Adam Marelli Photo http://www.adammarelliphoto.com Now Boarding Leica Air . . . Sat, 19 Apr 2014 02:49:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.6.1 Jaeger LeCoultre Geophysic at the Explorer’s Club http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/04/jaeger-lecoultre-geophysic-at-the-explorers-club/ http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/04/jaeger-lecoultre-geophysic-at-the-explorers-club/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 20:00:10 +0000 adam http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/?p=6106 [more...]]]> Jaeger LeCoultre Geophysic 1958

A Special Guest

The Explorer’s Club

Our private lunch in the Trophy Room of The Explorer's Club with JLC and the new Geophysic 1958.  Adam Marelli

Our private lunch in the Trophy Room of The Explorer’s Club with JLC and the new Geophysic 1958. Adam Marelli

Introduction

Last week our friends at Jaeger LeCoultre (JLC) released a very special watch.  Maybe some of you have noticed the occasional watch post on my Instagram feed or a reposted link on Facebook.  Watches are a personal interest of mine and one that I see linked with photography and exploration.  So through a series of fortune events, I found myself back up at The Explorer’s Club (TEC) to welcome the newest release for JLC, the Geophysic 1958.

The original Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic. Image courtesy of Jaeger-LeCoultre

The original Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic. Image courtesy of Jaeger-LeCoultre

The Watch

The Jeager LeCoultre Geophysic 1958 is connected to my reason for becoming a member of The Explorer’s Club.  You might be wondering how and why I feel connected to a watch from the 1950’s, let me explain.  In 1958, Vice Admiral James Calvert (who I wrote about here) penetrated the North Pole from the underside, in a nuclear submarine called the USS Skate.  Upon his return, the city of Geneva honored the efforts of Calvert and the captain of the USS Nautilus, Capt. W. Anderson, for their efforts with a gift of the JLC Geophysic.

The watch was made with two dials, this is the cross hair in gold. Image courtesy of Jaeger-LeCoultre

The watch was made with two dials, this is the cross hair in gold. Image courtesy of Jaeger-LeCoultre

The watch was designed to in honor of the Geophysical year of 1958 where a collection of nations, during the cold war, temporarily set aside their difference in the pursuit of science.  Which is not to say the earth was swept over with world peace, but it was a good effort in the name of science.  The Geophysic was designed to be a summary of the accomplishments, both powerful and simple:

The original calibre.  Image courtesy of Jaeger-LeCoultre

The original calibre. Image courtesy of Jaeger-LeCoultre

New Features

  • An in house JLC Chronometer 898/1 with a stop seconds for accurate setting. 

  • An automatic movement with ceramic ball bearings requiring no lubrication. 

  • Inner iron ring to prevent the movement from magnetic fields. 

  • Water resistance to 100m. 

Overall the watch linked the historical lineages of scientific exploration and high watch making in an understated piece that would be at home in a nuclear submarine or an officer’s dinner.

The limited edition platinum Geophysic, only 58 pieces will be produced.  Image courtesy of Jaeger-LeCoultre

The limited edition platinum Geophysic, only 58 pieces will be produced. Image courtesy of Jaeger-LeCoultre

Private Lunch

On Thursday, I was joined by the president of JLC Philippe Bonay, international sales director Yves Meylan, and press coordinator Cecile Tinchant for a release at The Explorer’s Club.  I thought TEC was a perfect location for the release and we even ate at the same table where they planned the Panama Canal.  The history inside of TEC was shared through a private tour given by TEC’s director Will Roseman.  There were too many stories to go into, but I will have to write about them in another article sometime soon.  Lets just say that some of the highlights ranged from the 15th century architectural details to a former member who survived a jaguar attack be making a fist inside of the throat of the jaguar to choke him to death.  It was a nice reminder that many a great characters have come before us, and if we hope to stand shoulder to shoulder with history we have to set the bar very high.  Whenever I have a chance to spend time with the older members of TEC there is always a mixture of admiration and amazement as they recount their experiences.

Rear Admiral David Oliver (Ret.)  pictured on the left.

Rear Admiral David Oliver (Ret.) pictured on the left.

Surprise Guest

A surprise addition to the lunch was a very distinguished Rear Admiral David Oliver (Ret.) who shared his unique perspective on life inside of a nuclear submarine and his relationship to Calvert and the USS Nautilus.  Oliver started his talk by explaining how you need to know everything inside of a submarine by touch.  Its imperative, because while aboard various submarines he put out over 1,000 fires.  When there is smoke filling the space and the fire is eating up the oxygen, response time needs quick and seamless.

After the meal, I introduced myself to Oliver and asked him about Calvert.  He was happy to report that Calvert was an exceptional man and one of the nicest men he ever knew.  Calvert and Oliver were colleagues and Calvert was the commanding officer to Oliver’s brother for a period of time.  This was, probably the closest, I would ever get to a glimpse of Calvert outside of television and I was immensely grateful for Oliver’s time.

He went on to talk about two very important topics for me that were completely unexpected.  The first was a bit of a history lesson.  Oliver was in charge of the first US fleet invasion of Iraq.  I’m not going to delve into his personal comments on that war, but I can say that it if you ever have a chance to speak to an admiral off the record, please take it.  The experience is nothing short of enlightening.

Geophysic 1958 in pink gold with cross hair dial.  Image courtesy of Jaeger-LeCoultre

Geophysic 1958 in pink gold with cross hair dial. Image courtesy of Jaeger-LeCoultre

On “being scared”…

The second thing Oliver explained was that Calvert’s perceived kindness came from the fact that he was able to sense when he was scared, Oliver too.  I asked him, “What was the advantage of that?”

Oliver said that for as long as he could remember whenever he was scared, he got a pain on his right side.  It was as reliable as clock work.  He went on to explain that very often people don’t acknowledge or accept that they are scared.  It leads them to be unnecessarily mean, loose their cool, and make poor decisions.  But if you know what you are feeling, it becomes much easier to operate with the sensation and use it to your advantage.

One thing that really stood out to me, was that Oliver used the phrase “to be scared” and not “fear.”  Fear, is this big, heavy word that is almost undermines its real meaning.  “Being scared” on the other hand, is what we associate with tiny animals and children.  It is not the phrasing we would expect to hear from a retired admiral, who was in charge of the worlds largest Navy, but I’m really glad he put it that way.  It made Oliver and him accessible and humble.

Standing there in the library of TEC, sipping on my coffee, I felt fortunate to have Oliver’s audience.  It was one of those ten minute conversations that will last a lifetime.  It represents in many ways what TEC means to me and what a watch can mean too…they are the potential for a meaningful interaction that adds an immeasurable value to your life, not through profound effort, but simply through exposure.

The complete collection of Jaeger-LeCoultre Geohysics which will be released this Fall.  Image courtesy of Jaeger-LeCoultre

The complete collection of Jaeger-LeCoultre Geohysics which will be released this Fall. Image courtesy of Jaeger-LeCoultre

Conclusion

As the last coffees were sipped and the watches were packed away, I thanked the JLC team for an excellent afternoon.  For me, it could not have been better.  It was the perfect synthesis of my interests, watches, exploration history, and most of all story telling.

If you would like to read more about the Jeager-LeCoultre’s Geophysic 1958 have a look on:

 

Best-Adam Marelli 

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Eric Chevallier: The Blacksmith’s Apprentice http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/04/eric-chevallier-the-blacksmiths-apprentice/ http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/04/eric-chevallier-the-blacksmiths-apprentice/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 19:32:46 +0000 adam http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/?p=6085 [more...]]]> Eric Chevallier

The Blacksmith’s Apprentice

NHK WORLD 

Eric Chevallier: The Blacksmith's Apprentice by Adam Marelli

Eric Chevallier: The Blacksmith’s Apprentice by Adam Marelli

Introduction

Three years ago, when I started the body of work “Lost Ceremony,” I met Eric Chevallier and his girlfriend in Tokyo for dinner.  Along with my girlfriend, we sat for a bowl of steaming ramen and two very cold beers.  We exchanged the pleasantries that are common when you land in a new country.  “How was your trip, what’s the hotel like, what have you done so far?”  These are the types of conversations that never have any real depth, but then again you’re usually so jet lagged that anything more than a simple yes or no is bound to zap your brain of its last functioning cells.  After dinner we parted ways.  We were on our way to Okayama, Eric was going back to Sakai, and Mariko had things to take care of in Tokyo.  I had no idea how the next few weeks, let alone the next two years would keep our paths all intertwined.

 

Eric Chevalier sharpening a knife on the water stones.  © Adam Marelli

Eric Chevalier sharpening a knife on the water stones. © Adam Marelli

In a way, 2012 was the beginning for both Eric and I.  For me, it started this body of work which will wrap up this year.  It feels like it could go one forever (and I’d never grow tired of it) and for Eric he was just into the first year of his apprenticeship with master blacksmith Yasuhiro Hirakawa.

Eric watches Yasuhiro instruct him how to fix the broken knife tip.  © Adam Marelli

Eric watches Yasuhiro instruct him how to fix the broken knife tip. © Adam Marelli

The Growth

As an apprentice Eric has piles of responsibilities he must attend to on a daily basis.  Beyond all of the listening, watching and learning that comes with an apprenticeship, he is also working on his Japanese.  Originally from northern France, Eric is of exceptional interest for obvious reason that he is not Japanese.  There is a certain pressure on him to perform and the recent coverage from television stations like NHK WORLD (Japanese News Station) has only made that pressure greater.

Eric at the griding wheel.  © Adam Marelli

Eric at the griding wheel. © Adam Marelli

In conversation he readily admits his anxiety about the many eyes which are witnessing his development.  Normally an apprentice is allowed to develop without any real external audience.  They have one person to please, their master…that’s it and that’s usually enough for anyone.  In effect, as an apprentice, no one usually cares who you are, what you do, and if you ever succeed.  It is the master who gets all of the attention and that’s just fine, because like an unripe vegetable the apprentice is not yet fit for human consumption.  But this is not the case with Eric.  He has needed to assume double roles as an apprentice and a liaison between the cultural communities of France and Japan.

Eric doing two things he cant stand, having his picture taken and being the center of attention.  But it was good fun for me.  © Adam Marelli

Eric doing two things he cant stand, having his picture taken and being the center of attention. But it was good fun for me. © Adam Marelli

The Special

Recently NHK WORLD released a 30 minute piece where they filmed of Eric visiting a number of blacksmiths around Japan.  Its a unique view into two things that are rarely seen: the development of an apprentice and their sources of inspiration along the way.  There are some things that I greatly admire about Eric’s presentation and efforts in the show.  Firstly, he is speaking in both English and Japanese, neither language is native to him.  While my Swiss friends can rattle of five languages with total ease, as barely bi-lingual American, I find Eric’s language skills fantastically impressive.  Secondly, as a young man, in his twenties, Eric makes no attempt to hide the pure admiration and enthusiasm he has for the opportunity to meet some of his idols.  We are not all afforded the chance to meet the people who influenced our developments and if we are so lucky, we don’t often show up with a television crew.  All in all, it makes for a distinct viewing experience.

Eric's master, Yasuhiro Hirakawa, 6th generation blacksmith from Sakai Japan. © Adam Marelli

Eric’s master, Yasuhiro Hirakawa, 5th generation blacksmith from Sakai Japan. © Adam Marelli

Conclusion

As Eric leads us through his journey, we see workshops that appear to come right out of a Miazaki film.  Assemblies of blackened gears, oversized cogs, and greased covered motors look surreal in comparison to the everyday products they yield.  But then again, what would the creation process be without a touch of visual fantasy.

Eric helping me out with translation on the site of Ippodo's estates in Uji, just south of Kyoto.  © Adam Marelli

Eric helping me out with translation on the site of Ippodo’s estates in Uji, just south of Kyoto. © Adam Marelli

What becomes very clear by the end of the episode is something that reminded why I started “Lost Ceremony” in Japan.  Traditions are great…there is no doubt about that, but why are they great and better yet, why are they worth preserving and what happens when they are lost?  The idea that Eric inadvertently approaches in this piece is that traditions are inextricably linked to tools.  When the tools change, the by-product of those tools change too.  And when the world, which is shaped by tools changes, it has a huge impact on multiple facets of the culture.  So before we wipe the slates of ancient forms of manufacturing its worth noting what we gain and what we loose in the process.

If you would like to follow Eric’s development please visit: http://www.sasuke-smith.com/ 

Best-Adam Marelli

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Bellerby & Co. Globemakers http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/04/bellerby-co-globemakers/ http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/04/bellerby-co-globemakers/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 19:33:08 +0000 adam http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/?p=6055 [more...]]]> Bellerby & Co.

GLOBEMAKERS

– London –

Bellerby & Co Globemaker  London England.

Bellerby & Co Globemakers London, England.

Introduction

Why do we travel?  What could possibly convince us to leave the comforts of home for the inhospitable mess we call airports.  On the other side of the long lines, tiny bathrooms, and screaming children (both infant and adults) we find ourselves transported to places where our imaginations can run wild.  Whether its an exotic island or a cosmopolitan hub, travel affords us a chance to step outside of the virtual reality where everything fits into a 1920 x 1080 pixelated world .

Last year I came across a workshop in London, which was reshaping the globe as we know it.  No, they were not reshaping the actual world, rather Peter Bellerby resurrected the nearly dead art of hand making globes.  Bellerby & Co Globemakers hand crafts, custom fits and individually paints globes from sizes that will fit on your desk to 50” in diameter.

Peter Bellerby of Bellerby & Co Globemaker at work.

Peter Bellerby of Bellerby & Co Globemakers at work.

Globemakers

Since the utility of things like google maps, why would anyone need a desk globe when every street in every city could be found on the computer?  I’d say that the globe isn’t just for finding places, its used to discover yourself.  Imagine yourself in a relaxing chair, in the company of your favorite drink with the assurance that you could go anywhere in the world.  Where would it be and how would you imagine it?

The plaster globe being laid up with individually mapped panels. Bellerby & Co Globemaker

The plaster globe being laid up with individually mapped panels. Bellerby & Co Globemakers.

The world at large

When I was a kid, we had a large globe in the public library.  At the time, it seemed like it felt life size because my best efforts to reach around it proved useless.  The world, its contents, and its mapping were bigger that I could handle.  As a spun the tri-axis world with delusions of megalomaniacal grandeur, all I wanted to do was go from where I was, to way over THERE!  I hardly cared where THERE was, as long as it was far from the smell of card catalogs and overly bleached library bathrooms.

I would sneak moments alone with the globe, pretending there was no one else to impede upon my childhood fantasies of exploration.  Running my hands over the curved horizon of the globe, I was free to image the plains of Africa, the frozen tundras of Siberia and the impossible notion that people actually lived on the green sprinkles of islands across the South Pacific.  With a globe in hand, everything was possible.

Bellerby & Co Globemaker.

Bellerby & Co Globemakers.

The British are coming

If the Egyptians invented the pyramids and the Greeks invented the Classics, the English invented the globe, why?  Well because unlike the early astronomers of mainland Europe, no one invaded the world and plotted their findings with quite the enthusiasm of the British.  Like educator Ken Robinson said in a recent TED talk, “Its one of those cultural myths, like the British are reserved. I don’t know why people think this. We’ve invaded every country we’ve encountered.”  For better or worse this is true.  In fact, we owe most of our early global mapping to the British.  But while the British Empire as eased up on their global invasion tactics and handed the reins of poor foreign policy to the American’s (go us!) it has opened up a space to re-imagine the globe and focus on its artistic roots.

Weapons of the trade. Bellerby & Co Globemaker

Weapons of the trade. Bellerby & Co Globemakers.

Resurrecting tradition

This year, for the London Workshop we will be visiting the studio of Bellerby & Co. Globemakers in Shoreditch area of London for a private shoot.  Why visit a globe maker?  I always encourage photographers to shoot something specific when they travel.  Its something I’ve found enormously rewarding because when I shoot people who I seek out, it gives me a deeper insight into the place, its history and what makes a place so special.  Its not to say that we can’t just wander around the world with no plan, we absolutely can.  But when you travel to a place, to capture a sense of that location, it helps if you know why you are there and what you are shooting.  That level of specificity allows successful work to stand out.  And if you don’t know what that process looks like, a workshop can be a great place to experiment.

Peter poses inside of how workshop.  Bellerby & Co Globemaker

Peter poses inside of how workshop. Bellerby & Co Globemakers.

How it started

Last year I came across Peter Bellerby and found his story compelling.  The original motivation to make his first globe came when he wanted to buy a globe for his father.  He soon discovered that many of the handmade globe makers around England were out of business.  So, he set out to do what any non-rational, innovative thinker would do, he would learn how to make a globe himself. (see how in the video below)

Over the next few years, Peter’s  successes would outgrow his dining room table and require a space dedicated to casting, mapping and hand finishing these extraordinary globes.  For the photographers who are joining the workshop, this will be a unique opportunity to have an insiders view of a team of artisans at work.  Oh and did I mention that one photographer had to cancel, so there is ONE SPACE LEFT?

Bellerby & Co Globemaker

Bellerby & Co Globemakers.

Conclusion

The opportunity to travel is something that should not be missed.  One consistent piece of advice I’ve gotten from those many years my senior is travel when you are young, travel when you are old, but never miss an opportunity because it might not come back around.  Three years ago, when I started with workshops, I looked at them as a sort of school on the road.  Now I see them in a completely different light.  There is plenty of learning, but the things we learn are only secondary to the experiences we have together.  I for one, am really looking forward to seeing what Peter and his team have in store for us.  Beyond the photographs, we will also have a chance to see what happens when lost traditions come back to life.  Part of the past, mixed up in the present, will define and entirely new future and hopefully reshape the globe and how we think about it.

To read more about Bellerby & Co. Globemakers: http://www.bellerbyandco.com/index.php/ 

and if you are interested in the last available spot for the London Workshop, please email here: theworkshop@adammarelliphoto.com 

Best-Adam Marelli

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Adam Marelli: Opening at Leica SoHo http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/04/adam-marelli-opening-at-leica-soho/ http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/04/adam-marelli-opening-at-leica-soho/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 19:54:37 +0000 adam http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/?p=6036 [more...]]]> TRACES OF A LOST CEREMONY

Adam Marelli

Opening at Leica SoHo

"Traces of a Lost Ceremony" by Adam Marelli, opening at Leica SoHo Thursday May 8, 2014.

“Traces of a Lost Ceremony” by Adam Marelli, opening at Leica SoHo Thursday May 8, 2014.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 27, 2014

Leica Store Soho
460 West Broadway
New York City, NY 10013

Adam Marelli
“Traces of a Lost Ceremony”

Opening: May 8th, 2014
May 8th – June 26th, 2014

Press Release
Leica Store Soho is delighted to announce the solo exhibition of artist & photographer Adam Marelli opening Thursday May 8th, 2014.  “Traces of a Lost Ceremony” asks why are ancient traditions worth preserving?  To his surprise, Marelli discovered that in spite of the Japanese craftsmen’s distinguished histories, each generation must prove themselves, not only to stand up to history, but to deserve a place in the future.  If a master craftsman hopes to  leave a legacy, they must examine themselves artistically, philosophically, and practically every step of the way.  In the end, craft is simply a tool for unlocking the mystery of a meaningful existence.

“The paradox of balancing the past with

the future is the invisible force that lies

at the heart of the Japanese craftsman.”

–Adam Marelli

Biography
Adam Marelli (b. 1980) | based in New York City (USA) | graduated from New York University (sculpture & photography) | Apprenticeships with a master builder (10 years)and zen monks (7 years) before opening his studio | Member of The Explorer’s Club AR’13 | Exhibits sculpture and photography internationally | Represented by Invisible-Exports | Instructor at Leica Akademie (NYC) | Runs international photography workshops where he teaches the lost lessons of classical design | Works and writings featured in NY Times, GQ, Forbes, Surface, The Gothamist, Leica Blog, Phaidon Press, Origin Magazine.

For Press Inquiries
Chris Durkin: chris@leicastoresoho.com  (001) 212-475-7799

Follow Adam Marelli on:
www.facebook.com/AdamMarelliPhotography
www.instagram.com/adammarelli/ 
www.adammarelli.com

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The Explorer’s Club http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/03/the-explorers-club/ http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/03/the-explorers-club/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 22:58:51 +0000 adam http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/?p=6014 [more...]]]> The Explorer’s Club

New Member

Adam MARELLI

Please to announce my acceptance to The Explorer's Club this past year.

Please to announce my acceptance to The Explorer’s Club this past year.

Introduction

Seven or eight years ago, I was watching a show on a young Australian photographer who planned to fly over the North Pole and take aerial photographs of the frozen landscape.  At the time, he was an unknown quantity, hardly fit for news reels or knighthood.  His idea was simple enough and one that many photographers before him have attempted: get the first photographs of an unknown landscape as a path to recognition.  This young Australian was named Hubert Wilkins, later Sir Hubert Wilkins.  In the course of his life he would hold a number of professions from soldier, pilot, photographer, to ornithologist, explorer, and geographer.

Sir Hubert Wilkins: Explorer, Photographer, Pilot, Soldier, Ornithologist, Geographer...starting to feel like you have not done anything with yourself lately (I do?!)

Sir Hubert Wilkins: Explorer, Photographer, Pilot, Soldier, Ornithologist, Geographer…starting to feel like you have not done anything with yourself lately (I do?!)

A Polar Knight

The photographs he took of the North Pole were obviously an exploration feat, but by no means a visual treasure.  His next attempt to outdo his polar flight was to determine once and for all if the North Pole was pure ice or if there was land under the frozen expanse that blocked the Northwest passage from Europe to the Orient.  How does one go about probing the North Pole?  Well in Wilkins’s mind it was quite simple.  You buy a World War I submarine and outfit it with a huge drill bit.  Then you can poke a hole through the ice from the bottom to prove there was no land.  If all of this is starting to sound like an excerpt from a Wes Anderson film, don’t worry…it only gets weirder from here.

Wilkins did secure a decommissioned submarine from the US Navy (renamed as the Nautilus) and with the help of the Brooklyn Navy yard, wealthy friend Lincoln Ellsworth, and William Randolph Hearst’s publishing funds, he set off from Brooklyn to cross the Atlantic.  The plan was to sail to England, then head up to Spitsbergen (Norway), and attempt to penetrate the North Pole from underneath the ice.  What transpired was nothing short of glorious failure.

A cross section of Wilkins' modified submarine.

A cross section of Wilkins’ modified submarine.  He can’t be faulted for lack of imagination.

The sub nearly sunk en route to England and was towed into a British harbor.  Its interior kept a balmy 40 degrees and 100% humidity, kind of like a nearly frozen tropical rainforest.  This left everyone cold, wet, and most likely cranky the entire time.  I’m sure that if our mother’s warnings about catching a cold had any shred of truth, two hours in Wilkins’ sub would have led to certain death.

The drill bit hatch designed to penetrate the North Pole from the underside.

The drill bit hatch designed to penetrate the North Pole from the underside.

The uncomfortable conditions did not deter the young explorer, who was only to be paid if successful.  After repeated efforts to penetrate the Arctic Circle were thwarted by technical difficulty, Wilkins returned unsuccessful.  The composition of the North Pole was still a mystery.  It would not be until the middle of the Cold War that someone would drive a nuclear submarine right through the magnetic pole of the Arctic.  This accomplishment would be my introduction to The Explorer’s Club, the Club of First.

Vice Admiral James Calvert in charge of the USS Skate which surfaced at the North Pole in 1959.  Once surfaced, they spread the ashes of Wilkins as his final resting place.

Vice Admiral James Calvert in charge of the USS Skate which surfaced at the North Pole in 1959. Once surfaced, they spread the ashes of Wilkins as his final resting place.

Vice Admiral James Calvert

Halfway through the program on Wilkins, retired Vice Admiral James Calvert presented himself on camera.  Calvert was the type of military gentleman who spoke with an authority that could convince an atheist that God existed.  His presence, confidence,  and ability to string together thoughts without using, “um…uh…or like,” caught my attention.  He was a well-informed, fancifully decorated officer with a certain charisma that intrigued me.  It was then revealed that he was a member of The Explorer’s Club.  “What was that?” I wondered.  Ever an inquisitive person, I looked it up.  Turned out, there was a place where explorers of space, the ocean’s depths, and the far reaches of the globe gathered…and it was only seven blocks from my apartment on east 78th street.  But as many great treasures of New York, it was a private affair and they were not looking for photographers.

As the years passed, I started going to their open lectures.  The cast of mountaineers, scientists, treasure hunters, authors and explorers were as exciting as they sounded.  Here was a group of people, from completely different backgrounds, unified in the pursuit of Curiosity.  Imagine if college kids were able to major curiosity in a subject?  It might be a good incentive for not showing up to class blisteringly hung over from experiments on how many gallons of beer you can drink before the things you swore you’d never do sounded like good ideas.  Schools might actually be an engaging place.  Alas, we will save the reconstruction of the American education system for another day.

 

NASA’s Artist in Residence

You have heard me say this in other articles, but New York City is a strange place.  Like nowhere else in the world have chance encounters actually affected the path of my life.  To detour for a short second, a college professor of mine, Roselee Goldberg, wrote a book on a performance artist name Laurie Anderson.  Not to worry if you have never heard of either of them.  They are quite famous in art circles, but neither of them are headline news.  Never the less, Anderson gave a talk at the Guggenheim shortly after I watched the program on Wilkins.  She had been awarded the first “Artist in Residence at NASA.”  Her concluding piece, much to the disappointment of NASA, was a poem. But if you tell an artist to do whatever they want, don’t be surprised if they come up with something like a poem after spending a year with engineers and astronauts.

All of that aside, Anderson does have an incredible gift for storytelling.  She recounted that while poking her way through the laboratories of NASA, she discovered that the studio practices of artists and the laboratory practices of scientists were not too dissimilar.  Remember that GPS was invented by NASA engineers in their free time.

In discussions with NASA, she found that they would get an idea, put some numbers together with some mechanics and see if it worked.  Half guess, part hunch, and a mixture of success and failure. Something clicked for me.  The world of space exploration and art shared a common approach.  Neither of them knew what they were looking for, they did not know how to get there, but they were gonna try their damnedest to figure out what was on the other end of their mystery, which leads us back to the North Pole.

USS Skate surfacing with Wilkins' ashes and probably doing a little good ol'fashion Cold War spying on the Russians.

USS Skate surfacing with Wilkins’ ashes and probably doing a little good ol’fashioned Cold War spying on the Russians.

Punching the North Pole

In 1959 Vice Admiral James Calvert succeeded in punching through the North Pole from the bottom.  There is in fact no land at the North Pole.  The nuclear submarine he captained “The Skate” was the first successful approach to the pole from the underside, which was a poetic follow up to Matthew Peary’s sledge from the top side.  (Perry was also a member of the Explorer’s Club and his sledge sits above the doorway on the second floor in the Clark Room.)

One of the Explorer’s Club’s early requirements for membership was that if you were the first person to set foot on a previously untouched piece of land, you were awarded membership.  Or in Calvert’s case, if you could prove there was no land to set foot on, they would let you in too.

Aurora alongside the ice off Western Base, 1911-1914 by Frank Hurley

Aurora alongside the ice off Western Base, 1911-1914 by Frank Hurley

A Kinship

Years after Wilkins, Calvert, and Anderson, I found myself accepted as a member of the Explorer’s Club.  It’s a piece of paper I was more excited to get than my university diploma or honors certificate.  In recognition, new members are also awarded a small pin.  A simple mark of membership.  So why is an artist at a club filled with mostly scientists?  I believe that we do share a passionate pursuit of curiosity.  Whether you want to probe the ocean floor, push the limits of space, or explore the way we sense the world around us…the Explorer’s Club offers an environment of like-minded people who share that pursuit of curiosity.

As an artist, the most immediate role I could serve is as the role famously outlined in an exchange between Ernest Shackleton and his photographer, Frank Hurley.  When they were ready to leave the ice shelf of the Ross Sea and head on small cairns (boats) to Elephant Island, Shackleton said that Hurley could not bring all of his exposed film, to which Hurley responded, “Boss, if I don’t take this, none of this ever happened.”

Hurley was right, those images proved instrumental to bringing back the incredible journey they were about to embark on, as they sailed almost 800 nautical miles in a boat hardly fit to run vegetables through the lagoon in Venice.  Shackleton let Hurley keep some of that film, to which we owe both of them a great debt of gratitude, not just for the factual evidence that they went, but because it carries with them a spirit of curiosity that launched the likes of Edmond Hillary, Jacques Cousteau, and Buzz Aldrin (with whom I had the distinct pleasure of sharing the Explorer’s Club Gala with last weekend, but more on that in the next article.)

The Explorer's Club on Instagram

The Explorer’s Club on Instagram

Conclusion

Young photographers often ask me, “Do you need an assistant?” Most of the time I ask them why they want to be my assistant?  They always respond, “Because I want to travel around and make pictures.”  To which I advise them, you don’t need me for that. You can do that all on your own.

Exploration can be a lonely endeavor.  Even if my stints away from home are nothing near the three and a half years someone like Shackleton might have spent away from England, there is a certain constitution required for venturing into the unknown.  It can be a landscape, a seascape or uncharted conceptual territory, but whichever path you choose, it’s nice to know that when you return dusty and battered, the doors of the Explorer’s Club will be there to welcome you.  What I advise the photographers who want to go and do something different: seek out people in whom you are interested and immerse yourselves in the world in which you want to be a part.  We are the authors of our own stories, so we might as well pack the tales with fantastical adventures and interesting characters.  Otherwise we will live nothing but a predictable rat race until we drop dead from a fate worse than freezing to death in the Arctic…by that I mean the slow and tedious death of boredom.

If you would like to follow the activity of the Explorer’s Club or come to an event, follow them at:

 

From here we move forward!

 

Best-Adam 

Adam Marelli and Getrude Matshe at ECAD (Explorer's Club Annual Gala)

Adam Marelli and Getrude Matshe at ECAD (Explorer’s Club Annual Gala)

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Rammy Narula: Life is an Act http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/03/rammy-narula-life-is-an-act/ http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/03/rammy-narula-life-is-an-act/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 21:22:19 +0000 adam http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/?p=6005 [more...]]]>

Rammy Narula

Life is an Act

Bangkok THAILAND

 

A new exhibition by Rammy Narula opening in Bangkok called "Life is an Act."

A new exhibition by Rammy Narula opening in Bangkok called “Life is an Act.”

Introduction

It’s with great pleasure that I would like to announce that One on One and Adam Marelli Workshop alumnus Rammy Narula will be having his first exhibition in Bangkok in April.  Well beyond the confines of both programs, Rammy has worked tirelessly to develop a body of work in the hopes, and now reality, of an exhibition.  The show’s title, “Life is an Act,” looks the mixture of real and artificial elements that exist in city life.  Rooted in street photography, the images mix real and artificial elements as he looks at the curious ways in which our imaginations and our local sidewalks merge to form individual realities.

Rammy Narula

© Rammy Narula

Opening Night 

From Paris to Tokyo, Rammy poked, prodded, and explored something that we don’t often see in street photography, a specific theme.  Well beyond the simplicities of fanciful compositions of themes like “The streets of Paris,” this show represents his first full scale attempt at tackling the idea that “Life is an Act.”  I have not seen the show in its entirety yet, only some of the images along the way.  Often times I hear photographers say they don’t want to attempt a show because they don’t feel the work is good enough yet…I say, better to get it out there, get the game day jitters out of your system, and get the first show under your belt.  There is always an opportunity to do a “next show.”  In all my years of listening to art horror stories, I have never heard of an artist who had a show that was so bad they were never allowed to show again.  In fact, if the show is really tragic, it usually gets more press.  Remember the illustrious words of Andy Warhol, “It doesn’t matter what they say, I just measure it in inches.”  Meaning that Warhol did not read his own reviews, he just collected the articles to see how much was written.

The scene at my first opening, also known as "The Rape of the Sabine Women" by Nicolas Poussin

The scene at my first opening, also known as “The Rape of the Sabine Women” by Nicolas Poussin

My First Opening 

I tell this story, not just to Rammy, but to anyone who is having their first exhibition.  My senior thesis show at NYU was nothing short of a disaster.  And while my work did not survive (literally it was crushed) there was enough beer and one professor who put it all in perspective for me.  Because in the end, we are not saving babies here, we are making art.  Although, in the moment, my senior-year-self did not see the humor of the mishap.  So what happened?  Let me tell you…

I had made a sculpture, of which I no longer have an image. It was made of long acrylic tubes, connected to form a large arch.  Each of the tubes was filled with either water or wine. Attached to the ends of the acrylic tubes were surgical tubes with bottles connected at the end.  Imagine, if you will, a gatling gun of wine and water.  The piece was in the center of the gallery looking, as any college senior might think of their own work, just delightful.  Then came along Godzilla, in the form of one of my classmates’ grandmothers.

In a spectacular display of grace and agility, the woman walked through the gallery and tripped on the end of the sculpture.  Bad enough right?!  Oh hardly.  Displaying a level of acrobatics which could have landed her on the Romanian Olympic team, she twisted in a half pike and fell flat on the center of the arch.  In slow motion, things went from bad to tragic in about .7 seconds.  In a final gesture of hospitality, my sculpture offered itself up as a pillow, which incidentally saved the woman from demolishing her hip.  Good for her, but bad for the sculpture.  Wine and water exploded in every direction.  The tubes bled with poetic brilliance as my semester long sculpture drained to its death on the gallery floor.

Noticeably crushed in sculpture and in spirit, one of my favorite professors, Rupert Goldsworthy, came over and said, “That was just marvellous. Now people will remember that piece forever. Well done.”  As I feverishly consumed my beer in an effort to mask my desire to suplex this woman, Rupert went on to explain that most openings are decidedly lacklustre.  A bunch of collectors, coupled with young-broke art students out for free drinks.  Nothing interesting ever happens.  If someone breaks your art and it “bleeds to death on the gallery floor, you’re in luck!”

He was right.  It made for a memorable evening.  We survived unscathed and Rupert saved me the embarrassment of being known as the only art student to choke out a grandmother an an exhibition.  In the end, I was not mad at her.  The sculpture never recovered, but then again, early work is designed for the dumpster anyway.  Like Cartier-Bresson once said, “You’ve got to get a lot of milk to make a little cheese.”

The point is, no matter what happens, good, bad, or indifferent…have no fear about your first opening.  It could not possibly be more disastrous than mine.

Conclusion

Back in the world of photography, one thing I really enjoy about the photo scenes in Asia is that they are closer knit than in the US.  The collectives, the online publications, and the galleries do a better job of making a place for photography outside of the documentary or fine art arenas.  In fact, it looks like Rammy’s first show has caught the interest of another gallery in Dehli.  Goes to show how success can spread like wildfire.  Join me in wishing Rammy good luck and success with his show…if it doesn’t go as planned, at least there will be plenty of liquor to wash the evening down.

Best-Adam 

 

 

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Rob Lemmon: Leica Monochrom http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/03/rob-lemmon-leica-monochrom/ http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/03/rob-lemmon-leica-monochrom/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 16:04:44 +0000 adam http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/?p=5990 [more...]]]> Rob Lemmon

The Violin Maker

Paris FRANCE

Paris Violin Maker. Leica Monochrom.  Rob Lemmon

Paris Violin Maker (Luthier). Leica Monochrom. Rob Lemmon

Introduction

Photographers fall into one of two camps: those who need to get closer to their subjects and those who need to take a few steps back.  In photography, you set the standards by which your picture is judged.  There is no golden rule like, “You should always be 6 feet away from a person with a 35mm lens.”  We wish things were this simple.  Somewhere between a satellite photo and a macro nose hair portrait lies an appropriate scale for the image.

Last year, during my Venice/Verona Workshop, I had the chance to work with photographer Rob Lemmon.  He fell into the first camp (needed to be closer.)  He is kind of my ideal photographer to work with. Why?  Rob knows his camera, so we could skip the “Look at how amazing the aperture ring is on my Noctilux,” and get right into his pictures.

For our first review, Rob left the camera in his room and brought beautiful black and white prints for us to discuss.  We looked at the strength and weaknesses of the images, which were mixed, but the overall impression was they were strong.  The one question I had for Rob was, “Why are all the figures so small in the scenes?”  Even in works by a painter like Edward Hopper, who Rob greatly admired, you can easily make out the faces of many of the subjects.  I wanted to see what Rob could do when he was close enough to his subject that he could reach out and touch them.

Read what happened to him in Paris here: Rob Lemmon on Hard Work  

Paris Violin Maker (Luthier). Leica Monochrom.  Rob Lemmon

Paris Violin Maker (Luthier). Leica Monochrom. Rob Lemmon

Three Steps Closer

The challenge for Rob, as I suggested, was not just to get closer but to find a reason for getting closer.  Over the next few months, we kept in touch.  He would send periodic emails of well edited images and text to explain what he was thinking about during the shots.  The following year was filled with good days, bad days and everything in between.  Rob would write about periods of solid rain, hopeless situations where it seemed like a picture would never emerge and then in a rush he wrote to me about a Parisian Violin Maker.

Two things that Rob has done for himself, that I see others struggle with, are as follows:

Know when you’ve hit a wall:  Rob knew at the start of the Venice/Verona workshop that he had hit a bit of a wall.  He wanted direction.  Instead of toiling endlessly, torturing himself with all the things that were not working, he went for advice.  Sounds simple enough, right?  I can’t tell you how many photographers I have met who hit a wall and stood in front of it for months, even years before they went for advice.

 

You don’t figure out 40,000 years of artistic traditions on

your own; DaVinci didn’t, Michelangelo didn’t and neither did 

Picasso (though he probably told his girlfriends he did)

 

Paris Violin Maker (Luthier) Leica Monochrom.  Rob Lemmon

Paris Violin Maker (Luthier) Leica Monochrom. Rob Lemmon

Time for a review:  There seems to be some confusion on the Internet about how to ask for a review of your work.  I get emails and Facebook messages that look like this:

“Thx Sir, please look at my page. (insert link)”

“Just finished my new page, would love your feedback.” 

Those are two surefire ways to have someone NOT look at your work.  If you want to ask someone to look at your work, try this instead:

Tips for getting your work reviewed

Look like you care.  First, if you don’t take the time to address an email directly, don’t be surprised if it goes unanswered.  Second, if you can’t string three sentences together as to why someone should look at your work, chances are they are not going to look at it. Third, send images that are already edited, and I’m talking about selections, not post processing.  No one is going to look through multiple galleries of 40 images.  Make the review easy and concise.  You would rather have someone say, “I’d like to see more images,” than sending them your entire online archive.

Choose Wisely.  Select your reviewers and the type of feedback you want carefully. Random Internet comments are of little value. I have about 5 people I go to for feedback.  Ask yourself, “What do I want feedback on?”  Are you interested in feedback for:

  • Design
  • Content
  • Lighting
  • Series Flow
  • Narrative
  • Presentation
  • Fame & Fortune

 

As an example, I use Susan Bright to review my series.   She is a curator and possesses masterful skills in editing selections based on the concept of the project.  I do not use her for design advice…it’s not her thing.  Use your reviewers for what they are good at and what you need.  Asking an editor for design advice is like using a DVD as a fork; sure it might work, but there are better ways to go about eating.

Try to work towards getting a small stable of people who review your work.  The chatter on the Internet is a mixture of feedback that is confusing, confused, and so lost it hardly knows it’s giving bad advice.  Save yourself the headache and just go directly to a handful of select people.  It will be infinitely more useful and rewarding.

You get what you pay for.  Whenever I ask for review, I always take into account, does this person charge for their time?  One time I had Alex Webb review my images. Alex charges…I paid.  When I had Myron Barnstone review my work, Myron charges, and I paid….see the pattern here?  Good advice is worth paying for.  If you ask someone who charges, be aware of that first.  It’s not any different than a job interview, in that if you are prepared, you will get more out of it and there will be a greater chance of you being asked back.

Paris Violin Maker (Luthier). Leica Monochrom.  Rob Lemmon

Paris Violin Maker (Luthier). Leica Monochrom. Rob Lemmon

Conclusion

When I heard that Andrea was looking for photographers who were shooting the Leica Monochrom, Rob came to mind immediately.  I dig his style, we keep in touch, and I think his work is evolving nicely.  It’s a natural approach to having people look at your work.  A little secret about the art and photography world is that most of the things I have ever gotten were through invite or introduction, not application.  There are a few things that we all apply for, but for everything else, it’s a coffee, a handshake or an email.  So when the opportunity comes up, give it a few extra moments of your time because the payoff can be huge.

If you are shooting a Leica Monochrom and are interested in having your work featured, send an email to theworkshop@adammarelliphoto.com for consideration.

Best-Adam 

 
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Workshops, Talks, & Exhibitions http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/03/workshops-talks-exhibitions/ http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/03/workshops-talks-exhibitions/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 23:06:36 +0000 adam http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/?p=5965 [more...]]]> Workshops, Talks, & Exhibitions

–Updates from the Studio

NEW YORK CITY 

A day at the Chiang Mai Life Construction site during the workshop.  © Adam Marelli

A day at the Chiang Mai Life Construction site during the workshop. © Adam Marelli

Introduction

The year is off to a great start.  Not all years start out with this much momentum.  January can feel like an extension of a New Year’s hangover, while at other times it feels like the difference between taking off in a prop plane or a jet.  Two thousand fourteen feels like a jet, nicely appointed with a courteous staff and an itinerary that will make for an fantastic year.

Looking ahead at 2014, I am taking a little advice from the past.  Maizuru/Japan.  © Adam Marelli

Looking ahead at 2014, I am taking a little advice from the past. Maizuru/Japan. © Adam Marelli

Workshops

While New York City suffered from one of its snowiest spells since 1996, this January we were off to a sold out workshop in Chiang Mai,Thailand.  The warm days and cool evenings were a perfect reprieve from the protests in Bangkok and the layers of winter back in NYC.  For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you already heard that I had dinner with Steve McCurry  and Khun Pom at the Devi Kroll hotel, while my girlfriend hopped a quick flight to India to have a private meeting with the Dali Lama (What do you say to a guy whose name starts with an article?) 

After the workshop, I was back in NYC to host the first Artist + Curator Seminar at my studio and get started on the other projects which will be running for the year.  Between the workshops in the Spring and Fall, there are some exciting new programs which I want to share with you.  (The remaining spaces are listed at the end of the article.)

Florence Workshop with Adam Marelli & Leica Miami, sold out.

Florence Workshop with Adam Marelli & Leica Miami, sold out.

Talks

While public speaking is often cited as a major fear, my “nervous in front of strangers” button must to be broken.  It turns out, when I’m not in the studio or tucked behind a camera, I like speaking.  But even more than speaking I love answering your questions.  The opportunity to engage with people is something that I have come to appreciate.  On the spot and unscripted, I like to hear from creative people who are on the verge of taking the plunge from “employment” to “self employment.”

For this reason, there will be more speaking engagements this year, and next year too (see the Leica Boutique Exhibition below.)  Kicking it off, I was invited by Helen Todd, who you know from last year’s SXSW talk, to speak at Social Media Week.  I was proud to be the only speaker at Social Media Week who is not on Twitter…ironic, maybe…funny…for sure.  We ran a continuation of our program “Exploring Deep Creativity” and we will be back in Las Vegas again this year for the second round of SXSW V2V.  If you are thinking about a startup you always wanted to get going, V2V is a great place to find inspiration, connections, and a little helpful advice to get the ball rolling.

A Room for Improvement, with Adam Marelli on Art Photo Feature.

A Room for Improvement, with Adam Marelli on Art Photo Feature. © Adam Marelli

Online Courses

If you can’t make the talks but want to get a little more out of the computer than Buzzfeed personality tests, I have two announcements which you should enjoy.

UDEMY Online Photography Classes: First, I am partnering with the online education program Udemy to offer photography courses that will bring my unique approach to art and photography right into your home.  After three years of running workshops, I came to two conclusions: (1) I wish that photographers could study a number of concepts before the workshop so we don’t have to spend precious workshop time covering things that someone could watch online.  (2) Not everyone wants to go on a workshop, but they would like to improve their photography.  People have asked me about writing a book on composition and design, but I have not found a model that makes sense, either financially or in format.  I learned about art and photography from someone explaining concepts to me, which is why I feel like video will be the best format for teaching these concepts.  Books are only supplements, which is why Udemy came at the perfect time.

The first video in the series will be released around the beginning of May, with announcements here on the site first.  Oh and did I mention that these courses will be somewhere in the range of $20 a class?

A Room for Improvement with Adam Marelli: Secondly, as of last Friday I started recording street photography critiques with Art Photo Feature called “A Room for Improvement with Adam Marelli.”  A small play on words, I wanted to create a video series to give feedback that focuses on the positives in photography rather than the negatives.  We will look at what photographers are already doing well and how they can make their images cleaner, more powerful, and more meaningful.  Rohit and Vineet Vohra, the founders of APF, have done an excellent job of raising the bar of street photography coming out of Asia and I am happy to be a part of pushing it up even higher.

6 Keijiro Miyanishi Charcoal Maker Adam Marelli

Keijiro Miyanishi, Traditional Charcoal Maker, Kyoto/JAPAN. © Adam Marelli

Exhibitions

Back in NYC, I want to announce three exhibitions in the coming months.

LEICA BOUTIQUE X Adam Marelli:  This Spring the Leica Boutique (Soho) will host an exhibition on my series “Lost Ceremony” opening Thursday May 8th, 2014.  It will be an opportunity for many of you to see the images in person and even go home with a few.  I have designed this exhibition with the burgeoning photography collector in mind. More details on the show and the following talk coming soon.

SCOPE and Marc E. Babej: I would like to congratulate Marc, one of my One on One photographers, for having his work featured at Scope this year.  For anyone who feels like they needed to go to art school to get a gallery, guess again.  Marc has worked very hard in the last year to get his projects exhibited and it’s all coming together.  Well done Marc!

Bangkok and Rammy Narula:  My other “hardest working photographer,” Rammy Narula will have his first exhibition in April over in Bangkok (official announcement forthcoming.)  Just like Marc, Rammy really put his head down over the last year, and they have both turned up some wonderful awards, publications, and now exhibitions.  On a personal note, I’m delighted to see the the One on One program doing exactly what I had hoped.  It’s given photographers tangible solutions to making a body of work that goes WAY beyond personal satisfaction and earns them international recognition.  Bravo gentlemen!

The Workshop, Kyoto/JAPAN 2014...now open.  © Adam Marelli

The Workshop, Kyoto/JAPAN 2014…now open. © Adam Marelli

Conclusion

As much as I love traveling, I look forward to my time at home for the next two months.  The to-do list is not getting any shorter and airports spell disaster when it comes to getting this finished.  Plus it will give me a chance to host some friends and go to some exciting events like the Explorer’s Club Annual Gala.  Joining me at the gala will be Getrude Matshe.  She is originally from Zimbabwe, lives in New Zealand, and you might have seen her on TED.  Through a strange turn of events, I had the good fortune to help her out with her upcoming talk at the United Nations.  I would never have thought that some of my ideas would end up on the floor at the UN.  Looks like NYC still has a few surprises in store for me.

Anyway, before I go on too long, I wanted to leave you guys with the updates on the workshop schedule.

2014 Workshop Availability

  • New York City/USA (April 26-27, Saturday-Sunday) SOLD OUT
  • Florence/ITALY (May 12-16, Monday-Friday) SOLD OUT
  • Matera/ITALY (May 21-25, Wednesday-Sunday) 1 spot left
  • Berlin/GERMANY (June 13-15, Friday-Sunday) 3 spots left
  • London/ENGLAND (June 20-22, Friday-Sunday) 1 spot left
  • New York City/USA Seminar (July 19 Saturday) 3 spots left
  • Venice & Verona/ITALY (September 29-October 3) SOLD OUT
  • NEW Kyoto/JAPAN (November 3-7) 4 spots left

 

Honore de Balzac on Unity.  Maizuru/JAPAN.  Adam Marelli

Honore de Balzac on Unity. Maizuru/JAPAN. Adam Marelli

Best-Adam Marelli

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INSPIRATION: Piet Mondrian http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/02/inspiration-piet-mondrian/ http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/02/inspiration-piet-mondrian/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 23:17:24 +0000 adam http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/?p=5931 [more...]]]> Inspiration: Piet Mondrian

The Slow Fade

“GONE FISHING”

 

Inspiration Piet Mondrian by Adam Marelli

Inspiration Piet Mondrian by Adam Marelli

Introduction

Our brains make powerful associations with shapes, colors, and patterns.  We are visual beings who are programmed, to a lesser extent, to make meaning of the things we see.  But how does an artist make visual contributions if they see the same things as an accountant?

This is Piet Mondrian, an artist...not actually an accountant, but you would never know by this picture. Piet Mondrian by André Kertész

This is Piet Mondrian, an artist…not actually an accountant, but you would never know by this picture. Piet Mondrian by André Kertész

The Museum Walls

When I would visit museums as a child, the canvases of Italian, Spanish and Dutch painters were endlessly fascinating.  The swinging nudes, the battle scenes filled with decapitated soldiers, and the dramatic illustrations of bible stories (though I was extremely skeptical of my Christian upbringing) had me transfixed on art’s ability to be more interesting than life (or at least my life.)  But no matter where I went, or who told me it was important, the world of abstraction did not appeal to me.

Composition 8 by Vassili Kandinsky

Composition 8 by Wassily Kandinsky

The grids of circles, squares and rectangles looked like a life-sized coloring book for a wallpaper convention.  Artists from Ellsworth Kelley to Wassily Kandinsky left me scratching my head.  Why would anyone want to paint a square?  It seemed like a pointless task, especially when you could paint dancing nymphs, terrible warlords, or the far reaches of the human imagination?  Then one day during high school, things started to become a little clearer through the canvases of Piet Mondrian.

Together with a good friend, my sister and my mother’s car, we drove to MoMA to see Piet Mondrian’s “Broadway Boogie Woogie.”  The day was transformative…not only did I slightly rear end a limo at the toll booth, I also managed to park in front of the Czech Embassy and have my mother’s car impounded.  Two hundred and thirty dollars later, it was the most expensive trip to a museum I’ve ever had, but worth every penny.  In the end we got the car back, the scratch on the bumper was hardly visible, and we all agreed that my mother would be more interested in our art findings than the mysterious charge from the NYC Department of Transportation on her credit card.

Piet Mondrian Self Portrait (left) and Stammer Mill with Streaked Sky (right.)

Piet Mondrian Self Portrait (left) and Stammer Mill with Streaked Sky (right.)

Circle makes a Square

Back to the art…most abstract artists, like Piet Mondrian, were not always so abstract.  They came from the same Classical European painting tradition that fed Velasquez, Rubens, and Rembrandt.  They were not painting abstraction because they could not paint portraits and still lifes, but rather, they wanted to emphasize a different aspect of our visual world.  For those of you who have not been tortured with the slide lectures of an art history degree, think of it this way:

Abstraction, when it is done well…is like

making a painting of DNA rather than making

a portrait. Both approaches are equally valid,

they just emphasize different things.

 

To understand how or why Piet might have moved to pure geometry, I wanted to look at one of his early paintings that gives us a flash of insight as to his growth as an abstract painter.

Gone Fishing by Piet Mondrian.

“Going Fishing” (1898-1900) by Piet Mondrian.

Going Fishing

At first glance it would be hard to guess that “Going Fishing” (1898-1900) could have come from the same artist that would make “Broadway Boogie Woogie” (1943) four decades later.  While one is a naturalistic view of a fisherman working in a harbor and the other a matrix of squares and rectangles, they actually share a lot in common.  And when we look at them with a transition piece, Piet’s growth from a classical European painter to one of the worlds most famous (and dare I say loved) abstract artists becomes a little less mysterious.

"Tree" by Piet Mondrian

“Tree” by Piet Mondrian

It’s not until we start describing “Going Fishing” in words, that we can easily understand that Piet was working in squares his entire life.  What he changed about the square was how he employed it on a canvas.  In his early work, we can see him painting pictures of  squares.  The floating docks and boats, all blocks set afloat on water, are an exercise in squares and rectangles.  There is a harbor filled with the platforms being shuffled by a fisherman.  You can almost hear the waterlogged panels as they thud quietly against one another.  It was as if Piet had his muse, but still did not know what to do with it.  The boat, the floating pads, and the single man possess the DNA of his later paintings, except he switches the immediacy of his subject when he comes to America.

"Broadway Boogie Woogie," (1943) by Piet Mondrian.

“Broadway Boogie Woogie,” (1943) by Piet Mondrian.

The Grid of New York City

New York City is a like a muse who occasionally likes to slap her artist around.  It can be a rough relationship.  Harsh at times, New York City offers an energy that is unique.  There is something about the city that caught Piet, just as it caught everyone from Walt Whitman to Andy Warhol.  So as he left his native Europe for New York City (in the 1940’s), we see how he stopped painting pictures of “square objects” and opted for directly painting the squares.  Can you see the influence of the city on Piet?  The colors, the grid, the lights, the rhythm…it’s all there (and on the section too).

Renoir once commented that, “You look at a painting, you live with it.”  I’d love to live with both of these paintings, but unfortunately one is at the Musée D’Orsay in Paris and the other is at MoMA in New York City.  So maybe they will have to live only in our imagination.  Though what could be a better reason for a trip to Paris than to see “Going Fishing” again in person.  Sounds like something I might just do.

Conclusion

Next time you are feeling like you are out of creative juices, have a look through the works of someone like Mondrian.  Find encouragement in his growth and range which developed over the course of his career, because chances are you are just like him.  You know what you want to do; it’s been in your work since the beginning, it just needs to take a new form.

While I still enjoy my Renaissance Masters, my tastes in art have evolved tremendously over the last twenty years.  As a high school art student, I would never have described a bunch of squares as remotely interesting, let alone influential.  They were too abstract for my sensibilities at the time.  All of art will never be interesting all at once.  As we change, the art changes too.  Now, I can’t imagine life without a bit of abstraction here or there.  For what it does, as the DNA of art, it does so well.  Although too much time at the microscope is bound to burn you out eventually.

Best-Adam Marelli

 

Additional Reading...

Additional Reading…

Additional Reading

 

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Found Cell Phone (NYC Taxi) http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/02/found-cell-phone-nyc-taxi/ http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/02/found-cell-phone-nyc-taxi/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 20:59:09 +0000 adam http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/?p=5918 [more...]]]> Found cell phone in taxi

What would you do?

NEW YORK CITY

Where is sage advice when you need it? St. Jerome by Caravaggio

Where is sage advice when you need it? St. Jerome by Caravaggio

Moral Dilemma

What would you do if you found a Blackberry in a taxi?  We live on our cell phones.  Aside from losing a passport or a wallet, a cell phone is one of the things you would give an arm and a leg to get back.  The loss can range from being a huge inconvenience to losing all of those memories and pictures that you forgot to back up.

Last week, in a morning haze, I went to Central Park to exercise.  When I opened the taxi door on the the corner of LaSalle and Broadway, a shiny Blackberry fell on the icy ground.  I picked it up and got into the cab.  The taxi driver had a tough time understanding, “72nd and Central Park West,” which normally does not matter.  But as I sat there with the phone, I felt like giving it to him might be a long-winded way of returning the phone.

NYC Police Car and NYC Taxi.

NYC Police Car and NYC Taxi.

Taxi Cabs and Police Cars

It would not take an automobile expert any time to realize that taxi cabs and police cars are the same in NYC.  The only difference in the cars are the paint jobs.  Perhaps it says a lot about how the NYC Taxi Commission views their customers.  But for anyone who has taken a cab in NYC, you know that the seats seem to eat things from your pockets.

NYC Taxi’s have claimed many possessions of mine.  The hardest loss was an Arc’teryx jacket I left as I hopped a train from Penn Station.  Once I lost a cell phone, but it was a work phone so I was actually a little happy to have lost it.  Either way, it is no fun to lose something in a cab because things do not always make their way back to you.  Admittedly, I had some sympathy for whoever lost this Blackberry.

So what do you do? In the short ride I had from my apartment to 86th street, my pre-coffee brain thought of (4) options:

1.  I could leave the phone on the seat and let the next person find it.  (Certainly an option, but kind of a d**k move to just slough the problem off on the next person)

2.  I could give the phone to the driver, let him know someone left it and call it a day.  (Had the guy been able to muster out more than a few words in English, this might have been an option.  But considering that I was almost guaranteeing the phone’s owner either an enormous language block or the hassle of retrieving it from a taxi garage in Queens, this seemed like a passable option that would probably require a few hours of work on the part of the owner.)

3.  I could keep the phone with me and arrange to meet the owner.  (This seemed like a good option.  It might be a pain on my part, but at least I could be confident they would get the phone back.  The gesture would never lead to the retrieval of my Arc’teryx jacket, but I would be happy to have made the effort. Do unto others or however that expression goes…)

4.  Or lastly, I could personally deliver the phone, in a cab, at my own expense, clear across town when I had a 10:00am meeting, to a less than pleasant owner, taking on an additional $50 cab fare and losing an hour and a half of my morning to crosstown traffic.

Decisions, decisions…

I chose option 4. Why?  Let me explain.  When the phone finally rang, an accusatory voice said, “You have my phone, where are you?”  The conversation went something like this:

“Why do you have my phone?”

“You left it in a cab?”

“Well I need it, it’s got all my emails and travel on there…I live off my phone, why do you have it?”  (at this point I’m thinking, wow, this is one of NYC’s finest self important a**holes who says stuff like “Do you know who I am?!”)

“Because you left it in a cab, the cab driver hardly spoke English, and I figured it would be easier for you to get it back from me than him.  Where do you want to meet me?”

“Where are you?”

“I’m on 86th and Broadway. Where would you like to meet?”

“Well I’m at home, I’m not dressed, I need the phone for work, I’m gonna be late.”

“Ok, so where would you like to meet?”

“I’m at 64th and York. I don’t have time to meet, but I need that phone back.”

“That’s clear across town from where I am right now.  Can you send someone to pick it up?” (I figured if someone is THAT important, they can send someone else to get it.)

“I don’t have a DRIVER, I need my phone.”

“Yes, I gathered that, and I’m trying to find a way to meet you, but understand that I have a day, no different than yours.  I’m trying to help you, but at this point all you are telling me is that you need to get dressed and go to work.  Where can we meet?”

At this point, the woman on the other end of the phone is near hyperventilating.  No good deed goes unpunished right?  The idea flashes through my head that this is not my problem.  I can walk into the bank on the corner, give them the phone and they can sort it out.  But against all better judgement I said: “Here, I will tell you what, I will get in a cab and bring it to you…what’s that address again?

She gives me the address and $23 later I am at her door.  I convince the cab driver to wait for me.  It’s rush hour and will be next to impossible to catch a cab on the east side.

When I go inside, the frantic owner is a little less frantic and thankfully dressed.  She says that she only has $30 dollars on her, but we can go to the ATM.  I tell her not to worry about it.  The cab driver has been waiting for five minutes (about 3 months in most cabbies’ brains.)  She asks about the fare, I tell her it was $23 before I got out, it will be around $50 by the time I get home.  She insists we go to the ATM.

What form will the Goddess Fortune reveal herself?  Allegory of Fortuna by an anonymous Dutch artist.

What form will the Goddess Fortune reveal herself? Allegory of Fortuna by an anonymous Dutch artist.

Conclusion

She gives me the $30 and I tell her to forget about the rest.  It’s my treat.

“Why?” she asks.

“It’s…well it’s just my treat,” I tell her.

Back in the cab, I give the $30 in cash to the driver on top of the fare.  When he drops me off, $52 later, he thanks me again for the tip.  She got her phone, he got his tip and I have been running around uptown for almost two hours and am down fifty two dollars.  I’d say I did pretty well on the deal.

Living in New York City is a strange experience.  Some days it feels like the stars align in a magical way and other times the city sneaks up on you, pushes you from behind and kicks you in the nuts for good measure.  Somewhere between reality and illusion, that Friday came and went.  I still can’t say why I brought her the phone back.  I can assure you that I’m not a good Samaritan; that’s my mother.  She would have bought the lady a new phone, made her lunch, given her a hug, and offered to pick up her dry cleaning bill for the week.  I just felt like it would be better if I brought it back.  I can’t explain it and I guess that’s ok.  Not everything needs to make sense.  When Andrea texted me later, after getting her wits back, she sent me the text below.  All I can say is I’m glad it worked out.  #NYCSTORIES

We will wait and see what good fortune lies before us, right?

We will wait and see what good fortune lies before us, right?

Best-Adam Marelli

 

 

 

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