Archive for February 2010

I got the subscription brochure for next season at the Metropolitan Opera in the mail a couple of days ago. It looks like they've got quite a few things I've never seen before lined up: Verdi's "Don Carlo" with Roberto Alagna, Rossini's not often seen"Le Comte Ory" with Juan Diego Florez, Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" with the gorgeous Danielle de Niese, Donizetti's "Don Pasquale" with the lovely Anna Netrebko, Gluck's "Iphigenie en Tauride" with Placido Domingo, Debussy's "Pelleas et Melisande" with conductor Simon Rattle making his Met debut, Tchaikovsky's "Queen of Spades" with the beautiful Karita Mattila, Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette" with my favorite singer, Angela Gheorghiu, and celebrating the 100th anniversary of its world premiere at the Met, Puccini's "La Fanciulla del West." (Then there's John Adams' "Nixon in China,' which I'll have to think about.)

Of course, there are some that I have seen before but would happily see again, such as "Tosca" and "Boris Godunov" (NOT "Badenov"!).

Still, there are several months left to this season, and last night I went to see "La Boheme." It's unusual for me to go to the Met on a Wednesday night as I get home very late (I usually go on Friday, when I can sleep late the next day), but I had traded a subscription ticket for a Richard Strauss opera (not one of my favorite opera composers) for the Puccini gem and no Fridays were available.

Last night's "Boheme" starred the beautiful Russian soprano Anna Netrebko - one of opera's hottest commidities right now - as Mimi, and she was very effective as the tragic heroine. This is one of those operas that people have seen over and over again and keep going, and seeing it each time with a different cast helps to keep it interesting. Piotr Beczala was her lover, Rodolfo, with Nicole Cabell as Musetta. The ending is, of course, a tear jerker, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one in the house who had to pull a hanky out at the end. (In fact, I am certain, as I saw the man sitting next to me do the same. Unfortunately, he was also a heavy breather, so throughtout much of the opera I had to listen to his pulmonary functions in operation.)

This was a "Boheme" to remember, but the most memorable performance, for me, was when I worked at the Met as a supernumerary (i.e. extra) and appeared one night in Act 2 as one of the soldiers that march down the steps and across the stage at the end. What was most memorable to me were Acts 3 and 4, after I was done with being on stage.

A friend of mine had asked me to get an autograph from the tenor, Ramon Vargas, so I just sat on a chair in the wings, watching and waiting for the show to end. (I wasn't supposed to do that, but I asked one of the regulars there and he told me I should be okay.) So, I sat there offstage, all by myself, with an occasional stagehand going by. I could only see a sliver of the audience in the front rows from where I was sitting, so it was almost as though the singers were performing for me alone and nobody else. It was one of those instances that almost seems transcendent, and when Vargas cried out "Mimi!" upon his lover's death and the music swelled, I got chills just running up and down my spine.

I doubt that I will ever experience a "Boheme" like that again - but I do feel blessed that it happened even once.

"La Boheme" is a tear jerker by design, but sometimes circumstances conspire to achieve the same effect without intention.

Like many, I've been watching the winter Olympics on TV, including the figure skating. Four years ago, at the winter games in Torino, Italy, I absolutely loved watching the Japanese figure skater Shizuka Arakawa, who deservedly won the gold medal. She was a true "figure of grace."

So, I've been wondering upon whom to confer the "figure of grace" award for this year's Olympics. On Tuesday night, I watched the women's figure skating short program, and there were a lot of impressive performances, such as those by the American Mirai Nagasu, Asada Mao from Japan and of course, the Korean Kim Yu-na. Still, while the athleticism was there as well as a lot of showmanship, that sense of grace and elegance that Arakawa brought just seemed missing.

I did see a great deal of elegance in the gold medal winners for Ice Dancing, the Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. While I was hoping that the Americans, Meryl Davis and Charlie White would win (I think Davis has a very interesting face), I have to admit that the Canadians outdid them. (The programs they skated may have something to do with it. The Americans' skated a melodramatic program set to Webber's "Phantom of the Opera," while the Canadians skated a beautiful program set to a symphony by Gustav Mahler.)

Then I saw Joannie Rochette. If you don't know the story by now, this Canadian girl's mother died a few days before she herself had to skate. (If I understand correctly, it was unexpectedly, from a heart attack.) Everybody in the arena knew this, of course, and being a Canadian in Vancouver, she was given a rousing ovation. Then she skated. Beautifully. When it was over, she stood there in the middle of the rink on the verge of tears.

I was not on the verge of tears - as the tears had begun to cascade from both eyes minutes before. I think it was the most emotional thing I had ever seen on television - not just from a sporting event, but anything. Even Scott Hamilton, one of the announcers, had trouble speaking because he was so choked up. It sounded like the other announcers were in the same condition, and I doubt that there was a dry eye in the house. (I described it on the phone to my aunt today, and even she began to cry.)

So, the 2010 "Figure of Grace" award goes to Joannie Rochette from Canada, for performing at such a high level and so beautifully under such difficult circumstances. The silver medalist at the world championships last year, she finished third in the short program Tuesday night. I hope she'll do well in the long program tonight and will be able to stand up on the podium at the end.
At the top, a photo of Carlotta that I have surprisingly been able to upload from my computer.

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I spent today writing a long, long post that I had not yet finished. My computer could only open Blogger in what appeared to be a skeletal 'safe mode.' I tried saving it as I went, and copied it to the clipboard, too, in case that didn't work.

Then the window suddenly closed. When I was able to log back into Blogger here just now, in the normal mode, I went to edit and finish the post. Nothing was saved. Then I tried to paste it in from the clipboard. There was nothing there to paste.

Perhaps life was better before computers and the internet. (Or, at least, it's better with a properly working computer, unlike the piece of **** that I've got in front of me now.)

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I am writing once again from the comfort of my home and from the uncomfort of my own problematic computer. (More on that next time.) I returned home last night after a week spent visiting my friend Dave Levingston, and I want to thank Dave and his lovely wife Emily for the hospitality they showed me during my visit.

Dave and I visited Chicago for a couple of days, then returned to Ohio where I photographed some models, both in and out of the studio. For the last full day of my visit, I accompanied Dave up to the River's Edge Gallery in Wyandotte, Michigan. The occasion was the "meet the artists" reception for the Secret's Revealed exhibition, a show in which a couple of Dave's photographs are included.

(Wyandotte is located south of Detroit and seems like a nice town, and as it's located a short distance across the water from Canada, with Canada clearly visible, I guess the residents of the town are all experts on Canadian affairs.)

The gallery is spread over three floors, and upon arrival we proceeded up to the second floor, where the exhibition is being held. Dave and I walked around trying to find his art works on wall, without success. Then we headed back toward the stairs, and I heard Dave say "Duh!!!" Sure enough, there they were - Dave's photos - on the wall right by the stairs! We'd passed them by without even bothering to look on the wall there. You can see Dave in the photo below, repeating the pose from his self-portrait at the bottom, with one of his beautiful art nude photos above it.

Afterwards, I walked around a bit, speaking with some of the visitors, artists and the hostesses working the event. I was most pleased, though, to meet some of the other photographers with work in the show whose work I had seen online. One of these was local photographer Jim Young, who can be seen below standing next to his print in the show.

The other was Joe Crachiola, one of the voices behind the blog, What We Saw Today. I had seen Joe's name among the list of photographers in the show and had hoped that he would attend, but as he has recently moved from Detroit down to New Orleans, his attendance seemed unlikely. Nonetheless, all of a sudden he appeared at the top of the stairs and was greeted warmly by those who knew him. I did get the chance to speak with him briefly, but not nearly enough to ask him about his move to New Orleans and his life in photography. I hope that I will have that opportunity some time in the future.

Still, I'd be lying if I didn't say that the person I was most happy to see was Iris Dassault. Iris is a model and a photographer, and an all-around beautiful, talented, charming and intelligent woman. I had photographed Iris a few years ago and had not seen her since that time, and it was wonderful to catch up with her and talk about the things we've done in the past few years. I told her that she was the first (and so far, only) model that I've photographed who made dinner for ME afterwards - as it's usually the other way around. I hope I have the chance to work with her again before too long.

Overall then, it was a very nice evening at the gallery, and you can see a few more photos below.


Dave L, hostess, yours truly, Iris Dassault

Iris and her photo

Jim Young and Iris

Joe Crachiola

Art Nudes
Well, as I'm writing this from my computer at home, which - as I've written recently - cannot connect to the disc drives where my photos are stored, you may wonder why photos are appearing with this posting. The photos are here because I edited, saved and then posted them to the blog here on Dave L's computer in Ohio yesterday morning. Now that I'm at home, don't expect to see any more photos here until I get my new computer.

For now, though, given the lack of new photos that I'll be able to show you for a while, I've decided to post one photo (below) taken with my pocket digital camera during the nude photo sessions I did in Dave L's studio. The model is Revielle. I hope to post more in a few weeks, but for the time being, this is it.

A Sad Day

It was with great sadness today that I read the latest posting on Univers d'Artistes by Chris St. James. Basically, Chris wrote that he is losing his battle with multiple sclerosis and is bringing the blog to a close.

Though I had never met Chris in person or even spoke with him on the phone, I did think of him as a friend through our correspondence and limited collaboration on Univers d'Artistes. Chris was kind enough to write some features about me and my work, and often posted examples of my art nude photography.

When Chris was unable to continue with the blog due to his undergoing medical treatment, he entrusted the care of Univers d'Artistes to Iris Dassault and me, giving us the password and allowing us to update it as best as we could. (It's a bit ironic, then, that I met Iris a couple of nights ago, as I've described above, and talked about those days.)

I was really frightened then that Chris would be unable to continue with the blog at all, and that he hoped that Iris and I would fill his shoes - something I knew that I could never do (and I suspect Iris could not do, either).

The two of us made occasional posts to keep things going, but I was thrilled when Chris returned - mostly for the fact that the condition of his health was well enough to allow him to do so.

Eventually, Unbearable Lightness joined up and took a major role, and I tried to continue helping in whatever small way I could, but I think Chris always remained the heart and soul of Univer d'Artistes.

Now, it all seems to have come to an end. Looking back, I have to say that all of the art nude photographers whose work Chris helped bring to light and to a wider audience owe Chris a debt of gratitude, as he truly loved the art nude genre. We should all wish him peace and comfort in whatever time he has left.

At times like this, I guess I'm like everybody else in being at a loss for what to say, so I will just say this:

Rest easy, mon ami. Your spirit and energy will be remembered by those you touched. May your soul go gently into the night.

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I'm still here in Ohio visiting with my good friend, Mr. Dave Levingston. There's plenty of snow here - the most snow this area has had in the past 30 years - and it's cold outside to go with it, but I am having a good time here.

Today I'm going to write briefly about the second day of our visit to Chicago. While day one was devoted to seeing the "Femme Divine" exhibit (see my last posting),day two was devoted primarily to visiting the Art Institute of Chicago. I had never been to Chicago before, and I'd had a list of three things that I wanted to do there: go to the Art Institute, see a performance at the Lyric Opera and see a baseball game at Wrigley Field. Well, the only Lyric Opera performance that happened when I was there was the same night as the gallery reception, so obviously I couldn't go. As the baseball season doesn't begin until April, I couldn't see the Cubbies play at Wrigley, either (though I did see the Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue).

Still, one out of three isn't too bad, and if seeing the art works in the Art Institute is the only thing one does on a visit to Chicago, then it was a good visit.

Dave L and I didn't go to the Institute alone, however, as we were joined by my friend, the photographer Ted Preuss. Ted lives in Chicago and makes beautiful platinum print photographs, in case you're not familiar with him. (If you are not, then you should be. See some of his work here.) That's Dave L with the beard in the photo and Ted next to him.

Regarding the Art Institute, the only painting that I could think of that's in the collection there - and the one art work that I thought of when I thought of that museum - was George Seurat's pointilist masterpiece, "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte." That painting was indeed there, and it was a thrill to finally see it. (It's actually much larger than I had thought it to be.)

Seurat - "Sunday on La Grande Jatte"

Still, a great museum like the Art Institute holds many more masterpieces, and it was great to see those, as well. Some of those were Grant Wood's "American Gothic," Edward Hopper's iconic "Nighthawks" (though without Marilyn and James Dean), Picasso's Blue Period "Guitarist," Van Gogh's "My Bedroom," and a couple of Surrealist nude paintings by the Belgian artist Paul Delvaux. Additional works that caught my eye were paintings by Rembrandt, Diego Rivera, Franz Marc, Max Beckmann and Henri Matisse, plus some by artists I was unfamiliar with. A welcome surprise was one of my favorite Italian paintings, "The Lute Player" by Orazio Gentileschi, that was on display in a special exhibition.

Van Gogh

Grant Wood - "American Gothic"

Gentileschi's "Lute Player" (detail)

"Nighthawks" by Edward Hopper

Delvaux (detail)

Without question, however, the one art work I was most happy to see for the first time was Marc Chagall's "White Crucifixion," showing a crucified Jesus but depicting him as the Jew that he was. What's remarkable about this painting - and what I had never noticed before in book reproductions - are all of the small scenes that Chagall painted around the central figure. Wonderful scenes, though many of them are tragic in nature. As I was there in front of it, and as photos were allowed without flash, I made over twenty photos - mostly details - of this great work.

After we left the museum, Dave, Ted and I walked up Michigan Avenue, paying visits to the silvery, curvy, high reflective "Bean" sculpture (see photo at top) and the giant sculpture of "American Gothic," the latter across the street from the aforementioned Wrigley Building.

Then, Ted took us to his home and his new studio, where he showed us examples of his marvelous platinum prints. For dinner that night, Dave and I walked a few blocks from our hotel to The Green Door Tavern, a former speakeasy, housed in one of the few wooden commercial buildings built following the great Chicago fire of 1871. (Such new buildings were outlawed shortly after it was built.)

The next day, Monday, Dave and I rode back to his home here in Ohio, much of it through falling snow. We saw plenty of vehicles ditched on the side of the rode, including one very large truck that had flipped over onto its side. Since then, I've been photographing models in Dave's new studio, among other things. I'll write more about that next time.

Before that, Dave and I will be riding up on Saturday to Detroit to attend a reception at the River's Edge Gallery for a show that includes some of Dave's photos. If you're in the Detroit area, please come on down to see us. You can read more about the event here.

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Hi, everyone.

Those of you who've been following my blog will know that my computer has been undergoing serious problems and that I've been unable to upload photos here to the blog. Well, if you're seeing photos here with this posting, it's not because the computer's been repaired or replaced.

It's because I'm here in Ohio visiting my good friend, the photographer Dave Levingston.

He was kind enough to invite me to stay with him for a week and to do some photography in his new studio. I have been doing the latter, working with models in the studio both yesterday and today (with more to come), but for now I'm writing about the trip to Chicago that Dave and I made this past weekend.

I had never been to Chicago before, so this trip was something of a treat - the chance to visit one of the country's great cities. At the top you can see a photo I made of the Chicago skyline from inside the Art Institute, a place that I'll write about next time.

This trip, though, was not a random visit as Dave and I went to attend the opening reception of the "Femme Divine" exhibit of art nude and erotica at the Gallery Provocateur.

Besides seeing the beautiful artworks on display, I also had the opportunity to meet some of the people who I'd met online or whose works I had seen but had never met in person before. Among these were D.L. Wood, Unbearable Lightness, Lela Rae and Nad Iskodas. Here are some of the photos I made at the event.

D.L Wood and Dave Levingston

Gallery founder Veronika Kotlajic

Lela Rae and Unbearable Lightness

Unbearable Lightness and friend

Lela Rae with yours truly

Dave Levingston

Model Jennifer and D.L. Wood

Lela Rae

I'll write more about Chicago and my time here in Ohio in upcoming posts. For now, I'll mention that Dave L and I will be riding up to Detroit this coming Saturday to attend a reception at the River's Edge Gallery that evening for a show in which Dave has some of his work included. For more information, see his blog entry about it here.

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Just a quick update here on my computer situation. It has not changed since last time, with the only thing working being internet access, and that subject to the windows disappearing without notice. I had regretted trying to reinstall Windows, as before I was still able to do more things despite the many problems, but at the end I had no web access and now I do, so it is better now in a way.

The only difference is that now I have decided to buy a new computer to replace this five year old one. It's just a matter of when, where and (naturally) how much.

Now something new to report: another piece of electronic gear has decided to head south. This time it's my 4 GB MP3 player. I charged it up a couple of days ago, and since the battery had been pretty well depleted, I let it charge for about a day. When I unplugged it, the initial screen came up on the unit but I couldn't get past it. Eventually, when I unplugged it, the whole thing was dead. I don't think it's just the battery that's fried, though, as when I plug in the A/C connection, I get the initial screen but cannot get past it.

I had been thinking of upgrading to an iPod Touch to have greater capacity and wi-fi access to the web when I'm traveling (plus other stuff), but I had considered putting it off until next year due to my unexpected expenses now. It looks like I'll have to get one this year now.

Finally, to add insult to injury, I slipped on some ice here in New York this afternoon and came down hard on my left hip, elbow and shoulder. Just what I needed (but is that more like "adding injury to insult"?). At least I've got an interesting weekend and next week planned, so hopefully things will get better.

Stay warm, everyone.

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Slagjana Cvetkovska
Macedonian top model Slagana Cvetkovska (21) will represent our country at the 17-th beauty contest "Top model of the world" in Germany. All contestants will be welcomed on the 10th of February and remain in Germany until the 21st of February, the day of the final. Slagana will compete with 45 top models from all over the world. She will bring dresses from the fashion house "Nana" from Shtip at the final in Hohensyburg Casino in Dortmund, located in the State of North Rhine Westphalia.

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"Everything is broken"
- Robert Allen Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan)

When last I wrote, some time ago now, it was to say that I had been inactive here on the blog because my television set had broken down and that I was spending my time upgrading to a new audio/video system.

Well, now I have more news to report: this time it's my computer. Yes, the box here had been having all kinds of problems. I'd click on the Favorites icon and all of the open windows would close. Sometimes I couldn't get the firewall program to open up. Sometimes I couldn't get the virus scan to start. When it did finally get going, it found an infected file and deleted it.

Then I lost all internet access. I called my provider to check on it, and I was told that the problem was on my end.

Throughout it all, my computer would just shut down without warning and give me the "blue screen of death" (as one tech guy called it).

So, it seemed that drastic action was required and I took it. I tried to reinstall Windows from the disc I'd gotten with the computer. The fact that Dell gave absolutely no documentation with the disc didn't help, but I thought I could just pop the disc into the drive and it would go from there.

Needless to say, it wasn't that easy. First, it took me an hour to figure out how to get the computer to boot from the disc. The main problem was the question about partitioning the drive. The program recommended that I don't do the reinstallation on the C: drive as important information there could be lost, so I went with a newly created J: drive, which wasn't very large.

The program also kept asking me to put in the disc for XP Service Pack 2, which I don't have, but I figured I would just continue and download those files online.

Well, after two days, Windows finally was reinstalled. Unfortunately, things are worse than they were before. Parts of Windows are missing, and because the J: drive is so small and almost full, there's not enough room to download the XP Service Pack 3 (the latest).

Even worse is that the two disc drives don't work because they don't have the drivers installed - and all attempts to download them online have failed. About the only thing that does work is the internet connection, and even that is iffy at best, as it can close down without warning at any time.

After all this, the computer still sometimes shuts down without warning and give me the dreaded blue screen of death! Obviously, this computer needs a major overhaul (just what I need - something else to spend money on), so until that is accomplished, don't expect to see much from me here.

To add to the gloom, when I went down to check the mail yesterday, I met a man in the lobby who told me that a woman in the next building who I was friends with had died recently. She was the neighbor who I had asked to accept the Fed Ex package that I wrote about last month.

Then, when I finally was able to check my e-mail here, I saw that I had a message via Facebook from one of the models who I had met and photographed at the workshop I attended in Colorado in 2008. She wrote to say that one of the other photographers there - a man from Michigan who I had become friends with - has cancer and doesn't have much time left.

I guess Zimmy was right.

At least the new TV works well, so I can watch the Super Bowl today. I'll be rooting for the Saints.

(By the way, if you don't see a photo at the top, it's because the computer cannot connect to my external drive where my photos are stored. If you do see one - well, then it can!)

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Ana Todoroska, Wallpaper for February 2010

Model: Ana Todoroska
Photographer: Toshe Janev - Janus

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