Archive for March 2009

Model: Anita Aleksoska
Photo: Dejan Milichevic
Equipment: Olympus E-3

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Yesterday was the fourth and final day of the photo show held by the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD) at the Park Avenue Armory here in New York. I attended for all four days – after work for a short time on Thursday and Friday, then longer Saturday and yesterday. As far as I can tell, this was the first time that I attended the event since 2004, the last year for which I have a catalog (and I know that I got a catalog every year I went).

This was also the first time that I went to the event at the Armory, it having been previously held on two floors of the New York Hilton Hotel. I remember that the first time I went, my head was spinning with the sheer amount of prints to look at – on the walls of the dealers’ booths but mostly in the bins to look through. Everything that one could want to see (or so it seemed) from mid-19th Century prints to contemporary work. My catalogs tell me that I went every year from 1998 to 2004 with the exception of 2001.

So, why haven’t I gone for so long? I remember that initially I was away when the show was held, then I had the surgery on my foot that made standing difficult, then I just got used to not going. (Inertia, as most of you may know, is a difficult force to overcome.) Now that I’m trying to get active again and am taking my collecting a little more seriously, I thought it time to finally go back.

So, how’d it go? Pretty well, I’d say. As I was there for several days and was open to the idea of getting something for my collection, I took my time looking through things and spent time getting to know some of the dealers. (The man pictured here is Burt Finger, owner of the PDNB [Photographs Do Not Bend] Gallery in Dallas, Texas. He's holding a couple of prints in his inventory: the nude with the hand by Andre Kertesz, the nude in silhouette by Ralph Gibson.)

I don’t know how the floor plans compare, but I got the impression that there was less total space at the Armory than there was with the two floors at the Hilton. Still, people seemed to like the new location better. There also didn’t seem to be as many bins with photos to look through; some dealers, in fact, only had photos on the walls of their spaces. This was disappointing in some ways – I think I saw only one Jock Sturges photo, for example – but it also made things a bit less overwhelming.

Of course, there was plenty of great photography to be seen by a lot of great photographers: Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Irving Penn, Horst, Paul Caponigro, Michael Kenna, Keith Carter, Imogen Cunningham, Ruth Bernhard, Andre Kertesz, Edward Steichen, Jeanloup Sieff, Lillian Bassman and many more. I saw that two dealers had a copy of one of my favorite photos, "Imogen and Twinka" by Judy Dater, and at very different prices (the lower one still out of my price range, but maybe one day I’ll be able to afford it).

I also spoke with a couple of well-known photographers: Marilyn Bridges, who does wonderful aerial photography and who I knew already but I hadn’t seen for a while; and Steve McCurry, best known for his portrait of the red robed Afghan girl with the stunning eyes.

The event seemed to be fairly well attended this year despite the world’s economic woes. Thursday evening was quiet, more people were there Friday evening and the two weekend days seemed to be pretty well packed. I heard a couple of dealers say on Sunday afternoon that sales were pretty good though not as good as last year – but of course, they noted, this year is not last year.

As for me – well, most of what I would liked to have gotten was beyond my budget, but I did get a couple of relatively affordable prints by a well known, well published American photographer plus a couple of relatively inexpensive photos from eastern Europe. I want to re-matte these latter photos, but I saw that the photos are affixed to their mattes by tape on one side. Does anybody out there have any experience with undoing taped down photos?

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Martina PavlovskaMartina Pavlovska

Martina PavlovskaMartina Pavlovska

Martina PavlovskaMartina Pavlovska

Martina Pavlovska

Clothes and accessories: Rosica Mrsik
Model: Martina Pavlovska
Photo: Robert Janevski
Hair: Fote Gjamovski
Make up: Elena Arsovska

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Okay, it’s been about a week since the new 2257 rules went into effect, but I haven’t heard of anybody being hauled off in cuffs yet. Still, give it time. David Swanson made a blog posting last week basically saying “Come and get me!,” so let’s see if they will. Stephen Haynes wrote a book about them, and as he seems to know much more about this legal stuff than me, I’m planning to buy a copy. I figure that it’s worth it to be able to both continue photographing nudes and avoid going to federal prison.

Still, until such a time as I can get a handle on this stuff and believe that I can comply with it, I am going to put photographing nudes on hold. As I wrote before, I have plenty of other photographic stuff to keep me busy and, in fact, I really need to take a break for a while.

So, what are some of the things that I want to do? Let’s see.

Develop film: I still have about 24 rolls of film to develop. A dozen or so are nudes that I photographed at the Community Zoe get-together in California last September, and the rest are photos of the two models I worked with in my home studio set-up in November and February. Of course, I’ll also have to take the time to file those negatives into pages, along with the 51 (yikes!) rolls that I’ve already developed but are awaiting filing.

Scan film: If my readers here want to see the photos I’ve developed, I’ve got to scan them, too, which can be a rather time-consuming process. I also want to begin a project to scan all of the negatives that I’ve made into fiber prints over the years to create a catalog of what I’ve done.

Catalog my files: Not too long ago I put labels on all of my negative page binders, both a sequential number and an overview of what’s contained on these negatives. The next step would be to catalog those pages and put them on a spreadsheet, so I can easily look up something if I want to find it without having to search too much.

Work on my new website: Yes, I’ve been working on a new website for my photos, too. Actually, it’s mostly set up already. I just need to scan more photos and prep them so I can populate the new site with a representative sampling of both my art nude and travel work – and that takes time.

Prepare a magazine presentation: I’ve recently subscribed to LensWork magazine – a publication that presents portfolios of fine B&W photography - and I’d like to put together a presentation to have them publish some of my work. The question is: which subject? I haven’t really seen them publish many (if any) nudes, so my travel work would be the obvious thing to submit. At first I was thinking of my photos of Japan, but that might a bit too broad a topic, so right now I’m thinking of the portraits I’ve made of people in Southeast Asia. That would seem to fall in line with some of the things I’ve seen them publish already. To do this, I’ll have to scan more negatives, print them all out (probably on my inkjet printer, as the prints are just for review) and make some non-digital prints of some images to match the scans with the prints for publication – all in all, a lot of work.

Produce some books: I’ve made a lot of photos over the years, and I figure that it’s time that I worked on a book or two. It seems like nearly everybody else have. I do plan to start small. The first black & white book I want to work on is an album of the photos I took at my cousin’s wedding several years ago. I created an album on DVD with photos and music that I gave to my cousin and my aunt, but never anything in print. Doing this will familiarize me with layout out a book and such things, and it’ll give me idea of the quality of the company’s B&W printing. As it will be private, I won’t have to worry about marketing it, either.

The next thing I’m thinking of doing is to put together a not-too-large book of some of my color photos from my trips to Asia. Most of these were made with my pocket digital cameras - though during the first year of my recent Asia travels, I was using my trusty little Olympus Stylus with film. This should give me more experience with the book creation process, and as the subject matter is not private, I will make it available for sale. Right now I’m planning to use Blurb, in part because its books can be put up for sale on its website on a print-on-demand basis. (The photos I'm posting today are from my 2004 trip to Japan and made with the Stylus. These scans were made from 4x6 inch prints, but for a book I'll have to scan the negatives.)

Of course, the main things I want to put out in book form are my B&W nude and travel photos. For the nudes, I’m thinking right now of putting together a career retrospective of my images from 1995 to 2009. With that many years to cover, I will need to do a helluva lot of scanning as well as a helluva lot of editing – so don’t expect to see this any time soon.

I’d also like to try to do something with my Asia photos – possibly a book of my photos of Japan (I’ve made two trips there and hope to return for more) and one of Southeast Asia, which I have visited three times so far. If I make some return trips to Tibet, that’s a possibility, too.

Printing: I’ve only printed photos twice during the past five and a half years and I really need to get back to it. That is, ultimately, the primary goal of my photographically – to make beautiful prints.

Travel and photograph: Of course, just because I’m putting my photography of nudes on hold, it doesn’t mean that I have to stop my travel photography, too. I already have one major trip in the works for this year and I may have enough vacation time at work to take a shorter trip later in the year, as well.

So, as you can see, even if I don’t photograph any nudes for a while, I’ve got plenty to keep me busy photographically – and that’s in addition to going to work, doing laundry, shopping, cleaning, going to museums, galleries, concerts and – occasionally – sitting back and relaxing!

Most immediately, my photographic interests will be concentrated on viewing, as the annual AIPAD photography dealers show takes place from Thursday to Sunday at the Park Avenue armory here in New York. I’ve read that this is the oldest and largest photography fair in the world, with 75 galleries and dealers from around the world coming to New York to show and (try to) sell their prints. Nobody is obliged to buy anything, of course, though if I see something that I like (I’m sure I'll see plenty) at a good price I can afford (that’s another matter), I may end up adding something to my collection.

So, if you’re interested in photography and in or near New York City, you should consider a visit.

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Model: Suzana Al-Salkini
Photographers: Vladimir Georgiev, Ani & Dimi, Igor Ivanovski, Blagoja Gruevski
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Well, it will be here tomorrow. That’s when the new 2257 rules and regulations to combat child pornography go into effect. The big question is: will these rules also combat art nude photography? Perhaps a bigger question is: were they written with the intention of combating only child pornography or is it something more insidious designed to go after serious artists, as well?

If these new rules are meant to combat child pornography, then all of the images covered must by definition be pornographic. I mean, if an image is not pornographic and a minor is involved, then it can’t really be kiddy porn, can it?

I wrote earlier about how these new regulations might have hampered or prevented the creation of some great artworks of the past. (Click here to see that posting.) Today I am going to write about something a bit more relevant – if and how these new rules will apply to my own photography.

First, let’s take a look at what some of these new rules are. For this, I am going to use this web page from the U.S.Department of Justice, its 2257 Compliance Guide coming from the Obscenity Prosecution Taskforce.

Let’s begin with this statement from the summary of the new requirements:

Part 75 requires that, prior to producing a visual depiction of actual or simulated sexually explicit conduct, a primary producer must examine a government-issued picture identification card belonging to each performer in the visual depiction that demonstrates that the performer is 18 years old or older. The primary producer must then record the legal name, any aliases, and the date of birth of the performer, record the date of production of the depiction, and make a copy of the picture identification card. Once production is complete, a copy of the visual depiction must be maintained along with these records.

So, as I read this, I will need to make a copy of every single negative that could possibly be covered by the new statute and keep them with the ID’s. If I shoot 120 frames in a typical three-hour photo session, and half of those show frontal nudity that may be covered, I will need to scan 60 negatives, which is much, much more than I normally scan and will take a helluva long time to complete. If that isn’t an encumbrance to my art, then what is?

Now, let’s look at what actually will be covered by the new rules. According the DoJ:

Q. Which depictions are covered by the regulation?
A. The regulation applies to visual depictions of actual human beings engaged in actual or simulated sexually explicit conduct. However, with respect to depictions of actual sexually explicit conduct consisting of only lascivious exhibition or depictions of simulated sexually explicit conduct, the regulation applies only with respect to such depictions that are originally produced after March 18, 2009.

Q. What is "lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area"?
A. The regulation does not define the term "lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area," but the Department of Justice will rely on precedent from child pornography prosecutions for 18 U.S.C. § 2257 investigations and prosecutions involving such depictions. In that context, judicial precedent indicates that a depiction can constitute lascivious exhibition if, among other things: (1) the focal point is on the subject's genitalia or pubic area; (2) the setting of the visual depiction is sexually suggestive, i.e., in a place or pose generally associated with sexual activity; (3) the visual depiction suggests sexual coyness or a willingness to engage in sexual activity; or (4) the visual depiction is intended or designed to elicit a sexual response in the viewer. For more detail, see 73 Fed. Reg. at 77433 and 77440-41.

Well, my photos don’t include sexually explicit conduct, either real or simulated (though in the case of my photo that was banned by Kodak, it was mistaken for one - her hand covering up her naughty bits being mistaken for her "touching herself.") My prime concern, and the concern of many others I’m sure, is the new “lascivious exhibition” clause. So just what does that mean?

According to DoJ, the regulation does not define it, but as you can see, it lists some things that will apply. First of all, what bothers me a lot is that this list is “among other things.” This is their way of saying that this is not a complete list and that they can arrest you for something that is not specified here. It seems almost Kafkaesque. I think it was Franz Kafka’s novel The Trial in which the protagonist is arrested but is never told what the charges are against him. With these new DoJ rules, I’m sure you’ll be told what the charges are when you’re arrested. The problem is that they won’t have told you that what you did is illegal until after you’ve already done it!

Still, let’s look at some of those things that are listed. The first says that these rules apply if “the focal point is on the subject’s genitalia or pubic area.” By “pubic area,” I imagine that it includes pubic hair or the area where it would be if it’s been removed. So, let’s look at an example – in this case, the photo at the top.

I made this photo last summer during the workshop I attended in Colorado. It shows a close-up of the model’s mid-section, and I intended it to be a study of hips, thighs and hands. There was no pornographic intent here, but one can argue that the pubic area is the focal point of the image and it is therefore covered by the regs (and is, by definition, pornographic). I've posted another photo that I made back in 1995 that can have the same thing said of it. So, either I must forever stop making images like these or risk going to prison.

Now, let’s look at #2: “the setting of the visual depiction is sexually suggestive, i.e., in a place or pose generally associated with sexual activity.” I suppose that a bed is the most obvious place that falls under this point. So let’s look at the color photo I made of Betcee May in 2007 in my hotel room near Los Angeles. I didn’t have an outdoor location to work in, so I really had no choice but to photograph Betcee in the room. Here we see her lying on the bed (a sexually suggestive place), and her pubic hair (meaning her pubic area) is clearly visible. This image may seem a bit on the glam side, but I definitely don’t think it’s pornographic – yet according to what DoJ has written, it is. (I guess that from now on I’ll have to ask my models to stretch out on the floor instead if I don’t want to go to prison. Either that or keep a fig leaf in my camera bag at all times.)

Okay, now let’s go to #3: “the visual depiction suggests sexual coyness or a willingness to engage in sexual activity.” I have never been exactly sure what the “coy” means, so I looked it up in the dictionary, and this is how Webster defines it: 1. shy, demure; 2. pretending to be shy. “Demure” means ‘modest, reserved or decorous.’ So, potentially, #3 could pertain to images where the model looks willing to engage in sexual activity or looks unwilling to engage in sexual activity! What kind of bullshit is this? I mean, can’t they make up their minds??? If it weren’t so serious it could be laughable.

Perhaps more important is that this refers to something called attitude, which is open to many ways of interpretation. If I’m doing a frontal nude portrait of a model, can I only make photos where that model has a stone expression on her face, revealing no attitude at all? Do I run the risk of five years in the slammer if I dare to have her display different expressions, some (or even one) that may interpreted as being sexually coy or willing? I’m posting several examples where the model’s pubic area is visible and they have expressions subject to interpretation. Do I need to give up making images like this for fear that somebody at DoJ will interpret them a certain way and thus be deemed pornographic?

I could, of course, put a bag over the model’s head to make sure that no expression shows, but then DoJ would probably get me by claiming that it was one of the “other” things that they didn’t bother to mention. (Perhaps a fig leaf would work better.)

That same interpretive component applies to #4, too. What’s interesting is that is says that the depiction is “intended or designed to elicit a sexual response.” Suppose someone creates an image where the photographer or artist had no such intention, but it is still interpreted by someone else to have that intent. The only person who can truly know the true intent is the one who created the image, but what if someone at DoJ believes otherwise? As I wrote above, regarding the image that was banned by Kodak, I know what the intent of the placement of her hand was but someone at Kodak thought they knew better. If Kodak can do it, why can't some prosecutor do the same?

Now, some of you may be saying that I'm interpeting these things too broadly and that I'm taking the meaning too literally, but that's just the point I'm trying to make. As long as these rules are written the way they are and I can apply them to my photography, what's to stop someone at the Department of Justice from doing just that?

Another thing that bothers me about the rules are those relating to non-U.S. citizens. It says that if I photograph a foreign model outside the U.S., an ID issued by a foreign government is acceptable. If, however, I photograph that same model in the U.S., that foreign ID is not acceptable and only a U.S. issued ID is valid. I don’t know if foreign models with work visas get issued photo ID cards with their date of birth listed, but if they don’t, then what? Even more, suppose I decide to photograph a foreign friend on an unpaid, non-commercial basis. How the hell is that person supposed to get a U.S. issued ID card?

The way I see it, what is covered by these new rules is so broadly defined that much of my photography is potentially covered by it, and I therefore do not know if I can continue to do fine art nude work due to the potential liability. Either that, or I will be so restricted in what I can do that continuing may no longer be worth the effort.

Of course, there is the “Safe Harbor” exemption, which seems to mean that you stipulate that you keep the proper records in the normal order of business and don’t have to comply with the impossible-to-abide-by record keeping requirements. According to the DoJ website, one can apply for this exemption for:

any visual depiction that (1) is intended for commercial distribution; (2) is created as a part of a commercial enterprise; and (3) either (i) is not produced, marketed or made available in circumstances such that an ordinary person would conclude that the matter is child pornography, or (ii) is subject to regulation by the Federal Communications Commission regarding the broadcast of obscene, indecent, or profane programming.

The question is, regarding a fine art photographer like me, what exactly does “commercial distribution” and “commercial enterprise” mean? I have always said that I create my photos for non-commercial purposes, with the word “commercial” being defined to me as ‘for advertising.’ If one intends to sell one’s art prints, is that considered to be commercial? And just because one intends (meaning ‘hopes’) to sell prints, will the enterprise really be considered commercial if few or no prints are sold in actuality? After all, anybody can put up a website and claim that the prints are for sale, even if that is not a serious intent.

For quite a few years, I’ve been filing photographic income on my income tax as a commercial photographer would. The problem is that my meager photo income is dwarfed by my expenses, and someone could easily argue that my photography is not really a true commercial enterprise (or certainly not a profitable one).
Once I get started printing again (whenever that will be), I’m planning to apply for membership in a cooperative gallery here in New York and also to run some ads now and then in B&W magazine. If I get accepted and get to exhibit my work there, and run the ads, will that be enough to legitimize my photography as a commercial enterprise, even if I earn no profit from it?

I also realize that there are some laws on the books that are rarely if ever enforced and that are routinely broken. Jaywalking is an obvious example. I cannot agree with those who think that we can just leave things as they are and think that these new regulations will never be used against legitimate art photographers. The 'church ladies' warning that one must get by to access this and other blogs of fine art photography proves that there are those who do not consider us to be legitimate. Jaywalking, as far as I know, also does not carry with it a five year prison sentence.

All I can say for certain is that these new, restrictive 2257 rules go into effect tomorrow and that as long as they’re in effect, I can no longer do nude photography as I once did. The truth be told, I really do need to take a break from photographing for a while, as I’ve got a lot of catching up to do with things and need time to work on other photo-related projects. However, cutting back on my photography should be my own choice, and I resent the fact that I’m being forced to do so by unfair, unconstitutional government regulations!

Let the legal challenges begin.

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I went to see Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera on Friday night. It was the first time that I’d seen it and it was terrific.

It didn’t start off that way for me, beginning when I sat down in my seat, which was in the second row of the top section on the right and the second in from the aisle. Unfortunately, my view of the stage was literally bisected in two by part of the railing that’s at the bottom of the stairs, so at times I had to shift right or left or up or down to see properly. Hopefully I won’t have to sit there again.

Enrico Caruso famously said that casting Il Trovatore is simple; all that's needed are the four best singers in the world. Well, the cast for this was very good, with American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky as the heroine, American mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick as the gypsy Azucena, Argentine tenor Marcelo Alvarez as the heroic troubador of the title and Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky as the bad guy. Unfortunately, Alvarez had to quit after the first act and was replaced by American tenor Philip Webb making his Met debut. He did a decent job. (I even read a news story about it, here.)

The longest ovations of the evening by far were given for Ms. Radvanovsky (photo, above) and they were well deserved. I had recently read in an interview with her that the Met has not signed for anything during the upcoming seasons, and I felt that this may have been the audience’s way of telling the Met’s management, “Bring her back! Bring her back!”

Well, I went around to the stage door afterwards to get an autograph and a photo, and I was happy to hear that she will be back at the Met after all to sing in Aida – but not until 2012 !!! Oh, well. Something to look forward to, I guess. She also mentioned that she’ll be making her first recording, which is good.

My other news regarding the Met is what I did not do – which was attend last night’s 125th anniversary gala. I have nobody else to blame but myself. As a former subscriber I was sent an invitation, but I waited on it so long that by the time I called in January all the tickets were gone.

I was seriously considering trying to get a standing room ticket for such an event, but with my bad right foot still hurting when I stand on it for more than a short time, I decided not to do it. It was supposed to be webcast live on the Met’s website, but every time I tried it, no connection could be make and it didn’t work. The reviews I read today say that it was a fantastic evening of music and celebration.

Oh, well.

I did go yesterday to the International Center of Photography. The ground floor display of recent fashion photography as seen in magazines was not of much interest to me. The lower level exhibition of fashion and celebrity images from the 1920's and '30's by Edward Steichen (photo, right) was, conversely, lustrous.

I was not planning to lead off today’s post with opera stuff, as that’s what I posted last time. I was planning to post some digital images of the model I was going to photograph today, in my final photo session before the new 2257 regulations go into effect. The problem is that she never showed up.

I had made the arrangements a couple of weeks ago, and sent her an e-mail yesterday asking her to confirm. I never got a response. Then I tried calling her on her cell phone, and every time I tried, I got a message telling me that the call could not go through and to try again later.

I set up my studio gear in the hope that she would still show up, but she never did, so I don’t know what happened. I just hope that she’s okay.

This type of thing is why I don’t like to rent studio space. If the model fails to show, I’m still stuck with paying the rental bill. If I book two models to insure that I have at least one in the case of a no-show, then I run the risk of going over budget if both should show up.

Anyway, I’ve packed up my studio and photo gear and put it all away into my closets. Who knows when I’ll use them again. Like I said, this was to be my last photo shoot before the new 2257 rules go into effect this Thursday. Beginning then – well, just wait until you read my next posting in a couple of days to find out.
[Later: I finally heard from the model around 6 pm when she wrote to me on MM. She apologized and said that her phone had been stolen and she couldn't get in touch with me in time. I believe her and I'm glad she's okay. I just don't know when I'll be able work with her again.

Oh, well.]

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Irena Ampova/Ирена АмповаIrena Ampova/Ирена Ампова

Irena Ampova/Ирена АмповаIrena Ampova/Ирена Ампова

Irena Ampova/Ирена АмповаIrena Ampova/Ирена Ампова

Model: Irena Ampova
Photographers: Avarel, Vladimir Georgiev and Aleksandar
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I got some good news this week: the basement storage bin that I was on the waiting list for finally came through. It’s in an adjacent building in my development rather than in my own building, but hey – I’ll take it. In fact, I've already paid for it and gotten the keys.

Last year I walked over to a public storage warehouse that’s about a five minute drive from me to inquire into space there, as I really need to reduce the clutter around here. The bin I got here, which is about the same size as the one at the storage warehouse, required a one-time payment for me to use it for as long as I live here. For that same amount, I could have rented a space at the storage warehouse for about five months. I’ll probably start to bring stuff over on Saturday – my old suitcase (so I can put the new one in the closet), boxes, magazines I need to go through before getting rid of them for good, laser discs, some DVD players that I’ve upgraded from but still work fine, etc.

Of course, the problem with putting stuff ‘temporarily’ into storage before getting rid of it for good is the old ‘out of sight, out of mind’ problem. Still, I’ll worry about that later. I just want be able to see the other half of the floor in my junior bedroom again (that is, the half that’s now obscured by piles of magazines, etc.)

I’m going to see Il Trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera on Friday night. This is one of the great works by Verdi but somehow I have managed to miss seeing it until now – not necessarily a bad thing, as the previous Met production of it was supposed to be pretty bad. This new one is said to be much better, so hopefully waiting was a good thing.

Over the past few years, photography has been so overwhelming in my life that I haven’t taken the time to do too many other things. (Things look surgery and getting hit by a car didn't help, either.) To continue to get out and about the way I used to, I’ve decided to buy a subscription at the Met for next season. I had subscribed for a couple of seasons a few years ago, but I let it lapse. My subscription series includes:

Le Nozze di Figaro/Marriage of Figaro (Mozart)
Der Rosenkavalier (R. Strauss)
Elektra (R. Strauss)
Carmen (Bizet)
Aida (Verdi)
Hamlet (Thomas)
Der Fliegende Hollander/The Flying Dutchman (Wagner)
Armida (Rossini)

Of these eight, I’ve only seen three of them before. One of those is Elektra, and as I’m not a big fan of the operas of Richard Strauss, I’ll probably try to switch it for Verdi’s Attila or Stiffelio (both not performed too often). However, I am looking forward to seeing Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, which I have not seen and is supposed to be his best opera. (We’ll see.) I’m not a big fan of Wagner, either, but Flying Dutchman has always been of interest to me as one of his more accessable works.

Aida is also an unusual one for me. Although I’ve performed in it at the Met for two years as an extra, I have never actually seen it in its entirety and from the audience! The Met is doing some other good stuff next season, so I also ordered individual tickets for:

Les Contes d’Hoffman/The Tales of Hoffman (Offenbach)
Simon Boccanegra (Verdi)
The Nose (Shostakovich)
Il Trittico (Puccini)
La Traviata (Verdi)

All of these will be new to me except for La Traviata, which will be featuring my favorite singer, Angela Gheorghiu, in the role that made her a star. (I went to see her in it a few years ago but she cancelled that particular night.) She'll also be singing the title role in Carmen. Simon Boccanegra will be interesting in that Placido Domingo, one of the great tenors of his generation, will be singing a baritone role. Then there’s The Nose by the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, about a man who wakes up to find that his nose is missing (or isn’t it?).

Today's photos are (from the top down): Italian soprano Barbara Frittoli (who will be singing the role of Micaela, the good girl in Carmen); Angela Gheorghiu; and the great Placido Domingo. All photos were made by me at the Metropolitan Opera here in New York.

(By the way, if anybody other than Stephen Haynes finds any of this even remotely interesting, please do let me know!)

Finally, from the sublime to the ridiculous: I’m on a DVD. Yes, a real honest to goodness commercially produced DVD that can be bought in a video store or online. The name of the film (sit down for this one) is Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead. It was produced by Troma Films, the good people who brought us the Toxic Avenger films and other such schlock.

Anyway, my friend ‘Troma action star’ Joe Fleishaker has been in a number of their films, including this one. He plays a character named Jared, and after eating a toxic egg at a new fried chicken joint, he – well, take it from me, you really don’t want to know. At one point his character’s head implodes, so in order to do that, they had to make a cast of his head. Joe asked me to accompany him to the headcasting session, and someone from the film company was there with a video camera to record it, and it’s now one of the extra features on the three DVD set. I wasn’t sure if I’d be in it, but Joe got me a copy that I watched last weekend and I can indeed be seen a few times, and can even by heard asking a question or two to the guy making the cast.

So, it’s not Hollywood, but at least it’s given me my five seconds of fame.

(The Amazon link, in case you’re that interested, is: . And hey, I see that 29 reviewers have given it a 4 ½ star rating…LOL)

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Aleksandra ReaAleksandra Rea

Aleksandra ReaAleksandra Rea

Aleksandra ReaAleksandra Rea

Aleksandra Rea

Aleksandra Nasteska, also known as Aleksandra Rea is a Macedonian model and actress who lives and works in Vancouver, Canada. The Macedonian public knows her as the host of TV projects like "Cyber Space", "Female", "Na Carnex Sum", "Fantaskop", "Dossier Skopje" and numerous commercials. Presently she is working as a model and actress in North America and Asia.
Aleksandra (27) graduated from the prestigeous Vancouver Film School where she studied theatre, film and TV. Some of her most recent projects are: "Who Wants To Be An Amerikan", "Cottage", "Eureka", "The Hypnotist", "Impact" etc. She's the creator and producer of a TV show and a web service about and for the community of Vancouver, known as "Vancouver Heartbeat".

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