayed there for a decade or more. You can see some of the pictures here.

Secondly, we photographed a young gentleman by the name of Greg Jones for the good people at ESPN Magazine. He is a man of terrifying proportions: 255 pounds, 6'1", with a wild tangle of dreadlocks. He has just signed an $18 million contract for the next few years, apparently. He was chosen for this feature because he is exquisitely muscled. G-dawg (I didn't call him this to his face very much) had none of the swagger that you might expect such potency and wealth would afford you; he was modest. Meek. Sheepish. Pliant.

Anyway, it was all very cool, not least the fantastic breakfast and lunch spreads that come with client work. Let us hope Howard abandons all this fine art shit and carries on photographing athletes and actors.